I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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2012-11-30 10:05 AM
At the risk of repeating myself
I've mentioned here, though I can't remember what book I was bitching about, that I hate writing action scenes. I'm doing one now, a four-character one where everyone starts out talking, and then there's a fight, and then one guy dies while one runs away, and one of the other two stays behind while the other goes after the running one. (Don't worry, you'll have forgotten all that when you get to read it, such is the flywheel of publishing.) It's like pulling teeth to get me to go back to the thing. So why is that?
Thinking's more fun than writing so I've been thinking about it. Here's my conclusion. Action scenes need to be fully conceptualized, pictured in the head, choreographed. The writer has to see every event at every moment, including what the non-spotlight characters are doing while the character in any particular sentence is turning, speaking, reaching, falling, whatever the hell he's up to.
When you come to write it, you have to make all that clear -- where everyone is and what they're doing -- while actually only writing about little pieces of the exploded action, because the compelling need is to get your reader's heart pounding. That will only happen under a pair of circumstances, both required: if the reader's not bogged down with extraneous material, and at the same time, not confused.
It's both strenuous and tedious. That's the problem. And because the writer's got it so carefully choreographed, it can get hard to see whether it's really all in the written scene. Maybe I can see the guy turning to face the dame, and therefore turning his back on the other guy, because I know where they're all standing. But maybe I haven't made it clear to the reader, so when the other guy jumps the guy the reader won't know where the hell he came from? But if I say it again here does that give away what's about to happen? But if I don't...
And so on. It's a headache. And now that I've complained to you patient people once again about it, I'm going to go do it.
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