1. Dauracul
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    Dauracul Member

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    Action scenes, when to use description?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dauracul, Nov 25, 2010.

    This is something I'm mainly just curious about.

    My writing style is for the most part very descriptive. I try to keep it where appropriate, of course; I don't sit there and describe the varying shades of light emitting from a simple lamp on the desk. But at the same time I am very driven by imagery.

    When I write an action scene, I of course understand that it's detrimental to the pace of the scene and the overall feel to stop and 'smell the flowers' right there in the middle. You want to keep the action moving, to keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat.

    A tactic I've been using lately I have taken from movies somewhat. I imagine most of my action scenes as they would appear in a movie, not just the events of the scene but the pace and the camera angle. That way I can use "slow motion", not in the sense that I actually tell you time slows down, but in the sense that, when a pivotal moment occurs in the action scene that turns the tides in the protagonist's favor (or against), I will use a more detailed level of description.

    What are all of your thoughts on action scene detail?
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thoughts: Make it good and I'll like it! :D

    I am not some hater of description. I will say that if you use detail during the action, make it relevant. Try to make your details something that adds to the story. Sometimes not adding details during action could even work against you. So I say, use detail, but try to keep it relevant. Make the details every bit as suspenseful as the action.

    Well, that's my advice as a reader anyway.
     
  3. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Dauracul, that's exactly how I do it - cinematically. :) I use description to create 'slow-motion' and long, flowing sentences to make the action flow slower. Short, snappy sentences speed everything up.
     
  4. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Ditto. Whenever I write, I always end up imagining the whole scene before I even start writing.

    Plus, you'll create more suspense if you take time to describe things.

    As Show said, just describe relevant details. If I'm writing about a fight scene that takes place in an alley, I'll briefly describe the alley. And as my two characters step up for a round, I'll perhaps describe what the antagonist looks like, and maybe what facial expressions he makes during the tussle since I'm in my protagonist's POV.
     
  5. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Oh, and if you need to describe things accurately but have a short snappy sentence to do it in, try using well-picked nouns and metaphors to speed things up, or use long, langurous strings of adjectives instead to slow down. For instance:

    The sky-borne array of cloth and flesh came to earth with a shuddering thud.
    OR
    The body smacked the dirt.
     
  6. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    Depends on the pacing. Shorter sentences will speed things up, longer sentences slow things down. If you're going for giving a particular action in a sequence attention, give it the attention it deserves. Otherwise, just keep the action coming.

    But for the love of the Muses, don't use sound effects! It drives me crazy! I'm a big fan of The Looking Glass Wars, but I felt a little insulted with brzzzzzap!! and shazzzzow!!! intercut with action. I've got a fairly good imagination Frank Beddor, let me use it?
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I personally prefer it when description is woven in naturally instead of dumped all at once in a big block. Some writers can pull that off, though.
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    As a reader I find it bothersome when authors try to employ such a tactic. Suspense is built by knowing what's at stake for the character, not an author unnaturally delaying action.

    Maybe I misunderstood what you meant, though? What I mean is an entire chapter or story or novel has lead to the main character meeting the bad guy in an alley... and the moment the bad guy comes into view the character seems to be struck dumb and instead of going for his gun, he does one of those ridiculous Bond moments where they talk about stuff for 15 minutes. Or worse, suddenly it's as if time actually pauses because the main character starts noting which dumpsters go to which business, and wondering which one is the Chinese restaurant he went to as a kid.

    No. Just no. When action is inevitable, all barriers to that action occurring become contrived and manipulative on the part of the writer. If, as a reader, I think you're lying to me or trying to manipulate me (it happens, but the reader should never FEEL manipulated), I stop reading.

    Keep in mind that a good action scene has already been built to, so the reader shouldn't need anything more than the action itself, as all the meaning and significance should have been built from the beginning of the story, not in the middle of action.

    Sticking with the truth of a moment is probably the best bet.
     
  9. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Nope, you didn't. As a reader, I like description. But to an extent. This is just my own preference, though :D As readers, we all have our own. Being a writer, however, I strive to balance myself between adding description and not going into great detail when a fight is about to takeoff.
     
  10. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    I have the ability, unfortunately, to write really nice prosaic descriptions and I have to fight it all the time.

    In writing something recently, it was somewhat based on a recollection. The person in my recollection was wearing a nice read sweater. It was very much part of my memory. Not sure why. I first wrote the red sweater in to the scene but it just seemed like it had no place even though it was prominent to me.

    I've learned that even though I have vivid detail in my mind (and I think in terms of my being immersed in the scene I am writing), that such should be left to the reader too. My thought is that visual detail is only important if it is important to the story. I 'small' amount of descriptive text can go along way.

    If it's snow, just a little text like: 'The snow fell lightly in the night sky' and that's if it is important to the setting. Otherwise you have: 'The virgin white snow fell lightly in the deep blue night sky casting a fog of cold crystals reflecting as they passed the early century lamp posts.'...you get the idea.

    It's ok if the setting is that important but if the reader just needs to know the season, then keep it short.

    Otherwise the characters (the important part) get subverted...

    My two pennies.
     

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