Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Serve me up another cockroach … I feel the munchies coming on.

by A.G. Howard

Mmmm. Tasty.

*Shudders* Okay, so I’m not really into eating bugs, although I've heard rumor they're high in protein.

The subject title is referring to my fear of writing action scenes, fight scenes in particular. In the earliest draft of my adult vampire fantasy (a book I wrote a couple of years ago), I skimmed through the biggest fight scene of the book, writing it in the narrative with the heroine looking back on it.

My writing group called me on the mat and said, “Write out that sucker, you lazy bum.” Okay, not in so many words, but they did subtly denote that I was above cutting corners at this point in my writing. The scene is toward the climax of the book, and truly, the reader deserves to see it played out.

For me, it wasn’t so much about being lazy as being FEARFUL. I am terrified of writing any kind of action scene, but fight scenes trump them all. Something about blending the movement and emotion of the characters—wanting to keep them real without feeling mapped out, wooden, or staged—really stokes my paranoia to a full fiery flame.

It’s like being on an episode of Fear Factor for writers. Remember this show?

 One of the most popular stunts was to make contestants eat live insects, like this lovely cave spider from Africa:

Yes, folks. Those are indeed claws. Imagine trying to swallow this fellow down while he's hanging onto your tonsils for dear life... *insert horrified scream here*

In my writer's worst nightmare, instead of handing me a plateful of cockroaches and earthworms to nibble on, the host hands me a blank piece of paper, a pen, and a prompt with the words: write a fight scene between a sisterhood clan of halfling vampires teamed up with a priest and their vampire enemies to defeat a rogue band of vampire super-beings; be sure to incorporate both martial arts and street fighting tactics, because the bad guys ain't gonna play nice.   

Eeps. I think I’d rather munch on a plate full of creepy crawler slaw. At least then, the only one who will be sick as a result of my stunt is me.

I was just curious, for the other writers out there, what's your Fear Factor episode? Is there any particular kind of scene that makes you curl up inside your shell, afraid to stick your head out? And how do you psyche yourself up to write it without resorting to the amateur “tell don’t show” tactic?

And for the readers, what are some of the best written fight scenes you've ever read? I'd love to have some good pointers for a fight scene I have coming up in my current work in progress. Or maybe I’ll just munch on some grilled crickets and call it a day. ;)


Starr K @ The Literati Press said...

I hate writing love scenes, some say it should come natural to me but umm no it doesn't. Now fight scenes I can do, and that may have something to do with the fact I've done mixed martial arts and always went to my team fights. Not only that, I watched. If you want realistic fight scenes, I would say find a MMA gym, most of the ones I know don't mind observers. As far as reading, the one person that comes to mind is Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac series. I know that I can think of more, but not right off the top of my head.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Starr K~ Great tips, thank you! And I've heard FAB things about the Zodiac series, so this just gives me more of a reason to check it out.

BTW, love scenes, those I can do. Weaving in the emotion is so natural to me in that situation, but w/fight scenes, it's more difficult (for me) to get inside the character's head. I've never been in a fight in real life, or even done martial arts, etc... so that probably explains my hesitation.

The imagination is a wonderful thing, but often you need a little boost from reality to pump those scenes up.

Bethany Crandell said...

Ugh. I hate writing action scenes--I don't know what I'm doing. Give me some swoonage, or an emotional breakdown and I'm all over it, but ask me to punch someone and I assume the fetal position and start to cry.

Side note: I've eaten a meal worm before.
And for the record, Ms. Howard--you ROCKED that fight scene!

Anita Grace Howard said...

Bethany~ AW, shucks. Thanks pal! And I'm w/you. LOVE scenes are da bomb. :)

Jordan Dane said...

Insects, snakes and beasties killing for food really make me squimish. As for FEAR FACTOR, the bull's ball eating ep did me in. Those things are HUGE! Jamming meaty balls in your mouth with jowls filled like a chipmunk still gives me nightmares.

On fight scenes, you just have to research it and do it, girly. I've bought fighting instructional books and studied techniques online, but the biggest help has been watching movies with great fight scenes that seem realistic. When I have a scene like that coming up, I watch action movies to get "in the mood." Imagine what I do when it comes to sex scenes....hmmmm.

Anita Grace Howard said...

JD~ LOL! Yeah, like I said, love scenes are my FAVES. Heh

Katey said...

Oh my god that picture of cockroaches on a plate just sent me into a screaming spiral of doom! Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwblargh! (But also, haha, kinda awesome :D)

I don't know what I'm afraid to write actually. I had the same issue with fight scenes, but all that X-Men fanfiction kinda cured me. I love to read them, though--and may I just say that the one you're describing? I kinda need it. Okay, I REALLY need it.