It’s not being rude, honest. In fact, I’ve talked about it before. It?
The human reaction cycle: Freeze, Flight, Fight.
Freeze is always first:
Stand still and the danger won’t see me. It also gives time to assess the situation, to decide whether to slowly sink down or sidle across to the darker shadows and away from the danger.
Flight is second:
If they see you and the danger feels strong, run and run and keep running until safety is reached. There’s no time while running to do much in the way of thinking or planning, not even rationalising. It’s just run for your life, or get et.
Fight is the final option:
There’s no way out but to fight for your life. And it doesn’t matter how well-trained we are, the time in a fight is unclear and messy. It’s only about finding a way to get this danger out of our way and get back to our lives (which might mean knocking the enemy down until we can run (2) and hide (1)).
But the initial reactions always fall in order: Freeze, Flight, Fight. After that, it’s desperation to maintain life at all costs.
The other important thing to remember (I’m talking about writers and storytelling, here, so it’s about getting it right for the readers to believe) is FAD.
Not that sort of fad. No, this is the automatic stage of response to something that motivates a reaction.
Feelings come first (often with a freeze moment). You touch the stove and feel it. Even microseconds before the action of pulling your hand away, and then swearing like a pirate. FAD = Feelings, Actions, Dialogue.
It’s the order of things that makes it real. Getting it right puts the reader in the pilot seat of believing the actions and reactions.
Recently, I came across (okay, not that recently, but time is mine to bend as I will) something a bit different. On reading, it sounds right, but doesn’t quite fit with the FFF or FAD.
What am I talking about?
The MRU (Motivation, Reaction unit to you), which has a motivating moment that causes a reaction and put together, it’s a unit (or a beat, if you like). And the time for internalisation (the thinking bit) is between the two.
The motivating incident happens, the character thinks about it, and then acts on the decision made …
It almost feels right, but … but, but, but –
The incident that causes a freeze is the motivation, and the freeze is the moment to assess the danger, so is that a MRU on its own, a sub-beat within the beat? Or is it the whole of the freeze moment (the decision to freeze) … but how can it be if the FFF changes to a decision to take flight, or assesses that the time for flight has passed and now it’s down to fight?
Or: Are we always making assessments and decisions, even in the midst of chaos? And if that’s the case, do we not sense it while we’re in the gravitational pull of that chaos?
Most important, how do we write this without sounding like manic maniacs?
Seriously, any thoughts to help with this insanity? Or maybe I’ll put it down to the brain on overdrive while the house is full of visitors and I don’t have any time to make decisions, let alone understand how I reached ’em.