January 15th, 2014

Crossing Physical Barriers in Fiction – Part 2

By Tiffany Lawson Inman

Well gosh, I started to write this blog and realized I jumped the gun during Crossing Physical Barriers in Fiction Part One, when I opened these two topics:

  • Emotional intensity of fictional fights
  • The moment before the fight

medium_9925230863Completely skipping the moment before the actual writing of the fight.  EEK! The need to prepare the writer before the fight is just as important as preparing your character!  So, please forgive me, I’ll be backing up for Part Two, to show you how to wrap wrists, grease face, and secure your writer-jock-strap before sitting down at your computer to write a fight.

So-to-speak…

For most writers crossing the Physical Barrier is a daunting task. Almost as intimidating as  Crossing the Emotional Barrier!

I said almost.

Why is it so hard?

It could be one or a few of the following fears:

  • The writer has never been in a physical altercation in his/her lifetime
  • The writer has a hard time visualizing realistic choreography
  • The writer fails to understand how to incorporate the many elements that go into writing a quality fight
  • The writer doesn’t know the many elements that go into writing a quality fight
  • The writer’s level of confidence is low because of the above four elements

Let me help erase those fears.

What? You want me to finally stand up to my garbage-can-stealing-neighbor and get into a scuffle so I have fighting experience under my belt?

No, I do not want you to get into a fight. But, I do think if you increase your knowledge of writing action and violent action, you won’t have such a hard time approaching a fight. And your readers will thank you for it!

When reading, editing, writing, acting, or directing an action/fight scene, my theatrically charged brain automatically knows:

  • how to develop character goal and when to show or not to show throughout the scene
  • the psychology behind the fight
  • what reaction should come next
  • if emotions are missing
  • what your character isn’t showing and should be showing
  • when to use internalization/voice infused commentary, and when not to
  • where to incorporate setting, props, and description into the action
  • when your characters should speak and the power behind argumentative dialogue and body language
  • how to use rhythm and cadence to enforce pace
  • how to incorporating gender roles and character’s past
  • why some choreography works and some does not.

With practice, research, and training with an experienced instructor you will have a handle on those elements too.

If you are not ready to take a writing course on writing action and violent action, the next best thing would be to get your writing blood moving and read read read read read a variety of good active fiction.

  • Read
  • Dissect
  • Analyze
  • Apply

Here is a snippet of raw fighting from Veronica Roth’s bestselling, Divergent to get you started.  Roth shows us a very logical fight scene.  Her cause/effect (stimulation/response) is flawless and she keeps the reader connected through every moment. There is an interesting use of internalization/vocal commentary throughout this fight. Not something to use in every fight, but it seems to work for this scene because the fight is a form of training for the character and it is not a life or death situation.  I will show you the excerpt in full before I jump in to dissect.

**************

I block the next punch with my forearm. The blow stings, but I barely notice it. She grits her teeth and lets out a frustrated groan, more animal-sounding than human.

She tries a sloppy kick at my side, which I dodge, and while her balance is off, I rush forward and force my elbow up at her face. She pulls her head back just in time, and my       elbow grazes her chin.

 She punches me in the ribs and I stumble to the side, recovering my breath.

There’s something she’s not protecting, I know it. I want to hit her face, but maybe that’s not a smart move. I watch her for a few seconds. Her hands are too high; they guard her nose and cheeks, leaving her stomach and ribs exposed. Molly and I have the same flaw in combat.

Our eyes meet for just a second.

I aim an uppercut low, below her bellybutton. My fist sinks into her flesh forcing a heavy breath from her mouth that I feel against my ear.

As she gasps, I sweep-kick her legs out from under her and she falls hard on the ground, sending dust into the air. I pull my foot back and kick as hard as I can at her ribs.

My mother and father would not approve of my kicking someone when she’s down.

I don’t care.

medium_3371117777

Ok, I am jumping in!

I block the next punch with my forearm. The blow stings, but I barely notice it. She grits her teeth and lets out a frustrated groan, more animal-sounding than human.

  • We see both characters reactions to the blocked punch
  • Auditory imagery. Bonus!

She tries a sloppy kick at my side, which I dodge, and while her balance is off, I rush forward and force my elbow up at her face. She pulls her head back just in time, and my elbow grazes her chin.

  • She creates more tension by showing us a swing and almost miss. A good thing to remember – the action is always moving forward but by bobbing in the middle ground a bit you can create intrigue.  Make the reader sweat!

She punches me in the ribs and I stumble to the side, recovering my breath.

  • Showing reality based recovery time!
  • Not everyone remembers that characters breathe.

There’s something she’s not protecting, I know it. I want to hit her face, but maybe that’s not a smart move. I watch her for a few seconds. Her hands are too high; they guard her nose and cheeks, leaving her stomach and ribs exposed. Molly and I have the same flaw in combat.

  • Mood enhancing internalizations.
  • We also get a moment to analyze the picture with her.

Our eyes meet for just a second.

I aim an uppercut low, below her bellybutton. My fist sinks into her flesh forcing a heavy breath from her mouth that I feel against my ear.

  • Vivid imagery
  • Active imagery. 
  • Shows us how hard the hit was without having to say “I hit her really hard.”
  • Gave the reader knowledge of their positioning

As she gasps, I sweep-kick her legs out from under her and she falls hard on the ground, sending dust into the air. I pull my foot back and kick as hard as I can at her ribs.

My mother and father would not approve of my kicking someone when she’s down.

I don’t care.

  • surprising the reader and herself with a change in character

Didn’t it feel like we were in the front row for that fight?  I wish I could have shown you more. Easy fix – go buy the book!  I’ve seen more embellished fights that I’ve liked just as much, but for this scene, her simplistic style works. Because she nailed each movement, I am thinking that Veronica Roth probably did her homework and got physical before writing that scene, don’t you think?

Next up is a new favorite of mine, Romily Bernard. Her book, Find Me, isn’t jam packed with violence like Divergent, but when Bernard writes a fight, it counts!  I will show you the snippet in full first, then I will dive in for a dissection. For the purposes of not being a spoiler for Bernard’s book, I am changing the bad guy’s name to, um, Flynn. Yeah, Flynn. (I happen to have my copy of Gone Girl on my desk.)

Another step closer and I swing. The lamp base connects with his nose, and there’s a sickening crunching noise. Flynn screams, lashes out. I duck, but I’m not fast enough, and his hand digs into my hair.

“You little b*@(!!” he hisses, and yanks me to him. The lamp base’s corner has torn his cheek wide open, exposing a seam of teeth. “You will f*#&ing pay for that!”

I kick, connect with his knee, then his shin. He sucks in a hard breath, and I register one horrifying heartbeat before Flynn punches me in the face.

Once.

Twice.

Stars explode behind my eyes and warmth courses down my face. Blood. But no pain. Not yet. That will come later. Sticky heat floods my face, the shock making me hesitate.

It’s all the opening he needs.

Flynn half kicks, half pushes me onto the floor. I fall on my back, rolling even before I fully connect. 

****************

Ok, I am jumping in!

Another step closer and I swing. The lamp base connects with his nose, and there’s a sickening crunching noise. Flynn screams, lashes out. I duck, but I’m not fast enough, and his hand digs into my hair.

  • Great use of an impromptu weapon
  • Vivid auditory effect
  • Perfect stimulation/response (pain, scream, retaliate)
  • You’ll have to take my class to see what I think of using the word “but” within an action sequence. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not.
  • Specific body parts always give great visuals

“You little b*#(@!” he hisses, and yanks me to him. The lamp base’s corner has torn his cheek wide open, exposing a seam of teeth. “You will F@&%ing pay for that!”

  • Simple and emotion packed dialogue placed when it is obvious he has second to say them when he is in control of her hair
  • Quick vocal/dialogue cue
  • Surveying the damage using power words: torn, exposing, teeth
  • Simple and very believable in-the-heat-of-the-moment dialogue

I kick, connect with his knee, then his shin.

  • Basic and fast paced action
  • Showing she is fighting back

He sucks in a hard breath, and I register one horrifying heartbeat before Flynn punches me in the face.

Once.

Twice.

  • Noting stimulation/response with hard breath, not just a breath
  • Well placed and tight character commentary on the inter-workings on how she perceives the action
  • Wonderful use of white space! We didn’t need a detailed account of each punch, this shows exactly what the reader needs to know and the author can save bunches of details for other bits of action

Stars explode behind my eyes and warmth courses down my face. Blood. But no pain. Not yet. That will come later. Sticky heat floods my face, the shock making me hesitate.

  • Great cadence
  • Love the choppiness of the lines here. She keeps the detail without all the wordiness that would have gunked up her pacing.
  • Vivid fresh imagery: sticky heat

It’s all the opening he needs.

Flynn half kicks, half pushes me onto the floor.

  • Impressive that Bernard didn’t find need to show exact actions here. Fights aren’t perfect because the characters involved haven’t planned their actions ahead of time. If you are able to write it intelligibly, chaos is welcome.

I fall on my back, rolling even before I fully connect.

  • Showing and action within an action without using the typical words for simultaneous action. Bravo!

*****************

Fun stuff, right?!?  Do you think you are ready to read as-much- action-as-possible to prepare yourself for writing a fight?

But wait, there’s more!

Here is a list of a few extra’s to think on when you are on your action journey to read, dissect, analyze, and apply:

  • Did the fight go as planned?
  • Could you see the surroundings as they were fighting?
  • What new bit of info did you find out about the characters during the action
  • Were you surprised by a character’s action?
  • How did the author keep the suspense throughout the fight?
  • How did the author show the character’s vulnerabilities?

I know in Crossing Physical Barriers Part One I promised this blog was to be about dissecting fight scenes to show a few different ways to show the levels of emotional intensity. My apologies for the delay, I will just have to do a Part Three, yeah?

Thank you again for joining me at WITS today. Always a treat for me to get to throw down some fiction craft and get to socialize with committed writers. Thank you thank you!

For those of you drooling at the chance to get your name in the hat 2x for participating in the mini-challenge assignment, THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY! Today’s mini-challenge assignment is to write a 150 word (or less) hand-to-hand altercation between two characters, bonus points if you involve an impromptu weapon. And as per usual, I will be your teacher for the day and provide feedback and edits!

Today’s comment drawing winner gets…a free slot in one of my upcoming courses!

Tiffany Lawson Inman

Tiffany Lawson Inman

Tiffany Lawson Inman claimed a higher education at Columbia College Chicago. There, she learned to use body and mind together for action scenes, character emotion, and dramatic story development.

She teaches Action, Choreography, Emotional Impact, Violence, and Dialogue for Lawson Writer’s Academy, presents hands-on-action workshops, and will be offering webinars in 2014.

As a freelance editor, she provides deep story analysis, content editing, line by line, and dramatic fiction editing services. Stay tuned to WITS to see Tiffany’s upcoming guest blogs, classes, contests, and lecture packets.

Check out her previous blogs on WITS.

You can also find her on Twitter – follow @NakedEditor.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesdphotography/3371117777/”>JamesDPhotography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

74 comments to Crossing Physical Barriers in Fiction – Part 2

  • This is great stuff, Tiffany! Going on my keeper shelf for sure.

  • I grew up with four siblings, so I know the basics of combat. (lol) Thanks for breaking down the fight scenes into digestible bites. I always find good stuff here!

  • I’m a former professional fighter and screenwriter. To write about a fight, close your eyes and visualize extreme fear, like this could be the end of your life. You are a deer in the wild and that cougar that is inches behind will finish you.

    A very realistic fight scene is in the movie EASTERN PROMISES. The fight scene in the washroom is very brutal, the grunts and gasping, the desperation. It was far from pretty, which is reality.

  • morgynstarz

    Mini-challenge Setup. POV is 16 year old girl who has just stopped the abduction of a “working girl” by a stranger. Setting: the stable of the Inn she’s staying at. She’s just dropped the cinch on his saddle and heaved him and saddle off his horse.

    Swearing, the man kicked free of his stirrups and stood.
    Steel sang as he ripped a knife from its sheath.
    Months, since my last training session with Aryren.
    I’d forgotten the rush of blood through my veins.
    The aisle, too tight for Aryren’s sword. I grabbed a pitchfork and waited for him to get on it.
    He charged, his face a grimace of sheer pissedness.
    The all-in feint labeled him as a servant, not a blade trained member of the upper class. He slung the knife like a cook decapitating a cabbage, grunting with each slash and lunge.
    I backed a circle, waiting.
    Too broad, each swipe. No style. No balance.
    Not ready when I pinned his boot to the ground with the tines of the fork.
    He lurched, grabbing for the pitchfork.
    My fist. His chin. He went down, arms flailing, howling, bleeding.

    • morgynstarz,

      Yahoo! Thank you for participating in the mini-challenge.

      I will have your feedback to you by tomorrow evening and I am putting your name in the magic hat, twice 🙂 I applaud your bravery for being the first one off the blocks today. Thank you thank you.

      • morgynstarz

        Your sandlot, always welcoming. Delighted to having something for you to ‘play’ with!

        • Awesome!!!!!!!!!!

          This was so much fun, yes, indeed. Thank you for letting me play!

          Mini-challenge Setup. POV is 16 year old girl who has just stopped the abduction of a “working girl” by a stranger. Setting: the stable of the Inn she’s staying at. She’s just dropped the cinch on his saddle and heaved him and saddle off his horse.
          ——-Before we even begin the fight, I have to ask if it is truly feasible for this 16 year old girl to heave a grown man and saddle off of a horse. Could we see her fearlessness and anger as she struggles to do everything she can and successfully pull him off? I am just preparing you for what a reader might be thinking. You want everything to be believable or the reader will have an irritated tickle in their brain for the rest of the scene or, yikes, the rest of the story.

          Swearing, the man kicked free of his stirrups and stood.
          Steel sang as he ripped a knife from its sheath.

          –Oops, this is backwards stimulation/response. Yes, even though you used simultaneity, as, which is a no no in action, or anywhere in your book, really. What makes it backwards? Well, the fact that linearly on the page, the steel sings before it is ripped from its sheath. Make sense?

          –What I like about the line is, the steel singing (even though it is kind of cliché) and the power word, ripped. You are showing the knife can already do damage before you show it doing damage.

          Months, since my last training session with Aryren.

          –This isn’t a sentence that shows anything.
          –After his knife comes out we need an immediate reaction from her. Either visceral or physical. Then she can think.

          I’d forgotten the rush of blood through my veins.

          –You might be thinking, “But this is her reaction to the knife.” Nope. It is a thought about a reaction, but we are missing the actual reaction of the blood rushing through veins.
          –Also, think about how many times you have read blood rushing through veins in a novel. A lot, right? So, push yourself to write something unique to her character, the theme of the book, the situation, the setting or physical description etc. What else can you show us about the character with this reaction? —–Something like: Aryren stepped back, slamming herself against the barn door. The sound of his knife still slicing the air. Heat rippled through her skin warming her vest and petticoat.
          —Okay, slightly cheesy, possibly over-done. BUT, my point is in how I showed the reader setting, movement, visceral, physical description, etc.

          The aisle, too tight for Aryren’s sword. I grabbed a pitchfork and waited for him to get on it.
          —If Aryren is the protagonist/girl, then there we go from Third to First person here.
          —If Aryren is the man, then you have swapped from Knife to Sword.
          —The line, “The aisle, too tight for Aryren’s sword.” Only implies that she has a sword and can’t use it. But the line doesn’t show anything. Show us an attempt at the sword, or at least that she has a sword and is forced to move on to an impromptu weapon from the barn. Think action action action with each line in this fight, how can you show action?
          —The line, “I grabbed a pitchfork and waited for him to get on it.” Threw me for a loop. I got an immediate visual in my head of a man jumping onto a pitch fork as if it were a chairlift at a ski-resort. Speed bump for me.
          — Since she is a trained swordsman, I think it would be interesting to get a quick glimpse of what she feels like with such a primitive weapon in her hands. Just at thought 

          The all-in feint labeled him as a servant, not a blade trained member of the upper class.

          — Because of the wording here, this line is telling us about action that has happened already, but the reader doesn’t get to witness it. We need to see him feint a knife blow, show us the actual action as if you were giving an eye-witness account/commentary on the fight.
          –Something like: The man stumbled forward with his knife in an awkward grip, attempting an all-in feint, immediately labeling himself as a servant.

          –Nice touch by evaluating his fighting skills from her pov, it shows that she is obviously skilled.

          He slung the knife like a cook decapitating a cabbage, grunting with each slash and lunge.

          —Best active description EVER! The line has humor and I can visualize it perfectly. NICE!!!

          I backed a circle, waiting.

          –NICE!!

          Too broad, each swipe. No style. No balance.

          — I enjoyed the rhythm here. We also might need an active reaction to his sloppy style. It seems that this slop actually angers her (love the attitude) and to see it would enhance her character nicely.

          Not ready when I pinned his boot to the ground with the tines of the fork.

          —Oops, this is another spot where you describe the action as if it has already happened and the reader doesn’t get to see the action as it is happening.
          –Unclear if you have actually stabbed through the boot. We would need a pained reaction from him, if yes.

          He lurched, grabbing for the pitchfork.
          —Perfect.

          My fist. His chin. He went down, arms flailing, howling, bleeding.
          –I like the style you use here, even still, I think we might need a little more description of the action and emotion from her in addition to these lines.
          ——————————-

          —-Phew, okay. We did it! Now, breathe. I know I tagged almost everything in here and gave you suggestions on how to make it more clear for the reader. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. So, my instructions are to put it away. Go for a walk. Eat a snack. Watch an action packed movie. Then come back to it. Read through my edits again, push up your sleeves, and write the fight.
          —Thank you so much for trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Stay tuned and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.
          –And hopefully, I will see you next month in class! Playtime would last ALL MONTH LONG! I would really like to read more of this kickbutt girl that has a skilled hand at sword fighting.

  • I love your practical posts and i would really love to get in on one of your classes. So here goes a modified scene from my current WIP:
    He walks toward her with measured steps. Like a rabbit frozen by the gaze of a wolf, Rae stares.
    His words are gibberish, but they are enough to break through her trance. She pushes herself to the side. Rough bark snatches at her clothes before tearing free.
    She manages two strides before his attack slams her to the ground, forcing the air from her lungs. Gasping, her fingers curl into the blanket of leaves and close around something hard.
    He flips her to her back, his body pinning her. His eyes bore into hers, hot with desire.
    Blood roars in her ears as her vision dims. Straining for air, her hand tightens on the rock in her fist and swings. Sweet oxygen rushes into her lungs
    A red stain seeps through the mud marring his temple. His face registers shock a moment before he topples to the side.

    • Another participant so early in the day. Happy day for me 🙂

      Thank you for participating, Kate. Your name is in the hat twice and I will be dropping your feedback into a comment sometime tomorrow before I draw a winner. Thank you!

    • Thank you for letting me play, Kate. I hope you feel the same love for my posts AFTER I edit 🙂 Here goes!
      ——————-
      He walks toward her with measured steps.

      —-I like the intention of the action, however it’s delivery falls flat. Measured steps is a cliche and using a “with a…” phrase… well, I wrote an entire blog about it on here a year ago called Worse Than a Cliche Feel free to look at my archives and give it a read 🙂

      Like a rabbit frozen by the gaze of a wolf, Rae stares.

      —- oooh I like it! Is there anyway you can add in a mini surge of visceral reaction after this? It would compliment nicely.

      His words are gibberish, but they are enough to break through her trance.

      — aww the reader wants to be a witness to the trance breaking, instead of being told about it. The gibberish is a cool effect and will have greater impact if you show the feeling she has as she tries to comprehend and then has the pop of her body going from frozen to I-gotta-get-the-f-out-of-here!

      She pushes herself to the side.

      —I like the fact that you use pushes herself as the action here. It shows that she is still struggling to move properly. Hmmm…to the side. Could you swap this with a specific location? She pushes herself where? What chunk of setting can you show us here?

      —Also, If she is walking towards her, why isn’t she scrambling backwards or away from him? To the side was a bit of a speed bump for me.

      Rough bark snatches at her clothes before tearing free.

      —Great power word, snatches. Thumbs up!

      —before tearing free is a backwards way of telling us she is still moving. Any before or but or other similar phrasing will turn your active line into a telling one.
      If you want her to move, show it.

      —ah, but! Yes there is a but here. The fact that you say tearing free is a contradiction to what is happening in the scene. She is NOT free. Using that phrase is a mental tease to the writer. We need to see her conflict get worse and worse.

      She manages two strides before his attack slams her to the ground, forcing the air from her lungs.

      —Oops! Another before phrase! Strive to show us an accurate description of the action sequence. This phrasing pulls the reader out of the story and reminds us this is not happening in real time. You want your reader to feel as close to the action as possible.
      —slams her to the ground forcing air from her lungs – woot woot!

      Gasping, her fingers curl into the blanket of leaves and close around something hard.

      —I like everything that happens in this line except that they happen together. I want her struggle to breathe to be bigger and more dangerous.
      —hmmm…the word curl is to soft and slow. Every word you use counts towards the heart-pounding-factor in a fight scene. One off word and the reader relaxes.
      —The same can be said about sentence structure.

      He flips her to her back, his body pinning her.

      —NICE!!

      His eyes bore into hers, hot with desire.

      —Uh oh! A cliche coupled with a “with” phrase. You already know how I feel about that. Push yourself to write original!

      Blood roars in her ears as her vision dims.

      —Nix the simultaneity here and show the stimulus/response happening one after the other. As is a killer of action.

      Straining for air, her hand tightens on the rock in her fist and swings.

      —I see that straining for air could happen before she tightens her hand on the rock, but, straining for air doesn’t enable her to tighten her hand on the rock and swing. The punctuation you have here, says otherwise.

      —Think of a way he can have one more action that make her situation worse, since all he is doing right now is pinning her down, give us another visual of increased danger. THEN the increased danger is what motivates her to grab tight and swing. Make sense?

      Sweet oxygen rushes into her lungs

      —LOVE!

      A red stain seeps through the mud marring his temple. His face registers shock a moment before he topples to the side.

      —OOps! You showed us the blood before the shock. Swap these two lines an you have a better sequence of action.

      —Hmmm you also used “to the side” again. Give us a gripping snapshot of the entire picture here. Use your setting!

      —————–

      —Did we do it? Yes, we did it! Okay, well, I did it. Now it’s your turn! 🙂

      Are you breathing? Yup, I tagged almost everything in here and gave you a million suggestions on how to make it more of a heart pounding and clear scene for the character AND the reader.

      I know it can be a shock for someone to dig this hard into your work. So, my instructions are to put it away. Go workout. Take a nice long shower. Then come back to it. Read through my edits again, push up your sleeves, and write the figght!

      Remember while I edit, I am loyal only to bettering your scene and writing craft. I won’t be doing you any favors if I’m too soft on the edit to spare feelings. And I won’t hesitate to give kudos where kudos is deserved!

      Thank you for trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.

      I’d love to see you in February’s Action and Fighting class. My heart is still pounding a bit for your character. I need to know if she survives!!!

      • Thanks for your edit! I am not think skinned (anymore) so your word are welcome. Some parts you mentioned were because of setting elements that i deleted to get to 150 words, but I can see how to tweak them. I will have to look up some of your older blogs to see what i missed. Thanks again!

  • alinakfield

    This is a timely post for me, since I’m making agonizing progress on a fight scene. Here’s a mini-challenge scene. Not exactly hand-to-hand, since both characters are armed:

    She choked back a scream. The wiring had caught. This was the wiring. One candle couldn’t have sped so quickly. She had to get out.
    To her left, smoke poured from the utility room. If she ran that way, he would shoot her in the back. If she went to her right through the kitchen, she could jump the flames and go over the ceramic-tiled foyer through the front door. If she could get by him.
    She couldn’t stay wedged in this corner like a center mass target.
    The utility room door was closer. As soon as Ellie dashed out, Laffley whipped around. She ducked and fired two rounds, and he fired back. Pain nicked her arm again, pushing her into the washing machine, knocking the gun from her hand. Next to her, a basket of clothes licked into flames. She grabbed them and threw them at Laffley.
    He knocked them away and advanced through the smoke. Ellie clawed the floor looking for her gun. The wall behind the washer crackled and smoked and she remember—the gas line ran through there.
    She had to get out.
    She looked up into the barrel of Laffley’s gun. Again.

    • anlinakfield, I am saddened to hear you are agonizing over something that could be so fun. In time, in time. 🙂

      I’m dropping your name in the hat twice and will have your feedback posted before the drawing. In the meantime. Practice visualizing what you want this fight and chase should look like.

      Thank you so much for joining the mini-challenge!

    • Well, Alina, I will strive to make this process as least agonizing as possible…but I can’t make any promises. Sometimes editing hurts. Take an aspirin!

      Here goes!

      She choked back a scream.

      —Nice and simple. It works.

      The wiring had caught. This was the wiring.

      — To make it more immediate, The wiring caught reads better without “had.”

      —I’m confused on the second line. It doesn’t make sense to me now, but maybe if I knew your story I’d get it. Is she looking at the wiring? Is she connected somehow? Think about the picture you are trying to give the reader and it should come to you.

      One candle couldn’t have sped so quickly.

      —Are you implying that the room is now dark? If yes, then we need to see the stimulus before the response. Room goes dark, then she can panic and think about it. Visceral before physical and before thoughts.

      She had to get out.

      —I like it because it is simple and straightforward, also kind of like a peptalk to herself. The reader has just leaned in a bit to see how she is going to reach her goal.

      To her left, smoke poured from the utility room.

      —-Is this affecting how she can breathe? If yes, then we need to feel the smoke and her struggle. We also might need a visceral fear reaction if the smoke and struggle isn’t there to help fuel the danger.

      —-BTW, awesome for putting a fire and a shootout in the same scene. High-five!!!

      If she ran that way, he would shoot her in the back. If she went to her right through the kitchen, she could jump the flames and go over the ceramic-tiled foyer through the front door. If she could get by him.

      ——This section is pretty wordy for something that seems matter-of-fact. The reader needs to see what a dangerous predicament she is in, and how it is affecting her mentally and physically. Question you need the answer to: Does she know where he is exactly? Depending on what you want to happen in the scene, I believe it’s got to be either 1. She knows where he is and can hear him coming or knows he is seconds away from pulling the trigger, or 2. She doesn’t know where he is and there are noises and movement around her that she has to decipher as him or the destruction of the building she is in.

      —keep in mind I am editing blind – sorry – I don’t know your character and I don’t know your story. This means I have to be very broad with my questioning. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to ask your self questions throughout the writing process, no matter what you think you know about your own story *wink wink

      —Either way the sequence of action needs to be active even if has thoughts thrown in. We need to feel like the world is crumbling around her and to top it off she might get shot. Obviously this section will also show a lot about her character and how she handles stress. This means you need to include reactions.

      She couldn’t stay wedged in this corner like a center mass target.

      —Need something to help us feel her panic and to see her decision to move.

      The utility room door was closer.

      As soon as Ellie dashed out, Laffley whipped around.

      —oops! You said the utility room was closer but you never showed her move towards it. “As soon as,” is a back telling phrase that doesn’t allow us the pleasure of witnessing the action as it happens. Pretty much you are saying here is some action that already happened and here is what happened after that. Action scenes are about showing action as it happens and allowing the reader to experience it with your character. No worries, that is an easy fix since you already know what action you want to show.

      —Another question and again it’s because I don’t know character, story, or the beginning of the scene AND because the scene as it’s written, doesn’t show me enough. Does she see him whip around? Why is he turned a different direction? Does she make noise when she dashes and that is why he turned around? The reader needs to know the answers to these questions.

      She ducked and fired two rounds, and he fired back.

      —Is she ducking behind something? Perfect op to show us more setting. Snap us a full active picture right here!

      Pain nicked her arm again,

      —Again? So she is already injured? Awesome! Scroll up to where she is looking at the house crumbling around her and thinking about her escape route – ADD IN PAIN. This will be another great factor to have fueling the conflict build in the scene.

      pushing her into the washing machine, knocking the gun from her hand.

      —-As it’s written with this punctuation it reads as if the pain both pushed her into the washing machine and knocked the gun from her hand. I could be wrong but it seems as if you meant for it to read as if the washing machine knocked the gun from her hand.

      Next to her, a basket of clothes licked into flames. She grabbed them and threw them at Laffley.

      —-Awesome – she is desperate and ready to use anything. This is a great place to have the character emotionally. Can you find a way to show a spark of panic when she loses her gun? This will help us see her emotional state before she throws flaming laundry.

      —Here is a knit-picky question I have to ask because it means the difference between being desperate and a little nuts or desperate and smart – does she through the clothes from out of the basket, or did she throw the entire basket? I think this needs to be clear for the reader.

      He knocked them away and advanced through the smoke.

      —Need a reaction from Ellie here before she claws for gun. Also if the smoke and fire is that bad, I want us to feel it! Increase the panic.

      —Also need to know how far away he is. Advancing through the smoke doesn’t give us enough to work off of.

      Ellie clawed the floor looking for her gun.

      —If she is clawing then would she be feeling for her gun? How thick is the smoke?

      The wall behind the washer crackled and smoked and she remembered—the gas line ran through there.

      She had to get out.

      —I like the repetition of this line. I’d actually like to see it one more time maybe placed between the first one and this one. The Power of Three!

      She looked up into the barrel of Laffley’s gun.

      —We are missing a beat here. She has to get out, then she needs to make a move, and THEN she ends up with the gun in her face.

      —During this move we need to see her decision to leave the gun and run or crawl to safety. The reader need to think for just a second that she is going to succeed. Then when they see the gun in her face it’s all the more thrilling.

      Again.

      —LOVE that you added this in. I’m assuming she has already been in this position? Nice placement.

      ————-

      Okay okay, I’ll stop. Can you believe how much I had to say about a 197 word scene? Yup, that is what it takes!! Especially for fight scene edits. Pacing and emotion and suspense force the writer to work extra hard to put everything together clearly and in the right order, using the perfect words.

      No pressure, though, right? LOL!

      I’m tired after that one. My brain was on super-speed trying to think of all the things that could happen to her.

      I definitely think there are some fantastic spots for juicy and intense reactions from her in this scene. If the scene is longer than this, which I am betting it is, then think about revving up the reaction meter on the whole thing.

      Yup, I know, I just kept digging, didn’t I?! Take a break. Don’t read it again for a day. Go to the shooting range or take yourself to a skating rink. Whatever you do, don’t come back to this for an a day…or two! Then come back to it. Read through my edits again, push up your sleeves, and write the fight!

      Yours especially needs the timing to be perfect since you have TWO external factors in play.

      Remember while I edit, I am loyal only to bettering your scene and writing craft. I won’t be doing you any favors if I’m too soft on the edit to spare feelings. But, I won’t hesitate to give kudos where kudos are deserved!

      I’m so lucky you 10 writers are trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.

      Maybe I’ll see more of this action packed scene in my class next month. Crossing my fingers I get to play again!

  • Love your breakdowns that really show how a sequence works. 🙂 Makes me step back and go, “Hmmm.” Thank you so much!

    As you know from class, I love me some Romily Bernard!

  • Reblogged this on NAKED EDITOR. DRAMATIC EDITING. and commented:
    Heads up. I’m Guest blogging at WritersInTheStorm today. Are you ready to write action and violence?

    For Part Two of Crossing The Physical Barrier, I will be showing you how to wrap wrists, grease the face, and secure your writer-jock-strap before sitting down at your computer to write a fight.

    Join me over at WritersInTheStorm on Wednesday and Thursday this week. http://bit.ly/FictionFighting

    And be sure to rock the mini-challenge assignment with her too! You will automatically get

    FREE EDITS

    and feedback on the assignment and your name will be in the hat, 2x to win one of these three Tiffany Lawson Inman writing courses:

    From Madness to Method: Using acting techniques to invigorate your story and make each moment Oscar worthy!

    Triple Threat Behind Writing A Scene

    Action and Fighting in Fiction: Writing Authentic Choreography With Precision and Bite

    Follow me on Twitter for updates on more blogs on writing craft and top notch writing courses. https://twitter.com/NakedEditor

  • Carlene Eye

    Any/all help is appreciated. I’m one whose never been in a fight in my life, but my novel has at least four fight scenes! I guess it was preordained that this scene has exactly 150 words in it 😉
    Carlene

    “Don’t touch my stuff if you know what’s good for you.” The new girl was about Shannon’s height, very muscular, deep voice, short chopped hair.
    “Would you like me to help you move your things?” I made my voice as pleasant as I could. I wished I had time to get shoes on.
    She came off her bunk, closing in fast. “Bitch. I said don’t touch my stuff.”
    The drawer pulled free from the dresser. I swung it. Hard. Into her face.
    Socks and bras flew. The drawer shattered.
    I gripped the drawer handles still attached to the front plate with splinters from the shattered sides. I swung it again, edge first, into her face. She went down.
    Shannon stood on my left. Christina next to her. The three of us waited.
    The new girl sat up and held the left side of her face. Skin hung from her cheekbone.

    • Carlene Eye

      Help: What does “awating moderation” mean?
      Carlene

      • I think they have a filter on the comments so as to not let spam through. But I see your post above, it just took a little longer to post by a handful of hours. No biggy, looks like it happened to a few folks.

        Thank you for posting, Carlene! The drawing will either be on Thurs night or Friday morning and your fighting edits will be posted then. Yup, your name is in the hat!

        See you in class 🙂

        • Carlene Eye

          After reading your blog, I can already see a couple of major ooops in my fight scene. I’ll wait for your input before rewriting. Thanks in advance, Carlene

    • “Don’t touch my stuff if you know what’s good for you.” The new girl was about Shannon’s height, very muscular, deep voice, short chopped hair.

      —–That works, now let’s add too it. Show us some bitchy body language.

      ———Need an emotion and emotional thought here, as a response to the new girl and to her appearance. Something like: my muscles surged with adrenaline and I knew I would have to prove myself to yet another girl twice my size. (or something better that goes with your story and character of course!!)

      “Would you like me to help you move your things?” I made my voice as pleasant as I could. I wished I had time to get shoes on.

      —-Ah, good!

      She came off her bunk, closing in fast. “Bitch. I said don’t touch my stuff.”

      —– Specify it was the new girl flying off the bunk instead of using She.

      The drawer pulled free from the dresser.

      —–rewrite to: I pulled a drawer free from the dresser. Otherwise it reads as if the drawer pulled itself free. Make her the master of the action.

      I swung it. Hard. Into her face.
      Socks and bras flew. The drawer shattered.

      —- LOVE LOVE LOVE!

      I gripped the drawer handles still attached to the front plate with splinters from the shattered sides. I swung it again, edge first, into her face. She went down.

      —- Awesome. I love the rhythm of the lines.

      Shannon stood on my left. Christina next to her. The three of us waited.

      —-This seems too static. We never saw them enter her space, so it might be better visually to show them moving to stand next to her. I also believe the reader would enjoy to see the buzz of anticipation / fascination surrounding all three girls as they wait to see the damage.

      The new girl sat up and held the left side of her face. Skin hung from her cheekbone.

      Nasty and wonderful all in one.

      ————————–

      Carlene, the more I read, the more I want to read. It’s a dark and gritty story, but you have added in this childlike substance to it and it makes it feel more and more dangerous.

      Thanks for letting me play with it. I hope your critique group is ok with any changes you make on account of these notes.

      And as you know, while I edit, I am loyal only to bettering your scene and writing craft. I won’t be doing you any favors if I’m too soft on the edit to spare feelings.

      I’m so lucky you 10 writers are trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.

      I think you might be sick of me by next month, but even still I’d love to have you in another class!

  • Regina Sokas

    Charlie wheeled around on one heel, putting his weight behind his arm as he backhanded me hard enough to knock me sideways. Even when I thought I remembered every last detail about what hurt felt like, turns out I could still be surprised.
    He started to walk away, expecting me to stay down. I let him wander while I caught my breath and felt the rage come up over me. That rage was so sweet the blood pooling in my mouth tasted like syrup.
    Racing, I didn’t make a sound ‘til I was breathing in his stink, launching myself at his back, howling now like a beast, and chomping down hard.
    If my mouth hadn’t been so full of ear I might have laughed when he screamed. As he fell I rolled off, jumped up and kicked him square between the eyes.
    Turns out he could be surprised, too.

    • Regina, thank you for participating! I’m super impressed with the mini-challenge turnout this month.

      I’ll announce the winner either Thursday night or Friday morning and with that will be your fiction fighting edits.

      mmmmm I may never think about syrup in the same way again! EEK!

    • Regina, I should have asked for a character and scene set up so I have a base to go off of. So keep in mind this is a blind edit. I’d have a lot more to say if I knew who what when where and why. We’ll dive into all of that during class, don’t you worry!

      Charlie wheeled around on one heel,

      —Cliche alert! When describing action it is a smoother and more clear read if you leave the cliche’s on the cutting room floor. (see what I did there….cliche!)

      —-Hard to see someone spinning on one heel with enough power to knock someone down. Usually an attacker has to be grounded to make the most impact.

      putting his weight behind his arm as he backhanded me

      —-ooops! simultaneity is a no no. Show the action as it’s happening, one event after another. No as, while, etc.

      hard enough to knock me sideways.

      —-you say hard enough TO knock me sideways, but you don’t actually show or tell us what happened.

      —-Knock me sideways is also cliche.

      —-Where does he/she land? What is their reaction? Need a reaction before the next thought. Something to show the pain, surprise, etc.

      Even when I thought I remembered every last detail about what hurt felt like, turns out I could still be surprised.

      —This is a great line! Shows voice and attitude.

      He started to walk away, expecting me to stay down.

      I let him wander while I caught my breath and felt the rage come up over me.

      —-A few too many things happening here. Vague action, Simultaneity, and vague emotional direction

      —Where is he wandering? I see that word and I’m wondering why he is walking away without a purpose. Think about what this word choice shows us. Wandering.

      —-Nix the simultaneity.

      —-I felt the rage come up over me. You are telling here and using a filter word, “felt.” I ‘d rather you use active language and show her experiencing those feelings. Come up over me is too general for my taste. I think it is more interesting to know what body part(s) are being affected.

      That rage was so sweet the blood pooling in my mouth tasted like syrup.

      —LOVE THIS LINE!

      Racing,

      —-Knowing where he/she is coming from after being knocked sideways, will help figure out what happens next. How is he/she suddenly racing after such a big blow?

      I didn’t make a sound ‘til I was breathing in his stink,

      —-Nice!!

      launching myself at his back, howling now like a beast, and chomping down hard.

      —-I see you are going for a stylistic approach with this line. I like where you are going with it. I think it could be a little more detailed and still have this type of movement.

      If my mouth hadn’t been so full of ear I might have laughed when he screamed.

      —swap the order of things here and show him scream before showing her reaction.

      As he fell I rolled off, jumped up and kicked him square between the eyes.

      —Nix the simultaneity.

      —like the simple action. Always effective.

      Turns out he could be surprised, too.

      —-LOL, I like the wit in your scene. Obviously if this wasn’t a blind edit, I’d be digging in a little deeper to your character (and pushing for a touch of setting) but I think you show quite a bit with your voice already.

      I can’t wait to dive further into your scenes when we are in class! Thank you so much for participating.

  • Thank you!!! I don’t think this topic is ever touched on enough and your comments about the fight scenes really helped me visual know what needed to be included to bring the reader closer.

    • Krystal, be sure and join me next month, I’ll most likely be writing MORE great info about writing violence. Or maybe I’ll see you in class next month. Yup, there is a lot of learning and practice behind writing action and fights. Can’t go into it with cold muscles! 🙂

  • Hey, Tiffany, please add my name to the magic hat! 🙂

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The knife took shape, the sheath hot in his fingers, the blade sharpened by his razor edged thoughts. Tempered by rage, it was a lethal weapon strong enough to kill a god. He even inscribed Kamapua’a’s name on the hilt.

    As the boar leapt at him, he lunged in the air to greet it, his knife-hand cocked and his arm wound back so tight his fist would join the blade he’d embed in Kamapua’a’s flesh. He relished the image and imagined the shriek of agony he’d soon hear coming from his enemy.

    The distance shortened between them, and Keoki pedaled his legs in the air to propel him forward. He smelled the beast’s musk and foul breath. Its tusks gleamed and saliva flew from its gaping maw as it roared. Only inches away now. Keoki’s knife sliced through the air.

    • Yahoo! So glad you joined us Karen! Name in hat, twice and will be back on here before the drawing with your edits!

      Ew, LOVE the flying saliva!!

    • The knife took shape, the sheath hot in his fingers, the blade sharpened by his razor edged thoughts.

      ——-OK, is this real? The knife really materialized from this thoughts? I can’t tell if it is really happening. Obviously if things like this materialize out of thoughts in your novel then the reader won’t have issue with it. I’m just making sure.

      Tempered by rage, it was a lethal weapon strong enough to kill a god.

      ———-Strong line. It is a wee bit too wordy, though. Saying it is lethal and that it is strong enough to kill a god are redundant. Nix the word lethal and the line has more power.

      He even inscribed Kamapua’a’s name on the hilt.

      ———-“he even” feels to chatty during a slice of action. How can you add in this detail actively?

      As the boar leapt at him,

      —–Ooops, simultaneity in action is a “no no” in my book. This slows the action because the reader is forced to visualize too many actions at the same time. We read linearly and therefore need actions to fall the same way on the page. To top it off, seeing things happen after one an other heightens pace.

      he lunged in the air to greet it,

      —-. Nice movement.

      his knife-hand cocked and his arm wound back so tight his fist would join the blade he’d embed in Kamapua’a’s flesh.

      ——-To me this is confusing, because the arm being wound back tightly doesn’t mean his fist joins the blade.

      ——–What would show this visual is if his hand was clenched tight enough that his fist joined the blade. Make sense? And if written like that – phew, it’s a great visual!

      He relished the image and imagined the shriek of agony he’d soon hear coming from his enemy.

      ——– oooh I love the word relished. We don’t see it enough! LOL

      ———Hmmmm…so he’s in mid-air and we are taking time to imagine the shriek of agony we haven’t heard yet. I’d rather you save that for when we are actively hearing the animal being wounded. Its good stuff, don’t waste it on your character’s imagination.

      ——-Because you are using the before moment as a slo-mo-moment, what else is going on that would be interesting to look at? Perhaps the beast itself? Or….

      The distance shortened between them,

      ——— Perfect spot for direct-no-frill movement

      and Keoki pedaled his legs in the air to propel him forward.

      ———This seemed too cartoonish for me.

      He smelled the beast’s musk and foul breath.

      ——YES! Bring us close enough to smell the beast. Is there anyway to show how fowl the stench is? I know I know, I am asking you to show a smell. But it can be done!

      Its tusks gleamed and saliva flew from its gaping maw as it roared.

      ———– LOVE the word use here! Gaping maw. NICE!

      ———-Oops. backwards stimulation response in the sneaky evil form of simultaneity! Even though you are telling us it happens at the same time, we read linearly this reads as if the saliva flew out of it’s mouth before it roars. Need to see the roar first

      Only inches away now. Keoki’s knife sliced through the air.

      ———Eh, this action is nice, but I’ve seen it before. How else can you show that the knife is now in motion?

      ———WHAT?!?! We don’t even get to see the actual stabbing? LOL, I’m sure it is because I said 150 words for these scenes, but I still feel cheated with that big of a build up. I guess I’ll have to read it when it’s pubbed.

      ————————————————-

      Very interesting technique to slow time like that before such a meaningful event. You could add in active setting and slow it more if you wanted to.

      I hope to see more next month. If you are this detailed with action before the actual fight, I can’t wait to see the fight!

      Thank you for allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits today. I promise, you will learn from each one.

  • I love to write fight scenes or terrible moments of violence and I think the the anticipation, that is knowing was building up to it is just as fun to write. Do I do it right? Not sure but I do try to keep action scene sentences short and pithy like you’ve mentioned here. Thanks for such a great blog!

    • Sharla, Hmmm I think you might have gotten the wrong impression and is my fault. I only posted partial action scenes here because of copyright laws and only asked for short scenes to be posted because I’m teaching 2 classes right now and I feared I wouldn’t be able to handle that much to edit on top my work load. LOL!

      Romily’s fight and chase and more fight scene lasts for pages and actually bridges chapters. It’s INTENSE! Its great to intersperse building up to type of action suspense. I tend to like those fights more than the ones that pop out out of the scene with no warning, but that is just my preference because I LOVE SUSPENSE.

      WIll you join the mini-challenge fun?

  • bonniegill

    What a great post. I’m emailing this link to myself so when I’m revising I can refer back to it.
    I loved both of the books you listed above.
    I’m posting my fight scene below. I didn’t have time to really tweak it. Sorry.
    The main character just broke into the tampon machine in the ladies bathroom and the mime who her boyfriend cheated on her with, walks in and starts a fight with her.

    Her hands trembled and her brain drummed thunder in her ears. She picked up a handful of the genie-less tampons and threw them at her.
    They bounced off of the mime’s chest, she made a huff-face and put her hands on her hips.
    “Leave before I lose it, mime.” Abby stood, her fists formed into little wrecking balls at her side.
    The clown faced woman ran at Abby and tackled her. She pinned her shoulders to the ground and threw a punch that nailed Abby just below her eye.
    Pain burst across her face and cheekbone. Abby wriggled her arm free to elbow the mime in the face.
    The white faced harlot’s head snapped back.
    Abby grabbed a handful of tampons and stuffed them down the mime’s shirt. She scrambled to her knees and slammed her fist as hard as she could into the mime’s stomach.
    The mime doubled over, before Abby could jump to her feet a white forehead connected with hers making Abby fall back.
    Her head throbbed.
    A foot swung headed for Abby’s ribs. She steam-rolled out of the way just in time.
    “What’s… your…problem?” Abby drew in a deep breath in between each word.

    • Bonnie! – I cannot wait to dive into this. The premise is priceless! Thank you for reading and for donning your tough writer skin to post today.

      I’ll be back on tomorrow with your edits and to post the winner of the drawing.

      Happy writing!

    • Set up: The main character just broke into the tampon machine in the ladies bathroom and the mime who her boyfriend cheated on her with, walks in and starts a fight with her.

      —-I would pay to see this. Awesome premise.
      ———-
      Her hands trembled and her brain drummed thunder in her ears. She picked up a handful of the genie-less tampons and threw them at her.

      —Having not seen the stimulation for this response, I’m assuming it is the right amount of emotion.

      —One problem though, both of these lines are packed with antecedents and no character names, so the hers and she’s are confusing.

      They bounced off of the mime’s chest, she made a huff-face and put her hands on her hips.

      —Oh, you have given us a fabulous visual but blurred the weapon. The word “they” steals the power of the moment. Reinforce the visual by repeating the name of the weapon. Tampons bounced off of the mimes chest. End the line there. It’s a great image we would like to contain it in one sentence by itself.

      —So she is a mime. When a mime makes a huff face it’s very exaggerated, yes? The make-up design has a hand in this effect. Use it. What does she look like? What happens to her mime mouth when she frowns?

      —Another thing to think about. If you want this to seem unrealistic you will keep the mime silent. Doing that creates an image too much like a Tom and Jerry cartoon. We also have to remember she is a girl with an issue with another girl. These type of situation will become more real for the reader if all elements are in play, and I think that we should hear a noise come out of her here so we don’t get the cartoon image stuck.

      “Leave before I lose it, mime.” Abby stood, her fists formed into little wrecking balls at her side.

      — Nicely done! I like: leave before I lose it. Believable! Is there another more demeaning name she can be called besides mime? Clownface? Clownhussy? Does she know her real name? Can it be Clown-face-Sally? (insert name)

      —Here is why: The line loses a bit of punch when mime is used at the end because it’s not really saying anything different to what she is. It might as well just be the girls name. Make sense?

      —What other active image can you give us instead of Abby stood? Add in a setting or physical description detail in an active way. Tampons fall from her lap skittering like confetti to the floor, dropping the last tampon onto the graffitied sink, etc.

      —Can you add in a quick visceral or physical action? Something to amplify her anger.

      The clown faced woman ran at Abby and tackled her.

      —Once you have a set name for the mime, it’s a cleaner/smoother read if that name is then used every time.

      —What did the tackle feel like – we need a reaction. This will also give you an a opportunity for us to see what the end of the tackle looks like. Where they landed, what body part of Abby hit the woman and hit the ground. Did she knock against the broken tampon machine? Falling down after a tackle on a bathroom floor hurts. We need to feel that surprise and pain.

      She pinned her shoulders to the ground and threw a punch that nailed Abby just below her eye.

      —I like the action but the excess words get in the way. If we already know she is on the ground from the previous rewritten line, then this action can be faster. Also remember not to confuse the reader with excess antecedents.

      Something like: She pinned Abby’s shoulders and nailed her with a punch.

      —I got rid of to the ground, and threw, that, and just below her eye.

      —Too many things were happening for us to feel the rhythm and see a snapshot of the action. And this way you backload with the word punch. You don’t need to show us where the punch landed specifically in this line because in the next line, you specify where the pain is and it’s perfectly placed in that separate sentence.

      —-Also for future choreography we need to know if clownhussy is straddling her and pinning her down, or …. Because when Abby gets up later, we might need to see her push crazyface off of her before she can be free.

      Pain burst across her face and cheekbone.

      —Great use of the word burst. I’m wondering if the pain should start at cheekbone and burst across her face. Since you are saying burst across face and cheekbone, face is general and cheekbone is the specific strike point. Just a thought. I might be

      Abby wriggled her arm free to elbow the mime in the face.

      — Unfortunately this line says she gets her arm out to do an action but you don’t say she actually follows through with the action. Easy fix! Abby wriggled her arm free and elbowed clown-face-sally in the __________.

      —Here is an opportunity to show specificity. Again think about what her mime makeup looks like and her features underneath. Where does Abby’s elbow land?

      The white faced harlot’s head snapped back.

      —Sadly you will have to kill your darlings here. Too many descriptors in place of a subject and it forces the action to play second. Bitch’s head snapped back.

      Abby grabbed a handful of tampons and stuffed them down the mime’s shirt.

      —-Well done! But I have to question the placement here. The fight has escalated past simple humiliation and to the point of real physical harm.

      She scrambled to her knees and slammed her fist as hard as she could into the mime’s stomach.

      —I like the action but there is too much time between slammed and the stomach. The power in the word slammed is lost. How else can you show the power of her hit?

      —This is also the place where it would matter if tragimakeup is straddling her, if so, then Abby can’t just scramble, she would need to push the groaning cheatmonger off of her before she does.

      The mime doubled over,

      —remind the reader of her full body positioning. Is she on her knees doubled over, or know lying on the floor in fetal position?

      before Abby could jump to her feet a white forehead connected with hers making Abby fall back.

      —-Oops, using a before phrase here, tells us action that doesn’t happen before showing us the action that is happening. This creates mental speed bumps for the reader and the action sequence is fowled.

      —-Also, you have just shown Abby elbowing her in the face and slamming her in the gut…but you forgot about her recovery time and the clarity of the actions. Oops!

      —- A blow to the stomach that is hard enough to double someone over is literally blowing the air out of their lungs and in order to right themselves again it takes a few long seconds or more to recover. And to recover and then rear back for a head-butt, that indeed takes time.

      —-the phrase making Abby fall back is telling. Rewrite to show the action if you are still going to use the head-butt somewhere.

      Her head throbbed.

      —as well it should. We might need a visceral or vocal reaction to being head-butted.

      A foot swung headed for Abby’s ribs. She steam-rolled out of the way just in time.

      —-hmmmm the use of the word headed in an action where a foot and ribs are involved, makes for a cognitive stumble. Also you are using two words, swung and headed, for the same action, so headed can be nixed easily.

      —steam-rolling is actually an action where you roll on top of someone. So here, she would just be rolling.

      —-Just in time is an extra you don’t need. And it’s cliche. *sad face*

      —-Out of the way is vague. Show us where she is in the bathroom. Zero in on some gritty details. Does she roll into a puddle of questionable color? Let your reader feel like they are on the floor with her.

      “What’s… your…problem?” Abby drew in a deep breath in between each word.

      LOVE IT!!

      ——————-

      I can’t wait to see what happens next. This is priceless.

      Do you need the smelling salts? EDIT OVERLOAD!! Yes indeed, action edits are complicated. I should have gotten all of your phone numbers so I could have just done a 30 min chat, it would have saved me a lot of time. Phew!

      Like I said to the other participants, I know it can be a shock for someone to dig this hard into your work. Although you have worked with my mom before, so… you might be handling this just fine.

      But a glass of wine or a cup of hot cocoa might not be a bad idea before coming back to work on this.

      Remember while I edit, I am loyal only to bettering your scene and writing craft. I won’t be doing you any favors if I’m too soft on the edit to spare feelings.

      Thank you for trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.

      • bonniegill

        Tiffany,
        Oh my gosh your comments make so much sense. You are awesome. I’m trying to save up for your class next month. As you can see, I really need it. I have two mss with oodles of fight scenes. This is also helping me see the showing vs telling. I still have trouble with that.
        Thank you for all the time you took to edit this. It’s much much appreciated. I can’t wait to make my changes. But I’ll wait and do it tomorrow per your recommendation.
        Thanks again.
        *hugs*

  • Erica

    This is an AMAZING post! I study Roth’s action scenes, because I believe she’s one of the best writers when it comes to action. Anyway, here’s my shot at the challenge:

    She sighed and shook her head. “It only burns my thigh, but I don’t trust touching it. We have to find Mr. Hunter. He’ll know what to do.”

    Peter appeared from the woods, face sweaty. He hurried over and crouched beside Victoria, opposite Michael. “I’m here for you, Tori.”

    Michael straightened. Charged Peter. Shoved him to the ground. “After running away like a pussy.” Something lay beyond his insult, something horribly bitter.

    Peter stood and glared at Michael. “Fuck off.”

    Michael balled his fists and stepped forward.

    Peter backed away, eyes widening.

    Victoria snagged Michael’s ankle, stopping him in his tracks. “Don’t mind me, I’m only dying down here.” She pointed to the arrow.

    She should’ve released Michael. Peter deserved a slap to the face, and she would’ve gladly backhanded him, more for Michael than for herself. Too bad she was injured. Peter never listened. Michael’s supposed friends had abandoned him before.

    • Erica, Thank you thank you. What a wonderful thing to hear. I guess I’ll just have to write another one next month 🙂

      It looks like I’ll be drawing the winner of the drawing on Friday morning and will have all of your free fight edits back to you by then. Thank you for posting a multi-character fight! I can’t wait to get my hands dirty on this one.

      Keep your eyes peeled on Twitter @NakedEditor and facebook (TiffanyLawson NakedEditor )if you don’t win this drawing, I’ll be doing another drawing on my blog in the beginning of February.

    • Alright, I”m diving in.
      ———————–
      She sighed and shook her head. “It only burns my thigh, but I don’t trust touching it. We have to find Mr. Hunter. He’ll know what to do.”

      Peter appeared from the woods, face sweaty. He hurried over and crouched beside Victoria, opposite Michael. “I’m here for you, Tori.”

      ——If this is in Tori’s POV, we need an immediate reaction from her.
      Michael straightened.

      —Show us more of Michael’s body language, how his body is positioned before peter arrives and after, maybe a flash of facial expression.

      Charged Peter. Shoved him to the ground.

      —Be more specific here with the action. Does he go down easily, or does he trip and fall face first into the asphalt?

      “After running away like a pussy.”

      —-Add in a vocal cue here. It will combine nicely with the next line.

      Something lay beyond his insult, something horribly bitter.

      —-NICE!!!

      Peter stood and glared at Michael. “Fuck off.”

      — How does he say this line? is it more like “leave me alone!” or don’t hurt me?I can’t tell – we need body language. This is a perfect spot to also show how hard he went down. Is it painful for him to get back up. Is his shirt ripped? Give us a few snap shots of Peter after his surprise attack.

      —he can then repeat the line after he is standing again and it will sound different Perfect motivation for Michael to be ready for a fight.

      Michael balled his fists and stepped forward.

      —-Sometimes simple is good but not yet because the reader needs more depth to the characters emotion first. And we don’t have it yet from Michael. We need to know what he looks like here. Tie it in with the action so youdon’t waist too much ink.
      Peter backed away, eyes widening.
      Victoria snagged Michael’s ankle, stopping him in his tracks. “Don’t mind me, I’m only dying down here.” She pointed to the arrow.

      — if in her POV, she is trying to loosen the mood and settle the boys down here, and it seems like any movement would pain her if there is indeed an arrow in her. Can you show us some of her pain? Visceral?

      —OOPS you say stopping in his tracks, but he has stopped moving, so you might need to adjust everyone’s advance and retreats.

      —-also Cliche Alerts!! Nix it and write fresh. Stopping in his tracks and balled his fists.

      She should’ve released Michael. Peter deserved a slap to the face, and she would’ve gladly backhanded him, more for Michael than for herself.

      —–This works. No edits needed.

      ——Now add in emotion on her part.

      Too bad she was injured. Peter never listened. Michael’s supposed friends had abandoned him before.

      —-join the last two lines together with an “and.”

      ———————

      Looks like you had the bones of the altercation, now you need to add the meat 🙂

      NO worries, there is lots of breathing room with this one.

      Thank you for trusting me with your work, and allowing me to edit on-the-fly. Let me know if you have any questions. Stay tuned in to the Comments section and read the rest of the fight scene edits over the weekend. I promise you will learn from each one.

      I’d love to see you in February’s Action and Fighting class. Gosh, I just want to know who shot the girl with an arrow, if she is going to be okay, and if Peter will grow some courage before the end of the book!

  • Nicole Sanborn

    My name is Nicole and I’m actually taking Empowering Character’s Emotions right now. Margie suggested I check out your contest, so here I am.
    This is a loosing fight scene for my POV character, one that she cannot win and just needs to get out of alive. Thanks for this opportunity!

    Her superhuman force won out a second later and I was on my back before I knew it. Slammed in the face, I felt my nose crack, the dark warm blood flowing into my mouth, filling the spaces between my teeth with red streaks.
    I struggled up and bam, slammed with what felt like sonic force to the wall, plaster shattering under my weight.
    Up again, I’ve got to get up again.
    Sparring like some boxer that knows what he’s doing, but I am far from a seasoned boxer and I get hit right up the side of the jaw, blood spraying the floor beside me. All I can think now is that I’ve got to get out.
    Left, dodge her fist, hitting the ground I slide under the bleachers on the smoothly finished gym floor.

    • Hiya Nicole, nice to meet you and thank you for following her directions over here. Yup, I’ve got some thick dramatic editing blood. And today I will put it to use in your fight scene!

      Wow the fight scenes are piling up! WOOT WOOT! I’ll be popping back over tomorrow to draw the winner and will have the fight edits by then. I don’t think I’ll be getting any sleep tonight LOL!

  • Also in ECE . . . wondering about fantasy fight:

    Riley welcomed the fire to her and watched as the ember dropped through her palm but not out. Her body flashed into multicolored fireworks and she no longer felt the pain in her shoulder. She saw Brown leaping for her and she opened her flames to him. He tried to turn, but she had him in her grasp. He flailed against her, fighting the flames, his black rat eyes mirroring only a large fire. Riley smiled and ate at his clothes. His skin was melting against the burning from the deep blue core of her existence. Riley opened its center and watched the pure white engulf Brown.
    He smiled and breathed a foul wind against her. She saw Smaed lift them both into the air. As he released them, his talon dug out one of Brown’s black eyes. Riley felt herself falling backwards. She found the glowing metal in her flame-hand and plunged it into his now empty eye as they fell together into the fountain.

  • Bookmarked for reference and I know I’ll use it. Thank you!

  • HOLY HECK! Look at all of these kick em, slap face, body slamming fights!!

    Fist bumps to all that participated and nudges to the ones that thought about participating 🙂

    I’ll be back on tomorrow morning with a pile of fight scene edits and the winner of the drawing.

    For those that still want to get in on the ACTION, you have a few more hours to submit!

  • This was really enjoyable to read, Tiffany, and I love the way you broke down Veronica’s scene to point out what each sentence/s provoked. Thanks 😀

  • Good morning fiction fighting fans!

    Yes, it is 3 am.

    Thank you WITS readers.

    I am extremely pleased with the participation turnout as well as the HUGE amount of hits on this blog over the past two days.

    Like I said earlier, fist bump to the participants of the mini-writing-challenge and a big nudge to the ones who couldn’t quite make the leap to post today. Come on, free edits?!?! How can you not post? Next time, okay?

    Because when you post, you not only get free edits, your name gets put into the hat 2x for a shot to win a slot in one of my courses over at Lawson Writer’s Academy.

    The winner of the drawing today is —————
    ————————————-
    ———————
    ————————————————
    ———————-
    ————————————
    ————-
    ——————————————–
    ————————-
    ——-
    Regina Sokas!!!!!!!!!!

    Congrats! You have won a writing course. As the winner, you get to pick between these three:

    From Madness to Method: Using acting techniques to invigorate your story and make each moment Oscar worthy! will be offered again in March

    Triple Threat Behind Writing A Scene will be offered again in March.

    Action and Fighting in Fiction: Writing Authentic Choreography With Precision and Bite will be offered in February

    Regina, please go to my website: tiffanylawsoninmanisnakededitor.com
    for my contact information, and put the phrase “WITS WINNER” in the subject line.

    **Heads up to the participants of the mini-writing-challenge. Your edits will be showing up sporadically throughout the day. Feel free to ask me questions about my editing suggestions. I will keep checking back through the weekend.

    I look forward to next month’s blog.

    Thank you again.

  • Oh, wow. I haven’t won anything since a door prize in 8th grade, over mumble-mumble years ago. I will get right on it. Thanks!!!

  • WOW, great article. I have one (short) fight scene in my book, and it was harder to write than I expected. I need to go back and work on it, after reading this article.

    • Oh gosh, Laurie I’m glad you got to read today! Hope you don’t think this is all the info you will need for a fight or action scene. I’m teaching a month long class on it 🙂

      IF you don’t make it to class. check in on this comments section tomorrow and look at all of the mini-writing challenge entries. I’m racking up 3-4 pages of edits for each scene. WOOT WOOT!

  • Reblogged this on Ella Quinn ~ Author and commented:
    Have a great Saturday. This should help.

  • Great post – lots of good advice in there to pick up and learn from! I have a few fighting scenes in my WiP’s, and this post will come in handy for sure!
    On a side note, I’m lucky enough to have a colleague who is a former cage fighter / MMA fighter / judo master. He challenged me to a fight once. Just for fun (or, in my case, research), and he didn’t really hurt me, but he wasn’t very kind, either. By the time he decided he was done breaking me in half, my adrenaline was pumping, making me shake. Now, this guy is my buddy, and I know he wouldn’t ever hurt me, but still, I reacted in this manner. I learned that it’s easy to forget the bodily responses and physical reactions you encounter before, during and after a fight – especially if you’re not used to it, or trained to cope!

    • Linda, that is incredibly useful stuff. You are lucky you have someone trusting like him to walk you through physical choreography. USE HIM! Seriously if you have a scene you need to see “acted ” out, give him and a sparing partner a few instructions on how you want the fight to play out and let them work through the moves in front of you, or heck, you could jump in too!

      Of course it’s not all about the moves, it’s about writing craft too. For that, maybe I’ll see you in class sometime. OR, I’m positive I will see you next month for some more fighting tips on WITS 🙂

      Thank you for reading today!

      Keep posted on the comments. I have 4 fight scenes edited already for the participants of the mini-writing challenge and 6 more to go tonight and tomorrow. Really good stuff to learn within the edits I am giving them. I go through line by line.

      Have a great weekend!

  • Mini-Writing-Challenge participants, your scenes will be posted by the end of the weekend. Yup, editing is absolutely rewarding and time consuming. If you haven’t already read through the 3 or 4 I’ve already posted, scroll up and get some learning in on this fine Saturday morning! Enjoy!

  • Yvette Carol

    Awesome post, Tiffany! I was stoked to read this because I had to write a lot of fights scenes in my WIP, and they were sooo hard to do. This has given me more ideas to use in future. And I’m really really pleased to have done the last course with you over on LWA, because everything sunk in to this tired old brain and had an impact. I feel my writing has really improved. So, I thank you!!! 🙂

  • Although I am late in discovering WITS, I have Laura Drake to thank for sharing the links on her FB page. These two posts are fabulous, and I’m looking forward to the third. The story I’m working on has recently led me to a fight scene, and I was (and still am, a bit) stuck on how to move forward. Your break downs have given much insight, and I will be revisiting the scene from the beginning. I only wish I had found this in time to participate in the mini-challenge.

  • […] For those of you drooling at the chance to get your name in the hat 2x for participating in the mini-challenge assignment, THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY! Today’s mini-challenge  is to write a 150 word (or less) hand-to-hand altercation between two characters.  I had such a good time last month going through your scenes line by line for some on-the-fly editing.  We got to see fists, knives, swords, guns, tampons, and chunks of furniture flying through the air. If you want to see the edits and feedback from last month, click here. […]

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