1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    What are the best ways to write a heavy action paragraph?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by architectus, Aug 19, 2009.

    I'm trying to find the best ways to subordinate one action happening before or after another. From what I can tell, most authors use "when" and "after," but I don't want to use those words too often. At the same time I don't want to write many simple or compound sentences, which I would have to do with a paragraph containing a lot of action, unless I use complex sentences. Are there better ways to subordinate action sentences/clauses?
    Here is the sample paragraph written with simple and compound sentences.
    The leader released my hair and approached Michael. I scuttled back and crabbed walked to get away from him. I kept going until far enough away from the creep, and then I hugged my knees and felt like a little girl.
    Now with complex sentences using subordination.
    When the leader released my hair and approached Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking to get away from him. Once away from the creep, I hugged my knees, feeling like a little girl.
    Thank you in advance.

    P.S. What is a better way to say "far enough away from"?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    For action, your first example works much better. You want readers to be pushed through with the speed and ferocity of the action itself, so you want bang bang bang sentence structure. With your second example its kinda all over the place, it seems weird to be writing action like that.
    But anyway, I think you're over-thinking it. If you write it well, readers won't be stopping to think "there are too many simple sentences here". Get the pace up, lay out the action clearly and without unnecessary stylistic embellishments and get the reader straight into the action.
    As for your last question, it depends on the context, but "far enough from" probably works just as well as "far enough away from" in this case.
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The first paragraph was just to outline the information. I would hope to never find a paragraph consisting of sentences only like those ones.

    The following is a paragraph from The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum. It is kind of long. Sorry about that.

    Bourne whipped his head back as the razorlike edge of the blade sliced the flesh under his chin, the eruption of blood streaming across the hand that held the knife. He lashed his right foot out, catching his unseen attacker in the kneecap, then pivoted and plunged his left heel into the man’s groin. Carlos spun, and again the blade came out of the darkness, now surging toward him, the line of assault directly at his stomach. Jason sprang back off the ground, crossing his wrists, slashing downward, blocking the dark arm that was an extension of the handle. He twisted his fingers inward, yanking his hands together, vicing the forearm beneath his blood-soaked neck and wrenched the arm diagonally up. The knife creased the cloth of his field jacket. And once above his chest, Bourne spiraled the arm downward, twisting the wrist now in his grip, crashing his shoulder into the assassin’s body, yanking again as Carlos plunged sideways off balance, his arm pulled half out of its socket.
    Imagine if he had written this paragraph with all short sentences. But I guess I could try to follow the style he uses here.

    The leader released my hair. When he headed for Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking, not stopping until I was far away from the creep. I hugged my knees, feeling like a little schoolgirl.
    The leader released my hair. When he headed for Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking to get as far from the creep as possible. Then I hugged my knees and felt like a little schoolgirl.

    When I said action, I didn't mean fist flying action like in the Bourne example, but action and not description or introspection. The action in this part of my novel is slow, but it picks up a few paragraphs later.

    I guess the point is, if you have a long paragraph of action, like in the Bourne example, do you want to have a bunch of simple and compound sentences? IMO, that will sound way to choppy, so Robert Ludlum uses some complex sentences to break it up, with well places commas (stops).
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I guess I was talking more about the way you deliver information in the first example than the actual sentence structure....its more straightforward and flows a lot more eaily than your second example, and I think has a lot more in common with the Ludlum passage than your second example. Where the first is event event event delivered in a standard, smooth way, your second example is when X happens Y...after Y, Z...which is really unnecessary and slows the pace down a lot when you could simply tell them in a more fluid way. The Ludlum passage only does the second thing once in that whole paragraph, and only to deliver a very specific, detailed action.

    Obviously you need to mix simple, compound and complex sentences. But using a structure like "When X happened, ...." and "After Y..." seems really bad to me, like it would slow down the action unnecessarily and the linearity of the events isn't in question anyway.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Out of curiosity, how would you assemble the information?

    He released my hair. He walked toward Michael. I scuttled back and crab walked. I didn't stop until I was far away from the creep. I hugged my knees. I felt like a schoolgirl.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    He released my hair and walked toward Michael. I scuttled away, not stopping until I was as far away from the creep as I could get. Hugging my knees, I felt like a schoolgirl.
     
  7. Elistara
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    Elistara Member

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    The best way to write anything falls on the preferences of the writer. Maybe the reader also, to some extent, but the writer is the one who determines what goes onto the paper.

    You write it how you would like to read it. Personally, I prefer the faster sentence.
    This one, your second, only maybe like this instead. " When the leader released my hair and approached Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking to get away from him. Once far enough away from the creep, I sat and hugged my knees, cowering in fear. "

    But this one is good too- possibly better. "The leader released my hair. When he headed for Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking to get as far from the creep as possible. Hugging my knees, I felt like a schoolgirl."
    Though I don't so much care for the schoolgirl phrase, it seemed to fit better than anything else I could think of right now. And I think, put this way, it sounds more like the phrase is coming from the character, rather than from you, which for whatever reason, is how I seemed to read it the first time.. Probably just my interpretation, I suppose, because re-reading it, I can't spot a difference technically. It just sounded so sexist to me.. seeing that I have seen boys and girls of that young age doing the same thing. But - you know your character, and I don't. :)
     
  8. Fish
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    Fish New Member

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    The leader released my hair. I watched as he moved towards Michael, as soon as i thought it was safe, I scuttled back, crab walking to get as far away from the creep as i could. I crouched down and hugged my knees, I felt like a damn schoolgirl.

    Maybe like this? Trying to help ^__^
     
  9. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    My scalp cried out in relief as the leader released his grip on my hair. Burning tears ran down my face as I watched him approach Micheal. There's no place to go. My stomach knotted as I looked for an escape route, but found none. Desperation compelled me to crawl away. I can't help Michael now. I slumped against the wall, trying to make myself as small as I could. Pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapped my arms around them hugging them tightly, and buried my face against them.


    Yeah, I take the wordier approach apparently. I don't like the schoolgirl part. It seems more telling to me rather than showing. I can't pull a clear picture of what a schoolgirl might look like while huddled against a wall. Rather than use that, just say what she's doing.

    As for the rest of it, it felt like you could be more in the character's head since you are in FP POV.

    I find in fight scenes there are one of two ways to go, either just tell what happens blow by blow, or get into the character's head, giving snippets of action between thoughts and feelings. Usually TP POV does the first option, FP POV can do either one, but lends itself more towards the character's reactions and instincts.
     
  10. Elistara
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    Elistara Member

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    Bluebell, that was beautiful. That last sentence doesn't quite make sense to me - though it is close enough to not intrude on the beauty of the snippet.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Blue, micromanaging is always one way to go. I use a lot of introspection and sharing of her thoughts.

    here is how the whole paragraph looks.

    The leader released my hair. When he headed for Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking, not stopping until I was as far from the creep as possible. I hugged my knees and felt like a little schoolgirl. I just wanted to sit there and cry and to pretend none of this was happening. My heart raced. What do I do? I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think straight.

    I really like a part of what you wrote, so I'm going to use it. I think it conveys better how she feels.

    The leader released my hair, relieving my tender scalp from the burning pain. When he headed for Michael, I scuttled back, crab walking, not stopping until I was as far from the creep as possible. With my feet, I pushed myself against up against the wall, then trying to shrink, I pulled my knees to my chest and hugged them. I just wanted to sit there and cry and pretend none of this was happening. My heart raced. What do I do? I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think straight.

    Yeah, I like those few extra details. Thanks blue for the ideas.

    I think I am going to post part of chapter 1 for critique in the romance section as this is a vampire romance. I am submitted the first 25 pages to an RWA contest, the deadline being the Sep. 1st.



     
  12. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    You're welcome Arch. I'd be careful about posting anything you are entering into any type of publishing contest though...we've been discussing that in the other thread under Publishing. You don't want to be disqualified for having previously published it on the internet. :)
     

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