Tag Archives: action

Doctor Who and The Black Moment

Thanks to Jennifer Crusie and Who Sundays on her Argh Ink blog, I’ve started watching Doctor Who (the new series with the ninth, tenth, and eleventh doctors). I watched the first episode, “Rose” and thought, “This is pretty good. The killing mannequins are a little hokey, but I like the characters and the show.” So then I watched the next episode and then the next, and in two weeks I’ve watched 4 seasons plus all the specials.

Someone could have warned me that Doctor Who was TV crack!

I can’t get enough. I love this show. The characters are fun, the writing is brilliant, and the situations always go from bad to worse. As I watch and wonder what clever way the doctor will get everyone out of this mess…bam!…the situation goes from worse to absolute disaster.

What? There’s no way they can get out of this! Someone’s going to die. Will it be a companion? Will it be the Doctor?

Talk about action packed fiction! Wow.

My family thinks I’m crazy watching this show…(well, perhaps it’s not the show so much as my obsessive viewing). What they don’t realize is that I’m not merely watching, I’m working. Doctor Who has actually improved my writing.

Last week, I’d been contemplating a black moment, the part of the story where all seems lost. It wasn’t working. It didn’t have the impact it should…probably because the moment was more gray than black. Watching the depth of trouble the Doctor and his gang get into, and the clever ways they get out of them helped me push further and think up a darker, better, more meaningful black moment. It worked. I’m very excited about what I came up with.

So the next time the family interrupts me with a “You’re watching this again?” I can reply, “Shh. I’m working.” 😉

Are you a Doctor Who fan? Who is your favorite Doctor? If you’re a writer, what TV shows or movies helped improve your writing? Please leave a comment, but no spoilers. Today I’ll be watching David Tennant’s last episode, The End of Time, Part Two.

~ K.M Fawcett

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Fight Scene Technicalities

How technical should an author get when describing fight scenes?

The answer may depend on who your readers are. Fans of military thrillers might have a different level of fight knowledge than fans of women’s fiction or YA. An author would be wise to take reader expectation into account when writing.

Regardless of genre, though, I would advise against getting too technical. You don’t want your fight scene to read like a training manual. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will also slow down the action and pacing.

Karate-Kid-CraneIf you want to showcase a particular technique in the final battle scene, explain it or refer to it earlier in the story; perhaps in a training session. For example, in the original Karate Kid movie, we saw Mr. Miyagi practicing the crane technique, Daniel asked about it and we learned that, “If do right, no can defend.” Daniel practiced it on his own, and when he got into the crane stance in the final scene, we knew this awesome move would make him a winner. How about the five-point palm exploding heart technique in Kill Bill? If these techniques weren’t explained until they were used in the story, the pacing would slow, and the significance would be lost.

Fights are fast, so fight scenes should be quick reads. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. This will help elicit the correct emotional response from the reader. He/ she should feel the excitement of the fight, not confusion over the words used to describe it, or boredom from it taking too long.

Do you have any favorite techniques from books or movies you’d like to share? Have you read any books where the fight scene reads like a how-to manual? How about books with awesome fight scenes that were handled flawlessly? I love hearing from you. Please leave your comments below.

~K.M. Fawcett

Fight Scenes and Love Scenes – Seven Tips to Writing Action by Virginia Kantra

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Virginia Kantra credits her love for strong heroes and courageous heroines to a childhood spent devouring fairy tales.

The author of more than twenty books, Virginia is an eight-time finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards and the winner of numerous industry honors, including two National Readers’ Choice Awards. After writing her popular “MacNeill Brothers” and “Trouble in Eden” category series, Virginia turned her hand to single title romance. Her new series, Children of the Sea, continues with Forgotten Sea in bookstores now! Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three kids, Virginia is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.

Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.

Fight scenes and love scenes involve two (or more) characters in the grip of strong, basic emotion grappling at close quarters.  These are action scenes, larger than life moments that evoke our readers’ emotions and propel our stories forward.

Understanding the similarities between fight scenes and love scenes can help us identify strategies to make both kinds of action stronger.

1. Action springs from character.

What our characters do reveals who they are.

How your characters act and react in action scenes will depend on their

Level of skill

Experience

Emotions

Because our fictional characters are often larger than life, we can choose to make them exceptionally well-endowed or talented.  We can write kickass heroines or sexually skilled heroes.  But to avoid writing generic fight and love scenes, keep in mind what your characters know, how they learned it, and what they bring to this particular encounter, at this moment, in this mood.

The more aware you are of your characters, the more they can surprise you and the reader.  Think of Indiana Jones pulling his gun to shoot his sword-wielding opponent in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  His action is credible and in character, yet it’s also a wonderful surprise.

2. Players in an action scene should be well matched.

Tension springs from conflict.  In fight scenes, your antagonist should be strong enough to defeat the hero, to put the outcome of the fight in question.

Your lovers should be equally matched.  While the hero and the heroine in a love scene don’t threaten each other physically (well, except for that wonderful scene in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are rolling around shooting at each other), you can increase the tension by making them vulnerable to each other in other ways.  Again, put the outcome of the scene in question.  Will the skilled rake seduce the well-brought-up virgin?  Or will she turn the tables by taking control?

3. Every character in an action scene should have a goal.

Unless your characters are drunk or otherwise judgment impaired, they should have an objective, a desired outcome, going into the scene. Whether that goal is to avoid a confrontation or to start one, to establish intimacy or distance, your characters shouldn’t jump into a fight or into bed without some kind of purpose.  What do they want?  What are they prepared to do to get it?

Remember what I said above about tension springing from conflict.  Your character must have a stake in the outcome of the scene.  Which brings me to my next point.

4. Action scenes should impact the plot.

Fight scenes and love scenes should impact both the characters’ emotional arc and the development of the story.  Scenes should not be stuck into the story because sex titillates or violence sells, but because the action of the scene changes things for the participants.  Maybe the fight clears the air.  Maybe sex changes the balance of power.  Maybe somebody gets hurt.

As with any other scene, fight and sex scenes should advance the plot and either complicate or help resolve the conflict.  The action should be significant and relevant to the rest of the story.

5. What’s going on?  Choreographed action and emotional progression.

How much detail you include in your fight and love scenes will depend in part on your story, your style, and your subgenre.  Lengthy descriptions of scenery will slow your pacing, but a brief depiction of setting will establish both the mood and the “field of battle.”

You don’t need to choreograph every movement. But the action should

Be possible

Be plausible

Flow

Fighting and making love are ultimate physical expressions of intense emotion. Your characters and your readers should be plunged into the scene, not outside watching it.  Use visceral detail: pounding hearts and sweaty palms. Sensory description can add to the immediacy of the action, but focus on how each touch, each scent, each sensory trigger makes your characters feel.  Dialogue can increase either the intimacy or the conflict, but it should be brief and to the point.

6. Actions have consequences. 

Even if the fight is won, even if the sex is great, action scenes often end in unforeseen disaster.  Now the bad guy knows where they are.  Now the hero is injured.  Now the heroine is emotionally vulnerable or pregnant.

Ask yourself, how are things better or worse as a result of this action?

7. Both fight and love scenes should escalate throughout the book to the climax.

Your characters should grow through the course of the story.

The villain should get stronger.

The stakes should get higher.

The tension should mount.

And all that pulse-pounding emotion, all that evocative detail, the pain and the ecstasy, should be that much more.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, here are two brief excerpts from Forgotten Sea, the intro to a fight scene and the intro to a love scene.  These aren’t full scenes.  But as you read, see how the different elements discussed above come into play, the way the characters’ objectives and emotions, the setting, stakes, and visceral details help bring the action to life.

THE FIGHT, p.185

Black birds ringed the parking lot like spectators at a boxing match. Or vultures.

Justin’s heart jack-hammered. The three men from the diner had Lara trapped between a big rig and the Jeep.

At least this time none of her attackers was possessed by a demon.

That he knew of.

A chill chased over his skin. Briefly, he met Lara’s gaze, blazing in her pale face. “Get inside.”

She opened her mouth to argue before she figured out his order was for the benefit of their audience. Pressing her lips together, she took two jerky steps toward him.

Tattoos took the toothpick from his mouth and pitched it to the ground. “I say she stays.”

“Let her go,” Justin said evenly.

The stocky man with the weary eyes met his gaze. “Or what? You’ll call the cops?”

Duck into the diner, leaving her alone? Risk having the cops run a make on their stolen Jeep?

“We don’t want trouble,” Justin said again.

Tattoos laughed.

The man in the red bandanna crossed his arms over his chest. “Then call off your spies.”

 Spies?

 “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Justin said.

“Call ’em off, or your girlfriend’s going back to Heaven ahead of schedule.”

But Lara was easing between the Jeep and the truck, retreating toward the diner, securing herself space and a wall at her back. Smart girl.

Justin started circling with Bandanna Man and the stocky guy, hoping to buy time to let her get away, get inside, trying to keep an eye on Lara and another on his new dance partners, watching their hands, watching their eyes. Hoping nobody had a knife or, Jesus, a gun.

Tattoos realized Lara was slipping away and made a grab for her. The flock of birds burst from the ground, a feathered explosion of black wings and raucous cries.

Lara dropped out of sight behind the Jeep.

Shit.

#

THE LOVE SCENE, p.204

Iestyn’s blood drummed in his ears like a roaring wind, like the crashing sea. Lara should have left him when she had the chance. Instead, she was putting herself in his hands. Literally.

What the hell was she thinking?

“Take me,she’d said.

Heat surged in his veins. A cold sweat trickled down his spine.

For seven years, he’d drifted, a nobody answerable to no one, responsible for no one but himself. Because of Lara, he knew who he was. What he had been. Her choices had gotten them this far.

But they had left her world behind. With every mile, they traveled closer to his.

Where they went from here was up to him. She was his responsibility now. Her safety, her satisfaction, depended on him.

He looked into her misty gray eyes and his vision contracted suddenly as if he were sighting the stars through a sextant, plotting his course by her light. All he could see was Lara.

He was no angel. Maybe he would never be what she needed. But in one area, at least, he could give her what she wanted.

Sex was part of his world. He could take responsibility for sex without any problem at all.

#

What are some of your favorite action scenes from movies or from books?  How much detail do you want in fight scenes?  What about love scenes?

Virginia will be giving away a copy of FORGOTTEN SEA to one lucky commenter!

http://virginiakantra.com

http://www.facebook.com/VirginiaKantraBooks

IMMORTAL SEA, 2011 RITA Award finalist for Best Paranormal Romance

“Shifting Sea” in BURNING UP, 2011 RITA Award finalist for Best Novella

FORGOTTEN SEA, Berkley, June 2011

Fun with Settings

Last month I went on a cruise to then Mexican Riviera. I had a terrific time. The boat was beautiful, the seas calm and blue, and there was no snow in sight. We made two stops in Cabo San Lucas and one in Puerta Vallarta. While in Puerta Vallarta, I had the opportunity to go zip lining. SO MUCH FUN!! Here’s a picture of me on my adventure (gotta love the helmet look).

We slid from platform to platform among the tree tops, repelled down to the group, climbed back up and did it again. We ended the adventure with a tarzan swing.

On my way back to the boat, I got to think what a fun setting zip lines in the jungle would make for an action scene. Racing through the jungle, having to slide from line to line to escape your pursuers, the risk of falling to your death very possible.  Or perhaps you have to zip across a long rope that crosses over a raging river. The scenario’s are endless.

My challenge to you is to come up with an exciting and unusual setting for an action scene. Get creative maybe we can inspire each other.

Before I sign off, I want to congratulate Jenn Nixon. She’s the lucky winner of a copy of The Demon He Knows.

Finally, since people seemed to enjoy the last critique we’re going to offer another. Same rules apply as last time.

  • Send your unpublished fight/action scene (500 words or less) in the body of an email to attackingtp@gmail.com include “Action Critique” in the subject heading.
  • Please include your name (or pseudonym) as well as the genre of your work. However, if you wish your scene to be posted anonymously let us know. We’re happy to keep your name confidential.
  • We will pick ONE entry for critique.

Please be aware the critiques offered by the authors of Attacking the Page are personal opinions and neither guarantee publication, nor are responsible for any rejections you may receive.  As with any critique you receive, take what works for you and dump the rest.

We encourage you to spread the word to your writing buddies, friends and even your enemies.  :) Good Luck!

Now that we’re done with general announcements let’s get back to thinking up those fun settings.

Reading Action

We’ve dedicated many blog posts to WRITING action.  See these posts: Writing Fight Scenes pt 1, Martial Arts and the Perfection of One’s Character, Writing The Fight Scene, Add PUNCH to Your Action Scenes, Get a KICK Out of Your Fight Scenes and A Recipe for Action by Caridad Pineiro

This week, Attacking the Page wants to discuss READING action.

You tell us…What are your favorite action-packed books?  Do you have a favorite fight or action scene?  What made them memorable?

Please share and discuss your favorite action scenes and books that you’ve read or written (a chance for self promotion!) in the comments section.

 

~KM Fawcett