1. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Writing a fast-paced scene

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lifeline, Mar 18, 2016.

    I found a link to this music video. The song is enjoyable, but it is the video which is really a resource to us writers. Watch how events unfold from the viewpoint of a spy - and then you know how an action-scene should be written.

    Attention: this video can be distressing (blood, a bit of violence).
     
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  2. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    That music video reminds me of the game Hotline Miami. Very useful for getting in the action zone - thanks for sharing! :)
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Without wanting to be mean (and I may be missing the point) but I'm not seeing anything here about how a scene should be written.

    This is a fast-moving series of actions, with absolutely no context. Who is the person whose perspective we're sharing here? What is going through his head as all this happens? Is he nervous? Clinical? Angry? Frightened? Determined? Righteous? Just doing his job?

    Does anybody who watches this actually care what happens? I know I don't. There is no emotional content. At all.

    Writing gives you the opportunity to create emotional content. Just he shot, blood spattered, a guy got punched and fell down, another guy jumped over him, oh look, now a guy has stopped a car and got in....

    That's not good writing, in my opinion.
     
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  4. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, it seems like we disagree ;)

    My head translates all that into words. Of course, emotion and other senses are absent, there is no time to develop them. There is no backstory. I would have to create it if I wanted to, but I don't. This is just a 'blueprint', and not a good one at that.

    What it provides me with is the fast-pace. To see it from 1st POV, even without backstory or content, is an immediate experience. How confusing it can get. Where eyes wander. When they stay to rest on something. Just watching an action-movie does not provide that, these would be 3rd POV and by necessity set at a one-remote.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, there is nothing wrong with writing that scene, believe me. But you need to actually write it. Watching a film isn't the same thing.

    I think that's a problem some writers have. They see something on TV or whatever and think that all they need to do is describe what they see and that's enough. However, without any emotional context or insight into how the people are feeling or why they are doing what they're doing, that kind of writing is just ...dull.

    I know, how can bloody fast-paced action be dull? Well, it is, when it's written ...he fired the gun, the guy's head blew off, then more people came through the doorway, he shot them all, blood all over the place, then he ran away and jumped into a car and kicked the windscreen out....

    Sorry. You've really got to do more. You have to get the reader to be concerned about what happens. If the reader knows nothing about any of the characters and isn't given access to the character's thoughts and feelings, the reader really isn't going to care. That's why it's not a great idea to open your novel with that kind of scene. There are no points of reference. It's not a good hook, because there isn't anything to hook on to. Just a lot of people in suits getting shot and killed. Ho hum. Yeah, it moves fast, but so does a ball somebody just threw. It's not the speed that counts, it's the context.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Here's a challenge for you. Write that scene and see how it turns out. It's got potential, but only if you add the personality into it. Right now there isn't any. It could be a video game.
     
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  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Not to confuse you. I don't plan to write this scene, or ever include it in any story of mine. Maybe 'blueprint' was the wrong word. I meant to express that in fast-paced action I want to get the sense of the pace across. Your words from the first post (Just he shot, blood spattered, a guy got punched and fell down, another guy jumped over him, oh look, now a guy has stopped a car and got in....) are not what I would write if I decided to write this scene.
     
  8. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    ;)
    I have a whole lot of challenges writing fast-paced scenes ahead in my story, I don't want to get out..
    But if you can wait a little I can write one of the battle-scenes of my story a bit later and PM you? Would that satisfy you? :D
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that would be grand. I'm not disparaging your writing, by the way. Or saying you can't write a fast-paced scene. It's just that I didn't get (still don't get) the connection between that video and writing.

    I just re-watched that parkour opening scene from the first James Bond movie featuring Daniel Craig.


    Now that is ACTION packed. But right from the start, we know this is Bond, James Bond, so we know he's the good guy. And that scene was tremendous. Gone was the Bond of old ...the fairly debonair guy who could turn a few tricks when needed. Instead, this new Bond is like a force of nature. He looked awkward in a few places, but the close-up of his face told us everything. He would NOT give up. This guy will not give up. It wasn't so much that he did all the stuff he did, it was the way he did it. Absolutely no question that he would keep going until he either was killed or got his man. It was a very powerful scene, with a lot of context, even though we didn't know who the criminal was. And interestingly enough, the criminal didn't even matter to the story. That whole scene was there to establish what Bond is like.

    Of course that scene was in a movie, not in writing either. But of the two scenes—your video or that James Bond opener—I think there is no doubt as to which had the stronger impact. (Memorable even. It's the only scene from the movie that I actually remember at all!) It's that essence of the kind of guy Bond is and what he wants that you need to instill in your readership. Without it, it's just guys shooting other guys.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2016
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  10. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, the challenge is on :D

    I think you will like my MC1. A force of nature is a good way to describe him. Sure it will be a challenge for me to make that true in such a fast-paced scene, without all the background I have already established, but I like to bang walls down with my head - and learn new things down the way. I will not watch this movie for pointers, what comes out will be entirely me!

    Will take me probably two weeks, there is a difficult scene I have to finish first. But when this is done I will settle down to create a work of art (I hope). Writing out of context, because there will be quite a few scenes between now and this scene then, but oh well. I can always edit later when I have fleshed out what will be missing in between.
     
  11. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    I think the OP is talking about how that video was written out before being put into video. And sorry to say, but that wouldn't have been written like a book. It'd be action lines and sketches. If you were to write that as an action scene, as if it were telling the story of the actions, I would hazard that there would be so many run-on-sentences to maintain the flow that it would be heavily critiqued for it. I personally don't have a problem with ROS's, I think they serve a purpose for conveying fast actions which are flowing into one another. I would use full sentences for progressive actions with breaks though.
     
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  12. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    Video games can have very immersive stories too. One's that hit all the high notes the written word can. Not many do, but neither do many movies to be honest. Sorry, just putting that in there.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If the OP isn't writing a book, but is writing a screenplay, a video game or something similar, then I withdraw my comments. I know nothing whatsoever about what it takes to do that well.

    However, if he's writing a novel or short story and simply reproduces visuals with words—without context or emotional involvement that includes the reader and makes them understand or care about the characters—it's not likely to work very well. It's just bodies hitting the deck. The body count might be impressive, but that's not enough to engage the reader or drive a story.
     
  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    :D I am writing a book!

    And I sure will involve emotional content - the idea to write character-based otherwise :eek:

    However one thing just occurred to me: I am writing dark fantasy, @jannert I have to warn you..
     
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  15. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just checking my new signature!
     
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  16. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    :D Now you have me laughing! A writer must know how to do all of these! Not to mention 'Baaah' like a sheep :D

    @jannert : made a start on our bet! Will still take me a while but be prepared! I am not going to loose!
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2016
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'll be sure to turn my light on when I go to read it. :)
     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If there's no writing in the video, then it's not how a fast action scene should be written. You could argue (and I may or may not agree; I'm not watching the video right now) that it might be how a fast action scene should be imagined, visualized in the mind, but writing is several steps past that.
     
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  19. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I am not arguing that. But then, I, or hopefully you, have never been in a serious fight (and how many people nowadays have been), how would you know how it plays out? On what your attention fastens? That is what this video supplies to me.

    Writing is several steps beyond, I agree. Guess my narrator supplies more than I allowed for..
     
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  20. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    My "cheat code" to writing a something fast-paced is having the consequence happen first and then the explanation afterwards.

    Example text:

    "You fucking whore," he said and pointed the gun at the man.

    Blood splattered as the bullet penetrated the man's skull.

    Obviously not a particularly beautiful piece of prose, I admit, but it serves its purpose. The writing in bold is the consequence, and the italic writing is the explanation. To me, it's a lot more exciting than "The bullet penetrated the man's skull and blood splattered everywhere."
     
  21. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    Oh no, not at all. You'd have to leave a good deal out, as you say, he ran, he jumped, he slid, would run dry quickly. However, I do think you can write that video as an action scene without including character input. Like if it were an emotionless hitman that was exceptionally skilled. At best you may get a whince out of him as they land or are punched.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Aha! Finally I get what you were trying to tell us in your original post. (Light bulb emoticon here!) This is what that kind of a fight LOOKS LIKE plus a notion of how fast it moves. That's really good information for people who have never seen a fight or been in one, and intend to write a scene where a fight like this takes place.

    Aha. Fair enough. It's research to help make your scene accurate. It's not how to write the scene.

    I didn't get the connection till I read that last quote. Sorry for all the misunderstanding.
     
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  23. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    NOW we are on the same page.. or using the same words :D
     
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think if you actually write that scene without character input, either from the active character or somebody watching it happen from the sidelines, you will find the scene will be about as exciting to read as a how-to manual for repairing a refrigerator. It might be accurate, but it won't keep you turning pages all night either.

    If your character is an emotionless hit man, his brain will still be active during this scene. He may not care how the people he kills are feeling, or worry about his own survival, but he will be thinking something. He'll be thinking about what he's doing, his technique, which guy he'll shoot first ....or even about whether he'll have time for lunch when it's over. If you want to get across the idea that the guy is emotionless about what he's doing, then do have him be thinking ahead to lunch. Or maybe he wants to keep blood from spattering onto his sleeves because it costs a lot of money to get his jacket dry-cleaned, so he tries to shoot all his victims before they get too close.

    All you need to do to convey the emotionlessness of his action is to have him thinking something that would not occur to an emotional person during that scene. Have him regard this as simply a job, and have him be thinking 'job' thoughts as he mows people down. He can be thinking he's quicker at this than the other guy he's working with, or that he's just beaten his body count from the last job, or thinking he's going to ask the boss for higher wages next time, or whatever. The reader won't sympathise with the emotionless character, but the reader won't forget him either. You'll have created a really scary character instead of an Action Man figure.

    Just a dry list of actions and physical consequences doesn't engage the reader. It really doesn't.
     
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  25. Samuel Lighton
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    Samuel Lighton Contributing Member

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    I agree in the case of first person action, absolutely. But in third person, when description and the spoken word reign, I can see an action scene being interesting so long as the actions are interesting. But that would require significant investment beforehand to establish a character. Like a pacifist revealing they are a combat master in a forced conflict, I would prioritise showing their actions and maybe sounds over their thoughts and expressions. Then again I always find my action scenes are percussive if that makes any sense. It's all about the visual and audio.
     
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