When In Doubt, Act It Out

As Kathy said in her post, Writing the Fight Scene, body positioning is one of many items you need to be aware of when writing a fight scene. I was recently editing a fight in my WIP. In this scene, one of my heroes (I’ve got two because my alter ego writes M/M romance) is  grappling with a crazed attacker. However, as I reread what I’d written, I realized that one of the moves I had my hero performing wasn’t anatomically possible based upon his position.  It’s kind of hard to knee someone in the groin if they are sitting on your chest. Realizing my error, I wracked my brain for an escape maneuver my hero could use to get away from his assailant. I was about to completely rewrite that part of the action when the light bulb went on. I recalled a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sweep I’d recently seen performed and thought this move would get the job done. I fired off an email to Melinda for a walk through of the sweep. No matter how she tried to describe it,  I just couldn’t visualize the motion, and thus I had difficulty bringing it to life in my story. Fortunately, we were going to be attending the same karate class which gave me the opportunity to actually try the technique. One of the upsides of have black belts as friends is that they will happily throw you around on the karate mat and let you do the same.

Performing the move as both attacker and victim proved to be a huge help in the writing process.  I could now accurately describe the position of my hero’s feet. How his body arched up and rolled allowing him to gain the upper hand over his attacker. I knew how the attacker held him pinned to the ground and how the attacker felt as the tables were suddenly turned on him. I also tried variations of the sweep giving me other options to use when appropriate. By the time we finished our practice session I knew exactly how my hero and villain would move through this section of the scene.  I could then write a fight scene that flowed smoothly and made physical sense.

More than fights can benefit from acting out the scene.  Anything that involves a complicated series of motions, or the movements of more then one person, can benefit from having those steps rehearsed before they are put on paper (or computer screen). Maybe your writing a historical and you want to explain the steps of a  period dance for a dance lesson scene. Performing the dance makes it so much easier to write about hand placement,  body angle,  the intricacies of footwork, etc.

Another type of scene that I think could really benefit from being acted out are are love scenes. Minds out of the gutter and no laughing, but how many times have you read a love scene and just couldn’t wrap your mind about the description on the page.  I can think of a few occasions where I’ve been pulled out of a story because I got sidetracked trying to figure out if it was humanly possible to bend as the author had just described.

As the title of this post says, when in doubt act it out.  Walking through the more complicated scenes can help solidify character placement in your mind and allow  you to write cleaner, clearer action sequences and keep your readers turning the pages of your novel instead of diagramming your characters movements.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please don’t hesitate to share.

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4 responses to “When In Doubt, Act It Out

  1. Great Post, Rayna. I’ve had to do this many times. In my novel currently on submission, I needed my husband’s assistance with a knife fight. It was a tremendous help.

  2. Thanks, Kathy and good luck with those submissions!

  3. Rayna, you are so right! It’s disappointing to be abruptly yanked out of a story because I cannot imagine how the characters got into those positions. Especially with love scenes. Kind of like Twister on bed sheets. I also occasionally find myself practicing facial expressions, to make sure a mouth and eyes can look the way I’ve described them at the same time. 🙂

    Oh, and beta readers are wonderful for catching these. Once I wrote a heroine who seriously twisted her ankle and shortly thereafter became (rather energetically) intimate with the hero. My sister pointed out that this would hurt like the devil. Delete twisted ankle! 😉

  4. I never thought about trying out facial expressions, but that’s a good idea. 🙂

    Beta readers are life savers for me. After a while I stop seeing what’s actually on the page and instead I project what should be on the page. Beta readers are great for finding those gaps and inconsistencies.

    Thanks for stopping in!

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