Monday, February 22, 2010

writing action

Why do sheepdogs run in their sleep? When my sheepdog runs in his sleep it can only mean that he is trying to send me some message about writing. But that message is hidden in the mists of my own limited understanding. What could the meaning of his twitching paws be? It comes to me. He’s speaking to one of the great problems of writing action scenes. The desire to speed things up.

When you’re writing an action scene you can write as quickly as you like but what happens on the page should move slowly. Slow down time. It will be hard because your adrenaline gets going as you try to make the scene exciting and as you participate through your characters. But I think time works a little differently in action scenes. These scenes work best when you realize that you heighten the tention in such a scene by altering time. Let the character in danger be in danger longer than is actually possible by making the time non-specific.

SIMPLISTIC EXAMPLE--For example, you have BOY and GIRL in danger. Snidely Whiplash has tied them to a train track and the train is coming. Dudley Do-Right is battling Snidely to free BOY and GIRL. They are in a fight to the death, though Dudley Do-Right does keep asking Snidely Whiplash to say uncle and throw down his weapon because he’s a, you know, Canadian Mountie and quite polite and nice. You describe the fight, different aspects of it, while the train moves ever closer. If this were reality you might only have a few lines of the fight before the train actually runs over BOY and GIRL. But you can, simply by not mentioning time, get away with extending it through description of the fight scene and the things they say to each other. It won’t be noticed if you’re crafty about it and don’t extend it to the ridiculous as is the case in some action movies.

Action scenes, whether a fight on school grounds or a chase scene etc..etc.. can be effective as long as they work to push along story or add to character, too.


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

A great post! Linking back to you. :-)

Sherrie Petersen said...

Slowing down is always a trick for me. It feels like the scene is taking too long...until I read it! Good reminder. I'm working on an action scene right now.

Tricia said...

really enjoyed this post. thank you! :)

Elisabeth Black said...

Excellent point. Thanks for the post.

Brian Yansky said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments--Deb, Solvang, Tricia and Elisabeth.