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Readin', 'Ritin', and Rough-housin' AKA Babbling About Action Writing with KD

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Knight_Dilettante, Mar 13, 2003.

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  1. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Action Reading/Writing

    What makes a piece of action writing fun to read? What are some interesting ways in which authors write action? What effects can the different approaches produce in the reader? I hope with this thread to produce some interesting discussion about action writing. Some of which (that is your cue to post, dear reader) might even be useful. Stranger things have happened.

    I?m going to post this in three sections in order to minimize the chance of spoilers (vis-a-vis the stories to which I am going to refer) for those that are bothered by them.

    The inspiration for this thread is Mistress Renata?s [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284]Protest[/link], specifically, an early action scene in that story which left me as breathless as if I had lived it with the character. The reason my thinking about how authors write action has resulted in this thread is twofold: First I do hope for an interesting discussion. Second I was rereading a book I had recommended in one of my babbles and there was a sentence in it that just grabbed me. And it made me realize that that action sequence was written very differently and that just by the way it was written it produced a very different reaction. And I wanted to know what others think about this (besides "We knew that, silly." which is certainly a valid reaction) and what if anything they have done with it.

    Until I had that little epiphany I hadn?t really thought about how there are many ways an author can write an action sequence. The same scene written different ways will produce different effects. Which could be useful. It might even be interesting to try different styles on a particular scene to see what they produce. Up to this point I would have to say that all my action scenes had been written completely instinctively. I had never intentionally examined how I wrote something, nor tried to write in a certain way in order to produce a particular effect. Of course this is not limited to action writing but it struck a chord with me due to having read enough action pieces (not here by the way - published work for the most part) where too much detail was being given or there were other reasons why the action felt off so I was already thinking about action writing.

    For this thread I?ve got three examples of good action writing that produce (in me at least) very different reactions due in some measure to how they were written. And if things go well I will have a follow-up post that will be a scene (the same scene) in each of the three methods shown here (or as closely as I can approximate it) for the amusement value if nothing else. I am not at all sure that I am capable of truly analyzing why each example works and produces the reaction it does (at least for me - and if others have a different reaction that will be interesting too - so jump right in) but I am going to try - because maybe that way I can get a good argument, er I mean discussion, going.

    First up is the initial inspiration for this stream of consciousness; the first ?chase? scene from Mistress Renata?s [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284]Protest[/link]. Specifically her post of 5 January 2003. If you have not read [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284]Protest[/link] go do it now so that you don?t have to worry about spoilers. I suggest reading the whole thing for the fun of it and then coming back but read at least through the 5 Jan post on [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284]Protest[/link] before you go on. OK, everyone has read at least through 5 Jan right? Because spoilers are in the very next post. Look out. Here they come.

    *************************************
     
  2. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 12, 2000
    Well, I've just refreshed my memory of Protest, and I noticed that Mistres Renata has a very ... hmm, what is the word? ... minimalistic style. She uses as few words as possible to describe the action. It's bare bones and makes for fast reading, thereby increasing the sense that we are there with Rendell, hopping from sky car to sky car at Force-enhanced speed. There's no time to linger, no chance to catch more than a glimpse of any details, we're up and running to the next thing.

    Mistress Renata makes it look so easy, too! The style just flows! I wonder how long it took her to write this section, because it looks like it just flew off her pen ... er ... keyboard. I know that whenever I try to write action of any kind, I get bogged down in details and it takes literally days to produce a few paragraphs. I keep thinking things like "Okay, now if he moves that way, then -this- will happen, so I have to make sure that I tell the reader how he doesn't move that way, but moves this way instead ... but does he move? Or does he turn? Twist? Shimmy? Argh, where's my thesaurus?"
     
  3. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Ah, kind Jane, how nice of you to submit to blackmail and post a reply. I love your description of how you write action because it is so very similar to the way I do. Although I usually find I have put in way too much detail. Much like my posts in general it is often irrelevant detail as well. Which brings us to your very cogent observations about Protest's scene and is thus the cue for my next post I think.


    *************************************

    Now, everyone has read through at least 1/5/03 on [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284]Protest[/link] right? Now that you have read the story for the sheer fun of it, go back to the 1/5/03 post from Mistress Renata in which young Trett chases the bad guys across the sky lanes of Coruscant. This [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=10039284&start=10072479]Protest chase link[/link] should take you to the right page. (BTW If you know how to link directly to a particular post so that that post pops up rather than just the page it is on, please let me know and I will edit this to be more helpful.)

    Well, I don?t know about you but when I finished reading that chase I was practically gasping as if I had been running along the roofs of cloud cars and jumping up or falling down to other levels of air traffic alongside Trett the entire way. And, just as would have been the case if I had been running and jumping alongside Trett, I was not certain what exactly I had just passed. Even though I did in fact read every word the first time through, I had to go back more than once to be sure I knew that Trett had spent part of that time on a swoop rather than in a cloud car. And one belonging to a Coruscant policeman rather than a Senate guard. Although at the very beginning he was atop a Senate Security vehicle so perhaps that confusion is understandable. And even more to realize I?ll never know exactly how many levels of traffic he moved through. This is an excellent example of writing action that pulls the reader in alongside the character.

    I believe I was dragged along with Trett because there were no superfluous details about what the drivers of other vehicles were wearing or saying or even what species they were or what color their cloud car was. The only reason I knew what the weather was vaguely like was because the GFFA versions of my rag top all had their tops up and we had been running along them as well as the hardtops. The details were all limited to Trett?s field of focus. And his focus did not wander off from his target except when he was looking for a way to get closer to it. The speed at which things happened seemed to me to be the speed that they might happen in reality and it was consistent within that section so I was not nudged into an observational position rather than a participatory one by non-linear timing.

    My second example comes from HaiGan?s current Buffy/SW cross-over (which I highly recommend for Buffy fans, or even those who are not very familiar with Buffy, if you haven?t found it already), [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5523955]Through a Glass, Darkly[/link]. There are a number of excellent action scenes in [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5523955]Through a Glass, Darkly[/link] but the one I am concerned with here happens fairly early on. Later on we may want to look at other scenes in this story since she has written in different styles. So, first off, go read for fun at least until you are past the post of 3/3/02. (Which should be somewhere around page 7 or 8 if you use the default 25 posts per page.) Now watch out. Spoilers in the next post.

    ***********************************


    I'll post the third section in a few hours.

    KD


     
  4. Knight-Ander

    Knight-Ander Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Hmmm... This looks like it could help when I'm writing action sequences. I have a scene planned in an upcoming fic similar to the one in Protest, so I'm glad you led me to it, KD.

    There is a fantastic chase scene that opens Jedi Shampoo's [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=8788967&replies=41]Creatures Wild, Creatures Tamed[/link]. It left me breathless and on the edge of my seat that even though the author hasn't been online for months, I still up it everyonce in a while, trying to intoduce readers to a fantastic story.

    Anyway, babble on. :D
     
  5. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Hello Knight-Ander, welcome and thanks for the fic pointer. In obedience to your command to babble on, I present the third post of the initial three on this subject. I really do hope we can get some discussion going about this for the purely selfish reason that I need work on my action scenes.

    (p.s. Why is the Xena theme now running through my head? ;) )

    ***********************************

    Everyone has read thru 3/3/02? Now go back to HaiGan?s post of 3/3/02 (this link [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5523955&start=5906517]Through a Glass, Darkly action scene[/link] should put you on the right page) and re-read the bout between Buffy and Barin that happens in the training room at the back of the Magic Shop.

    It is a training bout rather than an actual fight. In spite of the fact that I am quite sure Buffy would really like to wipe the floor with Barin sometimes. Notice how it is instructive, and appraising in a way from both their sides, and at least for me, in one section evocative of a John Woo film where perhaps the combatants? awareness of the others movements etc. speeds up compared to real time. I believe that this is why the blow by blow fight description combined with the conversation still does not seem out of sync time-wise as one reads it. Now, would this work with any fight or any pair of fighters? Probably not. Buffy and Barin are both, if not super human, are at least FOUSes (Fighters of Unusual Speed/Size/Skill - the first to PM me the reference gets a prize of unknown value - most likely quite small - if not zero value - in fact nothing other than recognition in a later post) if not super-natural ability. Certainly few ordinary humans (if any) would be able to levitate in order to avoid a pummeling. So I think it would be difficult to write a fight with a detailed blow by blow description and also include conversation and have it not seem out of synch in terms of time. Unless perhaps time were to run in a non-linear fashion throughout the whole story. A fight or a training or practice bout between two Jedi could also be done this way successfully. But somehow I don?t see Han Solo ever being Zen enough to have each blow named and still hold a conversation. The pacing would feel wrong because we know he is a ?normal? human. Now anyone who has a counter example that blows this mini analysis out of the water ought to post a link or a book title or whatever and straighten me out.

    Now for an example (for which I have received permission to quote from the book from the author via e-mail in case the mods were concerned about copyright issues) of a very nice piece of action writing that is about as far as you can get from a detailed blow by blow description of a fight and yet still paints a very accurate picture of exactly what is happening. This last example is from the novel [link=http://www.sff.net/people/KushnerSherman/Kushner/swordspoint.html]Swordspoint[/link] by Ellen Kushner (some of you may also know her from her radio program - Sound and Spirit on NPR) which is an excellent work that you should all go get and read right now. There are some non-traditional relationships and the hero does after all fight for a living so if such things bother you... The new release (which I hope is the one I have in the link above) contains also three short stories involving some of the same characters.

    In any case, reproduced for you below with the kind permission of Ms. Kushner is the scene I am referring to. Anyone who wants to be 100% spoiler free for the book needs to get Swordspoint and read past page 26 before continuing to the next paragraph.

    ******************************************

    OK, I warned you. Although I am trying hard to keep the spoilers to a minimum, some background is necessary. Richard St. Vier is the main character. He is a ?swordsman?. The nobles of the city hire swordsmen to fight their duels for them. If Noble A wants Noble B dead, A arranges for a swordsman to challenge B when the challenged B will be unable to get another swordsman to take on the f
     
  6. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I inspired a thread? [face_blush] [face_blush] [face_blush] Goodness!

    I kind of like the "spare" style, because it can dilute the action if you stop to describe what everyone is wearing/breathing/thinking. HaiGan's story works with the detail, though, because the point of that scene isn't just the action moving the story along; it's action as character development... tres tricky! I think some of "how to do action" is "what is the purpose of the action?" Are you just advancing the story to the next plot point and keep your readers breathless? Are you using it to explore characters (like TaGD or Swordspoint)? What are the other reasons to use action? What you're using it for may help you figure out how to write it.

    I dunno, when I write I am literally running it through my mind as a film scene, and I have to figure out how to put it on paper and how much is important to add.

    KD, this is a really good idea for a thread! I've never really thought that much about it; my one and only real "action" guideline has been "start the story with the action." Can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.
     
  7. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    (Oh, yeah... FOUS... "Inconceivable!" "You keep using that word. I don' think it means what you think it means." Loved that film! :) Book was even better! )
     
  8. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 12, 2000
    Let's see if I can say something coherant here to keep this thread going -- I'm surprised that it dropped so quickly when I wasn't looking. Anyway, it's been a long day and I'm rather exhausted. I did spend several happy minutes reading "Creatures Wild, Creatures Tamed" by Jedi Shampoo, not just the breathtaking action scene, but everything that was written. Great start! Makes me wish I'd looked at it before, and that the author were still posting. But I digress.

    This action scene had a lot of bare bones, too, but also a welcome touch of characterization. I liked the way the author showed how Anakin loved free-falling, the way he soared joyfully through the air and caught himself tidily in a tree. It was also obvious through little additions that Obi-Wan didn't enjoy it as much and wasn't as graceful. This touch of characterization doesn't detract from the action -- for the moment, they've lost track of the creature. When they see it again, however, the action starts up again and the emphasis turns from the Jedi.

    I especially loved the imagine of the creature dragging two Jedi around. The writing was simple, but clear. "The animal slowed, bucking and heaving, trying to dislodge its unwelcome riders." I suppose most of us have seen rodeo on television, and we can all imagine this huge quadriped going through the same motions, 'bucking and heaving' and trying to throw off its riders. (Except that most rodeo riders aren't clinging to the back leg of the horse. :) )

    More description is not necessary; there's just enough that we know exactly what's going on, and then the story moves quickly but clearly to the next action.

    From these two examples, it would seem that this is the best way to write action; simple details and just enough description that the reader knows what's going on. It might well be the easiest way, but is it really the best? We could continue to look at other samples of writing and perhaps compare them.

    I'll have to comment on Hai Gan's action later, I think. I'm also considering a link to one of the many action scenes in Alion_Sangre's fic "Snow Job", which are somehow simultaneously breathtaking and yet also rich with description.
     
  9. Knight-Ander

    Knight-Ander Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2002
    I think one of the key things about an action scene is how it ends.

    One of the best things about that opening chase in Creatures..., Jane, is the way it ended with an exhausted Anakin telling a startled bystander his patented line, "Jedi business."

    And then there is the end of the Protest post Professor KD instructed us to read:

    The carrier stopped, and hovered as passengers began to disembark. With a sigh, the boy slid down an access ladder near the back and swung himself on to the platform. He?d lost them.

    A few more steps into the station, and he realized with a sinking heart that the attackers weren?t the only people lost. So was he!


    Not only did Trett lose the bad guys, but he's lost as well!

    Inserting humor at the end of the scene is a very effective way of breaking the tension created by a very tense and exciting action scene. After all doesn't James Bond always say something witty after foiling the bad guys? And he's possible the greatest action hero in cinema history. If anybody saw Die Another Day, you'll remember the line, "Saved by the bell." :D

    I did this sort of thing in the 3/14 post of my story [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=9258539&page=24]The Young Flames[/link] where, after witnessing young Obi-Wan remove the head of an evil Force-user who is threatening Queen Amidala, Anakin watches the disembodied head tumbling across the floor, whistling and saying in awe, "Wizard" before moving on.

    (Yes, I know, that was a shameless plug, but I think it was a good example :D ).

    Anyway, that's my additional two cents to the discussion. :)
     
  10. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 12, 2000
    Yes, humour is a good way to end an action scene, which is why I'm not going to insert any of my weak little offerings right here -- they don't end with a humourous touch. If I recall correctly, they just sort of peter out, or end abruptly.

    Can every action scene end with humour? Are there places where humour wouldn't be appropriate? How else could you end an action scene -- what could you put in its place?

    Here's the link to [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=6532360]Snow Job[/link]
     
  11. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Knight-Ander, thanks muchly for the pointer to JediShampoo's story. It's excellent. I agree that first scene is an excellent chase scene. I think (on only one reading so don't hold me to it) that it is slightly more introspective than Mistress Renata's Protest chase but it seems to only be introspective at points where that is not disruptive to the sense of timing. And I don't believe Trett had much opportunity to catch his breath and look around. While Anakin did in Creatures to some extent at any rate.

    I will now have to go get the Die Another Day dvd out for more homework. But I submit that James Bond (and by extension, Bruce Willis' character in the Die Hard series and others such as Indiana Jones) is a member of a subset of action where humor is appropriate or even expected. I believe it is true that in real life the police for example may react post adreneline surge with humor. But there are occasions where humor would not be an appropriate tag for that particular action segment. I'm sure I have read many books and seen many movies in which action has not been followed by any kind of humorous tag. I'll have to go hunt up an accessible example.

    Well, here is one that is somewhat accessible. If you define action as any kind of physicality dominated scene (if that newly invented phrase makes sense) then there is a very powerful (and very uncomfortable, definitely not for younger readers) scene at the end of Part 1 of Robin McKinley's Deerskin which I would defy anyone to come up with a humorous tag for. Deerskin is an excellent book by the way but its subject matter is very dark. I think there are many places where it would devalue what had gone before to add some kind of humor. Although, it does seem to be a staple of Lucas' work.

    I've been trying to think if it is always true that an action scene ends with a humorous tag within the GFFA film canon and I think not. I do not believe there was any kind of humorous tag to the fight where Vadar took off Luke's hand. But I could be wrong. More video to pull and review. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it....

    On the other hand (I'm going to look like one of those band members in ANH by the time I am done here with all the other hands I am going to be waving thoughts at the end of) I think you do need something as the reader to allow you to catch your breath as it were. The Deerskin example scene ends a major section of the novel but does not really otherwise provide any relief. The next section deals with the immediate aftermath of what happened at the end of Part 1 so the only relief you really get is the time you spend gasping while you turn the page. If you didn't even have that it might actually detract from the scene that ends Part 1.

    As for other examples of humor inappropriate action scenes.... what about the chase scene on skis at the end of chapter six in Clare Francis' Wolf Winter an excellent mystery/espionage novel set in Norway in the 60's more or less. Or 'most any action scene from 'most any Anthony Price novel? Of course, I haven't reread any of the Price novels recently so I may be mis-remembering.

    It's past my bedtime now but first chance I get tomorrow I will be reading Knight-Ander's suggestion (plug all you like btw) and the piece Jane mentioned as well and we'll see what we can make of that. I do like the sound of action with description because I am always trying to do that myself. If I can see how someone else makes it work maybe I can make it work too! And, with luck, tomorrow night I will post my scene in three moods bit and maybe we can learn something from that experiment too.

    KD
     
  12. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh, so much homework... okay, just letting y'all know I'm still reading, but I have to go do the homework before I can jump back in.

    I agree... sometimes humor is appropriate, sometimes it isn't. Shameless plug for non-appropriate humor would probably be most of the conclusion of "Not an Option."
     
  13. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Cool thread idea!

    I like the "minimalist" style myself, in that IMHO the #1 commandment of action writing is "Thou Shalt Keep The Story Moving and Not Bore Thy Reader."

    In other words, if description is important (say, like in a battle scene where the terrain is a crucial factor) then by all means use it, but otherwise, in the middle of a fight is IMHO a bad time for a long introspective soliloquy or two pages of descriptive detail, which just gets distracting.

    The good thing about SW as opposed to other sci-fi series is that we have all this incredibly advanced technology, but GL never really cared to explain how it works. Why is this a good thing? Because since nobody really knows how it works, we're spared the pages and pages of technobabble. I'm a minimalist with technobabble too, except to explain things to my non-militarily inclined readers or if some piece of technology is really important in how a scene plays out.

    As for humor in action scenes, I think Aaron Allston of the SW EU does a great job integrating the two for an entertaining read.

    -Tim



     
  14. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Welcome Darth_Tim. More homework I see. I haven't actually done any of the homework after Creatures... due to visiting relatives among other things (cooking for 15 is not my normal thing - cooking for 15 and then serving at a different house is even less my normal thing) so I have nothing useful to add other than a thought that popped into my head just now...

    Many of the examples from the SW world appear to include humor. (Again, since I haven't read Snow Job or The Young Flames I may be theorizing about the wrong data.) I know I have read works here on this (these? now that they have split?) board(s) that contain action unleavened by humor but I have no specific example to offer at this time. Cynical21's work is one I can think of but most of what I have read of hers is/was located elsewhere. I think there was at least one serious story here though. I know she had about three here that in fact had humor as a main element but there was at least one serious story. Anyway, I guess the point I am pondering is this: Should SW fics use the humor tag to end action scenes in order to fit within the tone of the cannonical film works since GL does seem to use it a fair amount? Or can we as fanfic authors (I'll post something - really I will - someday soon), cite artistic license to write serious dramatic works wherein the action sequences remain serious and any levening required is produced in some other fashion or even omitted entirely?

    Ok that is a bit babbly even for me but I am sneaking it in while I ought to be working. So if I have just confused anyone reading, I'll say sorry now to save time later. I really will try to do my homework and also to finish up the example scenes tonight. Unless family visit stuff messes me up again and I can't manage to stay awake late enough. Writing in a particular style/mood/whatever is hard!

    KD

    p.s. I'm a redhead. (Just noticin' someone's sig. ;) )

    p.p.s. Howcome, if they are turnin' the boards green for St. Pat's day (sooooo much easier on the eye than that pink for St. Val btw), they don't have the only Irish Jedi up there in the top banner? I mean, sure I guess you gotta put Alec Guinness up there if you're using the Guinness bottle but he was born in London.... I mean, the eye candy up there is all very well but where's my Qui-Gon?
     
  15. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Hm, it does seem like a Scottish conspiracy! ;) I mean, Yoda, okay, he's green, he MIGHT be a leprechaun, but...Where IS the Irishman? Swoony older fanfic writers demand to know! [face_love]

    Back to business Should SW fics use the humor tag to end action scenes in order to fit within the tone of the cannonical film works since GL does seem to use it a fair amount? Or can we as fanfic authors (I'll post something - really I will - someday soon), cite artistic license to write serious dramatic works wherein the action sequences remain serious and any levening required is produced in some other fashion or even omitted entirely?

    I don't think SW action fics HAVE to end with humor! I mean, heavens, look at the end of the battle with Darth Maul in Phantom Menace! No humor there! :( I think it's all about pacing and what you are trying to achieve. In [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5633118&page=1]Not an Option[/link], I was using very little humor because it wasn't a funny story. And Knight Ander's "Young Flames" (a most excellent OC story) has humor, but not necessarily at the action scenes. So, my personal opinion is no, it doesn't NEED to have humor. Though I like some, in moderation, or it turns into angsty soap-opera-y melodrama.

    Humor in action scenes works, though, partly because in RL people in dangerous situations often crack jokes to blow off tension. Police officers and other law enforcement types (I know a few) have a morbid sense of humor, but probably as a way to preserve sanity when their day-to-day existence is so dangerous. Look at "MASH." Humor as a pressure valve. So why not characters in a dangerous situation in a GFFA making wisecracks to cover up the fact that they're probably going to die and aren't real thrilled about it?

    Still, I feel that sometimes it diminishes the power of a scene, if the chips are truly down and everyone is giving their utmost, knowing the odds are against them and someone jumps in with "yuk-a-minute."
     
  16. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    I don't think that you *always* need a joke to ease the tension. Sometimes I feel that leaving the tension there hanging deliberately over the heads of readers and characters alike can also produce certain effects.

    Kithera
     
  17. HaiGan

    HaiGan Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2000
    Just dropping by briefly to agree with many of the remarks on the use of humour in action sequences. Humour is certainly appropriate to the genre. It's worth noting that humour also comes in verbal and physical varieties. Star Wars includes a balance of both. I think the action/adventure genre tends to veer towards more verbal than physical (dry asides, witty one-liners and snappy exchanges of dialogue rather than pratfalls and humerous demises of minor villains), with the physical element lessening as the age rating and the grittiness rises. Admittedly, physical humour is hard to pull off without tipping it over into pure slapstick (although, if you want to be true to GL's vision, slapstick may be appropriate. Remember Jar-Jar...). It's harder still to make it funny in text instead of film.

    To be effective, humour must be tempered with a flare for the dramatic and a sense of propriety (as KD, Renata and Kit' have said between them, it should not be used when it is not appropriate to the desired effect on the reader). If tension is desired and humour would kill it, kill the humour. If humour would be in bad taste, leave it out.

    (Thank you too, KD, for using some of my writing as an illustration. I don't claim it's perfect, and I certainly wouldn't call that scene a 'typical' action scene, but if it is of help to others then I'm happy :) . )
     
  18. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Well, a combination of Darth Real Life and perhaps biting off more than I can chew has delayed this post far too long. I hope you haven't all completely lost interest.

    First off, thanks to Kit' and HaiGan for dropping by.

    Kit' I agree 100% that there are lots of times in fact where you want to leave the tension at that high level. But then I have also been told that I am a "cruel, cruel woman". Which I take to be a compliment of the highest order.

    And no, HaiGan, that is not a typical action scene. That was why I chose it. It was very nicely done and provided exactly the visuals one might imagine from crossing Buffy with Star Wars (and possibly tossing in a dash of Matrix?). I really loved "gravity optional".

    I've even sort of stolen it for one of my examples. I did finally decide to call them finished. Which is to say I decided that the amount of time DRL was giving me to work on them meant I would never get them posted if I tried to get them very polished.

    So in three subsequent posts (so they are of readable length) I will present the same scene written as much as I could in the same style as the three examples I started this thread with. Which was much harder to do than I would have thought.

    I believe that they produced different visions of the characters as well as (one hopes) different reactions in the reader. Although judging that may be difficult since it is trying to be the same scene. I look forward to your opinions on the matter.

    I was interested to see how difficult this was for me to do. I haven't done "write to order" (other than one story I am really only in the thinking stages of because the request is going to be difficult to support) in a whole lot more years than I care to admit. Not since college writing classes at the latest.

    But that was not the big difficulty. The first hurdle was finding some scene that I could prevent from turning into a full blown story bunny. I think I may have not fully succeeded at that. I did manage to keep it under control enough to finish the examples but I think this too may want to end up as part of a story some day.

    The bigger hurdle was the scene seemed to keep wanting to go a way that was sort of an amalgam of the three paths I was trying to take. So I had to prune somewhat roughly. Normally, I just sit down and write and don't think about it. So this was a very good exercise. I may look into more of them.

    So please do tell me what you think.

    KD

    Coming up, right after these messages from our sponsor, the scene in single character focused view a la the scene from Protest by Mistress Renata. Or as close as I could get anyway.
     
  19. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    For your amusement, an action (note: not a fight) scene written in the style (or an attempt at the style) of Mistress_Renata's chase scene from Protest.
    *************************

    As they moved into the center of the room, Lt. Galin searched the crowded room for their quarry. She was nervous, unnaturally so, she reminded her twisting belly, considering that she was the veteran of at least a hundred undercover operations in her years with Republic Security. "Yeah," her inner pessimist replied, "but you never had to do this before."

    Then the music began and she didn't have time to wonder for the forty-third time if she had been the victim of a Jedi mind trick. Before she could start down that well worn mental track, Obi-Wan's arms swept her into the dance. Her heart suddenly started pounding with the same rush of adrenaline that she still felt at the start of each terrifying fire fight. To combat the panic that she knew was mainly due to her short training and lack of success at completing even one practice session without a spectacular misstep she started counting her dance steps.

    Her brief training held in spite of her initial panic and because she was counting she managed to keep her feet moving in tempo and in the correct directions. Unlike the two training sessions however, this time the room was populated fully with other dancers and with spectators. She saw flashes of color from the myriad types of formal wear as they moved about the room. But the dance was spirited and required at least the appearance of keeping your attention on your partner's face. Obi-Wan was moving her so quickly there was no time to focus on anything long enough to locate the mark.

    Obi-Wan spun her suddenly out under his arched arm and she lost track of which of the flashes of color belonged where in her concentration on staying in step. As she counted the steps in her head, Obi-Wan turned her through two reverses and began a complicated set of rollouts and turns. She realized suddenly that as long as she concentrated on moving her feet to the count she could manage even the complicated turns without a misstep.

    It was the most amazing feeling. As if she were flying without aid of any devices. As though gravity no longer detained her. Obi-Wan turned her through two reverses before pulling her back in again. She gave herself up into pure enjoyment of the dance until Obi-Wan pulled her back into his arms.

    She felt euphoric, as if by returning to Obi-Wan's arms without missing a step she had proved she could do anything. Her head buzzed with the lightheaded awareness that she could dance.

    Obi-Wan grinned at her and she realized with disgust that she must have actually burbled happily out loud. "Ready?" Obi-Wan asked. And the room tilted, the other dancers she could see in front of her sliding below her horizon.

    She was sure she had said no. But obviously Obi-Wan had not heard her she decided as she gazed up at the ceiling from her position dipped backward over Obi-Wan's arm. "Or he just didn't listen" her detective's sense pointed out to her.

    When he pulled her upright again, instead of reclaiming her, he moved them into the open form of the dance. She wondered, as she silently counted steps and shimmies, at his audacity. Then she saw there was a method to his madness. In the open form of the dance they commanded a bit more of the floor and it was easier to look for their quarry.

    Their quarry would be an observer, not a dancer which made it somewhat easier to search him out. Although, really, it shouldn't have been that hard to spot a Hutt - even a relatively small one - anywhere, let alone in a Coruscant ballroom. Even if her concentration was weakened by the completely unexpected enjoyment of the dance.

    A slithery movement finally caught her eye and she nearly missed a step trying to verify that it was their quarry. Obi-Wan looked a question and she nodded briefly. Instantly, she was twirled again and the feeling of flying returned briefly until he once more pulled her into the closed
     
  20. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Ok, here is my attempt at the style used so well by HaiGan for the training bout between Barin and Buffy in Through a Glass, Darkly (which I have to go read the lastest post of still because I have been too busy trying to finish these silly examples to read anything which is too tragic for words on so many levels) for your amusement...
    *****************************
    Lt. Galin scanned the right side of the room while Obi-Wan checked the left as they walked arm in arm further toward the center of the room. They had each covered perhaps a quarter of their respective area when the music began. Obi-Wan pulled the RepSec officer into the swirl of dancers and they began the dance she had been introduced to only the day before.

    Galin stepped forward as Obi-Wan stepped back. Another step forward, this time leaning toward Obi-Wan closed the distance between them and enabled her to ask, " Do you see him?" Obi-Wan turned his shoulder and brought them upright as he answered, "No, not yet." They began the sequence over again with Obi-Wan's forward step and continued scanning the crowd, each with the most vacuous smiling expressions they could muster plastered on their faces.

    "One," Galin muttered, "two, shi.."

    Obi-Wan leant forward on the third step of the repeat and managed over the course of the remainder of the pattern, via some Jedi trick even RepSec hadn't managed to duplicate, to hiss "If you must count steps, try not to move your lips." without moving his own one iota.

    "Hun, hoo, hihe, hihe, hie, hic, hihe, hihe." She answered as he guided them through another pattern.

    "Ready?" Obi-Wan asked. Galin was sure he had already begun bending her back before he had even opened his mouth.

    Her alarmed "No!" floated ceilingward from her position draped over Obi-Wan's arm. Their upper bodies moved in rhythm to her "hihe, hihe" with Obi-Wan pulling them upright on the second shimmy. A flash of slithery movement caught her eye on the way up "I see him" She whispered as she moved into Obi-Wan's arms again.

    "Where?" Obi-Wan spun her into a turn without waiting for the answer.

    *One, two, shimmy shimmy, five, six, shimmy,* she thought as they moved into the center of the floor. "West wall" she said as she was gathered in again.

    "Show time," Obi-Wan replied. Suddenly, it was all she could do to keep her feet and she gave up trying to not move her mouth as she counted.

    "One." They each stepped backwards. "Two." Obi-Wan drew her back in. "Are you-" They shimmied with Obi-Wan leaning over her. "- insane?" They shimmied with her leaning over Obi-Wan and finishing her question.

    "Do you -" Obi-Wan drew her toward him as he stepped back. "- want to" He lead her backward as he stepped forward. "-help find" Obi-Wan shimmied backward. "- our knight or not" he said as he bent Galin backward for the last shimmy of that pattern.

    She realized he was right, it was past time for some fancy footwork. The other couples had already begun their own and she and Obi-Wan would attract their quarry's attention in an undesirable way if they were not careful to behave as expected.

    "You're right. It's past-" She and Obi-Wan stepped together. "Shimmy shimmy" she still felt she needed to count. "-time we showed off." She smiled a genuine smile of trust and was rewarded by one of Obi-Wan's brilliant smiles in answer. "Shimmy shimmy"

    And then it felt like she was flying. She simply trusted to Obi-Wan's trust in the Force and mentally counted her steps as he lead her through a complicated turning pattern. The other dancers cleared the floor in front of them as they moved toward their quarry.

    He spun her out first to his left, following her with a feline grace, moving them toward the west wall of the ballroom. As they shimmied together he whispered, "He's watching." Obi-Wan's hand on her back indicated that she should move back rather than forward on the next beat so as he stepped back with his left foot she reclaimed her left arm and stepped back with her right foot. They shimmied at each other, leaning first in her direc
     
  21. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    And finally, if you have stuck with me this long, a much shorter post. This one being my attempt at the minimalist, distant voice (or whatever they call it, what know the proper names for writing styles) a la Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint.
    ********************************
    Obi-Wan drew Lt. Galin onto the floor and into the dance when the music began, dashing her last hope that they would find their quarry before she was forced to perform the dance she still felt she could not do. As they danced, each scanned the room for their quarry. "Do you see him" Galin asked when the moves of the dance and her own need to count steps allowed.

    Obi-Wan's answering "No." was followed much too closely for Galin's taste by a question he did not wait for an answer to. "Ready?"

    Galin hoped her denial was not as loud as it had felt. And as he pulled her upright again, she wondered if Obi-Wan were insane. To be trying, so early, the fanciest of moves that they had learned seemed risky. If she broke her leg trying to keep up, this assignment would be over real quick. But, she admitted against her will, they would attract attention if all they did was the basic step with the occasional turn. And they needed to find their lost nerf.

    Obi-Wan spun her out to his left and she spotted their mark. A tilt of her head was all it took for him to start moving them toward the west wall of the ballroom. As Obi-Wan increased the difficulty of their moves she realized they had caught their mark's attention. She would have to be careful. As she moved, she felt like a complete idiot, but she knew they looked exactly like a professional dance pair when the other couples started giving them more room for the increasingly daring maneuvers Obi-Wan was leading her through.

    "He's watching" Obi-Wan warned as he continued to guide her toward their quarry. "Nearly there" he whispered as they moved westward on the shimmies of that pattern.

    In the next pattern Obi-Wan lead her into the raised arm position that set up the back dip. When she was bent backwards over Obi-Wan's clasped hands she saw he had positioned her perfectly to attach the tracer in her ring to the Hutt's hover pad. There was a slight clink when the tracer attached itself to the underside of the pad. But she was quite certain that the view the Hutt was enjoying of her cleavage was enough to distract him from the noise.
    ********************************

    Whew, all done. So what do you think? I'm not convinced that I managed as close a style match as I was aiming for nor that I managed anything completely readable with any of these posts so any and all feedback will be interesting.

    This was an interesting exercise for me. I think I need to invent some others. Did you try any similar exercises on your own? Actually, I may start a whole new thread in a day or so on writing exercises to see what other folks do. I think one could, with sufficient practice, get quite good at forcing one's scenes to take on the particular style one wanted. What do you think? (And why do I keep hearing a voice say that when I type it? Oh, yeah, Sagwa. I tell ya' having a kid is really destructive of your pop culture references as well as your bank account and standard of living.)

    KD
     
  22. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    *reads earlier posts* ANOTHER redhead? :D

    Interesting idea. I've never really tried writing in a certain style myself except mine, whatever that is.

    The third one ("minimalist") is probably most similar to my own stuff, though. I'm not quite sure which of the three I prefer, though I'm not THAT hard to please...hehe.

    -Tim
     
  23. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 12, 2000
    Sorry I'm so late in replying. The Bantha of Real Life was sitting on me recently, and when he finally got off (and I got all that bantha hair out of my mouth), I had to catch up on a few things.

    Well, let's see. I rather liked the first excerpt, especially this line: She was furled out to the left and then the right. In this part, we get a very good sense of movement without too many distracting details, and some depth to the character of Lt. Galin. We're told all that we need to know, and it moves briskly, but not too fast.

    The second excerpt seems a little uneven at times. There are some details, and then some places where the action is glossed over, and then some more details, and some more glossing. I suppose in this particular action writing style (which I've also noticed in Hai Gan's story, so it's not just you, kd), you cannot afford to describe every movement, otherwise it gets much too long. But you have to slow the movement down sometimes in order to show certain elements which are necessary to the scene, such as Obi-Wan and Galen spotting their observer, and that seems to be what this style is good for.

    The third excerpt was quick. It told us what we needed to know. I'm not saying it's bad, though, because I can see that this particular kind of style would work well in an otherwise long but quick-moving story where you can't afford to linger on or one particular scene.

    So the style you need to choose, I think, depends on the rest of the story as well, especially the pacing that you use otherwise. You need to decide which elements to showcase, and which to gloss over.

    Thanks for the great effort, Knight-Dilettante! :)
     
  24. Jane Jinn

    Jane Jinn Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 12, 2000
    My post did not shove the thread to the top, so I'll try this.
     
  25. Knight_Dilettante

    Knight_Dilettante Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Thanks for the feedback. I'm hoping we can do some digging into this sort of thing a bit more but I am going to have very limited writing/posting/reading time for a bit. Too much real life.

    *Busted* Jane caught me out. The only one of those three examples that I really edited much (or at all might be more accurate) was the first one. Because I was having too much trouble with it wanting to morph into its own style.

    I wonder if the other two could be refined better? But I don't have the energy right now to try. In a few days when things settle down again (I hope) I will consider giving it another shot. Although, this thread may be the proverbial dead horse. And I hear there was an interesting thread on description writing which I want to go look up next time I get a chance to get on the boards.

    KD
     
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