Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fighting in Fantasy

My co-worker, Sarah Hoss, is a romance novelist. She is in the process of getting her own works published, and I enjoy the numerous conversations I have with her concerning writing. One of these conversations actually gave me pause for thought. She told me about writing classes I can take to improve my writing. One she took was called "Pitch like a Pro," explaining the ins and outs of presenting your novel to an agent and publisher. She told me about several classes that I found quite interesting, but the one that caught my attention the most was about how to write better fight scenes.

I knew I didn't have time to take a month or so class on how to write a better fight scene. But it bothered me because I knew that my fight scenes NEEDED HELP.... major help.... So what did I do? I went to the next best thing: Google. I typed in "How to write a good fight scene," and a link called "Fight Scenes 101" popped up #2 on the list. It's written by something/someone called "Hive Mind" in 2003, but it was helpful. I know I did not reap nearly as much from it as I could from a formal class, but as of now I'm taking all the help I can get.

This site was so helpful! I didn't realize how great it would be by simply checking the internet! Here are the things I liked so much about it....

1. Location- They said that location "sets the scene"- no duh. I knew that. But they brought in factors I hadn't really thought about. For instance, is the scene taking place in doors? If so, consider the floor surface. If it's hard wood, things could get a bit slippery. As for the ceiling, if it's low, a sword may be difficult to use, if not impossible. Then there are obstacles to consider. Are there chairs? Couches? Rugs? Lamps? All obstacles to move around or dash to bits during the fight. They suggested drawing a lay-out for the scene so you can see where your characters are moving as you move them.

2. Weaponry- They were planning on creating a "Weapons Log" or something on the sight I was using, but it's not there. However, they did have some interesting things to say. "This category includes bottles, books, handfuls of dirt, chairs, tables... in fact, anything that isn't nailed to the floor can be used as a weapon." I never really thought about the creativity I can utilize in finding different weapons!

3. Language- This was broken down into two categories. 1) Dialogue- Are my characters sassy or cocky? They would have short, biting dialogue. But if talking a lot is uncharacteristic of them, the fight scene may play out more like one with Jason Bourne: kill first, ask later. 2) Descriptions- Don't weigh down the scene with descriptions. This was probably the best piece of advice I took from the site I went to. They began with saying how visual a fight scene is, whether it's one-on-one or a massive battle with ginormous armies. Either way, they emphasized the importance of getting straight to the action with small words, short sentences, and even fragmented sentences to give it a snap.

4. The Oddes (1 vs. 2 or more)- I found it rather shocking that they claimed that the odds of your main character winning are when they're outnumbered because your main character doesn't have to worry so much about hurting someone in his/her own group. The funniest part was when the writers said that you just have to remember to kill them all. An audience may not notice if you only kill 28 out of 30 guys, but they most definitely will if you only kill 3 out of 4. They suggested literally keeping a tally of all your bad guys and crossing out the ones you killed as you killed them.

5. Big Battles (Free for All)- This was a tough one for me. There were two different ways that they said you could do this. 1) Omnicient- this had updsides and downsides. first, it didn't break the flow of content. The only problem was that it would get confusing as to who was who and who was doing what and who killed who and whatnot. 2) Limited (One person's perspective or First Person)- This gets the audience in on the action because the view is more centralized and focused in one area, but it also gets complicated. In order for you to view everything that's going on during the battle, the main character has to step back and take a breather to look around. This, however, creates an organized break-down of all the scenes, making them several one-on-one duels instead of a big clump of battles.

So yes! those were some things I thought extremely helpful! Please let me know what you think! Is there anything missing? Do you know of a better source? What do you like to see in a fight scene????

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Perspective Changes Things... a lot...

This evening, I had the honor to watch a movie with some of the funnest ladies I know. The movie was called "Lost in Austen," a hilarious movie for any Jane Austen fans out there (much like myself). The film was over-loaded with crass remarks, one too many inappropriate scenes, and some worthless content. However, I didn't really notice much of this until after the movie was over. I was too involved in the plot.

A young woman, Amanda Price by name, loves the novel, Pride and Prejudice, written by Jane Austen. Her image of the most perfect gentleman on earth is Mr. Darcy. But when she gets pulled into the world of the Bennett family through a mysterious doorway linking our worlds, everything changes. She screws everything up! No one marries who they're supposed to, and you're kept guessing with twists and turns the entire movie up until the very last thirty seconds.

So yes. The idea was fantastic. But one of my favorite parts was the way she took it all. When she found that Mr. Bingley was falling in love with her instead of Jane, all she could say was, "You're supposed to marry Jane!" Then later, when Mr. Darcy falls in love with her, "You're supposed to marry Elizabeth!" But the entire idea behind all of this is that the characters were different because she was looking at them from a different perspective. She was disappointed because they weren't the beautiful characters she imagined. Mr. Darcy was the biggest jerk for most the movie, Bingley was an air-head, Mr. Collins was... well... Mr. Collins... And Mr. Whickham ended up being a good guy- ALL because she was amongst the characters and looking at it all from their angle. Grant it, it didn't change the characters themselves, she just saw different parts of them that she couldn't see from the view of ink on a page. It all became alive and real.

I don't want to make everything outrageously confusing twisted. I just want to be able to see my characters from more than one angle. In my original first draft, I peeked in on the thoughts and impressions of several of the characters. This gave me ideas of what they all thought of the same character, but not different aspects of the character herself. Fortunatley, this problem was obstructed because I had to ex-nay the whole "divided perspective" I had. Honestly, it's much easier to write and much more relatable. However, now I must broaden the perspective of the main character so that she may be able to see different aspects of the characters around her.

I know this may be a bit confusing... But just think about someone you know really well! This person is not solely a boad model collector who has never been out of the house a day of his life. There's more to him. He may design boats for big cruise-line companies. He may have an obsession with The Amazing Race... His one dream in life may be to lay out on the deck of a boat so long that he gets sunburned.... Now, I know I'm being ridiculous (probably because it's about 1 AM)... But you get my point! There's more to a person than just one perspective!

Here's my question: How do I broaden the perspective of my main character to better view those around her without changing her character as well? How do I better view these characters?