Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Writing Prompt – Fight!

Hockey FightThis is a great photo, captured during the 11/27/2010 NHL game between the Blackhawks and the Kings. I love hockey….always a good fight.

Have you heard this really old joke?

“Last night I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.”

It never gets old.

Let’s talk about fight scenes.

A fight scene should be exciting, fast-paced, and pack an emotional punch. You need to put the reader into the middle of the scene and enable him to feel each landed blow. You’ve got to be descriptive enough to paint the picture for the reader, but not so descriptive that you slow down the scene.

And you’ve got to accomplish this without falling into the trap of describing punch for punch, kick for kick and finger-poke for hair pull.

So how do you do it?

Keep the scene in the point of view of the main character. Describe things through his eyes. Show that your character is engaged in the fight, but is also aware of his surroundings.

What follows is an example from one of my works-in-progress.

In this scene, Karis and his priestess companions are ambushed by a group of sentient, demon-hounds called ahventhí . Out of context, the description of Karis’s two last arrows sounds clunky, but it’s important for the rest of the story to note that he has none left. Still, I think you get the idea here:

The ahventhí charged the women.

Karis jerked in their direction and launched the first of his last two arrows. It misfired, gut string scraping across his wrist. A discordant twang of the bowstring echoed in the clearing and the arrow careened sharply right into the darkness.

Karis took better aim with his last arrow. It struck the cur in the spine, and the great beast rolled to a halt, gasping and choking, paralyzed.

The remaining ahventhí, a large grey creature with white battle scars crossing its snout, leaped at Karis. Using the bow as a shield, he clouted the attacking beast and sidestepped, forcing it aside as he drew his sword.

Note the use of a brief sentence to get the scene started: “The ahventhí charged the woman.” This clipped rhythm is used elsewhere to keep the momentum: “It misfired, …”, “It struck the cur in the spine…” This continues as Karis dispatches the final beast with his sword.

Together, these brief snippets seem like the choreographed movements of a dance: They did this, the arrow did that, Karis did this…” which is exactly what we don’t want to write. But here, these clipped, mechanical statements are temporized with brief description.

Also, strong action verbs are substituted for weak ones: charged, attacked, launched, clouted, paralyzed.

What’s missing is how Karis is feeling. We can get to that as the scene is wrapped up:

He fell to his knee at the foot of the dead beast, wiped a hand across his brow and reset his headband. Lungs heaving, heart pumping, he bent and wiped his blade on the creature’s coarse fur, sheathed it, and recovered his bow.

Karis stood on shaking legs, paused a moment to catch his breath, then bolted in the direction he saw the women flee.

Even later we get to Karis’ thoughts: when he has time to recall the fight, examine what happened, figure out how he got ambushed. This could happen as he’s searching for the fleeing women, or even later in the chapter as a reflection.

Here’s Your Prompt: Your turn! Write a fight scene. It can be men fighting men, or women fighting women (or a combination there of) or, as above, man or woman against beast. Keep it simple this time and limit the players to two or three at most.

Use tight sentences, action verbs and keep the description to a minimum.

Post your scenes in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’ve written.


Photo Notes: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman John Scott, left, and Los Angeles Kings right wing Kevin Westgarth fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Darkover – What a Fantastic Weekend

I’m a little late posting this, but things (as usual) have been a bit crazy around here.

I just wanted to mention to folks that if you get the opportunity to attend the Darkover convention in Timonium, MD…you really should.

I had a FABULOUS (!) time this past weekend. I met lots of really nice people (had some great conversations), shopped carefully at the dealer’s location (only had one book #fail – w00t!) and sat in on some fascinating panels.

I was also a speaker on two very different panels:

  1. Do Fantasy Writers Need Cats? – I believe I was the only dissenting voice on the panel – who wants cat hair in his keyboard? But it was loads of fun with lots of storytelling about pets past and present from all of us.
  2. Magic and Religion in Fantasy. How do you use them in your writing but keep it believable?
    The second panel was a thrilling experience for me, on so many levels… First: because I use both magic and religion in my stories, I felt I had a lot to contribute to the panel. I think I spoke intelligently. Second: there were lots of attentive faces in the audience. People seemed genuinely interested in the topic. And finally: two of my favorite authors were on the panel, too…C.S. Friedman and Katherine Kurtz.

    I’m happy to report that I conducted myself professionally…even though I was going all fangirl on the inside.

The dealers were various, and I was sorely tempted buy a lot of nifty stuff. I did some salivating over some beautiful glass knitting needles at one table and a stocking full of gaming dice at another.

The needles were pretty, and apparently sturdy, but I do take my knitting everywhere now it seems…so having glass needles, no matter how hearty, seems like folly.

And the dice, well… can you ever have too many dice? Um….yeah. Although, had there been single sets, I probably could have been persuaded to part with some cash.

There was also leather, lots of leather, which I admired from afar. I knew if I got within smelling distance of any of those lovely items — especially the wearables — I’d be taking something home. Alas.

All in all… a very good time.

If you attended my session on how to get pub’ed and you want my full notes from the seminar, please drop me a line and I’ll send you my PowerPoint presentation as a PDF. I’ll be happy to share. (There is lots of stuff there we didn’t have time to cover.) Also: if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask…send me a note or hit me up on Twitter.