Please welcome guest blogger Rob Preece
it’s possible to write a story that’s all dialogue, description and
introspection, for many genres, especially fantasy and science
fiction-related genres, action, sex and physical danger add spice. The
trick, of course, is to make the action seem believable, while allowing
it to define the character in the eyes of the reader and use it as a
symbol to show that character’s growth through the story. Unfortunately,
there are several pitfalls with writing action and fight scenes—even
more so than in writing sex scenes (most authors are far more familiar
with the basics of sex than they are with those of fighting).
your character handles a physically dangerous situation depends on that
character and that character’s story arc. Let’s say, for example, that
our protagonist (Jane) is a female spy who’s penetrated an enemy
stronghold and read that enemy’s secret plans but is discovered in the
act. Jane can run, hide, fight, or surrender. Each act has obvious
consequences and the decision will drive the rest of the story.
our story, Jane decides to fight rather than run away. Our readers will
sympathize even though they might run away themselves. Because she’s
the protagonist, we want Jane to be braver, more capable than we are.
The actual fight, though, is a bit tricky. Like a sex scene, we want the
fight to reflect the characters involved. Thus the fight must be
choreographed to show Jane’s stage in her development as a protagonist
and must be individualized. Readers have seen too many stories where the
woman kicks her assailants in the scrotum and will feel
cheated by a clichéd solution. They instinctively know that tough
security guards have been kicked before and are ready for this response.
with all writing, one technique is to use the readers’ experience and
expectations to trick them, twist the cliché and show it in a new way.
The first idea that jumps into our heads is generally the one readers
expect, and that we should avoid. If everyone, including the guards,
knows that Jane intends to kick one or more of them in the scrotum, the
story is advanced if she does something else (perhaps performs
a back kick on the guard trying to grab her from behind after suckering
the guard in front of her with a fake knee to his groin). In this way,
we either avoid cliché entirely or use the cliché as a setup, then
deliver an unexpected payoff.
author doesn’t need to be a mixed martial arts expert to write good
action scenes any more than she needs to live in eighteenth century
England to write regency. It’s important, though, to do your research.
Just as readers of medieval romance are put off by anachronisms, so
readers of action fiction are pulled out of the story by action that’s
clichéd, that’s physically impossible, or that simply doesn’t fit with
the character you’ve established.
more tips and techniques? In my workshop with FF&P, I’ll help
writers construct high-impact action scenes that add to the story rather
than simply filling space.
What the Action Heroine Knows, and the Writer Should: Martial Arts, Fighting and Weapons, presented by Rob Preece, runs from April 2, 2012 through April 29, 2012
Preece is a martial artist, writer small publisher, and bridge
instructor. He holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has
also studied Ju-Jitsu, Kobodo (Okinawan traditional weapons), European
Fencing, Judo and Taiji (Tai-Chi). When he's not practicing fighting,
Rob is working on his next project, editing, or playing bridge. A
longtime member of Romance Writers of America, Rob has finaled in the
RWA Golden Heart competition as well as finaling or winning a number of
other writing competitions. His mystery, Midlife Murder(writing as Amy
Eastlake) was a top-rated pick at Fictionwise where he's reached the
best-sellers list several times. He's presented his workshop on writing
fight scenes for RWA National, Mystery Writers of America Southwest,
EPIC, several local RWA and MWA chapters and on line.