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Boring Action

What's in it for me?

Oh, I've read a lot of boring action scenes lately. Worse, I've written a few myself. 

How can that be? I mean, it's all about raising the stakes isn't it? Here's sweet Jenny. Quirky, yet kick-ass, with those goggles and that steam-powered gun. And now, she's just been invited to the school dance by a bare chested, sensitive bad boy. Does he shave that chest? Oh, yeah.

And then, on her way to the prom, she leaves the gun behind, and Mr. BigTooth McVampire glides down from a darkening sky... Why am I not afraid? She could DIE! Sweet Jenny, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Not really, though, right? We're only halfway through book two. Without George R. R. Martin at the helm, Jenny is in no danger. I know she gets through this scrape and indeed the one that comes after too. If you want me biting my nails, dear writer, then your action scene will need to threaten somebody or something else.

Say, for example, the assault on Jenny is only needed to distract her from the attempted, and possibly successful murder of her mum. The reader is aware of this and frets as the clock ticks down.

Or, the fighting is meant to destroy Jenny's dress so that she will not be allowed into the school dance. 

Or, her attacker, BigTooth McVampire, might be the desperate one, the one with something vital to protect. What is it? Tell me! 

You see, it doesn't matter how high the stakes are for the character, there has to be something in it for me too.

The Power of Curiosity

I recently read a book where the central mystery was about a monster. Where did it come from? What were its strange powers? Did it have a plan? 

The creature attacks characters I was supposed to care about, although I have to say I did not. But the attack *was* interesting because every move and counter-move of the fight allowed me (and the characters) to learn more about the beast that wanted them dead.

They managed to drive it off, but as often happens in a good action scene, this was only a prelude to a new emergency... Sadly, the secondary fracas, just as frenetic as the first, sent me to sleep. There was nothing in it for me. I knew the characters would get out of it and that, absent the monster, the interest just wasn't there.

To Err is Human

So, I don't feel too bad for writing not so excellent scenes, but I promise my readers that I'm learning all the time. The next book I write won't just have hight stakes for the characters -- the reader will have something to bet on too.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 19th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Well, one must decide if it's a suspense,
or a thriller...
If the latter,
the reader must enjoy the view,
even while knowing beforehand what will be seen.
Sort of like sex.
One pretty much knows what's going to happen,
but doesn't complain, even if it takes all afternoon.
Or else one spends the afternoon thinking
the kitchen ought to be painted beige.
Jun. 19th, 2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
Off course, the exact same logic applies to sex scenes...
Jun. 20th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
Also true, yes.
Jun. 19th, 2012 08:49 pm (UTC)
"Does he shave that chest? Oh, yeah."

That made my day.

Good that you brought this subject up as my latest project is "an action driven action fest with lots of action and fighting and battling action."

So thank you.
Jun. 19th, 2012 08:52 pm (UTC)
If it helps even one writer... ;-)
Jun. 19th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
All I have to say to this is, hear-hear!
Jun. 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Sorry, I'm wearing ear-plugs...
Jun. 20th, 2012 01:15 pm (UTC)
Oh, you!
Jun. 19th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
Well said!
Jun. 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Why, thank you!
Jun. 20th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Why is it that the most clear, sane, and accurate advice is the stuff you think "well, duh. Of course. Naturally." But it's never the obvious thing you thought of yourself.

Thanks for that obvious bit of insight. I wish it had been obvious to me ten minutes ago. Or ten years.
Jun. 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
Why, thank you. I too wish it had been obvious to me three years ago. Oh well. Onwards and upwards!
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
It could be worse. It could be so much worse. For example, I just read Fifty Shades of Grey, because my friends at work said it was SO GOOD. Which makes me think they wouldn't know a good book if they tripped over it in the stairwell. Also, the night shift people do not get to recommend books to me ever again. Seriously. I give them Game of Thrones and they give me... Fifty Shades of Mary Sue Fanfic.

Just remember this when you are feeling like the writing isn't going well: At least you didn't write Fifty Shades of anything. That already makes you ahead of the game.
Jun. 21st, 2012 06:56 am (UTC)
What a cheering thought! :)

I'd take the money, though! I would!
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:14 pm (UTC)
I wish your worthy books could pay off so well for you as that tripe has for her.

Jun. 21st, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
Mmmm... tripe :)

Thank you! Next time I'm over there I'll drive by your house in my limo...
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Good points, all. I personally find that the GRRM method is good, too - that REALLY keeps you on your toes...
Jun. 21st, 2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
If your toes haven't been cut off along with your head...
Aug. 1st, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC)
But happened to Jenny? WE NEED TO KNOW!!!!!
Aug. 2nd, 2012 07:10 am (UTC)
Oh, she defeated the vampire, but her life thereafter was so dull, we never heard of her again.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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