Monday, September 23, 2019

Are Your Fight Scenes Boring the Reader?

Photo courtesy of Sander van der Wel on Visual hunt.

After many years, I’m finally approaching the climax of my urban fantasy. It’s been a long time coming, but as I struggle with the final chapters, I realize the journey isn’t quite yet over. My heroine is breaking into the antagonist’s hideout, ready to take him on, and based on the obstacles I’ve set up, it’s going to take a bit of thought to get everything to work out the way I want. 

I’ve gone back and searched through my collection of urban fantasies and space operas for inspiration on fight scenes. This has been useful, but along the way, I’ve been reminded of things NOT to do in fight scenes. Here’s a partial list: 

1. The author sets up a scenario that appears pretty much impossible for the MC to win, at least based on the author’s description, then promptly has the hero successfully fight their way through all the obstacles doing the same standard stuff they’ve done throughout the book. What the heck happened? Did the opposition go on break? And no, having the hero take some minor damage in the process doesn’t make up for this. 

2. The author tosses in a battle scene simply because there hasn’t been any conflict in a while, or because it’s the only way the author can meet their word count. This is an especially common problem for writers who pump out a lot of books per year. Generic fight scenes don’t amp up the tension. Readers skim through them. At least I do. 

3. The fight scenes scattered throughout the story are so generic most of them could switch places and readers wouldn’t notice. Don’t be lazy, folks. Spend time crafting each battle until it’s unique. Use the setting to set up interesting problems for the MC to solve, or that allow the MC to find novel ways to defeat the bad guys. Add some factor that neutralizes the methods that worked for the MC in previous fights. Let knowledge gained by the MC over the course of the story be used to develop new tactics. 

Several examples of entertaining fight scenes can be found in Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson. They’re fun to read and almost always do double duty by delivering important story information along the way. No one is skimming over them. 

Have you ever come across fight scenes/battle sequences that leave you yawning?


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Transitioning Into a (Mostly) Full Time Writer.

Today is September's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because  after six months, I’m still not settled into the routine of being a (productive) writer.

Some of you may know I was downsized from my job at the end of February. Although it was a bit of a shock at the time, I eventually considered this to be a sign that I should devote myself to writing (at least during my more optimistic moods). However, the transition to writing has not come easily.

Feeling guilty for not bringing in as much money as I had before, I dabbled with the idea of taking a less well-paying job, at least for the short term, in order to cushion the financial blow to the family. Not only did searching for such jobs take away from my writing time, but guilt made it harder to concentrate on writing. 

Eventually I began tutoring chemistry students, and although the pay isn’t nearly as lucrative as a job in industry, it lessened my need to find another job.  Still, learning the ins and outs of the tutoring business took more time than I expected, further limiting my writing time.

And then there was the constant feeling that the time I spent writing was taking away from things that were “more important,” like helping my wife around the house, interacting with the kids, or tackling projects that have been on my to-do list for years. I felt pulled in all directions, guilt gnawing at me every time I sat in front of my computer.

But all that is in the past. Six months later, I’ve come to accept my new position in life and no longer feel guilty about not having a regular 9 to 5 job. I’m definitely more productive on the writing front and no longer find myself having to write feverishly at the last minute so as to have something to submit to my monthly critique groups.  However, my transition to being a writer isn’t complete. It may be easier for me to sit down and work on my WIP these days, but there are plenty of other writing related activities where I’m falling short. For example:

•  My lack of blogging. Last week was my first non-IWSG post in several months. Heck, I use to post twice a week back when I had that 9 to 5 job!
•  I’ve been bad about visiting other writer’s blogs, except on the first Wednesday of every month.
•  I haven’t touched my Hogwarts fan fiction in months, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be uploading the chapters to Wattpad once a week.
•  I haven’t been making contact with other authors in my genre, although that task was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve come to realize I will have to structure my time better if I expect to become a productive writer. At the moment, all my focus is on finishing my debut novel. Not that focusing on the actual writing is a bad thing, but sooner or later I’m going to finish the darn thing and then the real work will begin (editing, publishing, marketing, etc.) So, I better have a structure in place by then or things will get very ugly, very quickly.

Let’s move on to more enjoyable topics, like this month’s IWSG question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one’s a no-brainer.  It would be in an old castle somewhere in Britain (preferably Scotland), surrounded by fog shrouded moors, preferably in the autumn.  If you don't know why… well, I guess no amount of explanation would suffice. 

My future writing space

Be sure to stop by and say hello to the other ISWG co-hosts this month: Gwen GardnerTyrean MartinsonDoreen McGettigan, and Cathrina Constantine