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Balancing Plot and Action (part three)

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In my story ‘Hysteria Lane #10: Oh Maggie’, the real down and dirty tickling action doesn’t begin until almost a quarter way through. That’s a lot of set-up for a reader to wade through, especially when –as mentioned previously- the vast majority of anyone reading the story is there for one reason: To read about the tickling. If you’re an author of tickling fiction it’s worth knowing that most readers simply do not care about anything beyond the sexy action sequences. Harsh as that may sound at first, this is not a bad thing. Even those readers who scroll on down until they find the tickling –looking for the ‘ha ha has’ as it were- are still enjoying your work. How someone is enjoying your work is infinitely less important, if important at all, than if they’re enjoying it.

That being said…

Ideally as any kind of artist, and I am speaking generally here, you want your audience to have the full experience. The bottom line is you worked just as hard on the exposition scenes and delicate character building as you did the hot n’ sweaty tickle torture scenarios. Heck, maybe you even put more thought into the non-action scenes than you did the action. For all your labors you’d like to imagine your readers moving their eyes all the way from your intro to The End, and being entertained through all of it.

Time for another bit of harsh truth: You write smut. Granted, that is definitely a broad stroke (suggestive language!) and I don’t mean to throw everyone in the same boat here. There are those few and rare stories crafted into something other than smut. There are also plenty of folks who frequent the tickling fetish community online whose interests in tickling are not sexual. It’s a big wide world and just like every person, every story is different. For the sake of our discussion here however, once we boil it down, we pretty much write smut.

Your readers looked for smut, they found smut, and now they want to do what people do when they read smut. What they don’t want is to be bogged down in your carefully nuanced story, no matter how hard you worked on it. Should we be mad about this? Should we tell our readers to read every word? Should we tie them up and tickle them until they do as they’re told? No, we shouldn’t do any of these things (except…maybe the last one). Instead what you can do, is give them what they want.

So maybe the ideas in part two weren't for you (suggestive language, dancing around the subject of tickling while hinting at it) or you're looking for more techniques on top of those. Naturally, you still want to keep your reader engaged throughout every scene. You know what, let’s just tickle someone. Oh Maggie had a lot of set up for it’s overall length, 22% of the story went by before poor Maggie really found herself in ticklish trouble. However right there in the very first scene, a mere 4% of the way into the 18,000~ word story, is our first tickling scene. Having some action early on in the story is making a promise of things to come. You can toy around with how intense you want to make the tickling and how much focus you want there to be on it, and you can do this multiple times.

Having a tickling scene early on in your story excites the reader. A commonality among tickling enthusiasts is that once they’ve seen someone tickled, they want to see that person tickled more. This will keep your readers reading, encouraged by the promise of more to come. It lets them know, on some level, the author is aware of why you're here and I'm not going to forget. For the sake of your story, and our subject of balancing it with action, having that early thrill will also give you some breathing room. There’s no mad rush to shove your story aside for the sake of getting to the good stuff. You can build your characters, flesh things out. Your audience got a taste, they're going to be more patient with you. Now you can make your readers care about something other than the main reason they opened your story in the first place. Then when the action does arrive, hopefully it will be that much more satisfying for those following along.

There are undoubtedly many more techniques an author of tickle-fiction can use to make your story feel balanced. In actuality, if you’re anything like me, you probably want to tip the scales more heavily toward action. In this instance you can do things like peppering story beats throughout brief pauses in action, or even during the action itself. Tickle Tutor #5 does this quite a bit, especially in the eighth chapter. In a story that comes in at just under 70,000 words (seriously, it’s two words off!). Chapter Eight: ‘Heartbreaker’ is by far the longest chapter in that story and involves a mystery, great stakes for numerous characters, romance, shifting relationships, character growth, back story, power struggles, new characters, intrigue and more. All of this through 22,000 or so words that is told through a single session of intense tickle torture that takes up over 90% of the chapter. I tell you this not to toot my own horn, but to illustrate that you can have an action heavy story and tell a relatively complex tale at the same time.

Or is that cheating? I mean, by that point we’re at the eighth chapter, I had seven chapters prior to set things up. Well, I think of it less as cheating and more like...using the tools available to you. Back in part one I talked about balancing action and story specifically for an ongoing series. We’ve touched upon how to find that balance in shorter or standalone stories but if you’re several installments or several chapters into a longer piece, and your readers have stuck with it all, you have an enormous advantage. Suddenly there’s a whole lot of information you don’t need to cram in, it’s already there in the reader’s head. You can safely jump right into the action. Most James Bond movies open with an action scene. We the audience don’t need to know the whos, whats and whys of it all. Bond is the good guy, those must be bad guys, go for it. The character is well established, the work is done, it’s time to blow stuff up.

All in all, if you’ve read this far and found any of it interesting, thank you for reading. If nothing else it was a fun thought experiment to explore some of my own inner workings as an author of tickle-fiction. There’s plenty of other topics I’d like to touch upon in future posts. In the meantime if you enjoyed this, have questions, ideas of your own or would just like to discuss the topic of balancing story and action more please do post a comment here, or feel free to fire me a PM at any time.

Happy writing!

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    Thank you for this. I love your work because of the complexity of your stories.