Chase Scenes: the Reader Element

The chase scene should be written (or revised) with the reader in mind. Like with any other type of scene, the reader interacts with the character or characters but the reader is not the character. Just because the character experiences the chase scene in a certain way does not necessarily mean the reader will have the same experience.

  • World: The reader’s experience is limited by the scene’s point(s) of view. The fast pace of chase scenes does not leave a lot of room for details. Grounding the reader (time, place, season, etc.) can done (at least in part) indirectly. Every time thee character changes location – which happens a lot in a chase scene – you need to reorient the reader in some way. A possible exception is if the character is lost or disoriented.

  • Limits: The reader is limited by how much the reader cares about the character, how well grounded the reader is, and how clearly you write.

  • Obstacles: Logic. The sequence in writing is: physical stimulus → internal reaction → physical response. In chase scenes,the pace is fast and one step is sometimes assumed. This is fine – even desirable – so long as the action still makes sense to the reader. A break in logic occurs when the reader is not sure why the character reacted the way he just did. This is the danger of omitting steps. (If the character is not sure why he responded a certain way, the reader needs to know this. That confusion becomes the next internal reaction.)

  • Action:You could say that the reader’s involvement varies throughout the scene according to whether you are providing questions or answers. The “questions” would be what builds tension, uncertainty, suspense. The “answers” are what brings closure, temporary resolution, certainty. Readers become involved in questions and try to guess the answers to small questions (what happens next?), big questions (will they catch her?) and size in-between. At the same time, they can become frustrated by too many questions and not enough answers. Try overlapping your questions and answers for maximum reader involvement and satisfaction.

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