Thursday, April 28, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Pacing Your Action



I know. I'm late. The rhythm of this little thing called life missed a few beats. I'm here now. Instead of getting into the details or generating excuses, let's skip to the part that I've been wanting to share for the last week.

When writing action, what does pacing have to do with it? Can't we just go for it, bashing some minion heads or obliterating a legion of starships? My answer--yes and no. By all means, do whatever action needs to be done to get the story told, but with a few simple guidelines, your action will flow better and serve a higher purpose.

Length - take a look at your scene and your sentences. How long does it need to be in order to accomplish the action that you want to pull off while still propelling the story? If it's over too fast, characters seem invincible (unless they just happen to be). Too long, the readers might skip ahead to find out where the bloodbath ends. Neither of the two are pretty. Short and clear sentences will move the action along better than detailed information. Sharp and active words needed.

X vs. Y - size up your characters. If this is a one-on-one confrontation, what qualities do they possess that they will bring to the fight? Unless they're evenly matched or one has a few tricks, the scene will (should) end quick, if you want to be realistic. Give us brains and brawn.

Build-up - before the fight is over, provide some build-up. The start of a confrontation is usually a test to see what the other is capable of. The action escalates from that point. The next move enhances from the last. From a weapons master, I learned that a real fight between two experienced opponents can last between 4 minutes and 4 seconds. Anything more than that is drawn out (for one confrontation--you can always have several).

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. To conclude this month's theme of Action April, remember to have fun in whatever action scene you want to write. There's always run for improvements and redrafts if it doesn't come out right the first time. Sock it to'em.

Anything I missed? What are some pacing tips that you'd like to share? What's helped you the most?

I'm David, and I better pick up the pace!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Post: My Sore Wrists have been Awarded



What a massive weekend it turned out to be! With renovations, finishing Chapter 20, attending a life-long friend's reception and cooking a portion of a Sunday family feast, my wrists are all but spent. I'll probably reach for an anti-inflammatory after I've finished with this post and take a short breather before continuing with more writing, but before I leave, I would like to acknowledge an Irresistibly Sweet award that Sierra Gardner has bestowed. Thank you very much, Sierra! Now that I've accepted this rather tasteful award, I need to follow the rules, which are as follows:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4. Contact and tell these bloggers about the award.

As far as seven things go, how about I spice things up by opening up to my followers by sharing some faults. We all have them--might as well get it out there now.

1: I can't use a compass--don't get lost with me.
2: I'm terrified of bees (and clowns, even more).
3: I've never been outside the U.S. (except Canada).
4: Dancing . . . I stumble just by talking about it.
5: I fell off a horse, twice, and never got back on.
6: I enjoy pizza far more than is humanly permissible.
7: My goal of finishing the WiP by April's end . . . fail.

There you have it. Don't be too harsh, if you must judge. Now to pass this award onto 15 recently discovered great bloggers. This will be tough, since you're all great, but these are my following/chosen/picked recipients:

Cheyanne Boatright - (our latest follower this week).
Susan Oloier - (a writer with a few titles done already).
Paul J. Lincoln - (ePublished and simply awesome!).
Nick Hight - (has part of a story up on his blog now).
Jo Schaffer - (an author with much to be excited about).
Anstice (Tizzy) Potts - (a lover of life and everything).
Adam King - (no relation, but this fellow can write!)
Jeffrey Beesler - (who maintains a highly relevant blog).
Joshua J. Perkey - (an excellent writing neighbor).
Matthew Hayes - (a young, ambitious aspiring writer).
Jenni Merritt - (go and see her sweet blog, just go!).
PK HREZO - (an airline agent and writer!).
Nicole Zoltack - (a master of fantasy romance).
Chantele Sedgwick - (a writer with much to harp about).
and Christine Bryant - (a friend as sweet as they come).

Congratulations, you guys! Everyone, check out their sweet blogs and be satisfied. I'll jump on contacting all of you when the right moment permits.

Update: Yes! Chapter 20 is drafted (and is crap), but I plan to do some tinkering before moving on. It contains that high/pivotal moment of the story, but it just wasn't hitting me like I imagined it should. Some revision and edits should take care of that. This week, clean up 20 and get "running" with Chapter 21.For the time being, I'm happy to report that the WiP has breached 90K words! Less than 20K to go!

Thanks for visiting, everyone. Be sure to click back Thursday for more action advice that might help to "pick up the pace" with your scene.

I'm David, and The Laire is a littler sweeter now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aspiring Advice: The Focus of Action



Welcome back to Action April! In previous weeks, we've covered a formula for the basic action scene and how to learn about action oriented activities from the source.

Now, I'd like to draw your attention to an unconscious element of action writing that we may not think about while we're writing it. Focus--good action has a focus. What does that mean? If you follow gaming like I do (on occasion), you may have seen this mind-blowing trailer for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. If not, check this action out (this could be a little intense for the kids)!



What is the focus of our antihero? Does he enjoy being a lightsaber-wielding wrecking ball, or does it go deeper than that? While we don't know what is "worth fighting for" or who is "worth dying for," we understand that his focus is strong enough to vanquish the obstacles before him. Opposition leads to action, but the one who has the greater purpose will have the stronger focus. It would show. What a character is to achieve ought to balance the weight of what he/she has to overcome. This focus makes for fun writing and page-turning sequences.

In other words, senseless action, or action that exists just for the sake of it, will certainly look cool, but it will outweigh your story unless you establish character goals and ambitions before charging in. Give us a reason to root for their victory or gasp if they are struck down.

Isn't it good to start in the middle of the action?

Beginning a story in the middle of the action isn't always a bad thing, but unless you invent some characters with a clear and strong focus (Star Trek), the action can be senseless or devoid of purpose (Transformers 2).

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Whatever the focus may be for your characters, you'll want to take time to consider and choose wisely before writing them into battle with their guns blazing.

Do you give your characters a focus or have them charge Rambo style? What's a good example of focus that you've seen in an action scene?

I'm David, and spackle is fun stuff!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Post: Oatmeal Cookie - Stress Reliever




This will be one of those blue-moon, punch-myself-in-the-face kind of posts. It's easy to beat yourself up over unfulfilled goals. Having the unexpected sneak up on you is like suffering an assault from the cosmos, as if it would rather have you do something else with your life instead of what you had planned. In this case, a weekend cleaning a house, a couple of sick kids, and an out-of-place shoulder. Ack! There seemed to be no end to the chaos and lack-of-writing, but like a beckoning from my childhood, I searched for a recipe and baked some cookies. Why oatmeal? I don't know, but they were tasty, comforting, and relatively heart healthy.

In other words, we're on the mend. Back to work!

I forgot to shout-out a few people last week, so I'll do that now. Please welcome and visit the blogs of our SEVEN new followers: Susan Oloier, Paul J. Lincoln, Nick Hight, Jo Schaffer, Anstice (Tizzy) Potts, Adam King (no relation), and Jeffrey Beesler.

Thank you for boarding The Laire. Enjoy the ride!

Update:  I'm serious this time. This week, chapter 20 will be done and 21 will start well before the week is out. It should go by fast. It's the climax and falling action, for goodness-out-loud! I want this WiP done by mid May, and it's going to get done, (choice of expletive here)!

That's all for now. Click back Thursday for a more "focused" column about writing action.

I'm David, and who put those blossoms on the trees?


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Action from the Source



I won't get in trouble for using someone as an example, right? How many of you know of Mr. Brad Bird, best known for his efforts with Pixar? I've yet to be let down by his projects, each one being uniquely different from the last with excellent storytelling. That's because he likes (I think) to venture into new territory. His Oscar winning Ratatouille was the most unlikely (and less action oriented) of them all. Thing is, the man knew little about the inner workings of French cuisine. How are you going to make a believable movie about a rat wanting to be a chef if you've never stepped foot in a French kitchen before? That's what he and others involved in the production did. They went to Paris, fine dined, and interviewed chefs. Also, some animators went to a culinary school and consulted with many chefs. Now that's some delicious research!

What does this have to do with action?

The same principle applies when writing action. They say the best writers write what they know, right? How, then, have some of the best writers taken us to the most extraordinary places and drafted heart-pounding scenes when they themselves have never done such things? I've never wrestled, but was able to portray a wrestling match in a medieval setting that several of my alphas have thoroughly enjoyed reading. How did I do it? Initially, I looked it up, and found stuff like this . . .


Examples start at :53

Now, is that enough to go on? Not really. It gives me a visual, but I had no idea what to call their moves or how to apply what I saw into words that would make sense to a reader. What then? I consulted a friend of mine who trained in wrestling and martial arts (made me eat the blue mat a few times, too, for the experience).

Regardless of what action you're doing, it wouldn't hurt to visit a dojo, consult with a weapons expert, or speak with someone who understands the basic principles of physics/human movement. In short, when you lack experience and want to write something that you'd never do, visit those who would/are more capable.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Action is great fun and can draw in your readers, but thorough research will determine if you'll pull off your scene in a believable way. Keep in mind--you may have never held an assault rifle in your life, so how will your modern war novel read to someone in the military?

That's all the food for thought I have. Bon app├ętit!

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and consulted with an expert for your writing? What have you never done that you want to write about?

I'm David, and it's not wise to mess with lava.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Post: The Shortest of all Updates!


Why? Life happens. In this case, in a good way!

I've been an awful blogger lately, not commenting or reciprocating your visits, which is normally my prerogative, but I hope you understand the toil and stress on my end. To make a long story short, I'm about to own a home! Now I can't stop thinking about Uncle Ben and his "great responsibility" speech. Bear with me as I sort through papers and get ready to leave the renter's world behind. When that's over, I'll dedicate a whole day to catching up on what I've missed.

Update: notice the word meter for my WiP? It's jumped! That's because chapter 19 is done, as is most of chapter 20! Almost two chapters in a week, placing me ahead of schedule. I have a feeling that the falling action will go by like a dog running and slipping on a banana peel, but in a tense, oh-my-gosh kind of way. Not the funny kind.

But this is kinda funny!


Enjoy your week. Click back Thursday for some "professional" action-packed advice.

I'm David, and where can I find a decent door?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Springing Into Action!

 

While not every story is epic, action is a prominent (and expected) aspect of science fiction and fantasy. Don't get me wrong. Thrillers, mysteries, romance, slice-of-life, and others all have action in them, depending on what they're aiming for. A dogfight in space, a mafia car chase, and a bully confrontation will more than likely not have the same elements, but they will have one thing in common--a sequence of events that propels a scene to some conclusion. Action is different in every genre, and is arguably one of the more difficult things to write.

For the next month, We'll discuss action, and lots of it, including a few tips and tricks to help improve your page-flipping sequences. Let's spring into Action April!

This week: the basic action scene.

Imagine an action scene as a mini-story within your story. That means a basic story arc can be applied. An introduction (confrontation), rising action (engagement, reaction, and repeat), climax (contact/final blow), falling action (consequence), and conclusion (result).

Something like this.

How you do this is up to what a scene requires, be it gunslinging or fisticuffs, or escaping from something horrible, but you should be aware of pacing and focus. If there are too many details, readers might get bored. Not enough and readers might not know what's going on. Having the focus set on one character's point of view is the universal recommendation. Any more than that and it becomes more difficult to write and read.

Ever read Redwall? I love that omniscient book to death and all, but it's easy to lose track of who is doing what.

My first adventure involved deep-space military. You can imagine the fun I had learning to balance action. It served as an exercise in disguise. While challenging, I enjoy scenes of action just as much as dialogue.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Action is a wide topic, and is different for everyone. Approach it and write what excites you, though it never hurts to play around with multiple scenarios.

What makes a good action scene? What are some excellent examples that you've seen or read?

I'm David, and lights, camera, ACTION!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Post: Giveaway Winners and Free Story!



"CANDY PRINCESS MONSTER" GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

I want to thank everyone who has participated in my 100 followers giveaway. At 23 entries, the turnout was much larger than I expected. Sitting before me are three bowls with your names in them. I will now draw (at random) our three winners. And they are . . .

*Drum roll*

For The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull -

For Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George -

For Monster Hunter: International by Larry Correia -

Congratulations you three! Send me an email (subject: Giveaway Winner) with the preferred address of where you would like me to send your book. You can find my email here. I wish I could award something for all of you, but as promised, I'm offering a 250 word or a query letter critique to ANYONE who wants one. Send me an email. You'll find mine here (subject: 250 Word Critique). I'll review 250 word samples and query letters through this week (until April 11th). No attachments please. Again, thank you all for participating. I have something cool in mind when this place reaches 200.

FREE STORY - THE PRO-SPECTER!

As a special treat, I've posted a sample of my writing here, with more on the way. Bear in mind, novel writing is my strong suit. Short stories are far more difficult for me. If you find yourself liking these little stories, then my novels may stand a good chance after all. Enjoy!

NEW FOLLOWERS!

Here's a special shout-out to The Cosmic Laire's ELEVEN new followers. Please go check out their blogs!

Joshua J. Perkey, wkbentley, Matthew Hayes, Jenni Merritt, Katie Pyne, PK HREZO, The Bentley's, Jim Rasmussen, Nicole Zoltack, Chantele Sedgwick, and Christine Bryant.

Update: it's been another full week. Finishing Chapter 19 wasn't part of it. Spring is here, and with it, allergies, on top of home deals, work, and other stuff that us day-job authors look forward to. I've complained about it before, but you guys get the idea. I have over a thousand words down--with any luck, I'll have it finished this week.

Click back Thursday to "Spring" into action!

I'm David, and *sneeze* excuse me . . .

Saturday, April 2, 2011



The Prospector

Logan whimpered as he entered the vacant cave.

“What’re you wuss’n about, lardy?” Andy hissed.

“We shouldn’t b-be here,” Logan stammered, pointing at small, decomposed animals on the ground.

Jake turned and peered at the other two, his black hair stiff as if his mother had starched it. “Knock it off, you guys. This could be an old pirate’s hideout for all we know. Maybe we’ll find some loot!”

“We’d better,” said Jake. “How'd this cave pop up in the middle of our park anyway?”

Logan raised his short nose into the air and sniffed. “You guys smell a pig?”

“You’re a pig,” Andy mumbled.

“Was that a fat joke?”
 
You’re a fat joke, lardy!”

“Shh!” Jake shushed.

Something shuffled in the distance, an echo of someone walking ahead of them.

“You hear that?”

“Sounds like a dog.”

“Or a wolf,” Logan added.

“There’re no wolves here. Coyotes, maybe?”

“Oh, that makes me feel better.”

A footstep tromped. Another followed. All three boys stalled in their tracks, listening to a low moaning sound that was too much like a zombie from a horror game they had just finished.

Andy jumped. “It’s a monster!”

Before they could run, the passage behind them sealed up. A shadow grew along the wall, filling the boys with fear as the figure of a man raised his arms.

“Oye, there!”

The dark image shrunk. Within a moment, an old guy rounded the bend, holding a lantern in one hand and a dinged-up shovel in the other. His clothes were old, tattered, and dirty, and he had a wide gray beard that concealed most of his face. A rimmed hat covered his head while a pair of tan slacks hiked above his waistline, supported by leather shoulder straps.

“Kid folk?” he gruffed. “Bout time some snot-nosed whelps come sneak'n after ma'claim.”

Jake trembled. “Uh—what claim, sir?”

“Come on,” the man invited. “If it’s what yer look’n for, it’s down this-a-way. Mind yer heads.”
 
The fellow turned back the way he had come.

“What's he doing down here?” Logan whispered.

“He’s a miner,” Andy broke in. “Weird guy.”

“You shouldn't talk about yourself like that.”

“Don’t make me fatten your lip more than it is!”

Jake sighed. “Let’s see what he’s showing us.”

They followed the man’s lantern light as the tunnel began to lack the luster it once had. Stone spikes hung over their heads. Others stuck out of the ground, covered with crystal specks and silver flakes. As they entered a hollow chamber, they stared with wonder at a tall hill of gold coins.

The old miner’s lantern sat in the center, but he was nowhere in sight.

“Good glory and Mother Teresa!” Andy cried. “Gold! You know how rich we are now?”

“But ... where’s that old guy?” asked Logan.

“Who cares? Let’s just take some and get!”

Jake sprinted up the hill first, gathering coins, but he paused at the sight of a metal glove, smothered with jewels on its untarnished plating.

“This could be a king’s gauntlet,” he said, pulling on it. “It’ll look great in my room, but it won’t budge.”

“I don’t like it here,” Logan whined. “Something’s wrong about all this.”

“Shut it,” Andy hissed. He climbed up to help Jake, but the glove would not move from the pile of gold. “You’re the only one who’d wuss out on a chance like this. Why. Won’t. This. Come. OUT?”

Suddenly, the glove gave way, along with the skeletal remains of a human corpse.

Jake and Andy screamed as its bones crumbled to bits. A skull rolled down the hill of gold and stopped at Logan’s feet, its empty sockets staring back at him.

Logan froze, kicking it away like a soccer ball.

“What was that?” Andy panicked.

Jake stood beside them, pointing an unsteady finger. Among the bones were tattered clothes, a rusted shovel, and a dusty rimmed hat. There was no way out.

The miner, who they had met, was this guy.

“But—that's impossible!”

“Was he—a ghost?” asked Logan.

“I don’t wanna hang around to find out,” said Andy, just as sunlight spilled into the cave from where they had entered. “Let’s tell our folks. We’ll be rich!”

Andy and Jake took off. Logan straggled behind.

*     *     *

That very night, news of the boy's discovery swept through the town like a tidal wave. The police went to investigate the cave in the park, but there was nothing but grass. The boy’s claim did not exist. Every speck of their precious gold was gone. For stirring the whole town with such an outlandish story, the boy’s parents grabbed their sons, one by one, by the ear.

Andy winced. “How’d it all disappear?"

No one would ever know, but Logan managed a smile through it all ... with a jingle in his pocket.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Random Sauce: This Prank Was So Cruel.


Don't worry. I'm not the type of person who get's into the annual excuse-for-causing-mayhem-and-mischief day, but I thought I'd share something anyway.

Who wouldn't like to see a Zelda movie? I know I would, and a few years ago, I was pranked hard by what is probably one of the most elaborate fan trailers ever made. Look at this thing and you'll see that the idea of making a Legend of Zelda movie isn't that far fetched.



Looks nice, doesn't it? Too bad it's . . . not a real movie.

For your enjoyment, I've added a few pages to the side, About MeContact me, and Free Stories. They aren't finished and I'll have a free story posted tomorrow.

Have an excellent, non-traumatic day!
While you're at it, please check out my giveaway.

I'm David, and there're no fools here.