Please welcome PAN author Annette McCleave as she discusses action scenes.
Some people find action scenes hard to write. Other writers pour those scenes straight from their imaginations onto the page with effortless detail. The paranormal and speculative romance genres lend themselves well to action scenes, so developing a talent for them certainly couldn’t hurt.
Personally, I think writing an action scene is similar to writing any other kind of scene. Lively pacing, strong emotions, and clear cause and effect are all vital to a good action scene. But that would be true in a group conversation amongst your characters, as well.
My favorite kind of action scene is one where the hero, competent and supremely confident fellow that he is, gets his ass kicked. Okay, it doesn’t have to be literal. But think back to Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. The battle for Helms Deep. The hero, Aragorn, is manning the castle walls with a competent group of archers. Does he succeed in pushing back the hordes of Orcs? Or does he get his ass kicked? For the sake of those who may not have seen the movie, I won’t give the answer, but which result do you think would be intrinsically more exciting?
In my upcoming release, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, my hero battles his nemesis in the early part of the book and despite his skills, comes up short. That remains one of my favorite scenes in the book. Not because I want my hero to look bad, but because he needs to discover new levels of himself and one of the more emphatic ways to do that is to face defeat.
A dustbowl of swirling red miasma rose up from the damp pavement, encircling the two of them as they dueled. Spinning madly, the crimson tornado lifted higher and higher, until it obliterated every star in the night sky. Then white-hot fireballs began to rain down on Lachlan.
His shield charm took a heavy beating. In a disquietingly short time, the hellish fury pitted the protection spell to rice paper density. But Lachlan had little time to spare for repairs.
He was battling an expert swordsman.
Had he been the same rough soldier Drusus had manipulated all those years ago, his defeat would have been quick and brutal. The demon held nothing back, hitting his blade with powerful, bone-rattling blows, the kind of blows one avoids in practice sessions for fear of irreparably damaging a blade.
Fortunately, though, Lachlan was no longer a backward Scottish knight who only hacked and thrust. With the help of Italian and Spanish masters, at whose feet he had studied for a hundred years after his death, he’d honed his talents to a lethal edge. Talents that now served him well.
He cut and thrust with smooth, almost effortless technique. He broke through the demon’s defenses twice, slicing through the leather jacket and biting deep into flesh. His new sword glowed green with the taste of demon blood.
But victory eluded him.
The sword was not enough. Not only did his opponent’s wounds heal with incredible speed, allowing Drusus to continue fighting without respite, but moments after Lachlan scored his second successful slice, the beleaguered shield charm collapsed, leaving him dreadfully barren of protection. He swiftly called forth another, but it was whisked away before it was fully formed, with no more exertion than a horse swatting a fly.
The swirling red vapor dissolved, carried away in wisps on the night breeze. Drusus paused, staring curiously at Lachlan’s heaving chest and sweat-drenched brow.
“You Gatherers are little better than humans,” he observed, sounding disappointed. “This is hardly the challenging duel I’d hoped it would be.”
Lachlan responded by whipping a restraining spell at him, roping the demon in thick white cords and pinning his arms to his sides.
Drusus broke the binds with a single in-drawn breath. “Very rudimentary stuff, that. There’s a much better spell in the Book of Gnills. Where’s the Linen?”
As the tattered remnants of the binds fell away, the gap in the demon’s leather jacket widened, and Lachlan caught a glimpse of a faint golden glow about his neck—the reliquary. A bitter dose of failure poured into his throat, choking him. Drusus could crush him, right here and right now, if that was his desire. Not without a fight, of course, but slowly, inevitably, courtesy of the indefatigable power the bastard borrowed from Satan. And when he fell, the souls of his family would be cast into hell, never to be recovered.
No. He could not let them down. Not again. He drew deep on his powers and straightened to his full height.
“F*** you.” *****Edited by Blogmistress for public*****
Action scenes give you a chance to show the inner stuffing of your character. They can be a testament to his worth. Despite my hero’s defeat, he comes across as competent, brave, and determined to win. Why? Because the reason he fails has nothing to do with those elements of his character. He doesn’t go down easy and he doesn’t betray his principles in the battle. Principles that become very clear as he fights. How far will he go? What’s he willing to lose? What level of punishment will he endure?
Did anyone here see the updated version of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as James Bond? A very good example of defeat doubling as a win for the character is the torture scene. An action scene that still makes me cringe, by the way.
Do you find action scenes easy to write, or hard? As a reader, do you enjoy action scenes in a romance, or skip over them to get to the ‘good stuff’? Are there romance authors you think write unskip-able action scenes? Share!
This is one of the stops on my Cross into Darkness blog tour. In celebration of my release, I’m offering one commenter here today a copy of DRAWN INTO DARKNESS. In addition, over at my personal blog, I’m running a grand prize contest. I’ve posted a mystery photo, and at each stop on my tour, I’m giving a clue about the identity of that photo. If you guess correctly and submit an entry over at my site, you could win a silver Celtic cross not unlike the one my hero Lachlan MacGregor wears. Contest details, including the stops on my tour are listed on my blog.
FF&P Clue: May have been the birthplace of Pontius Pilate
DRAWN INTO DARKNESS will hit store shelves on September 1st. The second book in the Soul Gatherer series, BOUND BY DARKNESS, releases in May 2010.
***********EDITED TO ADD*****************
With the help of Random.org, I have a winner for yesterday’s copy of DRAWN INTO DARKNESS: darkangelauthor. Congratulations!
Thanks to all of you who stopped by and commented,