Wednesday, May 1, 2024

2024 - May - Four Types of Fight Scenes

 

When writing a fight or high-action scene, that scene likely fits one of the following four categories:


1. Hand-to-hand combat or fisticuffs

2. Fights with weapons

3. Fights on the run

4. Fights involving superpowers


Hand-to-hand combat and fisticuffs rely on the limits and abilities of the human, or not so human, bodies dueling with each other. This encompasses the bar-room fist fight, martial arts, the wielding of magic, and even brawls. It's basically good guy versus bad guy be it one-on-one or with multiple fighters.

Fights with weapons depends on the era of the story and the technology of that era. The weapons might range from the primitive (stone or spears or clubs) to bronze and iron age swords, to the industrial age of guns, to magic wands, and advanced military hardware or science fiction weaponry. Skill plays a part, so does training, and in the end it often culminates in violence regretted or one winner-takes-all. 

As to fights on the run? There is nothing like the chase scene in movies and in books. Of course, the chase depends on the era from running from the Neanderthal with a club to dodging bullets or ray guns to magical bolts and spells. It's often about the good guy chasing the bad guy, but somewhere along the plot line it might be the bad guy going after the good guy culminating in a do-or-die clash (or climax of the story).

Fights involving superpowers means there is an endowed superhuman, or alien, or magical person involved. In this case, the fight scenes highlights the awesome power of the menace of the super-villain and the strength of the superior hero or heroine they go up against.

No matter which category, there are basically two effective ways to showcase an action or fight scene.

The first way is to limit the scene to the narration of one of the major combatants POV and Viewpoint (which are two different things, by the way).

The second way is to work out the actions in a logical, cause-effect format. For example, in a fight scene I have in the draft of my fantasy-medieval romance, I used spools of thread (I sew and have collected a number of different colored spools). Each character in the scene became a color of thread. I then drew a floor plan of the fight area, marking in the furniture with highlighters. As I started placing spools and moving them for the combat, I found flaws in my idea of how the action should play out. For instance, a piece of furniture was in the way, or a character couldn't easily get to the doorway. It took a bit of trial and error, but discovered the layout that best gave the fight advantage to the story's villain.

Since believability is at stake, finding out such things makes for a far better first draft and saves tremendously on rewrites. 

Have you ever played out your fight scene using a floor plan or props? If not, do it today. See if the reality matches your fantasy fight. Feel free to share your findings in a comment.

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Monday, April 1, 2024

2024 - April - Part 3 of Wise Words: Join a Writing Group

 Wise Words, Part 3 - JOIN A WRITING GROUP


This three-part series began with a look at those the three elements consistently appearing on those seven to twenty-five "easy steps" lists to becoming a writer: Write, Read, and Join a Writing Group. Now we tackle that third element.

Don't cringe. Joining a writer's group can be daunting or distressful or a godsend. The outcome depends on what you seek in your writing and in your becoming the writer you want to be.

Why would joining a group be daunting? It's about the search to find a group. No two groups are alike. Some groups are strictly for critiquing. Others are for learning and practicing the craft. Some groups are social-oriented. Some are a combination. 

Joining a group can also be distressful. Sharing one's work often feels worse than public speaking. 

When getting or giving feedback, it's important to keep logic and objectivity center stage, not emotions and subjectivity. Sure, writers want praise, but if that's the only goal, then the writer isn't likely to grow as a writer, are they? 

As I've said many times over the years, all a reader has to go by are the actual words on the page and the dictionary meaning of those words and how they are strung together coherently. It's a movie that must form in the reader's mind as they read.

Finding the right group of writers is a trial and error process until you find "the one." To locate a group near you, check your local library or book store. You can go online and look, too. I would recommend checking out the one I belong to—Pennwriters, www.pennwriters.org, or search for a genre-specific writing group like mystery, romance, fantasy/Sci-fi, horror writers, and so on.

In a nutshell, joining a compatible-for-you writer's group can be a godsend that provides hope, encouragement, enlightenment, help, education, and honesty about the words written on a page. 

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Saturday, March 2, 2024

2024 - March - Wise Words, Part 2 - READ

  This is the second of a three-part series.

Last month's topic was WRITE. This month the topic is READ. So—

Can reading help you write better, create better stories, create believable story people? Yes, it can.

The subconscious works most effectively when provided with abundant and varying input. It is vital that the subconscious collects such information because storytelling is about the juxtaposition of ideas, knowledge, facts, and fiction. 

So, fill your subconscious file cabinets with information that's available from books. Not only the facts but also fantasies and genre classics. Delve into the experiences of others with biographies. Look into histories and documentaries. Read outside your genre or interest comfort zones.

Newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets provide condensed articles and essays on dangers and horrors of crimes and wars, as well as the extremes of passion and folly. Such things make a writer more empathetic, aware, and, yes, they even offer enlightenment.

When it come to creating believable characters, reading allows for observation and insight into the human condition and how people act and react in given situations. So base story characters in "a truth" and their stories will have verisimilitude.

Do read works by good writers who are well-known. This aids in subconsciously absorbing the power of prose—i.e. grammar, punctuation, paragraphing, syntax, vocabulary, and style. Such things are not to be duplicated but must contribute to a writer's own unique "voice."

Reading good stories, whether long or short, helps a writer subconsciously absorb what story is, its structure, the flow of plot and theme, and so much more.

So does reading have any downside? Of course. Often reading great works is intimidating. It is futile for a novice writer to compare themselves to the greats. Yet keep in mind that those greats succeeded through perseverance and learning the craft and art of storytelling.

Imitation of what's being read is also a danger. Imitating may be a form of flattery, but it's also detrimental to the development of one's own writing style. 

Another downside is that reading might lead to procrastination. For instance, it may be more fun to read others' works then polishing one's own writing.

To become a writer, reading is fundamental. Read 100 books in the genre you intend to write in. Among those 100 books will be the ones you cannot forget as well as the ones you had to force yourself to read. In the doing, you'll find similarities and differences. You'll also discern what made the one book a keeper and the other a book worth putting in the trash bin.

So—feed your subconscious. Read, read, read.

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Thursday, February 1, 2024

2014 - February - Wise Words, Part 1 — WRITE

Part 1 - WRITE 


On becoming a writer there are numerous sites and blogs on the Internet touting anywhere from seven to twenty-five "easy steps" to becoming a writer. In looking over such sites, three items consistently appeared on the lists: Write, Read, and Join a Writing Group.

Rather than tackle all three in one blog post, I'm doing one aspect a month. This month being— Write.

What writer hasn't been told to write every day? After all it is said that writing is like a muscle, if you don't use it you lose it. But— 

Look at the reality of writing every day. That logically means writing 365 days a year. No weekends off. No sick days. No life emergencies. No holidays or special events to celebrate or take time off for. No kids, pets, spouses, relatives, or friends to deal with. Of course eating, sleeping, visits to the bathroom, and other necessities are permitted for health reasons.

Today's writing methods include AI, dictating stories verbally, and cell phone thumbing. I'm not addressing those methods but starting with writing in a journal or diary every day. Be it written with a pen, a pencil, or with a keyboard, it's daily writing.

Unfortunately, writing fiction or nonfiction as well as writing literary or genre works changes the writing pace. Even the speedy social media blogger is affected by how many worthwhile words that can be generated at a keyboard in an hour or a day.

Notice I said worthwhile words.

The first attempt by writers is the first draft. That initial writing effort is to get the ideas down. But at what speed?

If the speed is by hand, with pen or pencil, the average handwritten speed for an adult is eight words a minute. However, the speed range is actually sited as being between five and twenty words a minute. If you learn or know Greg Shorthand (or some other speed writing method), 60-80 words a minute is average with the Greg record being 350 words a minute.

As to the typewriter? Well, its day has come and, unfortunately, gone, but we still have the keyboard. The average typing speed is considered 40 words per minute. If you want a secretarial job, the minimum is still 60 words a minute. An advanced typist needs 80 words a minute.

In the age of computers and their keyboards, the base line is still 40-60 words a minute but more desirable is 60-90 words a minute. If someone has an average of 120 words a minute, they are in the top 1% of typists in the world. And then there is the typing speed record of 300 words per minute.

But set those statistics aside. Look at the practical writing speeds and the possible word count for an hour:

Average handwritten speed: 8 words per minute = 480 words an hour

Average typing speed: 40 words per minute = 2400 words an hour

Average typing speed: 60 wpm = 3600 words per hour

Average typing speed: 80 wpm = 4,800 words an hour


Here's the thing, the experts say the average to strive for is 100 words an hour.

Now, the reality check: who can sustain such average speeds consistently, let alone for a solid hour? I sure can't and I've been typing since I was sixteen years old (and worked for decades as a secretary).

Take a deep breath. Don't think you have to write every single day at high speeds. If writing is important to you —  and as Sol Stein says if you are a writer who cannot not write —  then cultivate a habit of writing that suits you. Achieve that by experimenting with different methods of producing work until you find one that generates completed works in a timely fashion. 

Once you find your groove, write and keep writing your way.

Next Month  Part 2, READ

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Monday, January 1, 2024

01 - January 2024 - Happy New Year ?


 

Oh, No, Not Another New Year's Resolution!


Do you despair at making New Year's Resolutions?

Considering the failure rate statistic is that 90% of those who make resolutions never achieve them. But, kudos to those that do.

Another research statistic says 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January.

Resolutions are usually about bad habits we want to undo or end. It takes desire and willpower to overcome such ingrained patterns of behavior or desires.

It's also a fact that the joy of a New Year, those bright and shining days ahead, lead us into a state of euphoria that cannot be maintained 365 days of a year. 

Then there is the human nature factor— Reality will always trump the illusion. And yet, setting resolutions is also a long-standing tradition. Can't win, right?

Experts on human behavior like to substitute goals for resolutions. Setting goals is far better if one understands the goal must be specific and realistic, meaning the goal is concrete, something tangible. For instance, I want to achieve publication by a quality New York publisher. That's doable if I write a popular genre-themed novel that's a page-turner no one can put down until The End. 

Goals should be broken down into smaller goals. That helps insure reaching the primary goal, say to write a novel. To novice writers, I tell them to start small. Go from the developed short story to a novella to a novelette to a novel. That's because it's far easier to learn craft in a short form than draft a novel that has so many flaws it's better to leave it in one's Achieved Story File on one's computer. 

But do save the idea and characters. They can be recycled when one learns what story is and the ins and outs of the technical aspects of plot, characterization, theme, dialogue mechanics, cause-and-effect sequences, etc.

So, did you make resolutions last year on January 1st?

        Did you keep them? And— are you setting resolutions or goals for 2024?

I wish you all the best in learning and growing as a writer in this new year of 2024.


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