Unlike some writers I don’t enjoy writing action or fight scenes. Not because I don’t think I can write them well, it just seems no matter what I do there will always exist a negative opinion, here are some examples of the critiques I hear most often (some of you fellow writers may have heard some of these too): “Well, that’s a good start, but it needs some work,” or “I wasn’t there with the character, make it more personal, give me more emotion, less description,” and my least favorite “Make it snappy.” It appears no matter what I do with a fight scene, someone is going to be unhappy with it. I realize that you can never please everybody, but it seems with my fight scenes, there is a definite increase of people wanting the section to be changed in some way. In trying to figure out why that is so, I have decided to pick apart my writing process and see if there is anything that should be changed.
First with an action scene, I find grounds for the confrontation; I don’t write fight scenes just for the sake of having them, there has to be a reason. Once I know the reason and have made sure that I have or will make the reason clear in my story, I proceed on to mapping out the fight itself.
How many people are involved? What weapons or potential weapons are in the room? Will the character resort to these make shift weapons, or do they have the skill or resources to fight without resorting to them. Who is in the immediate area? Are there people in the other room who might over hear this fight and come to see what is going on, or call for help? Will the fight be quick in decisive, or will it be drawn out? Will one of the characters run? Where will they run to? Etcetera. So once I have mapped out, either in my head or on a piece of paper where everyone who will be involved in this scene is and who it will affect, I start writing. It usually starts out very basic: “he hit, she kicked” kind of thing. Then I go back and add details such as pain for the characters and how it effects their movements, sounds, the character’s thoughts if applicable, I flesh it out a little bit you might say. Then I reread and edit, reread and edit, read it aloud, and edit until I’m sure all the holes are filled in and I’m satisfied with it. Then it’s time to read it to someone, or give it to them to read. I’m always filled with apprehension when I reach this stage, because I’ve always been told to change it up, and at this point, I think it’s done. It’s true I want feedback and I want to hear what other people think and if there are any holes that I missed; and I do get this feedback…more or less. Advice with action portions of my books always seems so unhelpful. “In needs to be changed”, “Shorten it”, “Lengthen it” but no one ever tells me how or where it needs to change. “Well, you’re the writer, so you need to make the changes” yes, but some suggestion would be nice, or better yet, why don’t you tell me why it isn’t good? Why does it not reach you expectations, take a small excerpt of the scene and write out and show me how it needs to be changed, and I will reformate the rest of the scene. It doesn’t seem that much to ask if you really want to help me out, but you can’t find the words to describe what needs to be done.
I guess it boils down to the only thing I dislike about fight and action scenes is the repetitive and unhelpful critique that is bound to come with them; which is why I prefer to have my characters use stealth and cunning to get what they want, rather than brute force.