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Writing Tip

Cause and effect is the internal integrity of the story that provides a logical framework and forward motion. Cause and effect occurs at every level of a story’s construction, from sentence to paragraph to page to chapter. Problems occur when: cause has no effect, effect has no cause, the effect precedes cause, or when  there is simultaneous cause and effect. Some examples…

Cause with no effect: He flipped the switch and looked into her cold blue eyes. What is the effect of flipping the switch? Looking into her cold eyes? To follow cause and effect it should read: He flipped the switch. Light flooded the room. He looked into her cold blue eyes. 

Effect with no cause: This occurs when a character acts or reacts for no apparent reason, i.e., furious to calm with no transition. 

Effect precedes cause: He shot three times after pulling out the gun should read After pulling out the gun, he shot three times. 

Simultaneous cause and effect: Ripping off the sheet, she collapsed onto the bed.  This sentence implies that two events are happening at the same time which, when imagined, seems unlikely. Better stated: She ripped off the sheet and collapsed onto the bed.


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