Monday, April 19, 2010

It's all in the action

After having several months of hiatus, I've pulled Haven off the shelves and have been busy editing the heck out of it. I was especially anxious to get back to looking at how my action scenes played out. Some of the advice that I got a couple of weekends ago was to keep the action short and sweet. Allow the reader to create the idea of what's happening rather than describing everything in intricate detail, after all, how much detail do people actually pay attention to during fights or other pieces of action?

For all those that don't know, Haven is (dare I say it) another vampire novel, with werewolves and witches. A brief run down is that my MC gets kidnapped and taken to a juvenile boot camp for vamps, weres and witches, where she's told that she's a Dhampir, half-human, half-vampire. Something that will get her killed if anyone learns the truth.

Sounds familiar... well, it's not so don't even go there. My story focuses on the secret fight club that operates underneath the camp/school. And, when her opponents starts disappearing and there's footage captured of her at the scene of the crime she has to find the real predator before she is found guilty.
I have found writing action sequences rather challenging because I want them to be believable and interesting, and it's so damn hard trying to find the words of how someone is moving through a triple combo while the main character is more focused on trying not to get hit.

I'm a big fan of fighting movies and I decided to have some inspiration on today, so I had Never Back Down playing on the television. When the big fight was happening I kept asking myself, 'how would this look on paper?' There were so many moves and not just from the main character, but also his opponent, the numerous crowd chanting intimidating mantras at the MC, the look of desperation from his girlfriend, the list goes on... so, what would be scribed in a book and what would be omitted? Would the MC take note of every individual move the opponent made or would he just care about the fist coming toward his head or the kick to the ribs?

When I flipped open the pages of Haven, I probably checked over ten individual action sequences and tried to shorten them, and most of my action sequences is a fist-to-fist (or paw) fight. So, my problem was to check to make sure these fights weren't tedious, and that more things happened than my MC getting the crap beaten out of her (yes, I'm pretty ruthless to my MC... but it'll make her stronger in the long run, I promise). Also, my MC loves to fight... and I mean, L.O.V.E.S.

This is probably why action scenes should be kept short. The more detail and movement the writer places into the action, the less interesting and believable it becomes. As long as something different happens in each sequence, and the outcomes change, then keeping the action short and succinct will help to keep up with the fast pace of the action.

So, do you like writing action scenes? And, how do you handle them?


Lydia Kang said...

I have a lot of problems with fight scenes too. I've had the complaint that I let the action happen too fast, and I need to prolong the tension!

Angela said...

Great post! Fight scenes are, IMO, one of the most difficult to write. It's tough finding a balance of just enough info and good flow. Which is why my scenes tend to be short as well.

Unknown said...

@Lydia. That's the problem, trying to get the right level of description and tension because if there's too much then you end up losing the tension.

@Angela. Fight scenes or any action scenes probably are the most difficult to write because you've been building up tension, the scene you write can either keep that tension or be a massive let down. I've read several stories that I was disappointed in when it came to the fight scenes because all the tension was lost or nothing happened.

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...

I have to rewrite my action scenes many times. They start out as bare bones. Make that, dry and dusty bones. It takes me many revisions to get the balance of enough detail, plus a little introspection, or they feel too rushed.

Unknown said...

@Deb, I know what it feels like. My first draft most things are usually bare bones and I have to go back and add little details in, mainly because I want to know what the action is before I fine tune it.

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