It's hard for me to write this, or even be honest with myself about it. Even if action is "not my division" (you're gonna find out why I keep saying that; hold your horses), I should have the stamina to finish a project like this. It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't have to be awesome. And still I stall.
Honestly, I don't think this project would still be alive if it weren't for my writing partner. This is what I want you all to take away from my short section of this post: FIND YOU A WRITING PARTNER. They will annoy you. They will bug you for updates. They will keep nagging you about that thing you don't want to do. But honestly, every writer should have one. I know I don't retaliate like I should, but my writing partner hasn't given up on me yet. For that I bestow upon her a wreath of imaginary flowers and a giant virtual hug.
Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed her over the internet...a guest post by the awesome Grace Weiser. :)
My Two Problems
At the moment, I have two problems that are causing, well, a problem. The first is the certain joy I find in watching a certain character in BBC’s Sherlock handle all the crazy people around him (is that actually a problem? Or is Greg Lestrade just awesome?). The second problem is the fact that I really can’t write action stories. It’s just...wait for it...
Back to the problem at hand, I’m not saying that I’ve never tried to write an action scene. Actually I have, multiple times. It really hasn’t gone well. I might think for a while that it’s a pretty good story, but that’s usually because everyone is eating cupcakes and talking about their favorite TV show. Yeah...not cool. Especially when the goal is action, not average. In other words, I have discovered that action is..
Did I mention I have a problem?
Anyway, there are a few things that I have found keep me from writing a good action scene. One of those things is laziness, but the others are relatively easy to fix...once I get over the first one. Here are some tips that I’ve figured out, read somewhere obscure, or stumbled over in dark alleyways:
- Cut the descriptions.
Instead of saying “suddenly a girl lept over the wall, wearing a blue sports jacket and carrying a machine gun”, try “suddenly a girl lept over the wall, firing her machine gun”. Better, right? Trying to describe what color someone’s hair is, or how they look, or how their truck looks, can really bog down your action. It’s better to let the reader fill this in on their own. If it’s not crucial to the plot, it’s not necessary. Even if you can’t imagine that person or thing in any other way, that image will just have to stay in your head.
- Use fewer, stronger words.
Action = Fast, so try to find one word that can take the place of two or three, and wonder whether what you’re saying really needs to be said. Try to use words that capture the feel or the idea, instead of literally describing it. For example, instead of saying “the helicopter’s blades made a whirring, hard sound”, try something like “the helicopter chopped the air”. If you’re not writing a very fast scene and you’re trying something more touching or tragic, “the helicopter chopped the air into little pieces” might be better, but that’s for the part you want to be more dazed and silent. In other words, the aftermath.
- Don’t try to show everything that’s going on.
You will fail. Epically. Possibly enough to be worthy of your own action scene describing said epic fail. You can give a hint that the battle is massive and contains five armies, but unless you want to sound like your history teacher, you won’t describe what all five armies are doing at all times. And anyway, you do want to give your readers room to dream, right? You can focus on one small part of the action through the entire scene, or you can skip around, but don’t try to take it all in. And last but not least...
- Leave room for interpretation.
This is why the book is better than the movie, and it kind of ties the three earlier points together. You’re never going to write it perfectly, and if your story is someday a movie, unless you have the power to dictate every action and pixel (which I doubt any movie company has ever granted an author -- they do have to think of the sanity of their employees), it is going to be totally different from the way you wrote it. Everyone is going to see your scene slightly differently, and you need to accept that and enjoy it. Don’t determine everything and set it in stone, and then write it out. You will have a terrible story if you leave no room for the reader to imagine something for themselves. You also tend to make them feel rather stupid, and that’s cruel.
Hopefully now that you’ve read that, you feel a little more comfortable with your action story. I know I do. Write it out, be proud of it, and sit back and relax until a sudden realization hits you:
~ Grace Weiser