Only THIS week, I’m not doing the talking! Nope. This week, I’m letting that Naked woman loose on y’all.
Tiffany Lawson Inman (aka NakedEditor) is in the More Cowbell House, my friends! (And she’s here with a really hot <NOT naked> guy who’s gonna talk all about some rough, tough, sweaty fighting. *fans self*)
Thank you Jenny, for letting me slide into your spot on Techie Tuesday. I’m getting pretty amped up about the contest, and I hope you don’t mind, I brought a surprise guest with me today for an interview! I KNOW the info he shares is right on the mark with our topic today.
The deadline for the Dirty Fighting Contest Round #2 is St.Patty’s Day! So, it seems like a perfect time to talk about writing physical action, eh?
Naked Editor’s favorite kinds of physical action:
- Weapons and sweat flying, muscles screaming, dirt-on-face-action.
- Scared-for-your-protagonists-life type of action!
- Readers avoiding calls, texts, and emails because they are reading your action packed book type of action!
When Jenny invited me to judge and edit the first Dirty Fighting Contest, I was runnin-to-the-rooftops excited. Because one of my favorite aspects of fiction are the BIG DRAMATIC ACTION SCENES. And what is more dramatic than a fight?!
Don’t bother giving me tickets to the ballet. I’d rather attend one of Shakespeare’s fight packed Tragedies. One of the reasons I am such a good judge of this kind of emotional extravaganza is because of my background in theatre.
When reading/editing an action/fight scene, my theatrically charged brain knows:
- what reaction should come next
- if emotions are missing
- what your character isn’t showing and should be showing
- where to incorporate setting and description
- when your characters should speak and the power behind dialogue and body language
- how to use rhythm and cadence to enforce pace
- why some choreography works and others doesn’t
The above list ALSO some of the many reasons you should be taking a class from me, hiring me to edit your manuscript, or the most immediate course of action—– entering in the Dirty Fighting Contest– because if you win – your scene will be posted on Jenny’s blog for an onscreen edit from me!
And, gosh, IF you need another incentive – I will also be editing the 1st Place Winner’s FIRST TEN PAGES of their WIP!
First thing to do is get your writing blood moving and read good active fiction.
Here is a snippet of raw fighting from Veronica Roth’s bestselling book, Divergent, to get you started. Roth shows us a very logical fight scene. Her cause/effect is flawless and she keeps the reader connected through every moment.
I block the next punch with my forearm. The blow stings, but I barely notice it. She grits her teeth and lets out a frustrated groan, more animal-sounding than human.
We see both characters’ reactions to the blocked punch!
She tries a sloppy kick at my side, which I dodge, and while her balance is off, I rush forward and force my elbow up at her face. She pulls her head back just in time, and my elbow grazes her chin.
She creates more tension by showing us a swing and almost miss. A good thing to remember – the action is always moving forward but by bobbing in the middle ground a bit you can add intrigue. Make the reader sweat!
She punches me in the ribs and I stumble to the side, recovering my breath.
Showing reality based recovery time! Not everyone remembers that their characters breathe.
There’s something she’s not protecting, I know it. I want to hit her face, but maybe that’s not a smart move. I watch her for a few seconds. Her hands are too high; they guard her nose and cheeks, leaving her stomach and ribs exposed. Molly and I have the same flaw in combat.
Mood enhancing internalizations. We also get a moment to analyze the picture with her.
Our eyes meet for just a second.
I aim an uppercut low, below her bellybutton. My fist sinks into her flesh forcing a heavy breath from her mouth that I feel against my ear.
VERY VIVID and active imagery. She shows us how hard the hit was without having to say “I hit her really hard.”
As she gasps, I sweep-kick her legs out from under her and she falls hard on the ground, sending dust into the air. I pull my foot back and kick as hard as I can at her ribs.
My mother and father would not approve of my kicking someone when she’s down.
I don’t care.
Did it feel like we were in the front row for that fight? I wish I could have shown you more…Go buy the book! I’ve seen more embellished fights that I’ve liked just as much, but for this scene, her simplistic style works. Because she nailed each movement, I’m thinking that Veronica Roth probably did her homework and got physical before writing that scene, don’t you think? I guess she could have hired a professional fight choreographer to help.
Speaking of professional fight choreographers… (cheesy transition, sorry) Here to help me get you guys even MORE rallied up for Round 2 of the Dirty Fighting Contest is fight choreographer extraordinaire, Teel James Glenn! I twisted his arm a month ago and I must have HUGE burly muscles, cuz he agreed to an interview.
I figured who best to further immerse us into the world of writing violence, than a man who has traveled the world for thirty years as a stuntman, fight choreographer, swordmaster, jouster, illustrator, storyteller, bodyguard, and actor?! AND he has over two dozen books in print. Genres including Steampunk, westerns, mysteries and the best selling SF thriller series “The Exceptionals.”
Teel James Glenn was a finalist in the EPIC book awards in 2009. He is also the winner of the 2012 Pulp Ark Ward for Best Author. See what else he is cooking up – visit him at: http://theurbanswashbuckler.com/
Now that you’ve gotten a bite of his bio, let’s see what he has to say about writing fight scenes!
How do you approach a physical action scene?
The fight scenes are always outgrowths of the plot so I don’t approach them all that differently than a dialogue scene. I try to determine what is the goal, i.e. who should win, who lose and what do I want to reveal in the course of the scene. Should I show some knowledge of the hero of a particular technique? Some fear or weakness to be revealed through the drama of the scene?
Everything starts with the characters so the arc of the story or the fight scene all come from the question ‘what am I trying to tell about this person or what is he/she supposed to discover about themselves?”
As a professional fight choreographer I’ve had to follow cause/effect formula when analyzing scripts to put the action on the performers and help them understand the characters. Each fight is a little story through which the characters’ personalities are exposed and the through line of the story reinforced.
In live choreography fights are composed in beats like a musical composition moving toward a crescendo and climax. The same can be said for written fights with the ‘notes’ and phrases determined by length of sentence, choice of word and paragraph arrangement.
How do you match the character to their fighting style and weapon choice?
Same way I decide what they wear; does it serve the story? In my Altiva stories the main character T.K. Mitchell has an ‘issue’ with bladed weapons- he can’t use even a steak knife to cut his meat. And yet he ‘falls’ onto a sword dominated world.
My solution to making him functional was to give him the Filipino stick fighting style of Kali as his main asset; it had the double advantage of allowing him to fight many different types of styles successfully and being a heck of a surprise since no one on the world had ever seen anything like it.
Do you find it’s harder to write verbal fights or physical fights or a combination of both?
I think verbal fights are more of challenge for me in that naturalistic dialogue in arguments can be difficult to keep from becoming like real life arguments- “Yes you did. No I didn’t. Yes you did. No I didn’t.” And don’t have much information, per se since the real life people arguing already know all the past history. In a book you have to give the history as the argument progresses the engage the reader.
Throughout a fight scene we can’t just write the physical action or it isn’t a full scene. How do you incorporate or what is your process to include: body language, types of dialogue, environment, and non-fighting characters?
I actually start with all that information first, i.e. how it all serves the story, where is everyone else and what each characters objectives/gains are. I always try to incorporate the environment in the fight to put the reader in the middle of it.
What are your favorite settings for a fight scene?
I got to write a fight between two friends in a sword fighting academy in “The Daemonhold Curse” (in Songs of a Warrior Priest out from Whiskey Creek Press in June). It was able to introduce both characters, explain their fight styles and give a lesson in history of the world all in one scene.
If there is something that I haven’t asked, that you would like to share about writing physical action?
Since the fight has to serve the purpose of the story you have to use the same criteria as any journalistic or dramatic story. Ask yourself, ‘is this fight necessary?’ If it is then you can use the old six questions: Why, Who, How, Where, What and When? (my arbitrary order, here, folks, don’t write me letters)
- Why? Why is this fight the solution to this moment of the story, instead of a dialogue scene?
- Who? Who is involved in the action; the principal? A secondary character? If so, what is their stake in the confrontation (their why).
- How? How did the fight come about?
- Where? Where does the action take place?
- What? What is involved, physically in the fight?
- When? When is it appropriate to have a fight instead of a non-physical solution?
When you have answered all these questions for yourself, you are ready to get down and dirty and start writing the fight!
Thank you Teel for sharing great insight and info! And thank you all for joining us today! I hope we got your Dirty Fighting blood bubbling and creative energy flowing to your laptop.
Comment below and tell us what author stokes your favorite action/fight scene fire! What was it about the writing that grabbed you? Or just say “hi!”
p.s. If you comment, your name will be in the hat to win a free spot in one of my April online classes offered through Lawson Writer’s Academy.
Tiffany Lawson Inman (NakedEditor) claimed a higher education at Columbia College Chicago. Here, she learned to use body and mind together for action scenes, character emotion, and dramatic story development. She teaches for Lawson Writer’s Academy and presents hands-on-action workshops. As a freelance editor, she provides story analysis and editing services.
You can find Tiffany at http://tiffanylawsoninmanisnakededitor.com/ or on Twitter @NakedEditor.
Sign up for my Action Scene ALL DAY WORKSHOP this summer at: http://www.thinkbannedthoughts.com/Tipi-Tales.html