Tips on How to Write Good Action Scenes with Detail?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Question:

Hey everyone! So my question is how do you write an action scene with good detail or description? I don't know how I've gotten by without this skill but I seem to go for things like "She broke down the door" or "he tried to break free" instead of more detailed sentences. So, does anyone have any advice on how to write action? And when I say action I don't mean ALL action, I mean like fight scenes, or scenes where a lot of things happen at once. I don't know if I explained it well enough but ah well, any reply would help.
-------
Alice


Answer:

Tip-1:
I tend to write action quite often, actually. I've written fan fiction for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other things in the liking so I guess I know how to receive the appropriate materials.Well, for one...I believe "she broke down the door" isn't quite enough description. Get in contact and understand the characters emotions...if it's a fight scene, you should be able to try and understand what the character is feeling and set your description from there.Usually in fight scenes, people would be upset about something and have some motive, so use that as a tool.Hope I helped, -----------

Tip-2:
You always need to have your own 'voice' when writing, but when I had to write my first action scene, I borrowed a couple of books and looked at how well known and respected authors do it. Not just the scene, the foreshadowing that precedes an action or suspense scene is just as important.With a fresh perspective, I set to writing my first action scene set around my characters in my location and with my style. It took a couple of attempts to get that first one right, but I am pretty good at it now.So, two choices. Read some other authors or buy a well reviewed 'how to' book.

Getting Published Question

Question:

Hey, I have been writing for a few years now. I am only 15 years old but I feel I have a strong writing talent for someone my age. I am wondering if I should begin to try and be published yet. Here are my questions: What age do most writers start at?Are there any laws that would prevent me from getting published or paid due to my age (in Canada)?When I do send in a book to try and get it published is there anything that I could do to help it be picked?

Answer:

Tip-1:
I do not think there are any laws prohibiting you from publishing your books, but I strongly suggest against it....Develop your writing, you may think you're good now, but think how good you'll be in a couple of years. I used to think I was a fantastic writer at twelve, now I look back on those stories and cringe.
You don't want to make another Eragon do you? Well, maybe you do. I guess he made lots of money, but I'd rather be known for quality work...If you do pursue publication, then good luck!

Tip-2:
I can't give you any information about the publishing industry, but what I can say is if you have yet to do so, it would be a good idea to do at least 1 writing course first.I had finished writing my book when I was 19, and I was sure that it was publishable, but I then did a writing course by correspondence, and now I realize just how hackneyed my first attempt was, and now my writing is ten times better.I'm not saying that your work couldn't be good enough to be published, but you are at a great age to start honing your skills before trying to take up writing professionally.

Tip-3:
The only problem with sending out manuscripts is that you need to either have an agent, or have them appraised; otherwise a publisher won't touch them. And while I am not sure about whether or not an agent takes any money up front, I know that appraisal can be very expensive (especially for a 15 year old)

Tip-4:
Agents don't get paid unless you get published, so you don't lose anything if you get rejected.

Writing that Ignores the Norm & Typical Writing Rules

Monday, May 01, 2006

Question:

Just out of curiosity, do any of you break the rules with your writing? I'm talking about the textbook, sentences-must-have-an-subject-verb-and-object rules. Do you ever use fragments? Play around with punctuation? Space your paragraphs to give feeling to your writing? What else?


Answer:

There really are no "rules" to break. They are more "rules"-of-thumb than laws of the land. The trick is figuring out where you can go against the rules-of-thumb and have your work the better for it - and that takes experience reading and writing on the writer's part.

[-Frank]

Writing Without Revealing Gender

Question:

Anyone have any tips for writing about someone without revealing their gender? My character's gender is supposed to be a surprise. In my fight to avoid using "she" or "he," I've resorted to using a lot of "it"s and this has made my writing bland.

Would it work to make the reader think my character is the opposite sex by using pronouns of the opposite sex, and then surprise them? Somehow, that seems like cheating to me.

Any ideas?


Answer:

Tip-1:

How bout writing in first person?

Tip-2:

Well my advice is that by saying "it", the reader might thing you are referring to, not to be immature, a "he-she". I have a few alternatives
Instead of

she shot the gun and killed all of the Martians on the planet.
You can put....
I shot the gun and killed all of the Martians on the planet.

OR
The soldier shot the gun and killed all of the Martians on the planet.
^ I hope you get that one, I couldn't really explain it.


Tip-3:

Some people like to withhold demographic information when talking about a character that has some quirks that go against stereotypes... To prove a point or something.
Like perhaps a story about a person who's the best wrestler in their division, but at the end... She's a GIRL OMGsurprise!!11 (For example, a story from Chris Crutcher's "Athletic Shorts")
I think it's kind of lame and cliche and is a sign of a story-teller who has to rely more on surprise and shock value to be effective.

Writing Short Story Problem- Losing the Plot?


Question:

I often find that when I'm thinking about writing a short story that my ideas get way to big for the length I'm planning. I really do have a hard time keeping it simple.

For example, I recently planned a story in which a young boy had disappeared, coinciding with strange incidents happening in the place he disappeared from. Before I knew it, I had aliens, detectives etc. Way too much for a short piece.

Is there any way I can tone my head down a bit? Or even work these large plots into a short story?

Thanks in advance,
[Lesley xx]

Answer:


Tip-1:

Hmm well. Outline. That keeps you inline with what ever you're writing. And stop thinking so deep with the story. I write short stories a lot and usually I don't think about the story in great detail until I'm sitting down to write it.

I hoped that helped at all...

Tip-2:

I used to have the same problem... I couldn't and still can't write a short story that has any amount of quality to it. The only stories of mine that people have said are good have all been 100+ pages, so I gave up on trying writing short ones. I'm not saying that's what you should do, but you should try maybe setting out to write a longer story and see what happens. Who knows, you might be a good novel writer.


[Rudder]

Tip-3:

You can keep all the detail, all the plot... just don't write it. Keep all that stuff in your head as background information, and then just write about one day, or a single incident.

Reviewed and edited by M.K Raza

Show Vanity in a Character through Actions

Question:


What’s a good way to show vanity in a character through actions? What kind of things would you expect a vain person to do? I want to show my character is vain, to avoid telling the reader he is vain...any Ideas?


Answer:

Tip-1:

I did this with one of my female characters about a year ago. She was really rich, spoiled, blonde, beautiful, stuff like that. Basically, make him make comments about how other people are inferior, especially his family. Make him talk about how everything bad that happens to him is everyone else's fault. Stuff like that. Does that help?

____________
Rudder

Tip-2:

Maybe have them always readjusting their clothes, like they're ridiculously worried about how they look - constantly smoothing down their hair, checking themselves in a mirror, etc.

Multiple Points Of View in Novel

Question:

Although every "how to write your first novel" website lists "stick to a single point of view" as one of the ten commandments for new writers, I just seem to be incapable of following that directive. While the bulk of my story will be told in 1st person (from the killer's perspective), I keep reverting to 3rd person when writing about other characters. I don't jump back and forth within a paragraph, or even within a chapter; but individual chapters do have differing points of view.


I realize that this is getting away from general topics that would be useful to a wide audience, and becoming a very specific question that really only pertains to my book, but....
Any chance that there is a website or other source for information, guidelines (warnings?) about writing from multiple view points? I realize that this lack of consistency could prove confusing to the reader, but I'm interested in learning about other potential problems that may result from switching Point Of View. Any suggestions for where to look?

Thanks.

Answer:


Tip-2:

If handled correctly nobody will be confused by multiple Points Of View. And if anyone tells you not to do it, poke them in the eye with a sharp stick and do it anyway.

The beauty of words is you can pull off almost anything; you can break rules and mess with convention. You just have to be able to write well enough.


Tip-2:

Multiple points of view are common with many published writers. Typically, they are written as everything in third person. I caution against mixing first person and third person. I always caution against first person in any case. In this instance if you do everything third person, including the killer's perspective, it will work better.

I did a work with two points of view alternating from chapters to chapters. All third person. In the last but one chapter, the girl's emotions take over and she kills someone in cold blood. It is written third person and it was described by someone as 'chilling'. It probably works better in third person, because there is this cascade of thoughts as to what this man has done to her family and then a brief omniscient view of the killing. It takes the reader by surprise, they aren't expecting it.

Don't underestimate what you can do in the third person.

How to approach revisions/rewrites?

Question:

Having finished my book, sent the first draft off for critique by a friend, and settled back into my chair before the computer... Revisions suddenly set up a Great Wall of China between my story and I. Help! At times I feel ruthless, like butchering the whole thing and gluing it back together, and at other times I'm such a ninny, and I don't want to ruin it, even though I know it needs lots of work.
Any suggestions about how to approach revisions/rewrites?


Answer:

Tip-1:

Man. Do I know that feeling? I have stories in which I think I've re-written the opening chapters like 40 times.
Here's a couple of things:

1) Be very wary of making changes that have 'big-picture' consequences unless absolutely necessary. Don’t go changing the continent your hero (or heroine) lives in for example... Unless you plan on rewriting half your chapters!

2) When the 'omg this needs to be made better' bug hits you... and you start re-writing, when you are done with your edit, pause for a moment, and ask yourself, as objectively as possible 'did this really make it better'.

3) Don't be afraid to use the 'Undo' key. Control-Z IS YOUR FRIEND. Remember, unlike the age-old environment of typewriters (shudder), in our electronic age we can take stuff out as easily as we can put it in! Don't be afraid to try to make it better... you can always go back in a few seconds!

4) Finally, don't bite off too much at once. Take it one chapter, one paragraph at a time. Don’t worry about the Elephant... Worry about the hairs on his left front foot's toe-knuckle! Do it 'one bite at a time' and have patience.

Hope that helps!
----------------------
Steve


Tip-2:

Hide it in a deep dark hole for as long as you need, forget about it. Right when you write something you're passionate about it and don't want to hurt it, so give it time to fall away to the old stuff, then hack at it so its beautiful If you're still attached to a piece, you'll get no where. And after you've done that, read over it. And if you still aren't happy, hide it again, and hack at it again. Just keep at it I hope that helped, and wasn't too vague...


Difficulty in Starting Writing Stories or Books


Question:

Ok, so this seems to be my problem... I've got a few ideas for some books/stories that I wanna write... But the problem is, I have difficulty getting started. I write about a page, or so then I'm stuck. It's a pain in the ass, and I was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to get past this...

Answer:

Tip-1:

We all know what is inevitable:
The only known cure is to just push through. Tell yourself you are not going to quit until you have X words. Don't write anything that comes to your mind, though; in case of a block just sit in front of your keyboard until you have the right words. After that, sleep well and the next day it's another X words waiting for you.
If you are certain that your idea has potential then all there is left is some serious headbanging. You may feel that after 6.000 words your novel (/la or whatever) just isn't going to happen. Your style is crap, your dialogue is lame, and your font is Comic Sans. At that point brute force is most important. X words a day.
Finally you reach the end of your story, total Y words!. If you have remembered not to write unimportant stuff to reach your daily X words, you have Y great words and you have yourself a story!
(Then of course you have to totally rip it to pieces and edit its buttocks sore but that's a tale for another time.)
This makes writing sound like a hard job but it really is

Tip-2:

Use one of my very own techniques I like to call flushing. Just take a break, and write down any words that come to you. The only rule is it can’t make sense. It sounds useless but it really has gotten me threw some writers blocks.

Tip-3:

Maybe you should try developing your ideas more before you begin writing? It may help you start your story if you have an idea of where you're going with it.

Tip-4:

When your brain shuts down and all you can write (if anything) is shit, STOP!
It's your subconscious telling you to get a life - recharge your experience batteries, give yourself something to write about. As I said somewhere else, life should only be a vicarious experience for your readers, not you.

Look at it another way. If you don't write today, will anyone die? Will you earn any less? No? Then why sweat it? Take a break, go out, enjoy life, and come back refreshed.

[Reviewed & edited by M.K Raza]

Creative Writing & Degree

Question:

I'm a junior in High School and college is rapidly approaching. I would really like to major in Creative Writing and I'm generally really good about research but I can't find anything about the degree. I know a few schools that offer it but I don't know which ones locally (I live in Dallas, Texas). Also, does anyone think this would be a poor decision? Perhaps I should just major in English and minor in Creative Writing. Any information that you guys have would be appreciated.

I would like to be a novelist, but I also want to teach English in the Peace Corps. Thus my dilemma.

Answer:

Tip-1:

what's your goal?... if it's just to 'be a writer' anything you take in that line can't hurt, but a degree isn't a requisite for being a successful one...

If you want to be an editor, you'll need a degree in English and/or literature, but not necessarily 'writing'... to teach writing, you should get your degree in something more writing-focused...


Tip-2:

if it is possible you can pick up the magazine poets and writers, they always have add for schools that offer MFA in creative writing.

Here is one site I found

http://www.utdallas.edu/~nelsen/creativity.html

MFA degrees in the Dallas area-type that into Google and you will get some sites you might need.


Tip-3:

There is no degree that will make you a novelist. Like many of the arts it takes lots and lots of practice. English or writing degree will help you but it won't make a novelist at the end of four years.

As for the Peace Corps, what they primarily do is teach English, and they only requirment for the Peace Corps is that you have a degree, any degree.

So I will tell you what I would tell anyone thinking about college. Study what makes you happy. In the end there is little difference between the majors, unless you of course are dealing with something technical. But since you want to be a writer that doesn't really come into play. Do something you find interesting. College not only teaches you about whatever you major is but it also teaches you valiable life skills. The later I think being the most important thing I took away from college.


Tip-4:

I think college would be great for getting the technical part of the craft down pat - that is, how to know a verb from a toaster-oven. But as for the creative part - you either got it or you don't.

Sure, I'd go learn technique, syntax, sentence structure; learn about great literature. But Creativity? Learn that from you. Thats the best teacher you'll ever find.

Career as a Writer

Question:

If I were to say that living as a writer meant everything in the world to me and that I would do it regardless of my financial position or anything else I might have to sacrifice, do you think it is possible to live a life like that and yet still be able to keep yourself alive? The more and more I look at it, the more hopeless it seems.

It might seem foolish for me to say this but I am quite determined to continue perfecting my craft not so I can make money but more so I can just live my life as I want to. . .if you understand what I'm saying.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think financial sacrifice would be an inevitable goal if someone was to pursue that kind of a lifestyle?


Answer:


Tip-1:

No, it's not impossible, it can be done... Not everyone becomes a rich and famous author, like say, Stephen King, but you can make your own niche and live comfortably.

There are so many available positions in writing that you can take on, it just depends what you're willing to do...

Here's a site for free lance writers:

http://www.freelance-writing.net


Tip-2:

Forgetting the financial sacrifice, but concentrating on actually earning enough from writing to provide 3 meals a day and a roof over your head...

Do you really think that's what you want? Say for instance you get a junior job on a newspaper. When writing becomes not the pure thing you want it to be, but the 9 to 5 grind, day in, day out, necessary to support yourself, will it lose its gloss? Particularly when you find that it leaves you no more time, and possibly less inclination, to write the masterpiece you always wanted to write than a non-writing job that might pay twice as much?


Tip-3:

It's not hopeless, but you have to be not just a writer, but part business man too in order to do it. Assuming that you're talking about novels, screenwriting, freelance journalism etc then you MUST be able to pitch your work to agents and publishers. And you should be able to recognize a good contract from a bad one. And you should also be able to promote yourself, regardless of how much your publisher is putting into it.

In other words, you will have to learn a new set of skills to complement your writing skills. It's not too hard though - if you put the effort into it.

Then, there's the "grunt work" of writing. You could get a job as a writer for a paper, but will trade some freedom for that security - you will have to copy press releases, cover commission meetings, etc. You could become a ghost writer and get a steady flow of jobs, but would have little say in the "big picture" of your writings.

Good luck,


Tip-4:

Whatever work you do, make sure it doesn't suck too much of your energy away from the writing you care about. The higher up I went on the corporate ladder, the less writing I did. Once I became a freelancer, I did more writing, but even that started to dry up once I found myself devoting more and more energy to paying work.

I have a friend who's never had a problem with balancing work and writing. For me it's been a lot more difficult, but I have to find balance somehow if I want to continue to be able to live free and on my own. I have friends and family I love, but I can count on one hand the number of people I'd want to live with.


Tip-5:

If that's the case, consider making your profession from something with short hours and use the extra time to write. You won't depend on your writing to be successful to eat but you will be able to attempt to gradually shift your focus from whatever business you enter to your writing, should it do well.

Or you can find a form of writing you're passionate about and would not mind putting your days into. If you like politics, for example, being a part of a magazine that focuses on politics may not get old, since the news would constantly change.

I considered making writing my career, but I realized I wouldn't be happy doing it. I like it because it allows me to turn my day to day activities and musings into thoughts, but I realized if I sat at home all day on the computer these musings would soon dissipate.

Considering a job that does not rely on writing but requires good writing skills might also be an alternative.

Good luck however you choose to pursue your writing. Just be sure of the risks of ending up as a high school English teacher who hates writing because he deals with so much crap on a daily basis, or something of the sort.