An interesting book that pairs with emotion and the action/response link is The NORTAV Method for Writers by A.J. Abbiati.
In it, Abbiati breaks down the six beats found in all stories:
- Narrative - prose from a narrator—either the focal character or someone else.
- Observations - what a focal character perceives through their senses
- Reactions - involuntary internal and external responses.
- Thoughts - conscious or semi-conscious thoughts of a focal character.
- Actions - the physical activities performed by a character.
- Vocalizations - words spoken, grunts, groans. Dialogue is an exchange of vocalization beats between characters.
He argues all story is formed by different constructions of these six beats.
While he explores different stories and their constructions, he does highlight one sequence called the natural response sequence:
Reaction => Thought => Action => Vocalization
Like Cleaver’s example of being robbed in a deserted parking lot, this combination shows the links of stimulus that lead to a reaction. We have the immediate internal and external response, which moves to thoughts (“I’m going to die!”) before we finally take action or vocalization.
Ultimately, Abbiati and NORTAV are about revealing the human experience and how your characters act and respond to the internal and external worlds around them.