Tag Archives: writing action

Editing That Action

This weekend is being spent editing.  I have a work-in-process on its second round of revisions with a deadline looming.  I also have first round edits on my June release due soon.  Keeping my head in two books at once is trying, especially for those action scenes.

I’ve found two specific areas where I tend to go astray when working in multiple books.  Timeline and character details.  Scene by scene I am able to write and edit without difficulty.  For example, I realized on the billionth reread of my WIP that, in the final climax scene, I forgot that it was nighttime.

Duh.

Now I have to go back and figure out how my heroine does what she does in the freaking dark. It matters. It really matters. High action scenes are tight to keep the pace flowing. Not a lot of room for description here. Instead, action is built around the setting, which is wrong. Ahhhhh!

At the same time, I’m working on edits for my next release when I discover that once again, I’ve slipped in the time of day.  Thank goodness I have an excellent editor to point out that my heroine is commenting on the sunset which occurred more than an hour ago.  Big mental smack for me. And the most annoying factor?  I distinctly remember looking up the sunset times for Maine in December.

So what does a slightly OCD writer do? I create a chapter by chapter timeline as I read thru my editor’s comments. This way, I can be sure I have the time of day correct not just in the current scene, but from scene to scene as well.  It’s the time between the scenes and chapters that are slipping through the cracks as I move back and forth between books. Live and learn.

The second major issue was character details, especially those secondary characters. I wrote the June release a long while ago. What do those people look like anyway? I found the original note cards that I kept while I wrote the book (told you I was OCD), but flipping through the stack repeatedly got annoying. Fast.

I know some writers who fill out details character sheets for every person that appears in their books.  Then I’d be flipping through pages or files while I edit. Instead, I’ve put together a quick spreadsheet to keep track of basic physical descriptions and anything special about each character. This way, I have one sheet on hand that contains all those really important details. It’s become very handy as I move back and forth between projects.

Since I’m recently published, I’m fairly new at the whole juggling projects thing. Do you have any tips to help writers stay on track when working in two or more books simultaneously?

Advertisements

Fighting Q&A

The three of us here on Attacking the Page were recently interviewed by Angela Knight for her class on writing fight scenes.  For today’s post I thought I’d share one of those questions and the answers that each of us gave.

I’d also love to know some ‘sneaky’ tricks/punches a woman could pull on a man who surprises her with an attack since not all my female protags are warriors, just strong women with strong self-preservation senses.

Melinda’s answer:  Chops or punches to the Adam’s apple, palm strikes to the nose, knees or kicks to the groin, thumb gouges to the eyes, boxing the ears. Generally, the soft areas that run from a man’s face to his groin are all good targets.

Kathy adds: Kicks to the knees could take a guy down as well.

Rayna adds: I’m a fan of elbow strikes, at least for in close fighting. I can hit someone harder with my elbow then my hand. I don’t want to hurt my hand, my elbow can take more of an impact. Plus a quick shot to the gut or chin can stun someone just long enough for me to get away or at least put enough distance between us so I can use my legs, which is my stronger weapon.

I thought I’d also share this interesting instructional video on different types of elbow strike.

Fight Scene Questions?

Do you have questions about your fight scenes? Or about writing action? Or how to create believable martial arts characters? Maybe you’re wondering what your heroine would do if the villain grabbed her from behind.

I’d like to dedicate today’s blog post to answering any questions YOU may have about your fight scenes. Leave your questions in the comments section.

~ K.M. Fawcett

Catch Me If You Can by Guest Author Betsy Horvath

In my day to day life, I tend to be rather meek and mild.  I work.  I write.  I hang out with friends and family.  I go to sleep.  I get up and do it all over again.

But here I am, writing a romantic suspense novel and it just begs for car chases.  Exciting car chases.  Thrilling car chases.  Car chases where the hero and heroine are pursued by gun-toting mafia hit men.

Generally speaking, car chases are not a part of my daily existence.  Yet we are told to “write what we know.”  So does that mean I should to go out and run a few red lights?  Weave in and out of traffic on my local highway? Threaten a mobster?  What?

Then there’s the fact that things have to happen in a car chase.  You want to increase the tension beyond, “They shot their guns.  She drove faster.”  You want “zip, boom, POW!” excitement (or at least potential excitement).   What’s a girl to do?

So, okay. What DID I know?  If we’re looking at the longest car chase sequence in the middle of the book, I knew several things.  I knew the car they are driving.  It’s an ancient Chevy Nova.  It’s MY ancient Chevy Nova, my beloved first car.  I knew how that car handled curves and straight-aways.  I remembered the growl of the engine when I put the pedal to the metal and sped by the other motorists as if they were standing still, as if they were losers and I was on a racetrack….um…huh. Well, you get the idea.

Then I started thinking about things that have actually happened to me in the years I’ve been driving.  And, specifically, I remembered the time a huge crane backed up into my car.  The crane took up most of the road, there was a line of traffic behind it, but apparently the driver thought it would be a good idea to stop in the middle of the highway and back up because he’d missed his turn.  I and my dearly beloved Chevy Nova were right behind it, so we got pushed back several feet and the front of my car was smashed.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyway, I remembered how that crane looked backing towards me.  I remembered how big it was, how it seemed to tower over me.  I remembered how it just kept on coming and coming and coming…

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Next, I considered a highway I use regularly.  It seems to be the preferred expressway for deliveries of double-wide mobile or modular homes. Every time I turn around I’m getting caught behind half of a house struggling to make it up the relatively steep hill.

Finally, I thought about how I’d feel if I was being chased by insane gunmen on a two lane highway with a lot of traffic.

I put all of those things into the food processor of my mind, mushed it together, and here’s what came out:

The sedan was coming up fast behind them. There were so many cars around them now, so many innocent people who might be hurt or killed by a stray bullet. Katie knew that she had to act quickly. This was no time for common sense.

“Hold on,” she yelled to Luc.

“What?”

Without answering or even stopping to think about what she was doing, Katie swerved out into the lane for the opposing traffic and sent Kato right up the middle of the road. They forced the drivers coming toward them over into the shoulder while horns blared and tires squealed.

The black sedan followed without hesitation.

Luc, who’d been taken completely by surprise, rapped his head on the window frame when the car jerked and swerved.

“Ow. Shit. What are you doing? Are you crazy?” he shouted.

“I hope not.”

While Luc muttered curses and prayers beside her, Katie clung to the steering wheel. They crested a rolling hill. As they started down the other side she finally saw what had caused the backup. A huge crane was lumbering slowly along at the head of the line of traffic, doing fifteen miles per hour at best.

But what caused the breath to die in her throat was the vehicle she could now see coming at them.

“Oh, crap,” she whispered.

She couldn’t believe it. She didn’t believe it. It was a house—a house for sweet Christ’s sake. Well, half a house. Half a double-wide trailer, to be precise. The oversized truck pulling it was already running in the shoulder and it still took up more than the width of its own lane of the road.

Katie’s heart pounded heavily. The road now dropped off sharply on their left, cars were on their right and murderers were behind them. They were boxed in. She heard Luc cursing, low and violently.

“You have to keep going now. Get past that crane.”

Katie didn’t bother answering because she knew he was right. She demanded even more speed from the Nova, and its wheels practically left the ground.

The truck pulling the house had seen them and stopped, but the crane still continued its slow pace forward, its operator apparently blissfully unaware of what was happening behind him. Katie was praying out loud now as she watched the gap between the two large vehicles narrow. The Nova had nothing left to give.

And the moral of the story?  Just because your commute is (mostly) boring, doesn’t mean it can’t be the basis for a zippy car chase scene.

*****

Betsy Horvath was raised on MGM musicals, old skool Harlequins, and Nancy Drew, so it should not have come as a shock that one day she’d be writing romance.  The biggest surprise was that it took her so long to actually buckle down and do it.  Hold Me, her debut romantic suspense novel, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books On Board, and anywhere fine ebooks are sold.

You can usually find Betsy at her website: www.betsyhorvath.com, on Twitter or hanging around Facebook

Your Villain is holding a Knife to your Heroine’s throat. Now what?

Kathy and I just gave our Kick Butt Heroes workshop at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference.  One of the techniques we demonstrated was a defense to a knife abduction.

This is a common scenario on TV and in books.  The villain grabs his hostage from behind and presses a knife to her throat.  What are her options?  In this video, you’ll see the Krav Maga answer, which is very similar to both Isshinryu and Kenpo techniques Kathy and I have learned.  Krav Maga is the self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Because of its brutal effectiveness, Krav Maga techniques are often taught to law enforcement officers.  In order for your character to perform this maneuver, he or she would need significant training.  This is not something the average person off the street could realistically pull off.

Remember, we’re showing these techniques for the purpose of writing awesome action scenes.  If you want to learn self-defense, take a class from a professional.  There’s no substitute.  You can get ideas for your fight scenes on YouTube, but self-defense training requires a qualified instructor and LOTS of supervised practice.

If you’d like to see us in action, we’ll be giving our workshop at the RWA National Conference in New York City.   Hope to see you there!

TIPS FOR WRITING ACTION

Make sure your action or fight scene moves the plot forward. If it doesn’t, cut it!

Action – Reaction: An action should come before a reaction. The cause is followed by the effect. The reader must see what is happening first so that they can have an emotional response and react to it along with the characters.

Example 1 (Reaction first)  Blood gushed from his nose when she decked him.

Example 2 (Action first)  When she decked him, blood gushed from his nose. Or She decked him. Blood gushed from his nose.

In example 2, the reader experiences the action as it’s unfolding.

Clarity and Pacing: Be straightforward and to the point. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will slow down the action. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. Use short and medium length sentences rather than long, complex ones. However, keep in mind not to structure them all the same, as a lack of variation could lead to choppy, robotic and monotonous prose.

Emotion: Don’t forget to write the emotional aspect of the fight. If the character has no emotional response to the action around him, neither will the reader. Emotion creates more suspense. It connects the reader with the character and makes them root for their success. Be warned. This is a balancing act. Too much emotion or introspection can slow your pacing.

Expressive words: Use strong action verbs to make the scene more interesting and more specific. For example, compare the following sentences:

The drunk walked into the house. (Not very specific)

The drunk staggered into the house. (This gives the reader a better mental picture.)

The drunk crept into the house. (Also a better mental picture with a different connotation. This guy is being sneaky. Is it because he doesn’t want the wife to catch him or is he there for nefarious purposes?)

I hope these were helpful. Please feel free to share your tips for writing action scenes in the comments section.

Remember…Details about how to submit to the action scene critique will be posted on Thursday. Polish those scenes and spread the word!

~KM Fawcett