One of my projects is a very long historical/speculative/romance thingy called REMNANT. Half way through the book there is an important battle scene, experienced through five (or six?) different POV. As I wrote it, it jumped from character to character, and, unfortunately, back and forth in time. As a POV switched, I'd often back up time, and the events we'd just read about through someone else's eyes repeated through a new character. As much as this worked in my head as I was writing it, it did NOT translate well for my readers. In my revision of the book, I have stopped at this point because it was such a large undertaking, and, well, I had an idea for a new book. And then another new book.
BUT . . . it was still on my mind, as REMNANT will probably be my next submission to my publisher. And just a note: For the first time since late 2008, I DO NOT have a book on submission. It feels REALLY WEIRD. Something is nagging at me to take care of that soon.
Traci Hunter Abramson's class on WRITING ACTION. Traci is ex-CIA and writes action/suspense novels based around the CIA, Navy Seals, the Pentagon, international intrigue, espionage, romance, and all that good stuff. I'm a fan. And, Traci and I have a few things in common: we share the same editor, Samantha VanWalraven at Covenant, and we both write LDS fiction and live outside of Utah. When it comes time for book signings or tours, I'll be asking her advice. She's one of those people you can just pick up where you left off, even when it's been months between meetings. She rocks.
One of the most important things I took away from Traci's class, is that when writing an action scene, focus the action where you want your reader's attention to be. Everything and everyone is in motion, but where do you want your reader's eye?
Here is a quick breakdown of how we make that happen.
- Use visual words (whirl, flash, strike, crept, sprinted)
- Use short sentences, create short paragraphs. Move the reader's eye down the page.
- Consider which character has the most to lose. DON'T USE TOO MANY CHARACTERS. Oops.
- Use at least three senses.
- Weave emotion.
- Minimal description. BALANCE.
- What does the reader or the character care most about? (HINT: it's not the eye color of the person they're dodging bullets with)
- Visualize your novel like a movie. YES. How many times have I said this? Huh? MANY TIMES.
- Don't write about the character. BE the character.
Any thoughts on writing action? I'd love to hear your ideas.