Action Writing

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This topic contains 24 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 10 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #346571

    Anonymous

    Hello there everybody,

    I am interested in writing down some “action scenes” in my (very amateurish) sci-fi novel. That might sound funny, but the main problem is that… I don’t read that many sci-fi novels myself, and I have no knowledge of any “reputable action writer”.

    I’ve tried to come up with my own “style” for the action scenes, and as a result, I get machine-gunned with “you’re full of coma splices/run-on sentences.” The problem is that I often describe many things happening at once, and splitting the sentences ruin the sense of simultaneity. A general format would be:
    “He did X, Y and Z [describes something or someone’s reaction to Z].”
    A more concrete example:
    “Jhon drew his blade, dodged her attack and lurched towards her at such a speed that Jane could scarcely follow his moves.”
    Sometimes, I use present participle instead:
    “Jhon drew his blade while dodging her attack and lurching towards her; his speed was such that Jane could scarcely follow his moves.”

    Notice that those sentences are describing slightly different things: in the first sentence, the “at such speed (…)” refers to the “lurch” action, whereas in the second, it refers to “his speed” in general. Sometimes I cannot “convert” from the first to the second, or vice-versa.

    I’ve asked some people (in person) how to write this kind of complex scene, with many things happening at once, potentially with multiple actors. Usually the reply is something on the lines “just don’t!” But that’s not much answering the question, now, is it? 😛 I’m open to suggestions. Also, if someone could recommend me an author who writes this kind of action novels, I’d be glad!
    Slainte!

  • #654908

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    You answered your own question in your first paragraph. If you are writing sci-fi, you need to read sci-fi. You need to read at least 100 novels in the genre you want to write in before you start to understand the layout of that genre.

    Forget the semi colons.

    Look up bestselling authors of sci-fi. Look up the best 100 sci-fi novels ever written. Get to reading. 🙂

  • #654909

    Anonymous

    This question in specific doesn’t have much to do with sci-fi. Its more related to action. The sample I wrote is actually related to swords, which are hardly sci-fi-specific. On the other side, I’m an avid fantasy/historical novels reader (Conn Igulden, Bernard Cornwell, Tolkien) but those usually do not describe the action scenes in rich details. They focus on the outcome of the actions, rather than the actions themselves.

    Which brings us to the last sentence of my original post 😛

    Just picking up random stuff would be dangerous. I tend to like bad writers.

  • #654910

    Anonymous

    I’ve written quite a few action scenes (ie, fight scenes) and the first thing to understand is that normal sentence structure is generally counter-productive. You don’t want to “describe” the actions taken – you want to grab the reader by the throat and drag them into the action. Don’t narrate it – experience it. Actions count but what are the characters thinking, feeling? Describing the motions makes the reader a spectator – you want them to be a participant. Use short sentences and sentence fragments, saving those more “normal” sentences for the “take a deep breath before diving back in” moments.

    “Jhon drew his blade, dodged her attack and lurched towards her at such a speed that Jane could scarcely follow his moves.”

    The pacing of that sentence is very, very slow. He doesn’t draw his blade and then dodge the attack – it’s either the reverse or, more likely, simultaneous. How did he dodge the attack? Stepped aside or rolled under her thrust? His “lurch” toward her is over before the reader gets to the end of the sentence. And does he actually “lurch” or is it a deliberate counter-attack?

    Pacing is everything. You want the reader out of breath and exhilarated (or exhausted) at the end of the scene. That’s when you can slow down and give characters and readers both a chance to regroup.

  • #654911

    Anonymous

    OK, so instead of taking the advice, or not, you’re going to argue.

    Look, I’m not trying to be argumentative right back at you. I’m trying to point out that you asked for help. You really have two choices, and only two. Accept the help offered, or don’t. Trying to correct someone else’s attempt to help you is a form of not accepting. AND it likely won’t get you what you want.

    > I’ve asked some people (in person) how to write this kind of complex scene, with many things happening at once, potentially with multiple actors. Usually the reply is something on the lines “just don’t!”
    > But that’s not much answering the question, now, is it?

    Isn’t it? I think it is.

    Look, actions scenes are hard. And HOW you write them is critical.

    Compound sentences tend to slow down the flow of a scene. That could be good for introspection moments, or romance. For action? What do you think? Long, compound, complex sentences that, perhaps, engage a reader’s mind? Or rapid-fire, staccato sentences that come across more visceral?

    > Jane desperately parried Jhon’s sword. Steel striking steel rang down to her core. She swung her blade, screaming her rage. But Jhon was already out of reach. Too late, she found her back exposed to him.

    The feel is different. It’s… less intellectual. Less emotional. More instinctive, isn’t it? This is why martial arts engage in so much repetition. By the time a warrior THINKS about a sword strike, the opponent has already struck. It’s something that action readers know without realizing that they know it.

    Sword fights and martial activity can’t be about “developing” your characters or thought. And if you read the fantasy authors with the best sword fights, you see them go with that. Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Elizabeth Moon (she’s actually served in the US Marine Corps). David Drake writes some EXCELLENT military science fiction. Even though his “Hammer’s Slammers” operate fusion-powered tanks, you can FEEL the way a plasma round rips men apart, and smell blood mixed with oil.

    In order to write an action scene, I have to reach down inside, to the primal feeling of DANGER, to that fight-or-flight instinct, and realize that I don’t think, I don’t consider. I act (and react) from instinct, reflexively. I want my writing to reflect that. I can’t do that with “literary” writing.

  • #654912

    Anonymous

    Action scenes are tough, but they aren’t impossible to figure out. And, as something you said above, action–as well as writing in general–is all about your personal style.

    I write action stories, so I have a lot of practice in it. However, when I first started writing entirely novels, I was naturally new at it, and used a sort of template. I used the Percy Jackson series as a way to mimic for my first novel. I wasn’t a huge fan of the way he did his action, so I morphed the foundation into the way I write.

    For me, I write action the way one might write a song. There’s ebb and flow. Short, choppy sentences make it harder for the reader to breathe. It let’s them take in a lot of information in a short period of time.

    “I poised my blade for his chest. He blocked the spinning blades. I didn’t let up.”

    Those three short sentences could easily be drawn out into much longer ones, detailing the movements and such. But at that moment, I chose to go quicker. Then, when the reader needs a moment to breath, I make the sentences a little longer.

    “I threw my hand out, concentrating on my palm, and drew forth energy. I watched it spiral between my fingers, increasing in speed as the power hissed.”

    Almost like highlighting, it gives the reader something to focus on for a second. Allows them to see what’s happening. I equate this to action scenes in movies where the camera pulls out and gives you a better image of the environment.

    Then there’s something that Ostarella said, that is incredibly important to action, and something a lot of people forget: emotion.

    Again, almost like a song, I insert dialogue at key points in the action, to break up all the sensory overload. It brings emotion to what’s happening. At certain scenes, I provide internal dialogue of sort, to give what the character is feeling. I detail the pain, the sweat, the delirium. One rule of action I strictly follow, that I read many years ago: if there’s no point to the action story-wise, then it shouldn’t be there. Meaning, there should be a story within your action. If it’s just a shootout in a hallway to get to the next point, consider reconstructing your story. By having your action have story, then it becomes second nature to include dialogue and emotion within the action. (Think of the Terminator series. Amazing movies. So much fun. However, the action has zero story within it, which is really, to me, the main reason why the series has such a hard time picking up. Yet, if you think of the best movie in the series, T2, the young boy brought a lot of emotion and character to his action scenes, which lends to popularity. If you don’t give your action meaning, then it becomes meaningless. It sounds obvious, until you analyze a lot of movies that have meaningless action.)

    A song isn’t just the beat, but it’s so much more. The timing, the words, the rhyming, the bridge, the chorus. Just how there are many ways to write a song, there are many ways to write action. That said, like songs, there are genres.

    My action is over the top. Powers, large scale set pieces, emotional strife. This lends me to a certain kind of action. That’s why it’s wise to know what genre your action is, and read into it, just as another user mentioned. For instance, the action in Hunger Games is very different from the action in Percy Jackson, or the action in the Sci-Fi novel Sphere. They’re written very different.

    The sentence you provided isn’t really wrong. You could take a single line from any song and it’d be impossible to say if it’s wrong or right; however, within the flow of the entire song, the sentence could be out of place.

    Jane angled her blade for Jhon’s neck. No time to think. He drew his blade, dodged her attack, and lurched toward her. The speed made it impossible for Jane to follow. Only dust swirled in the air as Jane collapsed to the ground.

    Jhon took in a deep breath, his chest inflating in exaggeration. “Don’t get up.”

    Jane covered her fingers in blood as she patted the wound on her chest. “I…” Her hand fell to her side. “I can’t let you have it.”

    Jane pulled out a shiny object. If it wasn’t for the glare of the sun, Jhon would had noticed that it was a gun in time…

    This is an example of the flow of action.

    On a personal note, I don’t like writing action that involves lack of reaction time. Jane couldn’t follow his movements. While that can be easily portrayed in visual media, it’s really hard to stay true to that element in writing, because it can come off confusing. If Jane can’t follow his movements, then she can’t really react to the act, and then the reader has a hard time knowing there was an attack.

    There’s ways around it. I write in first person, which remedies a lot of confusion. Third person is a really hard POV to write in general, let alone intense action. I honestly can’t think off the top of my head any good third person action writers. I know they’re out there, but since I write first person, I don’t typically read third person (except some of the amazing Michael Crichton books). So I can’t entirely help there.

    I guess, to summarize. When you think of writing books, think of music. It helps a lot. (If you even look at the way I wrote my entire post, you’ll notice a sort of ebb and flow between how I wrote my sentences, and even separated my paragraphs.)

  • #654913

    Anonymous

    As an exercise you can try this: Find an action scene you like from a movie, sci-fi, whatever… write that scene in prose. Can you make it exciting like you see it on the screen?

  • #654914

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:

    >
    > The feel is different. It’s… less intellectual. Less emotional. More
    > instinctive, isn’t it? This is why martial arts engage in so much repetition. By
    > the time a warrior THINKS about a sword strike, the opponent has already struck.
    > It’s something that action readers know without realizing that they know it.
    >
    > Sword fights and martial activity can’t be about “developing” your
    > characters or thought. And if you read the fantasy authors with the best sword
    > fights, you see them go with that. Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Elizabeth
    > Moon (she’s actually served in the US Marine Corps). David Drake writes some
    > EXCELLENT military science fiction. Even though his “Hammer’s Slammers”
    > operate fusion-powered tanks, you can FEEL the way a plasma round rips men apart, and
    > smell blood mixed with oil.
    >
    > In order to write an action scene, I have to reach down inside, to the primal feeling
    > of DANGER, to that fight-or-flight instinct, and realize that I don’t think, I don’t
    > consider. I act (and react) from instinct, reflexively. I want my writing to
    > reflect that. I can’t do that with “literary” writing.

    This is an example of a genre of action. The military action is a lot like the Terminator series that I mentioned. Because it typically lacks story (a bunch of men at war going crazy), your mission is to over compensate with the feel (like neural plasticity).

    Yet, compare this to action in Lord of the Rings, and it’ll be entirely different. There, there is intellect and thought, because the story is wrapped up in the action. Readers of these books don’t necessarily want a bunch of short sentences. They want to see what’s happening between the fight of wizards. What one is thinking in reference to the story. The feeling of their thoughts. So on.

    As this poster said above, to know how to write action, you must read in the genre that you’re writing. And sci-fy does have it’s own kind of action. It’s actually relies more on intellectual than it does on visceral. It’s almost the opposite of military action stories. If your story is a mixture of sci-fy and medieval swords as you said, then you probably have to know both to write both together.

  • #654915

    Anonymous

    Crono91 wrote:
    >
    > This is an example of a genre of action. The military action is a lot like the
    > Terminator series that I mentioned. Because it typically lacks story (a bunch of men
    > at war going crazy), your mission is to over compensate with the feel (like neural
    > plasticity).
    >
    > Yet, compare this to action in Lord of the Rings, and it’ll be entirely different.
    > There, there is intellect and thought, because the story is wrapped up in the action.
    > Readers of these books don’t necessarily want a bunch of short sentences. They want
    > to see what’s happening between the fight of wizards. What one is thinking in
    > reference to the story. The feeling of their thoughts. So on.
    >
    > As this poster said above, to know how to write action, you must read in the genre
    > that you’re writing. And sci-fy does have it’s own kind of action. It’s actually
    > relies more on intellectual than it does on visceral. It’s almost the opposite of
    > military action stories. If your story is a mixture of sci-fy and medieval swords as
    > you said, then you probably have to know both to write both together.
    I think we have a different definition of action. Remember, the example given in the OP was a sword fight.

    You’re exactly right about Lord Of The Rings (LOTR). But where that comes in is not in the immediate battle. The sword fight with an Uruk-Hai, or the Balrog. Those are still moments of physicality.

    Sword in hand, as in the sample sentences in the OP, that’s immediate, in the moment. Generally, not in the head.

    NOTE: I can’t think of a single “rule” of writing that has no exceptions. But in order to move outside the box, one should be familiar with the box.

  • #654916

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:

    > You’re exactly right about Lord Of The Rings (LOTR). But where that comes in is not
    > in the immediate battle. The sword fight with an Uruk-Hai, or the Balrog. Those are
    > still moments of physicality.
    >
    > Sword in hand, as in the sample sentences in the OP, that’s immediate, in the moment.
    > Generally, not in the head.
    >
    > NOTE: I can’t think of a single “rule” of writing that has no exceptions.
    > But in order to move outside the box, one should be familiar with the box.

    Yup. Well, in my original post, I broke down the different elements of an action scene, one being quick sentences like that.

    My reply to you was more of an example of how different genres use different amounts of different elements. With military-esk stories using more short, visceral sentences. LOTR using more intellectual sentences. All should, to be good writing, use most all elements in general.

  • #654917

    Anonymous

    First of all, I’d like to thank everybody contributing to this thread!

    Second, I thought that my point was clear, but apparently some of you have misunderstood me. The issue here is not describing the flow of the scene, the feelings of the character or the environment. My question is far more objective: describing specific actions, in which many things happen at the same time:

    “He did X, Y and Z.”

    He didn’t do X->Y->Z. He did X at the same time as he did Y and Z:

    “Jhon drew his blade while dodging her attack and lurching towards her”

    This is one and only one move. Imagine that Jane tried a thrust, and Jhon “entered her guard” by closing the distance. He is ready to hit her with the pommel. Maybe cut her forearm from the inside. Maybe just throw her with a Ippo Seoi Nage. Any of those would be a *second* action, but my example is a single action, a single move. Another adhoc example would be:

    “Jhon crossed his wrists above his head, stepped his right foot forward and pointed his sword upwards, sitting in the right Einhorn stance.”

    This is also a single move. None takes precedence over the other. You could scramble the order of the movements and it would still describe exactly the same thing. If I split the sentences, it ruins the feeling that those things happen at the same time:

    “Jhon crossed his wrists above his head. He stepped his right foot forward. He pointed his sword upwards. With that, Jhon was sitting in the right Einhorn stance.”

    That’s not describing the same movement. If that is still not clear, I can come up with further examples, perhaps with 4 or even 5 events taking place simultaneously.

    ostarella wrote:
    > I’ve written quite a few action scenes (ie, fight scenes)
    Do you have them published somewhere? Do you mind sharing a link? I’m hunting for examples!

    > The pacing of that sentence is very, very slow. He doesn’t draw his blade
    > and then dodge the attack – it’s either the reverse or, more likely,
    > simultaneous.
    It is simultaneous. I see what you mean with the pacing, but how would you rewrite that piece without losing the sense of simultaneity? I am just hunting for examples.

    RobTheThird wrote:
    >OK, so instead of taking the advice, or not, you’re going to argue.
    I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.

    RobTheThird wrote:
    >Isn’t it? I think it is.
    – How do I do X?
    – Don’t do it!
    Sorry but it is *objectively* not answering the question.

    >Or rapid-fire, staccato sentences that come across more visceral?
    Thanks for you comment, but please read my explanation at the beginning of this post!

    >Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Elizabeth Moon (she’s actually served in the US Marine Corps). David Drake writes some EXCELLENT military science fiction. Even though his “Hammer’s Slammers” operate fusion-powered tanks, you can FEEL the way a plasma round rips men apart, and smell blood mixed with oil.
    That’s really informative, I’ll check those out. Thanks!

    Crono91 wrote:
    >I poised my blade for his chest. He blocked the spinning blades. I didn’t let up.
    Thanks for you comment, but please read my explanation at the beginning of this post!

  • #654918

    Anonymous

    Simultaneous actions can only be written as a-b-c because writing is not a visual medium. You have to give the reader the illusion via sentence structure. In this, pacing is paramount.

    As to your sample sentence

    “Jhon drew his blade while dodging her attack and lurching towards her”

    So, couple quick and very dirty examples:

    “Dodging her attack, Jhon drew his blade and lurched towards her.”

    “Drawing his blade, Jhon dodged her attack and lurched towards her.”

    “Jhon drew his blade as he dodged her attack…”

    None of which creates the illusion of being simultaneous – it just tells us it was. So let’s try this:

    “Jhon dodged, blade in hand as he reversed the attack.”

    Again, quick and dirty but at least a little more “action-y” pacing. Just to note – he cannot physically dodge and lurch simultaneously, so there’s only an X and Y, no Z. 🙂

    So, in essence, don’t try to describe simultaneous. It’s not worth the trouble because readers are smart enough to understand without being told, and really don’t care much if an action is at the same time as another or two seconds later. There are much more important things to worry about in an action scene.

  • #654919

    clareantoinette
    Participant

    I don’t see anything wrong with the way you wrote that. As a reader, if I was absorbed in the story already, I wouldn’t be tripped up at all by that sentence. But of course it’s hard to judge it properly when we’re only seeing a tiny sample of the writing. It’s possible, if your readers are all telling you the same thing, you may be trying to describe more than is necessary. Your character can “advance” on an opponent or “deflect” a blow without the exact motion of his feet and arms having to be described. As a reader, I know what it looks like when someone deflects a blow, so I’d already picture the way his body moves when he does that. I see it in my mind quite clearly.

    Are you familiar with author Brandon Sanderson? His 5 second fight scenes take me 10 minutes to read, and he favors longer, complex sentences over short, simple ones. He gives a very detailed play by play of his fights. Check out the sample of chapter one in “Way of Kings” for an example of how he shows simultaneous moves in his action scenes. You can read chapter one without buying the book. https://www.amazon.com/Way-Kings-Brandon-Sanderson/dp/0765365278

  • #654920

    Anonymous

    Yeah, I don’t quite get what you’re asking.

    Grabbing your sword, moving to the side to dodge, and then shooting forward are fluid motions, not simultaneous motions, unless this character is able to be more than one person.

    One could grab their sword and dodge; however, I don’t think I’d feel the need to make the reader seriously know it was at the exact same time. Most action readers are going to see it that way in their head. And if they don’t, that’s also not an issue. Readers are smart. When you said Jane couldn’t keep up, they’re going to understand how fluid Jhon is in his movements.

    Updog pointed out a good read, if you really want to perfectly detail each action to your vision. But I’d say so harp on that sentence…

  • #654921

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > So, couple quick and very dirty examples:
    Thank you for those samples. Yes, I do exploit this kind of inversion of sentences quite a lot, to avoid the monotonicity. The last bit, however, is more bound to this specific example.

    Do you have any suggestions for the second example (the one starting with “Jhon crossed his wrists above his head…”), or would it be more or less the same?

    ostarella wrote:
    > So, in essence, don’t try to describe simultaneous. It’s not worth the
    > trouble because readers are smart enough to understand without being told,
    > and really don’t care much if an action is at the same time as another or
    > two seconds later. There are much more important things to worry about in
    > an action scene.
    (Please, read below).

    updog wrote:
    > Are you familiar with author Brandon Sanderson?
    No, but from what you describe, that’s exactly what I’m looking for! The amazon link doesn’t show me the first chapter, but I found it here nevertheless:
    https://www.tor.com/2010/06/10/prelude-to-the-stormlight-archive/

    Crono91 wrote:
    > Yeah, I don’t quite get what you’re asking.
    You’re focusing too much on the example, but it might have been my fault for having chosen an awkward position. One can dodge while stepping forward, diagonally. I am constantly scolded by my teachers for doing that in the training (it is dangerous at my level). When Jhon does that, he can keep Jane’s weapon out of his reach in two ways: first and simpler, Jane continues her cut, but it will merely land on Jhon’s sword or its scabbard. It would be a “parry” with a half-drawn sword. Second (and the true intention of this example) if Jhon is fast enough, he gets so close to Jane that she cannot use her weapon anymore. There is a minimal distance in which swords are effective. In my second post I even mentioned that Jhon could hit Jane *with the pommel* (but not with the blade) or throw her with Judo techniques – that’s how close they are from each other in the final position.

    All in all, it is just an example. There are no Jhons nor Janes in my novel. Don’t worry about fixing that specific example.

    @updog and @ostarella:
    In my particular case, I am not focusing on the adrenaline of the moment whatsoever. The key element I’m trying to highlight are the strategy and skills of each character. They use different styles, weapons and techniques. I’ve worked some real choreographies for some scenes with some friends from an martial arts club; hence, the need to describe it more or less precisely. If two moves must happen simultaneously for something to work, I simply have no way around it. Purely mentioning parry/deflect/attack/dodge (or synonyms) are not enough to describe the advantages and drawbacks of each style. Even the shape and weight distributions of some weapons play an important role in combat.

    I guess that this would fall into the “style” category. Maybe action readers would be bored to death with such meticulous description of the technique of the actors involved, but by no means I hope to entertain everybody. I am myself not a fan of action novels (little wonder I’m trying to come up with a different narrative).

    All in all, when the amount of details slows down the pacing, it is a price I am willing to pay up to some degree. Combat is important in some chapters, but it is far from being the focus of the novel.

  • #654922

    Anonymous

    rlago wrote:
    > First of all, I’d like to thank everybody contributing to this thread!
    >
    > Second, I thought that my point was clear, but apparently some of you have
    > misunderstood me. The issue here is not describing the flow of the scene, the
    > feelings of the character or the environment. My question is far more objective:
    > describing specific actions, in which many things happen at the same time:
    >
    Don’t.

    There’s a (roughly) two-step process being discussed here. Writing. And publishing.

    If you simply want to write, then write. I don’t get to tell you what to like or not like.

    But there’s a principle we use in my local critique group. If one person says something you don’t like, maybe it’s just a point of disagreement. If three people say it, maybe it’s time to pay closer attention.

    I think you’re up to four or five now. So maybe you should look closer at why.

    You aren’t under any obligation to do so, for sure. But there’s got to be a reason that so many people have given this advice. At some level, each of these people is telling you that the style you want to write does not work. So here’s a question in that vein: is someone telling you that it DOES work? If not, why fight it this hard?

    Okay, maybe this sort of stuff happens in real life, but so what? Real life is random. It doesn’t always make sense. Fiction doesn’t always have that kind of freedom.

    Take the advice being given. Or don’t take it. But telling me that I just don’t get it isn’t going to change what I think.

  • #654923

    Anonymous

    rlago wrote:

    > I guess that this would fall into the “style” category. Maybe action
    > readers would be bored to death with such meticulous description of the technique of
    > the actors involved, but by no means I hope to entertain everybody. I am myself not a
    > fan of action novels (little wonder I’m trying to come up with a different
    > narrative).
    >
    > All in all, when the amount of details slows down the pacing, it is a price I am
    > willing to pay up to some degree. Combat is important in some chapters, but it is far
    > from being the focus of the novel.

    As Updog said, there are writers who go into each detail of a fight.

    I also go into details. I love movements. I love powers, in particular, and enjoy making up my own, which requires larger descriptions. I view action as a dance, and to write out a dance requires a lot of writing. Most of my “big” fight scenes take up an entire chapter.

    My original point, was in order to do that effectively, you need to make sure it “flows” correctly. So yes, you were talking about flow, in a sense.

    You SINGLE sentence has no issue. It portrays exactly what you wanted it to portray, with it happening all at once. However, if you plan on writing an entire chapter full of intense details like that, then yes, it has an issue.

    My fights have a lot of moving parts. It isn’t just a 5 second sword fight. A lot happens. However, to keep my readers engaged, between having those overly detailed descriptions, i break it up with story and dialogue and feeling and such.

    The answer to your question: how do you say it happened all at once.

    “I grabbed my sword and dodged at an angle where I could lunge toward her. It all happened at once.”

    Simple as that.

    I went more into action scenes in general, since you said you don’t read action. I was trying to help for the whole, rather than the small.

  • #654924

    Anonymous

    I’m editing my book, and I came across this sentence during a large-scale action scene:

    Raisa danced around exploding debris and slid along her knees, ending up next to Nox, placing her hand on his chest. It impressed me how fluid she moved. “This will take a few minutes, Nox. Relax while you can so I can scan your body.” She closed her eyes.

    I try not to do two [comma, -ing] in one sentence, but I did here, because I liked how it looked. That was all one motion–the slide on knees while placing her hand on his chest. In my head, she’s still sliding just a little after her hand touches his chest. That’s how quickly she’s moving.

    That said, some readers may not see it that way, and I’m cool with that. It stylistically looks cool to me, and readers will see what I saw too–and if they don’t, it doesn’t harm the scene.

    I think this is what O was saying about the difference of digital media and written media, when it comes to simultaneous actions. If your scene hinges on that action being simultaneous, and you can’t write it as such, perhaps change the scene.

  • #654925

    Anonymous

    I don’t think you slide along knees. You slide on surfaces on your knees. Also, the motion of dancing is not sliding, generally – unless its the end of a move. I would think one would dance around exploding debris then slide along XXX surface on their knees, ending up next to Nox.

    It’s an editorial thing…

  • #654926

    Anonymous

    Brien Sz wrote:
    > I don’t think you slide along knees. You slide on surfaces on your knees.
    > Also, the motion of dancing is not sliding, generally – unless its the end
    > of a move. I would think one would dance around exploding debris then
    > slide along XXX surface on their knees, ending up next to Nox.
    >
    > It’s an editorial thing…

    Hmm… so you’re saying sliding along your knees, and along the surface of your knees means two different things? I didn’t know that!

    And the dancing thing is unrelated to the sliding thing haha. It’s a reference to the sentence that came before it.

  • #654927

    Anonymous

    I understand the reference it’s alluding to. What I think is, it’s a little sloppy. For me. If I was the beta reader, I would have circled it, put a ? mark and suggested to rewrite it. Maybe I would have given an example sentence. I didn’t say it was bad or that the sentence didn’t work or was unbelievable. I simply pointed out that it could be tightened up. Maybe, I have a little too much journalism in me from being pounded into making sure that the sentence makes absolute sense. If you read it and it puzzles you upon instinct, sometimes… in fact, many times, the sentence probably could be tightened up. Just me. Just sayin.

  • #654928

    Anonymous

    Brien Sz wrote:
    > I understand the reference it’s alluding to. What I think is, it’s a
    > little sloppy. For me. If I was the beta reader, I would have circled it,
    > put a ? mark and suggested to rewrite it. Maybe I would have given an
    > example sentence. I didn’t say it was bad or that the sentence didn’t work
    > or was unbelievable. I simply pointed out that it could be tightened up.
    > Maybe, I have a little too much journalism in me from being pounded into
    > making sure that the sentence makes absolute sense. If you read it and it
    > puzzles you upon instinct, sometimes… in fact, many times, the sentence
    > probably could be tightened up. Just me. Just sayin.

    Usually always true. No point confusing the reader. I ended up separating the sentences.

  • #654929

    Anonymous

    Crono91 wrote:
    > You SINGLE sentence has no issue. It portrays exactly what you wanted it to portray, with it happening all at once. However, if you plan on writing an entire chapter full of intense details like that, then yes, it has an issue.
    Yes, my question is particular to a single sentence, not to its context.

    I briefly mentioned that in the original post, but allow me to explain in more details now. I have a bunch of friends who have read the first 4 chapters of the novel. There was absolutely no complaint about clarity, slow pace, lack of substance in the text, lack of development, nothing of that sort. On the contrary, so far I’ve heard only praises (but then again, they are friends, they might be just being nice :P). Two people, however, mentioned “careful with your run-on sentences, you’re full of them.”

    Now, run-on sentences (as well as comma-splices) happen when two independent clauses are fused together. *Independent* is the keyword here. I’ve sat down and checked every single one of the suspect run-on sentences/comma splices that they brought up to me. They were all occurring in situations such as “He did X,Y and Z.” After explanation, it was clear that those clauses were not independent and could not be really split without changing their meaning.

    This is not grammar vanity. The fact that the reader thought that it was a comma splice simply indicates that they failed to see the connection between the clauses. If the author has to sit down and explain what he meant with a sentence, then this sentence should probably be re-written! Thus, here I am asking if there are better and clearer ways to describe this kind of simultaneous action (and I guess that you, ostarella and Updog already answered my question! Thanks!). The rest would be a completely different question. I’m not saying that the flow is not important, it is just that I am not addressing it here.

    Crono91 wrote:
    > I grabbed my sword and dodged at an angle where I could lunge toward her. It all happened at once.
    Yes, but it gets repetitive:

    “Jhon did X, Y and Z. It all happened at once. Jane replied by doing A, B and C. It also happened at the same time. Jhon though ___, did I,J and K. That was also all at the same time.”

    So far I’ve been doing more or less what ostarella wrote. I invert things a bit:

    “While doing X, Jhon did Y and Z. Jane replied by doing A at the same time as she did B and C. ___, thought Jhon as he did I,J and K.”

  • #654930

    Anonymous

    rlago wrote:
    > I have a bunch of friends who have read the first 4 chapters of the
    > novel. There was absolutely no complaint about clarity, slow pace, lack of substance
    > in the text, lack of development, nothing of that sort. On the contrary, so far I’ve
    > heard only praises (but then again, they are friends, they might be just being nice
    > :P). Two people, however, mentioned “careful with your run-on sentences, you’re
    > full of them.”
    >

    Yeah, friends and family typically aren’t the best people for objectivity. However helpful they want to be, they don’t want hurt feelings, or to seem like they’re discouraging. Better to use places like this (and there are many others out there as well) that have relative strangers giving critiques (as well as the fact that most are either writers themselves or rabid readers). It’s especially helpful if you can use groups that are familiar with the specific genre and the “norms” within.

  • #654931

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    >However helpful they want to be, they don’t want hurt feelings
    Oooh, trust me, most of them are dying to hurt my feelings! 😛
    But I know what you mean.
    I’ll share some of it in here once I feel like it is ready. It might take some few eternities though.

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