HomeDark Eldar WikiDark Eldar ResourcesNull CityFAQUsergroupsRegisterLog in

Share | 
 

 Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You

Go down 
AuthorMessage
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Thu Apr 17 2014, 08:31

So…what is the Writer’s Roundtable?

Greetings and welcome to the Roundtable. We have a lot of aspiring writers of fluff who are looking to get better, and we have a large pile of rather talented writers who, I suspect, are hoping to hone their craft and become better. I noticed that on the (rare) occasions I logged into the Chat Box that I often seemed to be drawn into discussions about writing and my ideas about it. Since I casually poke into the Chat Box only rarely due to (fear) not being really about live chat, I figured maybe I could come up with a way to translate those discussions into regular forum debates.

My plan is to pick a topic, sort of expound on how I handle the situation, and then toss open the doors to the other writers here.

Do you do stuff differently? Tell us how.

Do you see an interesting extra tweak to give it? Then share.

Do you have a question about accomplishing something related to the topic? Ask.

Do you have a story that you wrote that is relevant to the discussion? Bring it up, describe the situation.

The main goal is to give us all a chance to chat about writing, Dark Eldar, and how we work our magic or what struggles we have with it. Make sense? Awesome, let’s see how this flies, Orville.


Writer’s Roundtable # 3

Action Scenes and You
aka How I Stopped Worrying and Came to Love the Combat Scene


So…writing action. It’s kind of a big deal. Because, in the grim vastness of the far future there is Only War, don’t’cha’know? You can distance from it somewhat, but at the end of the day 40k is about fighting, and is based on a game about fighting, founded on fluff about fighting due to ancient fights that have been fought for forever and a day. So, when you write Dark Eldar fiction, odds are you’re going to need to write a fight scene or two here and there, and consequently, you need to be able to write it in a way that still grabs your viewers’ attention.

Now, some of that is simply basic good writing. Adjectives, pacing, having characters that your readers hopefully care about. All of what makes an interesting conversation scene is also present in an action scene. However, there are differences, and many people who can write a solid scene of two characters chatting around a fire will struggle when the same two characters fight each other with swords.

I still consider myself a student, after all, writing is a learning process that I don’t think ever ends. Almost everything I wrote 5 years ago I see problems and issues with…and that has been a constant state for me since I started writing. Five years from now I’ll probably read this article and shake my head a little. That said, I am often told that I write ‘good’ or ‘interesting’ action sequences, and even people who claim not to enjoy action sequences (probably a sad result of reading too many Black Library action sequences…) have expressed that mine are enjoyable on some level.

So what I’m going to do is talk you through how I handle action and fights, hopefully this will either help you write your own, or inspire you to share some of your own methods.


Making Your Action Flow

I like action movies. I like to watch them, and watch fight scenes. I also like a wide range of action movies, ranging from high flying wire-fu wuxia epics down to grim and gritty krav maga beat downs. I also have trained a bit of combat in my time, ranging from Tae Kwon Do, Jiujutsu, and Kendo. Finally, I do happen to enjoy a good read, and certainly read a lot of books that have action in them.

Now, to my mind, when I watch action, and when I read action, and when I perform action, and when I write action, the single most important aspect to me is…the flow.

In other words, each move, and each counter move, should flow logically from one piece to the next. If one of your combatants is described as spinning around in a sweeping blow with his axe – his opponent shouldn’t be described as blocking it with his dagger. Nor should the axe wielder be likely described as ‘suddenly reversing the motion’. Neither of those actions make logical sense with what we know about the combat. A huge spinning axe swing cannot be stopped or reversed easily, and that’s because there is momentum to the move, if you perform it then you’re going to end up in a given position, and to try to stop it would require immense effort.

So, the way I do it is to literally picture the fight in my mind. I imagine the move, and consider what the next move could be. If your opponent is going for a big overhand chop (visualize this,a big overhand chop with, say, his sword, picture it – imagine what a big overhand chop coming down would look like) Now, if I want my hero to block this blow with his own sword, what would that take (besides two hands or a wrist of steel Wink ) Clearly he would lift up his sword, holding it parallel to the ground, and shove out overhead, or maybe drop to his knees lifting up his sword with one hand on the hilt and the other bracing the blade. But you can imagine the pose he would be in, right? Picture it, picture the chop, and the defense.

Now you’ve had the hero block the blow and he is safe, but now you want to describe him attacking back. Well…what type of attack should he do? You can now picture the sort of position he is in, and where the enemy sword is, so it’s not like the hero can thrust – he’d have to pull his sword down, lower the point, draw his arm back…it would be an awkward move. However, he could do two fairly obvious moves – he could lower the tip of his sword as he blocked, allowing the enemy weapon to slide off and shoving his shoulder into the enemy’s side, or he could force the swords upwards more, opening up the enemy’s midriff, and then doing a sweeping horizontal slash. There are other options, maybe he’d keep the swords locked overhead and they could exchange threats, or maybe a quick swift kick to the groin – the sky is the limit.

But the goal is to picture the combat and understand what moves would flow logically. To help you do this it is beneficial to read *good* fight scenes (I’d advise against most BL stuff, honestly...) and to watch fights, real or staged, just to get a feel for how bodies move and what people may or may not try to do.


Don’t Forget the Scenery!

This is just a quick thought, and it is one I like to use, but one of the easiest ways to add pizazz to a fight and make it more memorable is…well, just to have it happen somewhere interesting.

A sword fight is a sword fight is a sword fight – but what happens if your sword fight is happening on a narrow bridge over a lava filled gorge, or on floating, blade sprouting anti-gravity platforms? Even the difference between what could happen in a crowded drinking hall versus the same fight between the same combatants in a wide open plaza – some moves will be more or less useful, and also you have furniture, passerbys, walls, corners, quick items to grab and throw, cover to duck behind, ect. ect. Allow the fight to be organic and use the terrain you have for it.

Using Action to Convey Character

I think of the compliments I’ve seen, one that I hear a lot is that my fights ‘say something about the character’. I really like this compliment, but at the same time it scares me that so many authors (again, looking at you BL) don’t do this.

Anyone who has ever sparred in a combat sport (or got in a real fight) will tell you that the way people fight says something about them. A coward, a large muscular man, and a quick reactioned woman will all fight different, especially if they’ve all been trained to fight. Large and strong fighters would want to use their size and strength to their advantage – they should have good reach, they should be able to win when weapons are locked. Fast moving characters should favor darting in, landing meaningful hits, and then withdrawing again. Cowards should want to fight in a way that keeps them as safe as possible, maybe not even that focused on winning over ‘not losing’.

Just as an example, let’s take a random opponent – an Imperial Guardsman, with his trusty lasrifle and flakk armor. We shall call him Gordy the Guardsman. Now, let’s say Gordy is in a fight – I’m going to pull up a few of the characters from my current work, ‘Incubus’ to discuss how they would fight Gordy. All of these characters are wyches, but they would all handle the foe differently.

Kyssindree – She is a proud character, proud of her beauty and her skills, and every battle is a chance for her to showcase that she is just better. So, in a fight with Gordy I would have her laughing and taunting him. I would describe how much faster she was, and would use words like ‘contemptuously’ or ‘aroused’ or ‘flourish’ in the battle description. You would understand that she is disdainful of those weaker than herself and is showy, without me having to ever specifically say she is.

Faeth’lyn – Faeth’lyn is prim, proper, and presents an aura of boredness at that which fails to amuse her. To her, Gordy would be little more than a mild distraction at best, and a boring one at that. She would dispatch him quickly and with an attitude of ‘not a big deal’ in her actions. Words that might appear in the fight would be ‘casually’ or ‘dispassionately’.

Mor’osez – All business, all the time, Mor’osez has probably killed more Guardsmen than Gordy has seen Dark Eldar. Her fight would be quick, brutal, and not a deal for Mor’osez at all. ‘business-like’ or ‘brutally’ or ‘efficiently’ would be likely words to see in the battle. You would get the image of a cold killer who is just having another day on the job.

Grexel – The Bloody Mirror has a distinct combat style, but she is somewhat akin to Kyssindree in that she would tend to make it an art. Unlike Kyssindree it wouldn’t be so flashy and self-aggrandizing, but rather a bit more fun. ‘Playfully’ or ‘whimsically’ are likely words to show up, it would be play-art, but Grexel would cut him down all the same.

Four different characters. All of them are wyches. All are Dark Eldar. All are killing Gordy – but I wouldn’t write them the same. Even if they were all armed with the exact same weapons I wouldn’t write them the same. That’s because their character should be reflected in how they fight just as much as how they talk or walk.

How would some of your characters kill Gordy? Would it be quick? Drawn out? Would they laugh? Be bored? Be aroused? For those who like to do character studies, I submit that tossing your characters into a life or death situation should be able to tell you about them the same as having a deep conversation with another character would. Is your character clever? Would they outwit their foe through trickery? Or are they strong, would they use that strength? Or maybe their speed?

Characterization is important in a fight as well as outside of it.


Learning What Action to Even Describe

Now I’ve walked you through the flow of combat, and I’ve walked you through the character of combat, but…possibly one of the most important lessons is this.

Don’t. Describe. Every. Sword. Swung. Or. Bullet. Fired.

Look, when your hero rolls up on Gordy, yeah, it might be worth it to describe each and every move, but…then again, it might not. Let’s say I have one of my characters meet up with a batch of 10 Guardsmen all armed with knives. I know my hero is going to kill them all, and that it isn’t going to be hard for them to do it, and, also, they are only killing these guards to get into the Imperial Palace where they will meet the Imperial Governor and his Ogryn bodyguard and Callidus Assassin agent. All of them are much more interesting opponents, and certainly a better way to show off how cool my character is than a fight with 10 Guards…but I still need to kill off 10 Guardsmen…how can I do that…?

“The Incubi charged up the steps towards the ten guardsmen. They raised their feeble mon’keigh blades and moved to intercept him. He would have laughed if their attempts weren’t so pathetic, in moments he had swept through them, blood spraying off his klaive to splatter the marble steps, the last one was dead before the first had even finished collapsing in a bloody heap. He readied his blade as he advanced on the doors, the Governor was inside, and a reckoning was at hand…”

Done. Ten dead guys. I could have even done it quicker, if I wished.

“The Incubi charged up the steps, ten mon’keigh guardsmen stood guard there and attempted to bar his entrance, their deaths gave glory to Khaine.”

You can go blow by blow for a battle, but it is vital that you understand that you don’t need to. Sometimes a battle is important, and sometimes it…well, it’s just a thing that’s happening. I just completed a chapter in Incubi, in it a wych fights a series of battles in the arena. One against a Carnifex, another against a mass of armed gang members, and finally a duel with a Clawed Fiend. I did a blow by blow battle for the Carnifex, for the gang members I did a quick blurred description of the fight, and the Clawed Fiend fight was a bit of a mix of both.

A good way to think about it is like a conversation. If the conversation is the hero meeting the Queen, that is an important conversation and you will devote time to it and tell the readers each and every word. However, when the hero is arriving at the castle and is letting the gate guard know his name, then handing off his horse to a stable master, and talking to a servant who is leading him to the throne room – a lot of that you wouldn’t tell word for word – because it’s not important to the story.

Fights are the same way. Some are vital to he story, and need to be treated with the import they deserve, and others only exist to establish that fighting happened. Devote the proper amount of time to each.



That’s how I write action scenes. What about the rest of you?

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Mngwa
Wych
avatar

Posts : 955
Join date : 2013-01-26
Location : Stadi

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Thu Apr 17 2014, 13:03

@Thor665 wrote:
Kyssindree – She is a proud character, proud of her beauty and her skills, and every battle is a chance for her to showcase that she is just better. So, in a fight with Gordy I would have her laughing and taunting him. I would describe how much faster she was, and would use words like ‘contemptuously’ or ‘aroused’ or ‘flourish’ in the battle description. You would understand that she is disdainful of those weaker than herself and is showy, without me having to ever specifically say she is.
I somehow can't imagine Kyssindree bothering to taunt a simple guardsman or try to show him that she is better. That was just some thought I had, but you probably know her better than I do  Razz 


@Thor665 wrote:
“The Incubi charged up the steps towards the ten guardsmen. They raised their feeble mon’keigh blades and moved to intercept him. He would have laughed if their attempts weren’t so pathetic, in moments he had swept through them, blood spraying off his klaive to splatter the marble steps, the last one was dead before the first had even finished collapsing in a bloody heap. He readied his blade as he advanced on the doors, the Governor was inside, and a reckoning was at hand…”
This is great stuff, and I keep trying to write combat more like this!


The action scenes I make are usually rather short, or I lead them halfway and then go to another scene, leaving it possibly unclear who survived. The next scene could then later on reveal that (one of the fighters appears to the scene)
If it is two important characters fighting, I will more likely take it to the end.

Sometimes I fall on to trying to describe literally everything that happens in combat, but then I return to it later on after I have written rest of the chapter and make it considerably shorter.

All in all, I have less focus on combat scenes than a lot of other things happening, but well. Like you said, "there is only war". Hopefully I will be forgiven for too little actual combat ^^
Back to top Go down
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Thu Apr 17 2014, 15:28

@Mngwa wrote:
I somehow can't imagine Kyssindree bothering to taunt a simple guardsman or try to show him that she is better. That was just some thought I had, but you probably know her better than I do  Razz 
She has certainly bothered to taunt bank guards before, also Hellions, also hired knives in a bar. She might choose to not taunt...but only if someone was there that she could explicitly explain to them that she wasn't taunting because it was beneath her - which, naturally, would make it a taunt again Wink

@Mngwa wrote:
This is great stuff, and I keep trying to write combat more like this!
That sort of combat is basically the same as writing any other descriptive text. You just need to practice...and also make sure you don't toss in too many adjectives.

@Mngwa wrote:
Sometimes I fall on to trying to describe literally everything that happens in combat, but then I return to it later on after I have written rest of the chapter and make it considerably shorter.
That's an interesting method to it - the lazy guy in me would never do it that way.
Do you find this helps you understand the flow of the combat better when you're trying to make it shorter?

@Mngwa wrote:
All in all, I have less focus on combat scenes than a lot of other things happening, but well. Like you said, "there is only war". Hopefully I will be forgiven for too little actual combat ^^
A story can easily lack combat, combat is just an expression of conflict (which all stories probably should have). I don't think you need it for 40k fanfics...I'd just say it's usually expected.

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Tengu
Wych
avatar

Posts : 532
Join date : 2013-05-02
Location : The Quantum Realm

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Fri Apr 18 2014, 15:40

Thanks very much, made me feel a lot better.
Back to top Go down
Cavash
Lord of the Chat
avatar

Posts : 3197
Join date : 2012-04-15
Location : Stuck in an air vent spying on plotters

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Sat Apr 19 2014, 16:40

When I write action scenes I find there are many different things to take into consideration. First and foremost in my mind is "Do I like the characters in this scene?" I know that it should be more towards "Is it an important/pivotal scene", but if there's a character I'm not too fond of I'll happily give them a couple of extra kicks to the ribs just to satiate the sadistic mewling in the back of my mind that's constantly nagging for the humiliation of those I am not fond of.

The second thing I do is start writing. Most of the time I don't plan out my writing scene by scene. I write down a few paragraphs summarising what I want to happen in each piece or chapter as a rough outline before I'll start writing, but I find starting to write a fight-scene is exciting and having that excitement can really help to make it feel smoother and more enjoyable for myself and those reading it. I feel like there's nothing better than taking two characters that I've built upon for months and making them finally meet in a duel or out in the crucible of war.
Then, when I'm writing, I am constantly reminding myself of their own personalitites and their environment. Would one seem overly aloof due to arrogance just to find their disarmed opponent smash their skull in with a rock? I like to have a definitive end to my combat scenes; I'm not much a fan of having them broken up so I am a fan of having a lot of injuries and potential deaths (Lacerations and beheadings seeming to be a favourite of mine).

One thing that I find tends to be essential to an action scene is build up, or the lack of. Both having a long build up or having no buildup whatsoever seem to work for me. I tend to use longer buildups for character development; an example of which is a piece of Slaaneshi writing I have done recently in which a former veteran Guardsman and a young cultist sit in a ruined city awaiting innevitable death. The two bond over the horrors that their short lives have seen and you get a feel for the characters before the ensuing fight.
On the other hand, if I am wanting to introduce a character I like to start in the middle or towards the end of a fight scene. It's instant action. It's great at holding attention. It lets you see so much character through the method of fighting but also through taunts and feelings (are they swinging their blade with anger, or is it a refined and skillful riposte which they execute with a smirk before bringing amight falchion around to remove a foe's limb?)
Both of these buildups I have used in the Slaaneshi piece that I have recently been writing, but they both work excellently well for DEldar, or any other race you want to write about.

An example of starting a paragraph towards the end of combat is shown below. This isn't 40k, but it should show what I mean:
Quote :
His sword bled flames of wanton desolation and cleft the icy skull of the soul-reaper in two. Lightning split the air as blade and cranium met, the unholy bolts searing reality’s fragile fabric.
In quick succession he landed four more blows upon the beast, his feet sending him forward with unbelievable speed as he sliced open the beast’s torso and introduced it to true oblivion. Each blow left an open wound vomiting thunder and, even though it could be considered far more than dead at this point, the arcs of arcane energy jumped around the Master’s armour; racking his body in pain. With a mighty cry of focused agony he looked at the wounded form of destruction incarnate, turned his mind into a sharp pike, and launched out into reality.
The moment his anger met reality all became ash. The flames lit the chamber as the beast immolated in an ethereal inferno of purple and red. The fire scorched the bare stone and melted the flesh from twisted, glowing bones. He rested on one knee, shaking as he held onto what little strength remained. The student watched on in awe of what had just occurred, but this was nothing new to him. He had always known that the gift lay beneath all of his Master’s hate; it was just a matter of time before it would be released.
The Master tried to stand, but his legs gave way, causing him to plummet down to the ember coated tiles. Beneath the fine layer of grit and smouldering dust lay stone of ever shifting darkness and mortality. The student made his way over to the mighty warrior, removed his helm and tried to drag him back up.
He took a deep breath in the cold air of the Reaper-king’s basilica. The air met his lungs and caused instant repulsion, triggering bile to rise in his gullet. The horrid taste was expelled upon the ground as he wretched, loathing the existence of such a place. The scent of burnt meat was nothing to him, but the after-effects of utilising such a powerful force after having denied it for so long sent great floods of pain through him.

Also, I could not agree with this statement more:
@Thor665 wrote:
Almost everything I wrote 5 years ago I see problems and issues with…and that has been a constant state for me since I started writing. Five years from now I’ll probably read this article and shake my head a little.
I wrote the piece that I quoted about a year ago now and I have struggled to post it without editing it first. Writing is a constant learning process, one that can feel a bit discouraging at times, but it is really worth it when you can stand back, read a piece that you have completed and thing "Darn, I really hope whoever did that will do some more soon... oh wait..."

_________________

Back to top Go down
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Sun Apr 20 2014, 07:08

@Cavash wrote:
First and foremost in my mind is "Do I like the characters in this scene?" I know that it should be more towards "Is it an important/pivotal scene", but if there's a character I'm not too fond of I'll happily give them a couple of extra kicks to the ribs just to satiate the sadistic mewling in the back of my mind that's constantly nagging for the humiliation of those I am not fond of.
Interesting thought. I usually end up falling in love with my characters, even the awful ones (especially the awful ones?) so I never experience that. But I have had some enjoyment by writing certain comeuppance moments, so I figure that's much the same.

@Cavash wrote:
I like to have a definitive end to my combat scenes; I'm not much a fan of having them broken up so I am a fan of having a lot of injuries and potential deaths (Lacerations and beheadings seeming to be a favourite of mine).
I've never considered my own habits on this. I think I tend to have fights as they seem appropriate - and I do tend to have a few skirmishes prior to allowing the grand orgy of blood near the end. I don't mind killing characters, but I do tend to save it up for one big bloodbath rather than doling it out throughout the story.

@Cavash wrote:
On the other hand, if I am wanting to introduce a character I like to start in the middle or towards the end of a fight scene. It's instant action. It's great at holding attention. It lets you see so much character through the method of fighting but also through taunts and feelings
I really agree with this.

@Cavash wrote:
but it is really worth it when you can stand back, read a piece that you have completed and thing "Darn, I really hope whoever did that will do some more soon... oh wait..."
 Cool 

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Barking Agatha
Wych
avatar

Posts : 763
Join date : 2012-07-02

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Mon Apr 21 2014, 07:11

This is very helpful. Action scenes are probably what I'm worst at. (I have to admit that action movies usually bore me!)

What I've done when writing a fight scene is... first of all, avoid writing a fight scene because I'm not good at it, but if I must... to picture it as both dance and as slapstick; like 'The Three Stooges: the Ballet', as it were, or Bugs Bunny, which I'm guessing is not very realistic. I also focus in more detail on the effects of the violence upon minds and bodies, rather than on the description of the violence itself, because I'm rubbish at that, but I can reasonably describe pain and fear. And you know, violence hurts.

As helpful as this is though, what I would really like is to be shown specifically how I have done it wrong and how I could do it better. For example, almost all of Chapter 4 of 'Ascent' and, say, this bit from 'Unicorn':

Quote :
Meeran curtsied.  She made a little hop backward away from the killing blow, and the chainaxe struck the deck plating, leaving a jagged dent in the plasteel. The chaos marine raised his weapon again, and this time she hopped forward and kicked high, her naked foot connecting with his throat, razor-sharp toes that penetrated through the joint of the armour and deep into his flesh. She removed her foot and a spray of blood spurted from the cut throat; he would not be repeating his war cry again any time soon.

The axe swung for her head; she easily ducked under it. On the backslash she ducked again but then grabbed the haft as it went by, allowing herself to be carried along with it. In the air she twisted, landing with her feet upon the head and haft of the weapon itself, clinging to it like a fly. The enraged marine shook the axe wildly, trying to dislodge her, but she kept her balance. He made a grab for her with his left arm but she scuttled away up his shoulder and onto his back, reaching into the power mechanism of his armour and tearing out chunks of circuitry and machinery.

The chaos marine dropped the chainaxe and tried to reach her behind him with both hands; she made use of the motion, grabbed onto his head, and pulled, causing him to overbalance. He fell flat on his back with a thundering crash of twisted and broken plasteel, and the deck plating crumpled beneath him as if made of paper. Before he could recover Meeran was kneeling on his chest; she drove her fingers into his face, through the eye sockets, the nose, and the upper palate… and pulled.

As ugly as his face had been, it was now gone, and in its place was nothing but a gurgling and quivering mess of gore and bone. The front of his skull had come off in Meeran’s hand, and the lower jaw hung limply from soft tissue. Obscenely, the tongue remained searching vainly for the lost features, like a fat, pink mollusk deprived of its shell. The body twitched in extreme shock, its inhuman augmentations refusing to allow it to die even as the distressed flesh convulsed with unbearable suffering.

How would you 'fix' that, so to speak? (If it isn't too much of an imposition).  Smile
Back to top Go down
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Mon Apr 21 2014, 19:16

@Barking Agatha wrote:
As helpful as this is though, what I would really like is to be shown specifically how I have done it wrong and how I could do it better. For example, almost all of Chapter 4 of 'Ascent' and, say, this bit from 'Unicorn':

Quote :
Meeran curtsied.  She made a little hop backward away from the killing blow, and the chainaxe struck the deck plating, leaving a jagged dent in the plasteel. The chaos marine raised his weapon again, and this time she hopped forward and kicked high, her naked foot connecting with his throat, razor-sharp toes that penetrated through the joint of the armour and deep into his flesh. She removed her foot and a spray of blood spurted from the cut throat; he would not be repeating his war cry again any time soon.

The axe swung for her head; she easily ducked under it. On the backslash she ducked again but then grabbed the haft as it went by, allowing herself to be carried along with it. In the air she twisted, landing with her feet upon the head and haft of the weapon itself, clinging to it like a fly. The enraged marine shook the axe wildly, trying to dislodge her, but she kept her balance. He made a grab for her with his left arm but she scuttled away up his shoulder and onto his back, reaching into the power mechanism of his armour and tearing out chunks of circuitry and machinery.

The chaos marine dropped the chainaxe and tried to reach her behind him with both hands; she made use of the motion, grabbed onto his head, and pulled, causing him to overbalance. He fell flat on his back with a thundering crash of twisted and broken plasteel, and the deck plating crumpled beneath him as if made of paper. Before he could recover Meeran was kneeling on his chest; she drove her fingers into his face, through the eye sockets, the nose, and the upper palate… and pulled.

As ugly as his face had been, it was now gone, and in its place was nothing but a gurgling and quivering mess of gore and bone. The front of his skull had come off in Meeran’s hand, and the lower jaw hung limply from soft tissue. Obscenely, the tongue remained searching vainly for the lost features, like a fat, pink mollusk deprived of its shell. The body twitched in extreme shock, its inhuman augmentations refusing to allow it to die even as the distressed flesh convulsed with unbearable suffering.

How would you 'fix' that, so to speak? (If it isn't too much of an imposition).  Smile
This is an interesting question and I like it a lot. It's also interesting because when i read that chapter I liked a lot of it, but was really not fond of this scene, so one would *like* to think I should be able to intelligently discuss why... pale 

Okay, well, my first reaction is one of bother for the slapstick elements. Knowing that you intentionally include them this is a bit of an issue because it might just be coming down to a debate about how fight scenes should even be. My basic stance is that the 40k fluff certainly bears lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff, the one thing they don't do (except with Orks) is go slapstick...and even when Orks go slapstick it's effective.

In this battle you have a Chaos Space Marine, likely a veteran of thousands of conflicts and a born and bred killer putzing around and shaking his axe to try to dislodge a foe clinging to it. I mean...that bugs me personally. I can think of a dozen (well, to be honest, like, three...but...) better solutions off the top of my head and it just takes me out of the fight and into 'whut' territory. Also, in my opinion, this weakens what you're trying to do. Mereen does not look impressive overpowering an idiot who can't figure out how to kill her - she would look powerful killing a dangerous foe.

Also, I'll admit, the idea of a Space Marine crumpling deck plating with the weight of his impact yet being pulled off balance by the weight of a small DE stretches credulity a bit. I'll also admit I get the same feeling when she's tall enough to kick a Marine throat, but then dainty enough to be standing on an axe. My perception of her character is that she's fairly petite, and as such a kick to the throat of a Marine (which, in power armor, though I'll admit there's some debate around it, is basically a kick to a 7' high target since the marine is probably about 8' in armor)

Another random moment is - I'm not actually sure if he's wearing a helmet or if he isn't. You kick a 'joint' at the neck - which implies a helmet. But you just have her rip off a face, which implies...well, no helmet, unless she also ripped cerimite apart. I chose to believe no helmet in my below adjustment.

I do rather like some of the flow of your action, the transition onto the axe was well handled, I feel, and that's a tricky motion to describe, and I think you did really well at it. So I don't think your issue is particularly one of description nor flow. The slapstick thing is a bit of a debate, we can agree to disagree. Some of the fluff stuff is...eh...quibbles, I'd clean it up, but it sort of works.

I think the core issue is that, really, you're losing track of the point of the moment. The point is to showcase how unnatural and capable she is - the point is not to get bogged down in a lengthy fight scene. I'd probably trim a number of things, and just focus on the speed of the kill. If I was handed the above and asked to edit it at will, this is what I'd do;

Quote :
Meeran curtsied even as the Space Marine attacked, though her eyes were averted, at the last instant she made a little hop backward away from the killing blow, and the chainaxe struck the deck plating, leaving a jagged dent in the plasteel. The chaos marine raised his weapon again, and this time she hopped forward, leaping high in the air, kicking at him as she did. Her naked foot connected with his throat, razor-sharp toes penetrating through the tough flesh flesh. A spray of blood spurted from the cut as she dropped back to the deck lightly; he would not be repeating his war cry again any time soon.

What would be a mortal wound to most creatures, only infuriated the Marine. His axe swung for her head; she easily ducked under it. On the backslash she ducked again but then grabbed the haft as it went by, allowing herself to be carried along with it. In the air she twisted, landing with her feet upon the head and haft of the weapon itself, clinging to it like a fly. The enraged marine reacted with surprising speed for a being of his size, turning and sweeping his axe at the corridor wall, intent on crushing her like a bug. She moved quicker still, springing from the axe to land clutching at his head, one hand wrapped around a decorative horn, her bare feet clinging to jutting spikes on his breastplate.

Before he could recover Meeran drove her fingers into his face, through the eye sockets, the nose, and the upper palate… and pulled. As ugly as his face had been, it was now gone, and in its place was nothing but a gurgling and quivering mess of gore and bone. The front of his skull had come off in Meeran’s hand, and the lower jaw hung limply from soft tissue. Obscenely, the tongue remained flopping about in uncertainty. The Marine collapsed to the deck, his body twitching in extreme shock, its inhuman augmentations refusing to allow it to die even as the distressed flesh convulsed with unbearable suffering.

It;s shorter, it doesn't make the Marine look like a goof, and I think removes some physics issues. At the same time it's still mostly all what you wrote, just with some stuff chopped out. If you're neutral about having to write action scenes I think a big goal is to understand exactly what you're writing them for and to focus on that goal combined with brevity.

As a quick example, take Song of Ice and Fire (or as some know it Game of Thrones). G.R.R. Martin doesn't actually really write action scenes...and this is in a book known for bloodshed and battles. That's because he, I suspect, isn't a fan of writing them, and thus distills them down. He makes it clear battles happen and what happens there, but he doesn't sweat doing the detail work. That might be the perfect solution for you.

Hope some of these thoughts help.

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Barking Agatha
Wych
avatar

Posts : 763
Join date : 2012-07-02

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Tue Apr 22 2014, 00:00

Thor, that is brilliant, and thank you! I won't go back and change it because, well, that would be cheating, but I'll be looking very carefully at it from now on, you bet. Helpful criticism? Yes, please, more!

@Thor665 wrote:

Also, in my opinion, this weakens what you're trying to do. Mereen does not look impressive overpowering an idiot who can't figure out how to kill her - she would look powerful killing a dangerous foe.

Hmm... that's not it exactly. I do want Meeran to look capable, but the point of her is not that she is really good at fighting like a normal warrior, but that she is really good at being unnatural. She has Bugs Bunny-ish powers. You'll agree that Bugs Bunny would easily beat a space meringue, and for that matter Khorne himself? It's not that Bugs is powerful as such, it's just that... he is Bugs. I want to show Meeran to be not physically terrifying, but ontologically terrifying, if that makes sense?

It's kind of why I had her ask the other space meringues, 'What do you want?' I wanted to convey the idea that, if they had said, 'Waffles!' she would have gone, 'Okay, give me a few minutes and I'll see what I can whip up in the kitchen.' But they said, 'Blood! Murder! Death!' so...

@Thor665 wrote:

I'll also admit I get the same feeling when she's tall enough to kick a Marine throat, but then dainty enough to be standing on an axe.

Yeah... that's rubbish isn't it? Sad Her high kicks would at best be about 5 feet and a half. That's the sort of thing you don't think about when you're not thinking about it properly.

@Thor665 wrote:

Another random moment is - I'm not actually sure if he's wearing a helmet or if he isn't. You kick a 'joint' at the neck - which implies a helmet.

I wrote earlier that he was 'the one without a helmet'. I was thinking that there's a joint there anyway for when they do put on the helmet, because you never see their necks even when they're helmetless... but yeah, the whole 'joint' bit is probably confusing and pointless. I may fix at least that bit, I don't think that counts as cheating!

@Thor665 wrote:

The slapstick thing is a bit of a debate, we can agree to disagree.

I don't think I disagree. It's just that I need it to be weird, or I can't make it work!

@Thor665 wrote:

It's shorter, it doesn't make the Marine look like a goof, and I think removes some physics issues.

I plead guilty to making meringues look like goofs because, well, I just don't like them. Emotionally stunted testosterone cases going 'raargh, for the Emperor!' or 'for the blood god!'... I love to send them up Smile

I'm torn between your improved version and mine, because yours is obviously better, but I really, really like the picture of 'a veteran of thousands of conflicts and a born and bred killer putzing around and shaking his axe to try to dislodge a foe clinging to it', for the same reasons that you don't like it! I would have to find an in-between version, not quite as realistic as yours, but also not quite so silly.

Thanks for helping me, we should do more of this!

EDIT: So, I've changed it a bit (and made a mess in the process!). Is this better?

Quote :
Meeran curtsied amiably. As the space marine brought down his weapon she made a little hop backward away from the killing blow, and the chainaxe struck the deck plating, leaving a jagged dent in the plasteel. The chaos marine raised his weapon again, and this time she leaped forward in the air with a high kick, her naked foot connecting with his throat, razor-sharp toes that penetrated through the toughness of his skin and deep into his flesh. She removed her foot and cartwheeled backwards back onto firm ground as a spray of blood spurted from the warrior's wounded throat; he would not be repeating his war cry again any time soon.

Having his throat cut hurt the marine, but did not stop him. His axe swung for Meeran's head; she easily ducked under it. On the backslash she ducked again but then grabbed the haft as it went by, allowing herself to be carried along with it. In the air she twisted, landing with her feet upon the head and haft of the weapon itself, clinging to it like a fly. The enraged marine shook the axe wildly, trying to dislodge her, but she kept her balance. He made a grab for her with his left arm but she scuttled away up his shoulder and onto his back, reaching into the power mechanism of his armour and tearing out chunks of circuitry and machinery.

The chaos marine dropped the chainaxe and tried to reach her behind him with both hands; at the same time, she pulled out two wires and put them together, sending a kinetic jolt through his armour so that he lost control of the motion and overbalanced. He fell flat on his back with a thundering crash of twisted and broken plasteel, and the deck plating crumpled beneath him as if made of paper. Before he could recover Meeran was kneeling on his chest; she drove her fingers into his face, through the eye sockets, the nose, and the upper palate… and pulled.
Back to top Go down
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Tue Apr 22 2014, 03:42

I like it better than the original.

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Lady Malys
She Who Must Be Obeyed
avatar

Posts : 1095
Join date : 2011-05-18

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Tue Apr 22 2014, 15:03

For action scenes, if I am having trouble visualising the way things interact three-dimensionally, I try a tip one of my old art teachers gave me: imagine the scene from above. This helps me to see whether people can interact in the way I have in mind in the space they have available.

Although the fight scene is not the only action scene type, when I do use combat I utilise it as an extremely sharp contrast. When I am writing combat with Eldar of any flavour in mind (and I usually am) I aim to make it explosive and quick, with short, sharp sentences. This is a contrast to the lyrical style I am usually aiming for when writing the rest of the story. I intentionally make combat extremely violent, though that does not have to mean bloody - I mean that when characters fight, they aim to win, there doesn't tend to be any pussyfooting about with gentle taps! (Unless they were fighting to capture someone, for example, but that's a specific instance.)

Though I'm not a fan of the wall to wall entrails style of writing, I might also add some description for senses other than sight and touch - like the smell of cauterised flesh from a power weapon wound - but I do that sparingly. For me it's not an exercise in disgusting the reader, but it is my aim to show that there are many sides to the Eldar nature (which is of course turned up to 11 Wink ). I want to emphasise how lethal this is for all parties, and make the contrast between extremely civilised beings and the power of Khaine that resides within them (or the urge to violence, or the primitive desire to beat and dominate, or what have you). And for me the turn can be quick, in the blink of an eye, especially with Commorrites who are just plain encouraged and expected to be stone killers. That speed of deployment of violence emphasises how lethal they are under a surface veneer of civilisation.

For an action scene such as a chase, I aim to use all three dimensions a little more than I would for Humans even if the chase takes place all on one level, in order to emphasise the unnatural agility of the participants. If there's an opportunity I will have them use the scenery to their advantage. Again I use short, quick sentences with a lot of dynamic verbs. I strip down the adjectives and make things direct and rapid-fire.

Short sentences; dynamic verbs; sudden shifts; explosive action. That's how I like to do it!

_________________


~ Aim to please, shoot to kill. ~
Back to top Go down
Barking Agatha
Wych
avatar

Posts : 763
Join date : 2012-07-02

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Wed Apr 23 2014, 03:00

In defense of wall to wall entrails and disgusting the reader, I do feel that if I write about violence I ought to be honest about what it is and what it does. It is sordid and ugly and it shows human (and alien) bodies as nothing more than a bunch of squishy bits and fluids held together by bones and a bag of skin. In certain movies, if the hero gets kicked hard in the face by the villain he gets knocked out and comes to some time later none the worse for wear, but that is a lie, isn't it? If someone gets kicked in the face there is blood, and mucus, and a broken jaw, and maybe even an eye pops out, and there is crippling pain. There is no way that the hero is going to stop the terrorists or save the mayor or do much of anything except lie in hospital for days pumped full of painkillers... and that's just from one kick to the face.

Obviously when we write fiction, it is fantasy, but I wouldn't feel right idealising that aspect of it. I think that if one is going to write about someone being stabbed, you ought to be fully honest about what it really means for someone to be stabbed. Smile
Back to top Go down
Thor665
Archon
avatar

Posts : 5513
Join date : 2011-06-10
Location : Venice, FL

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Wed Apr 23 2014, 04:24

Depends on the type of kick, really. Most kicks are nowhere near that debilitating.

_________________


The Title Troupe! - Nom fellow posters for custom titles.
Back to top Go down
Lady Malys
She Who Must Be Obeyed
avatar

Posts : 1095
Join date : 2011-05-18

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Wed Apr 23 2014, 17:16

Wow ... you've completely misunderstood me there Barking Agatha! (This happens - just ask Thor there Wink ) I didn't say that I idealised or sanitised violence, or pretended it wasn't horrifically painful, damaging, or debilitating. All I meant was, that I wasn't a fan of spending a long time over the exact stink of entrails, the exact colour of a ruptured spleen, and so on ... I believe I can get across the painful, violent and disabling nature of a fight without either searching for an exact match for the colour of bile, or spending half a page on how someone vomits after being kicked in the stomach (thereby disgusting the reader).

Quote :
Though I'm not a fan of the wall to wall entrails style of writing, I might also add some description for senses other than sight and touch - like the smell of cauterised flesh from a power weapon wound - but I do that sparingly. For me it's not an exercise in disgusting the reader, but it is my aim to show that there are many sides to the Eldar nature (which is of course turned up to 11 Wink). I want to emphasise how lethal this is for all parties,

is pretty much the opposite of

Quote :
Obviously when we write fiction, it is fantasy, but I wouldn't feel right idealising that aspect of it. I think that if one is going to write about someone being stabbed, you ought to be fully honest about what it really means for someone to be stabbed.

what I have understood you to think I meant here, given of course that I have understood you Smile

Nowhere have I said that I idealise or stylise my fights. These are often lethal fights involving weapons whose destructive potential is hard to imagine. One has to get that across.

Would it clarify what I mean if I said "Even though I am not a fan of the wall to wall entrails style of writing, I still use graphic details involving other senses occasionally, because I want to emphasise how lethal this is for all parties. I don't want to spend pages on gore and literal guts, but I want to keep the extreme nature of a fight obvious and use it as a contrast to the everyday behaviour of my characters."

I also like to keep things short and sharp to have more impact, my other reason for not spending too long on any of the aspects of the fight.

Just to be clear, I don't think I've seen anyone on here - including you and Meeran and the head-ripping-open fight - use what I'd call "wall to wall entrails style of writing". So no problems on that score, as far as I'm concerned. Actually I'd call your use of graphic details in that fight an excellent contrast to the normal serenity of Meeran, thus an example of ... exactly what I meant to be understood! Very Happy

As a final slightly off-topic point, in my roleplaying game on here, I have tended to keep the fights cinematic, for the sake of brevity and not making a slasher film where the PCs are the victims. (I still set someone on fire and had all their skin flake off, among other details I won't drag out here.) That's the demand of the medium. Fiction, although related, for me is different and I work it like I've said here Smile

_________________


~ Aim to please, shoot to kill. ~
Back to top Go down
Barking Agatha
Wych
avatar

Posts : 763
Join date : 2012-07-02

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Wed Apr 23 2014, 20:15

Sorry! I did think that maybe it was a rebuke to those of us who like to use gory imagery, and I thought I ought to justify why we do. No offense intended!
Back to top Go down
Lady Malys
She Who Must Be Obeyed
avatar

Posts : 1095
Join date : 2011-05-18

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Wed Apr 23 2014, 20:57

No rebuke intended Smile And no offence taken. My reasons for showing the violent nature of combat, incidentally, also mesh pretty well with your own. It's not two people tickling each other with feather dusters, it's going to hurt!

... unless it is a speciality match in the arena for an Archon who likes to see feather duster action ...

_________________


~ Aim to please, shoot to kill. ~
Back to top Go down
Tengu
Wych
avatar

Posts : 532
Join date : 2013-05-02
Location : The Quantum Realm

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Thu Apr 24 2014, 21:06

Would be a good idea with the Clawed Fiend, when he gets hurt he fights harder...
Back to top Go down
Lady Malys
She Who Must Be Obeyed
avatar

Posts : 1095
Join date : 2011-05-18

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Thu Apr 24 2014, 23:50

"How did you survive the Clawed Fiend?"

"Tickled him until he got tired, my Archon."

_________________


~ Aim to please, shoot to kill. ~
Back to top Go down
Tengu
Wych
avatar

Posts : 532
Join date : 2013-05-02
Location : The Quantum Realm

PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   Fri Apr 25 2014, 00:16

Yes, that will go down as a `survive Commoragh` classic along with the birdlime for Scourges and flashlight for Mandrakes
Back to top Go down
Sponsored content




PostSubject: Re: Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You   

Back to top Go down
 
Writer's Roundtable #3 - Action Scenes And You
Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
THE DARK CITY :: 

OTHER DRUKHARI DISCUSSION

 :: Stories & Art; The Black Library
-
Jump to: