The dilemma of how to use Freeze, Flight, Fight responses with Motivation, Response Units has an answer (yes, it’s also part of cause and effect).
There is something that happens onstage, in the now of the story. It’s called an event, a motivation, a cause. Something happens and it can be seen, heard, felt. That’s the event the FFF responds to. It’s the opening salvo, the shot over the bow, or the smack in the face.
Something happens and the character (we are talking about writing, aren’t we? Yes, okay, let’s march onward) responds with the instinctual pattern of thought (freeze), which ends in a decision to do (either flight or fight).
If the something that happens is a finger on the hot stovetop, the response from the pain receptors is going to be rapido – and the response is flight (pull that hand away, now!). Most motivations to act (as in, an event or cause) won’t need such immediate responses and the decision can take from micro-seconds to seconds to minutes, depending on the situation.
If my mother asked me to do something for her that I didn’t want to do, what would I do? I’d stall (that’s flight, an evasion of the monster). The FFF is the stage for a decision to act, and it comes after the motivational event or cause.
Therefore, the event/cause comes first, then the freeze of internalisation (if required; it doesn’t always need to be part of the story unless it’s time to slow things down – that’s the freeze point; and most response decisions can be gauged from the action undertaken, so choosing what to put here, if anything, is important), followed by the decision ranked by Flight or Fight. The Cause is the Motivation, the Freeze is the moment taken to make a decision, Flight or Fight is the act based on the decision (also called an Effect created by the Cause).
The times it’s necessary to have the thoughts/freeze section written out is when it’s needed for clarity. If we don’t know why a character would respond the way it appears they do, it needs some explanation.
“I bought some eggs.” [stimulus/event/cause – needs a response]
“Don’t you dare bring them into my house.” [response]
It won’t make sense until there’s a bit of internalisation (or background, but if there’s no background yet, we need the internalisation).
“I bought some eggs.” I won’t tell her they came from Dotties, or she’ll do her nut.
“Don’t you dare bring them into my house.”
It may be enough of an explanation, or it may need more later.
The important thing about all of these elements is that they keep happening because they’re the beats of every story. Something happens, there’s a time to make a decision (the freeze, whether short or tall) followed by an action (a response to the event based on the decision), which becomes a motivation/event/cause … etc.
They keep going as long as the story is moving toward a point on the horizon.
It’s still simple to follow … I think.
At least it is until the next time I’m trying to work through what happens and why, and how to respond to make it as real, or more real, than life.
And I’ll read through Elements of Fiction Writing – Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham again.
Right, that’s it. Headache about to be eased, icecream all gone, time for coffee and back to work. More work. Or maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow, after a good, long afternoon nap in the sunroom.