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.


  1. I try to get a hold of people in the know, but I always have a hard time finding them (I don't have the patience to riffle through endless pages of google search results). Where do you find your experts?

  2. Reece - it depends on what you're going for. You'd be surprised what you can find in a phone book, or resources you can pull from staff at universities, or take interest in the people you know and what they do. Having an uncle in the National Guard and a neighbor who served overseas have been a great help for my military-related writings.

  3. I have consulted with experts when it comes to my travel writing. Mostly park rangers. However, in fiction I have not yet found the need. I do believe it enhances the writing, though.
    Good to see you on #ninjachat today!

  4. Great post.
    I went to a police station and chatted to the cop and then found out he was in the middle of his lunch break. I also google stuff and tear out mag clippings on things to use :O)

  5. Is it nude wrestling? I really think nude wrestling could spice up a novel.

  6. Going to the source is a great way to get info. I contacted a local military base to find out if I could get a tour so I could get up close and personal in my setting for my current WIP. For my next WIP, my MC is a dancer, so I'm planning on observing (and maybe even taking) some dance classes.

    This kind of research is my very favorite. :)