1. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    How do I structure an adventure scene?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Richach, Jun 16, 2020.

    I know some of you might be thinking, 'hey have you even tried?' My answer, 'yes sooooo hard and I am genuinely stuck and have been for far too long.' I am at the point now where I open my laptop and just do anything apart from fix the scenes I really need to. (I believe this is called writer's block!) This issue is really holding me back so, help!

    This is where I hope as many of you as possible might be able to help. I would like to develop a format that I can slot into my books as and when required. Like a plugin and play. I am pretty sure this is already a thing as I can see authors already do it (Jk Rowling, George RR Martin) but I am having trouble figuring it out. So I do need people that are willing to give me their views and advice.

    I think this genuinely represents an opportunity for me and others to learn a vital writing skill. What I am asking for is pretty far out and possibly gonna take people out of their comfort zone, but the rewards in terms of learning for all might be excellent.

    I am looking for people to express interest in the first instance. Hands up please!
     
  2. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    I feel your pain but what exactly are you asking for? I would think that there are many different kinds of scenes that deal with adventure.
     
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  3. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I thought it was a character or group of them (flock, herd, school o_O)
    that set off to a place they have never been, and about their trials to get
    to said destination. More of a 'the journey is more important than the
    destination' thing.

    It is kinda a fundamental part of playing D&D (not on a board), but rather
    written out for the players to interact with elements inside it. Though it
    can also be made up on the fly to keep things interesting and off the cuff. :)

    Maybe this will help somewhat:
    https://theangrygm.com/the-shape-of-adventure/
    https://writethatscene.com/how-to-write-a-divergent-fanfiction/

    Good luck. :)
     
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  4. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not sure if this is what you're asking for, Rich, since I'll have to take "adventure" to mean "action" for the only advice I can give. Adventure scene in google calls it
    "Adventure Scenes are interactive puzzles with no time constraints."

    I had to do an adventure/action scene just last week and this is how I did it.

    My two characters, Raz and Namazu, had to break into NASA's rocket testing facility at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, 100 years from now. That is technically an interactive puzzle.
    What i did was confirm a goal.
    The Goal
    -To break into a rocket testing stand and directly upload a file into one of the sensors.


    I looked up the real place on Google Earth to get an idea of the layout. I even planned out where a new test stand might go (since this is a century in the future). That was then my goal's location. I also placed it there because it allowed a good escape plan, but I didn't come up with the final location straight away until after I worked out what problems were that they would encounter first.

    The Problems
    - electric fence around a vast perimeter, miles from the actual space center and test stands, with security checkpoint on each road in and out.
    - the buildings all have cameras, thermal sensors, and lidar sensors (lidar is 3D imaging basically and can see through light organic material, like tree leaves and branches.)
    - the security android response units and their cars/mobilization vehicles.
    - drones.
    - satellites capable of using the same three abilities of the cameras.
    - a sentient Artificial Intelligence that controls all and sees through all of the above.


    I then spent an entire day trying to work out how one guy who is an expert at physical infiltration and his partner who is a cyber security expert, and isn't physically there, but appears digitally to him through his eye implants, can break in.

    I thought up and discarded about 5-6 ideas and it was damned frustrating when I found an impassable flaw in the plans. BUT in doing so, i kept them and used them in the narrative, to mention briefly to the reader and let them see these two characters had thought it through and were smart cookies. I used my failures as material.

    A "for instance" of solving the problems. The satellites were easiest. Raz and Nam planned the date of the break-in after looking at the weather reports. A day of overcast weather - No normal camera, thermal camera, nor lidar camera on a satellite can see through cloud.

    The Location and how it influences both the goal and the problems.

    Eventually, I found a way in. And, with some creative, innovative thinking I made a damned good "Mission Impossible Tom Cruise rope-string" type moment that I didn't intend to write before I looked at the scene in detail... all due to me writing down the problems and trying to think of how to defeat them. One problem, a door lock, was a sticking point that I had to bend my rules for. Technically, the door should be connected to the security systems and alert the AI. I'm still, even now, keeping it in the back of my mind if i can think up something better - but I had to fudge it slightly and go by the fact that the center isn't a military installation and will be over 150 years old by the time the novel is set. This test stand was built over 50 years prior, and I made out the security for the test stand itself was lacking, and the door was just an electronic password lock, not connected to the AI (although the AI could still access its records, if it wanted.) That defeated the obstacle by tweaking the problem by using the actual history of the location.

    Then I needed a plan of escape (even though the plan falls apart). I used the geography of the real world site. Each test stand joins one long canal for the water they need. So that blocked the south side access for the security robots coming at them. With Raz and Nam on the east side of the test stand, and the robots coming from the west where the main buildings are, the rocket then became the ultimate blocker of the north. With Namazu temporarily firing it up remotely, it briefly stopped the security androids reaching them, giving them the time they needed to try and escape. Another hurdle overcome, all because I placed the goal in the correct position on the land.
    I wont say how the scene ends because it's unimportant, the point is, I had achieved my goal for the scene and its objectives. It was a bitch to plan out and it was slow and bitty to write it, due to me finding a new pitfall every time i over came a previous one. But, i am really REALLY pleased with how it ended up due to this process.
    So, long story short...

    • -Define the Goal.
    • -Define the Location and understand it.
    • -Define the problems the character(s) will face.
    • -Use the character(s) abilities to solve the problems. If not possible, try and look to other reasons (like i did with the age and type of installation) to try and solve problems.
    • -Attain the Goal.

    That's how I went about things. Again, I dont know if this is what you're looking for, but it seems to fit both action and adventure scenes, so i hope it helps , if only a little.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
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  5. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    Hi, thanks for taking the time and effort to look at this with me, it is much appreciated. All I can tell you is where I am at right now.

    So the feedback from beta readers is that my story drifts and people are not sure where it is headed and in fact, a fair few don't make it to the end of the book. Some get quite frustrated, some get the gist and enjoy it but nobody is shouting from the rooftops about it. The frustration (I think) comes from the fact that whilst some of the chapters are very well received, those highs are undermined by some sloppy aimless scenes. The way I read it is that the characters lack purpose. Clearly the issue is not quite that straight forward, but I can assure you it is not that lame and the feedback suggests the potential is definitely there, although, not quite delivered. I don't think I need to reinvent the wheel but just do some fine-tuning.

    So that is the issues dealt with. What I am looking to do is improve many of the chapters and character development by doing all the things I should have done in the first place, but that is easier said than done. I plan to do this with some of the chapters.

    Chapter 4 is an excellent opportunity to show the reader what the characters are all about (the first three chapters have been reviewed favourably). Thing is if I am honest I don't know how to write an action scene. I am not talking about specifics here, so I don't need to know how to show a character running up a mountain. It is the fundamentals I need to get to grips with. I have done some research last night on youtube and found an entry by Mark Cheverton - Author - how to structure a chapter. This was the kind of thing I am looking for.

    His suggestions were.

    1. Introduce a sensory element to engage the reader. (No more than a couple of lines)
    2. Get to dialogue and action as quickly as possible.
    3. Always keep the tension rising.
    4. Always end the chapter on a plot question.

    It was a really good watch in my opinion and you can see it here: . If you watch the video you can see many other points like goals etc are covered.

    Anyway, that seems to be a good starting point?

    Thanks @Friedrich Kugelschreiber, @Cave Troll and @Steve Rivers for your suggestions and interest.
     
  6. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    Ah, good points. Yeah it seems like a good guideline to follow. I can use my scene above as another example of how i follow that guideline and some of the thought processes I used.

    Raz approaches Stennis Space Center in a taxi that flies around it (restricted airpsace) so he can land near the perimeter.
    The Youtuber says adding a sensory item, many people call it an "establishing shot" because that's how it is done in tv/film.
    During that short flight (word-wise) I introduce elements that I wanted to use to ramp the danger up. At the same time using it to describe what Raz sees and establish the location, the scenery... and these.
    - Alligators. He flies over the wildlife reserves that borders it. Knowing he is in the 'authentic deep south' he wonders about if there are alligators in the rivers below.
    - Height. He sees the test rocket stands, points out they are over 20-40 stories high, and doesn't like the idea of being stuck so high up if things go pear-shaped.
    - Fire Noticies the gigantic funnels that direct the fire of the rockets (basically i describe the test stands for the two points I wanted.)

    So in that first few paragraphs, I established three items to the reader that I didn't describe him actually being afraid of, but they will naturally see as dangerous. That's before I even got to my problem list in my previous post.

    After landing and getting to the fence, I got a bit of banter in between him and Namazu (getting to the dialogue) because it then leads naturally into them discussing their "Plan"... which allowed me to actually NOT explain the plan (so the scene was mostly SHOW not TELL, i think that's another important thing that the video didn't mention - keep a bit of mystery about stuff if you can. Explaining everything in an adventure scene will steal it from being adventurous) But it did let me use that previous material I told you about, of them explaining plans I had chucked away, to highlight their competence. Readers naturally want to read about competent, pro-active characters. If something goes tits up, the reader wont look down on the characters if they also tried their hardest.

    With each problem they passed (getting past the electric fence, then using the side of a lorry to hide themselves from cameras) I built the tension up.
    Ironically, i did that by denigrating the very first one - the electric fence. I told the reader it was basically to keep muppets/everyday chancers out. But, doing that allowed me to point out the reason for that was because -all- the other security stuff was so utterly amazeballs, that's why NASA (in 100 years) didn't care so much about an actual fence. I used the electric fence as a fall guy to big up the ones that would come - increasing tension.

    With a couple problems passed, I pointed out Raz' fear of how things might go if things buggered up from -that- point. Having a character with a healthy dose of fear and not being a superman helps build the tension. You dont have to go overboard, but just basic notes/beats here and there.

    Height - When they got to the room in the test stand and uploaded the file (at the highest point, 12 floors up) with the one line at the very start of the scene, it set up the tension - that's when things go pear-shaped. Lights turned on, they could hear sirens - shit was hitting the fan and he had to race down flights of stairs just to start moving away (enemies getting close while he is stranded in essentially the same spot).

    Fire - Even when he gets to the bottom, he needs his partner, Namazu to give him ideas of how to get away. This lends itself well to the reader A) liking Nam because she's pro-active and B) Makes you feel Raz's helplessness, even tho he is still pro-active in wanting to escape. As i mentioned in the previous post - she then turns on the rocket to block the quickest route for the security robots, giving Raz the time he needs to make a getaway (in a golf buggy essentially heh) But the golf buggy is a worker transport basically. I made it that because it is SLOWWWWW. The security cars are FAST. And the rocket turning on starts deafening him because he isn't far enough away and isnt getting away fast enough. It starts to super heat the air and makes him fear he is going to get burned, it also rattles the golf buggy, which is already struggling going over the bumpy,lumpy grassy field. Hinder hinder hinder. Hinderance builds tension. Will he make it to the tree line? Will the tree line even save him? Questions without stating them are key in building tension. The rocket suddenly stops, relieving Raz, literally and emotionally slightly, but it was the AI that stopped it! Did it hack Nam and get through to her connection? Worry! No, she replies, she disconnected the moment she turned the rocket on. The fire has gone, his impending roasting has gone, Nam is now safe... but the security cars have now had their hinderance removed - the chase is back on! Tension removed, tension added. Another, more subtle thing to this segment, is the subconcious thought that it wasn't them that stopped the fire roasting - it was the AI. They aren't in control of the situation. And it isnt a Deus Ex Machina moment, because the AI wanted its own obstacle removed. Raz and Nam are -not- in control of the situation, they're just managing it as best they can - that's another important element to building tension.

    Alligators - Once they get passed the airspace barrier, Namazu has hacked an air taxi, stolen it, and arrives to pick Raz up. But even then, ... drones! The AI has sent drones out in all directions to search for them. Fast little buggers, and they might work out which direction they fled from the ground car Namazu used to bash in the electric fence to GET to the edge of the airspace. So she comes up with a plan of using the air taxi as a decoy. She plans to get Raz a fair bit of distance away, drop him off, and sends the taxi on autopilot past the drones, to make them think they're still in it.
    But there's no time to waste! Seconds count, it was barely a minute or so ago since they left the ground car, the drones have found it! It wont be long before one finds them, they need to distract the drones and make them chase after something NOW. This air taxi is the closest thing... and they're high up.
    Raz, you have to jump out into the river, to save time so we can do the decoy plan.

    River... YOU MEAN THOSE THINGS WITH ALLIGATORS IN!? no no no non on on ononononono!
    Scene ends with him jumping.

    It sounds more contrived when I explain it, but when you read it as a scene - because of the fast pace, and the stuff that came before it, - you go with it and feel the tension and her plan makes sense.

    So, from setting up the rising tension of getting deeper and deeper into the complex/facility, I then frustrate the characters by stranding Raz high and dry, nearly burn him, nearly have Namazu get traced by the AI, and then drop Raz into the thing he would naturally fear most ...that I mentioned first.. alligators. Normally I also have them come away with some sort of injury/problem/hinderance for the future, but the act of them failing to actually achieve their goal how they wanted it (they were meant to be in and out like a ghost) leads to hard consequences.

    How did Yoda say it? Hinderance leads to frustration, frustration leads to helplessness, helplessness leads to tension.

    So if you look at the Youtubers guide, i followed it almost to the letter. I didn't jump to the dialogue as quickly as he suggests though, because I wanted to introduce more elements, set the scene more, and Namazu being there would distract the reader from those elements, due to her personality.
    But taking into account fears, problems, and how the reader will see/think of your characters, and imagining themselves in their shoes is pretty key to the process. Making mental notes (or actual notes) of showing physical examples of these (previous plans/competance, things not going their way/helplessness) and making sure you include them is the important bit.

    So again, hope some of that gives you some food for thought, Rich :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
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  7. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    * Tease the reader with something unknown in a strange world to be exposed later. Adventure mixes well with mystery.
    * Something bad happens unless stopped. Now they go on an epic journey.
    * The villain's motives are exposed. Have to do it in order to survive or has another belief.
    * Fragile alliances bond against common enemies. One wrong word and you're exposed as a liar.
    * Expose the unknown using different explanations from different opposing viewpoints.
    * Someone dies or goes missing.
    * Main characters learn a life leason that concludes the mini-arc to make it memorable.
     
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  8. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    Well, this is how not to do it. But, how much better are my stories. :eek:

    I have written a chapter after reading your advice, I will post it later and you can discuss it? Don't forget your scalpels and forceps!
     

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