All posts tagged revision

Writing Action

Published January 20, 2014 by Elsa Pla

I finished and self-published my third ebook, Holding Hands, which consists of two YA short stories. The first story, “Phone Call,” has a couple of violent scenes that I found difficult to write. So I did a bit of internet research and found the following three sites on writing action:

1- (I like the way this fantasy writer demonstrates the revision process.)

2- site and great tips! I’m going to add her to my blogroll.)

Here are Kathy’s 12 tips. Visit her blog for an explanation of each tip.

1.  Make sure the stakes justify the action.

2.  Plan for the action scenes well in advance.

3.  Speed up the pace. 

4.  Keep dialogue to a minimum. 

5.  In action scenes verbs are the most important words. Make sure they are full of energy and focus. 

6.  No long scene descriptions when the action starts.

7.  Set up the action in an environment where the place can add to the excitement of the scene.

8.   Make sure your action scene furthers the story. 

9.  If you are not prepared to show blood, then don’t cut off an arm or a leg. 

10.  Use the “ticking time bomb” technique (create a deadline that will devastate the hero).

11.  Write suspense sequences that require an action scene to be resolved. 

12.  Read books with action scenes. 

3- (Another great site with helpful tips.)

Here are Jodie’s 12 tips. Visit the blog for an explanation of each tip and for awesome examples.

1- Show, don’t tell.

2- Use deep point of view.

3- Avoid info dumps.

4- Evoke the senses.

5- Amp up the imagery.

6- Show inner reactions.

7- Use tight, staccato thinking.

8- Describe physical actions succinctly, for fast pacing and high tension.

9- Show other characters’ threats and reactions.

10- Use rapid-fire dialogue.

11- Write tight.

12- Use short sentences and paragraphs.

My process: First I write the scene as if I were watching one of those slow-motion martial arts movie scenes: with as much sensory detail and figurative language as possible. That way I can really visualize and experience the scene in my mind. Then I tighten and revise the writing by deleting unnecessary descriptions and making better language and sentence-construction choices. Finally, I read the scene aloud to myself and to my reader (every writer should have a trusty reader they can depend on to give them no-nonsense feedback) and tighten it/revise it even further.

So here’s my scene:

After ten impossibly long minutes, they arrived at the Rogers’ home. The house was dark and silent.

“Stay in the truck while I investigate,” the sheriff said. “That’s an order. Back-up will be here shortly.”

“Be careful, Dad.” Josh’s heart beat furiously.

Josh’s father climbed out of the truck. He took out his gun and carefully approached the front door.

Suddenly a huge figure stepped out from behind a hedge of bushes. Before the sheriff had a chance to turn around, the figure hit him on the side of the head with a baseball bat. The gun dropped from the sheriff’s hand as he fell forward. The assailant dropped the bat, lunged for the gun, and almost toppled over. He was clearly intoxicated.

Josh had no choice but to disobey his father. He jumped from the truck and ran toward the drunk man. He moved fast, but not fast enough. They both grabbed the gun at the same time and stood face to face, each holding one end of the weapon. Fortunately, Josh had his hand on the handle of the pistol. With his other hand he quickly covered the trigger.

“Give me the gun, Mr. Rogers,” Josh said. He tried to sound calm and in control, but his nervous breathing betrayed him. He was worried about his unconscious father.

“You know me, boy?” Mr. Rogers asked. His speech was slurred and he wobbled from side to side. He was tall and wide.

“I know your family.” That was the wrong thing to say.

“Shut your stupid mouth!” Mr. Rogers yelled. “I don’t have a family!” The effort from the yelling coupled with the effect of the alcohol made him lose his balance, and he toppled forward. Josh couldn’t hold the gun and support the man at the same time. The man’s weight made him fall backward. Mr. Rogers, still clutching the barrel of the gun, fell on top of him.

Josh could hardly breathe from the impact and the weight of the big man. Still, he recognized the smell that enveloped him. Alcohol and sweat. As he struggled to breathe and free himself from the massive body that crushed him, Josh realized he no longer held the gun.

Mr. Rogers rose on his hands and knees and sat on Josh before Josh had a chance to slide away. Josh kept struggling to get out from under the drunk man, but to no avail. He froze when he saw that Mr. Rogers was now holding the gun and was pointing it at his face.

“Stupid, stupid boy!”

Josh braced himself for the worst.

After studying the action tips and reading my scene again, I realize it could use another revision. I will continue to work on this skill (writing action). In writing–as in every craft–perfect practice makes perfect. However, there are no rules, only goals. The main goal is for the end product to do what the author set out to accomplish. Each writer has his/her own artistic vision and writing style. 🙂

Holding Hands by Elsa Pla

The Sentence Inventory

Published August 20, 2012 by Elsa Pla

This past week’s exercise:

Go through your list of titles (refer to my post “The You List”), pick one, write a reflection piece on it, and see where the muse takes you. 

My earliest memory is of playing hide & seek with my mother at my grandmother’s creepy house. Here’s an excerpt from my reflection on “The Locked Desk”:

As a little girl, I was afraid of my grandmother’s house. It possessed an eerie quality that made me nervous. Perhaps its strangeness resulted from its ancient, unkept appearance and the fact that it was dreadfully out-of-place in the middle of the modern city. Perhaps because of the artifacts it contained: solemn columns, antique furniture, unusual objects, and obscure family portraits whose threatening eyes seemed to constantly glare at me. Whatever the reason for its weirdness, the house frightened me.

The eeriest piece of furniture in the house was my grandmother’s personal desk: a large and dark Spanish “Vargueño” intricately carved with fierce jungle animals and demon-like creatures. The front panel opened downward and doubled as a writing surface. When opened, the desk released a strong aroma of cedar and parchment and revealed dozens of small compartments and locked drawers. The desk was the heart of the house. The whole house — with its darkness, strong smells, many rooms, locked closets, and threatening “presences” — seemed to extend from it.

What did my grandmother keep locked up in her desk? Letters? Photographs? A diary? What sinister secrets does the desk conceal?

The point of the exercise is to wake up the muse. I love it.

This week I’m going to try an exercise I learned from a teacher who attended the Denver Writing Project Summer Institute:

The Sentence Inventory

1- Construct a chart that lists sentence beginnings, main verbs, and number of words (you could also list nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc).

2- Pick a paragraph from a manuscript you’re working on, and inventory the components of your sentences.

(Or, pick a paragraph from a work by a favorite author, and inventory the components of his or her sentences.)

3- Analyze the sentence structure, verb choice, and sentence length of the paragraph.

The point is to get a better picture of your writing style and reflect on possible changes.

(If you’re analyzing a favorite author’s paragraph, the point is to reflect on his or her style and learn something new.)


Sentence Inventory of the second paragraph of “The Locked Desk”:

First Words—————–Main Verb(s)———–# Words

The eeriest piece—————-was, carved——————29

The front panel—————opened, doubled—————11

When opened—————-released, revealed————–21

The desk—————————-was————————-8

The whole house—————–seemed———————20

Analysis: I notice that four of my five sentences start with “The.” I won’t change them, but I’ll keep this tendency in mind. I’m okay with the variety in sentence length. I’m not happy  with having two sentences with the verb “was.” I wonder if I should change the verb in the fifth sentence to “constituted.”

See how it works? This exercise is a great revision tool.

Try it! 🙂

I’ll post again next Monday.