Action scenes.

April 1, 2011

A is for Action, as in writing action scenes. Fights, stunts, anything that has your characters moving, struggling, in fear for their lives. Writing for some genres can do without the action scenes, but they can add a lot to fantasy, science fiction, and thriller genres, and of course, for adventure writing it’s just unavoidable. Action and adventure just naturally go together, don’t they?

I’ve had a bit of a knack for writing action scenes for a long time now, and found it a bit surprising when I first heard other writers saying that they had a hard time with them. They say that when you can do something well naturally, it’s a bit hard to dissect it and figure out just HOW to do it in a way that you can teach to someone else, but I think that I’ve come up with some useful tips for writing action scenes. By the way, a lot of these are phrased for fight sequences, because that’s the way a lot of them seem to go in my stories, but you can probably apply the same ideas to death-defying rescues or horrible accidents or what have you, with a little tweaking.

  1. Start from motivation. Figure out what each character wants in the scene. Does the hero just want to stay alive, is he dead-set on getting the amulet back, or does he want more than anything, to beat the shit out of the bad guy? Is the bad guy out to kill your hero, or is he play-acting to further some deep scheme of his own, or creating a diversion so that his henchmen can trash the hero’s house? Figuring out what’s motivating the actors in the scene, and how they tend to react in tense situations, will inform all of the action.
  2. Sort out the space, where the characters are, where they go. If you have trouble visualizing this mentally, then sketching it out in a graphics file or on paper can help.
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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Seven

February 23, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

This is a fairly short chapter, with an even shorter summary. I’m going to be trying to get the plot summaries to be more concise, instead of relating all the little stuff that happens, but this chapter makes it easy for me.

The guys – Kit, Ronan, and Darryl, go to a new Martian crater, one of the ones that the signal from the first egg went to. While investigating there, they see and interact with a bunch of wizardly ‘constructs’ in crazy forms, including fantastic Martian monsters and a ship of astronauts that claim to be from back on Earth. All of those guises, though, are being taken from their own minds, particularly a Mars movie that Darryl saw a long time ago, and they start to speculate on what this might mean. They decide that it’s the wizardries that the original Martians left behind testing them as a kind of self-defence system – if whoever discovers the message freaks out at these manifestations, and either run away or react aggressively, then they fail the test and don’t get to find out more. So they agree to move on to the next site in the message relay, investigating calmly but refusing to back off.

That’s about it for the important plot stuff that’s going on, as far as I can tell. So what else really impressed me with chapter seven, in terms of the writing?

A few things. One is simply that there seems to be a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the bits with the old Mars movie stuff come to life. I can almost picture Diane having the time of her life as she’s writing it, and that’s certainly endearing to a reader, as long as you can relate at least minimally to that enthusiasm. It reminds me, actually, of an anecdote that the author related in an interview that’s included in the audible.com version of ‘High Wizardry’, when she talks about going to the drive-in as a young girl or something like that, and she got to see “First Spaceship to Venus.” When she was older, she had a friend tape it for her, and was a little shocked that it had managed to capture her imagination so much, since the special effects were so bad. But I guess that she still has a soft spot for old sci-fi movies.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Five

February 9, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, we’re back to Kit again. Kit misses Ponch. This was mentioned before, but we’ve got several more references in this chapter about how much Ponch being gone is hitting Kit, and so I thought I’d mention it here. From the ending to “Wizards at War,” I kind of got the impression that though the old Ponch was gone, Ponch would be able to spend time with Kit in his new sheepdog avatar – especially since it had been foreshadowed that nobody knew if the sheepdog had an owner in the neighborhood, back as early as “Wizard’s Holiday.” But that’s a minor point, and I can appreciate the angst of Kit being lonely because his dog’s gone, not to mention that having him actually take part in the plot might make certain things too easy or familiar.

We get an indirect answer to my question about Nita going back to Mars after everybody’s gone, too, via a text message in Kit’s manual, which made Kit think that Nita was scowling. And she doesn’t want to be bothered until after lunch, by which time I suspect Kit will be in the middle of other business, and thus our main characters will be separated for a good portion of the book.

So Kit’s up in the middle of the night, and antsy about his little discovery on Mars, so he decides to go back. He chats with the Edsel on his way out of the house, (who was mentioned as the source of the antenna back in ‘So you want to be a wizard’, but never shown as far as I recall,) transits over to Mars, and talks with a rock about the weather. And only an American wizard could possibly talk with a rock in the language of the Making, and translate those words into degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius or Kelvin would make much more sense to anybody else from planet Earth. The martian rock, presumably, hasn’t heard of any of them, and would use some kind of absolute scale that’s built into the Speech.

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