Thursday, 15 June 2017

Writing Dialogue for Action Scenes


I'm heading into the last part of Act Two in my WIP, and the action is really cranking up. Enough with the talking, the thinking, the quietly figuring things out. It is time to bring out the big guns. Quite literally.

With this in mind, I found myself facing several hot action scenes, with fights, shootings, and car chases to choreograph. As I'm not overly experienced in any of these domains, I had a ton of research to do, not least because my car chase takes place in the real life setting of an area of London near St Paul's cathedral, and I wanted the setting to be spot-on. (Hello, Google Maps.)

On top of all that, the three characters involved are newly-formed allies, with a ton of stuff to say in order to get everyone on the same page, very fast, whilst escaping bad guys and dealing with a bullet wound.

Writing the dialogue and action for these scenes was hard. The kind of stuff that makes me want to throw in the towel and take up knitting instead. So I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I took the easy route.

First I wrote the car chase, with minimal dialogue (mostly 'ouches' and 'look behind yous' and 'helps') and lots of raging action, then, in the subsequent lull before the next disaster, the three amigos had a good old chin wag with a ton-load of characterisation, and got it all off their chests.

The scene fell flat.

I was sad. I cried a little, moaned a little, grumbled a little, realised nobody was listening to me, and took a break from the scene. Then, when I came back, I had an epiphany.

*insert witty dialogue into action scene*

VoilĂ .

I took most of the dialogue (with some exceptions) and weaved it into the action scene, alternating between full-on car chase and vibrant (I hope) conversation, pumping life into this scene until it pulsated with energy. Now the characters are having a real great time, bonding fast as they race through the streets of London, popping tyres and dodging bullets.

Also, I was able to cut out most of the action beats and dialogue tags from the original conversation, hence reducing word count. Since my WIP is comparable to an oversized heifer, this is good.

I plan to use this technique again. When I face a scene that requires heavy action and sharp dialogue, I'll write them separately, then blend them as one. A bit like a smoothie. Minus the lumps.







Saturday, 10 June 2017

Communal Book Project aka Write a Book With Me!

Hello peeps and peepettes!

If, like me, you love summer and feel full of the joys of the sun, you might like to undertake a new project with me, just for fun. (Disclaimer: for those of you in the southern hemisphere, I'm sorry. Good luck with your descent into winter. And yes, you can still play!)

So, calling all writers, young or less young, experienced or less experienced, published or less published!

I'd like to launch a game on my blog to write a story with YOUR contribution. The rules are thus:

1. Read Part One below and let me know if you want in!

2. Each participant will contribute a section to the story, anything from 300 to 1000 words.

3. You will have to wait until the person before you completes and posts their section, so each contribution runs on from the previous in a way that makes at least a little bit of sense.

4. Other than that, no rules! Write however you like, develop the story in whatever way you see fit, and let's see where this goes! Oh, and keep it clean please. This is a PG blog. Thanks for understanding.

DON'T LEAVE ME HANGING!


Lord Logenburt and the Knock at the Door
Part One by AJ Watt

Midnight. 

The grandfather’s clock chimed the first stroke of the hour in the elegant hallway. Lord Frederic Logenburt sat in his study in a high-backed leather armchair and listened to time. As always, it passed with the same deliberate slowness, taunting the lonely. Each chime seemed to last minutes, each intermittent silence even longer. He lifted the tumbler to his mouth, and tipped back the last of his whiskey. The half-melted ice wet his thick moustache and the liquor slipped down his throat. 

On the fourth chime, Frederic placed his glass on the spindly side table. On the fifth, he eased himself out of his chair with a telltale stiffness that betrayed long-term idleness. On the sixth, he glanced at the array of photographs on the recently polished sideboard. On the seventh, he walked the length of the spacious room, and, on the eighth, opened the door. The ninth saw him cross the hallway, the clock now chiming only a foot from his right ear. On the tenth, he placed a large hand on the staircase banister, and set his foot on the first step. By the eleventh, he was five steps up the wide staircase, painfully aware that tomorrow would herald just as much excitement as the today, namely, none. 

The twelfth chime rang out, and Frederic paused for a second on the staircase. The clock fell silent, like the rest of the house. He supposed there was noise in the kitchen. Even his dull and dutiful servants couldn’t clean up in complete silence. But it was so far away, with three closed doors between them, that he wouldn’t know if they were in there dancing the can-can. Frederic sighed.

Then, at the exact moment that the thirteenth stroke would have chimed, had there been a thirteenth stroke, a loud knock sounded on the door below him. Frederic froze. It had been years since a knock had sounded at any time of the night, and he suspected it never had at midnight. His ancestors had been an even duller bunch than himself. 

As if by magic, his butler Tubs appeared at the foot of the stairs, and headed swiftly for the door. 

‘Tubs,’ Frederic called out sharply. ‘I’ll get it myself tonight.’ 

Tubs swung around and almost lost his balance. His eyes bulged for a moment, before he blinked and restored them to their usual state of placidity. ‘Yes indeed, sir,’ he said with a slight bow. 

Frederic ran down the staircase, and passed Tubs, who waited with his hands behind his back. Frederic stopped. ‘You may go, Tubs,’ he announced, and waved a hand to emphasise the matter. 

‘Go, sir?’ Tubs repeated uncertainly, as if testing it out. 

‘Indeed,’ Frederic said. ‘Go. Retreat. Stand down. Disappear. I’ll see you in the morning.’ 

The knock sounded again. Tubs stared at Frederic and his lower jaw dropped half an inch. ‘Sir,’ he began. 

Frederic straightened up to remind Tubs just who was boss and felt some satisfaction at the embarrassment that crossed his butler’s face. He knew the man trained his staff to never refute a direct order. Tubs’ eyes dropped to the carpet and he bowed again. 

‘Yes, sir,’ he said, and walked stiffly away. 

Frederic waited for him to leave the hallway by means of one of the doorways, and for said door to close behind him. He didn’t know precisely why he was waiting, just that he wanted to do this by himself. Just for once. Something about the midnight hammering convinced him that adventure lay on the other side of his door, and adventure had Lord Logenburt’s name on it, not his aged greying butler’s. 

Once alone, he slid back the metal bolt, turned the key, and opened the door. 


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Why I don't believe in TBR lists...


Joining Twitter was a great writing move. I discovered a whole word of people like me, people who love to read and love to write and love to waste spend a lot of time talking about both. I also discovered the TBR.

To Be Read.

I do get it. Honestly, I do. I'm the first to agree that there are so many great books out there and hundreds that I'd love to read, preferably today. My monthly visit to the bookstore usually results in carrying splitting bags across town back to the car, and I won't even mention the kindle store. I try to slip the credit card bill into the trash before my husband sees it. So yeah, I have a lot of books to read.

But this life throws us constant demands. Every single day we're expected to do a whole host of things, and do them well. Brush your teeth. Get your kids to school on time. Don't get fired. Don't flunk high school. Concentrate on real conversations while running over scenes in your head.

And what about the even bigger worries in life? Am I getting 10k steps in every day? Do I floss enough to avoid horrible gum infections? Why are the recycling bins always overflowing? Did I 'like' every notification on Twitter?

Then you get the lists. Shopping lists. Lists of people to call. Workout lists. Lists of recipes to try. And the TBR list.

No.

I draw the line at a TBR list. Reading is my escape. My peaceful, beautiful, imaginative world of escapism. (Not to be confused with peaceful beautiful stories because most often they are conflict-ridden and dangerous, but that's another topic.)

I will not stress my reading life by creating more pressure for myself. I will read the book I feel like reading, when I want to, and at the speed I want. I will devour it like pizza or savour it like raspberry macaroons or pick at it like overcooked broccoli. If I want to, I'll spew it up and chew it all over again, or maybe just the bits I loved. And while I'm enjoying pizza, I won't be thinking of tacos. When I'm sipping on rum with clinky ice, I won't be worrying that I'm missing out on a milkshake.

There are many cities I will never get to visit. Many cars I'll never get to drive. Many shoes I'll never get to wear. Many, many, people I'll never get to meet, and many books I'll never read. I made my peace with that.

So, yeah, I have a lot of books to read. Will I list them on a piece of paper to make it all the more real? Will I put them in order, as if I could possibly foresee what I feel like reading in seventeen days time? Will I check them off when I've read them, one more thing to be smug about in this world of self-importance? No to all of that. I'll just read the book, live the magic, and reduce the stress. Then I can cross yoga off my to-do list. Win-win.

What about you, readers? Do you swear by TBRs? Let me know. Heck, try to change my mind! I'm nothing if not highly influenceable.

Then go get back to your power reading.