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  1. #1
    upon the cheek of night

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    Breaker's Avatar

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    Got Questions About Writing Action?

    I'm working on what should be a fairly comprehensive guide to writing action and character movement in fiction. You could help me out by posting any questions, confusions, or difficulties you have regarding those aspects of prose. I estimate I'll have put 20+ hours of work into this guide by the time it's finished (the table of contents has over 30 subheadings) and I'll make it available to everyone here. Your input would be appreciated

    I'll do my best to also answer your questions in this thread so you won't have to wait for the finished product.
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  2. #2
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    Tobias Stalt's Avatar

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    "But Breaker! My action scene is supposed to be elaborate and colorful, so it has to be long winded and use tons of descriptive language to make sure the audience can picture it right?"

  3. #3
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    Niko's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias Stalt View Post
    "But Breaker! My action scene is supposed to be elaborate and colorful, so it has to be long winded and use tons of descriptive language to make sure the audience can picture it right?"
    I feel personally attacked.

    Any advice for incorporating dialogue into action, especially more fast-paced scenes? It normally feels clunky.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator

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    Tobias Stalt's Avatar

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    Another good question, piggybacking off Niko-

    When is dialogue appropriate during combat?

  5. #5
    upon the cheek of night

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    Breaker's Avatar

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    Great questions let's break 'em on down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias Stalt View Post
    "But Breaker! My action scene is supposed to be elaborate and colorful, so it has to be long winded and use tons of descriptive language to make sure the audience can picture it right?"
    The short answer here is that you can either have a long winded, descriptive scene OR you can have a clear action scene, but you can't really have both at the same time. The audience will picture the action scene best if it's crisp and sequential.

    If there are important details about the setting or characters that you feel the need to include in the midst of the action, you can either establish them beforehand or put them on a slow drip throughout the scene. There are multiple ways of establishing a setting beforehand; you can do it with preliminary descriptions as the scene opens, or you can establish all of the important details in earlier scenes à la Chekhov's Gun. If you want to layer description in throughout the scene, it's important to observe typical rules of writing action such as using active voice and shorter sentences, and provide the information in a logical and sequential way.

    For example, if you're writing a fight scene and suddenly start describing the color of the soil in great detail, it's probably going to get distracting (and many readers will just skip it). But if someone gets knocked down during a fight and you use the moment their face hits the ground to describe the color, taste, and texture of the soil, it could serve to immerse the reader further in the setting.

    Regarding dialogue in action and when it's appropriate, I'd encourage you to watch some oldschool action movies; the type that don't use stunt doubles or special effects, and tended to film scenes in larger chunks rather than cutting them into tiny pieces. The reason being that actors in these films are limited by their actual physical abilities, so in order to deliver their lines they had to find the right times and ways to deliver them.

    A good well known example is The Princess Bride. In the fight scene between Montoya and Westley we have two highly trained swordsmen who are both attempting to toy with the other and score an easy victory. At first they fence lightly with their non dominant hands, chatting casually. However you'll notice that when Montoya switches to his dominant hand and presses the attack they immediately stop talking, and when they do speak there's strain in their voices.

    When Westley switches to his right hand and presses back, there's almost no dialogue. Even as the superior swordsman, in order to claim a clean victory he has to focus all of his efforts. The disparity in skill becomes clear when Montoya tires and grips his sword in both hands. Westley disarms Montoya, and then takes a few seconds to catch his breath before delivering his next line.

    In most fight scenes where the characters aren't highly skilled and trained, there should be little to no dialogue or that dialogue should be strained and/or emotional.

    In the final fight between Montoya and Rugen we see an example of this. Despite being the better fighter, Montoya is injured and emotional. Rather than say something eloquent, he keeps repeating the same phrase until finally he's yelling it. But keep in mind that 1) he's only able to speak during the fight because of the disparity in skill and 2) the dialogue he delivers is fitted around and punctuated by the action.

    To come back to Niko's question, as a general rule the faster-paced an action scene is, the less dialogue it should include. This is true for the reasons I described above and also because putting too much dialogue in action throws off the pacing, which is likely what produces the clunky feeling you describe.
    Shoot some diamonds and sparks
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  6. #6
    upon the cheek of night

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    Breaker's Avatar

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    The guide currently sits at about 3K words and is 30-40% complete. Thanks for your questions
    Shoot some diamonds and sparks
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    -Wax Mannequin

  7. #7
    Administrator

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    I'm going to check on this from time to time, with Tobias's judgment still searing in my frontal lobe.
    Look down at me and you see a fool, look up at me and you see a god. Look straight at me and you see yourself.

  8. #8
    Legend

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    Flamebird's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shinsou Vaan Osiris View Post
    I'm going to check on this from time to time, with Tobias's judgment still searing in my frontal lobe.
    #metoo

    Althy Awards:
    - 2017 Heroine of the Year (Felicity).
    - 2013 Player of the Year (OOC).

    Cool Crap Not in Character Sheet:
    - Prevalida Katana!

    Felicity Playlist.

    Althanas Portrayed by Spongebob Series.

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