Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dialogue Should Be More than the Sum of its Parts

Readers have an expectation. Even as the story is unfolding before their eyes, their mind is working at what is happening, anticipating the next part of this scene, the next scene. Sure, a lively smart-ass character might leap off the page and entertain you with witty banter touting to her enemies all those smarty-nasty things you wish you had the balls to say to that bitch in the next cubicle. Books are, for many, an escape tool, so there is nothing wrong with a sassy character to let them live vicariously through.

That said, though we are talking about dialogue not in action scenes this week, I don't want to talk about the talking as much as the character development of the talking. Sooo much more meaning can be infused into their words. Their sentences need to be more than the sum of their parts, and, well, I'm going to stop talking about it and just let you draw your own conclusions:

Tonight Jovienne proceeded without him, bravely accepting what she understood was hers alone to face.

He stared at the doors after she passed through them, a breath locked his chest. He waited, eagerly watching that doorway. Part of him wanted her to race back out...but he knew better. Even as a child she never fled from her fears. He recalled taking her to the cemetery to see the graves of her family. She made him wait outside the gates, and assured him that she would find them herself. 

She kicked the fallen yellow leaves away, clearing the slightly mounded ground before a small headstone. Then, in front of the adjacent tombstone-for-two, she did the same for the outermost of the two graves. The green grass was a stark contrast to the bright deposits of foliage.

The center grave, she left covered. He wondered why. He wondered if it was her mother or her father that she did not reveal. He wondered if she’d had a brother or a sister, older or younger.

Upon her return to the gates an hour later, her cheeks were wet, but her eyes showed no sign of having wept. The drops on her face were only rain. He marveled, wondering if it was strength or the misunderstanding of youth that had locked in the tears she deserved to set free.

Seeing his scrutiny, she seemed to understand it. “The sky cried for me,” she said. “And the trees are weeping pretty blankets.” She glanced back at her work then, the grassy area easy to pick out. “But some graves ought to be cold.”

A chill heaved over him, and not from the late autumn air.

He had thought she worked to reveal those she cared for, but instead she had worked to, in some small way, steal the peaceful rest from those she did not care for. The child had come here to say goodbye and had said it in a manner more telling than any he could imagine.

He watched her admire the center grave under its “pretty blanket” and wondered what horror she had been released from to become his pupil.

His admiration for her was rooted in that memory.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Contributor to the Blog!

Please join us in extending a warm bordello welcome to our newest Word-Whore, Marshall Ryan Maresca!

~pours the wine~      ~tosses flower petals~

Marshall takes over Thursdays, bringing his experiences as a playwright and a sf/f author to our mix.  His latest works include the sci-fi short "Jump the Black"  in Rayguns Over Texas Anthology. His fantasy novel The Thorn of Dentonhill is available for pre-order now with a release of February 2015.

A member of  team Plotters & Outliners, he's currently running a tutorial on worldbuilding over on his personal blog:  Trekkies, take a closer look and you'll find an Easter egg or two.

Little known fact: He's a foodie who, along with his wife, mixes Spanish cuisine with Spanish language instruction.

You can follow him on Twitter @marshallmaresca and on Facebook at @Marshall.Maresca

Welcome, Marshall!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dialogue in the Quiet Times

Dialogue should always, always move the story forward. From conversation to internal monologues, the words characters speak should tell you about them, foreshadow pertinent information regarding their thought processes or tell you how they react with others.  

Submitted for your consideration is the first appearance of Lazarus Cotton in CONGREGATIONS OF THE DEAD. Lazarus is a devout man on a mission. He wants to save souls.

What follows was my attempt, mostly through dialogue, to show a bit about the man, his history and his desires.

You decide if I did my job properly, but for me, this is a good example of dialogue in a non-combat scene.

The Mount Zion Church of Faith was lit with electric lights, but by the reverend’s orders they were subdued, to look as much like candles and lanterns as possible. The building was old and the air was simply too hot to allow that many real open flames in the structure.

The pews were full, the faithful were in abundance. That was not always the case, of course. Some nights they had only a few of the faithful with them, because the rest had to go forth and find the lost and wayward and lead them home.

“Got a full house tonight, ‘Rus.” Fry’s voice was mellow and laid back. He was very good at seeming to be as serene as his voice.

Lazarus Cotton preferred to be called Reverend or Reverend Cotton or even Lazarus, but for Fry he made exceptions. Truly the man was his right hand, and Lazarus knew he meant no disrespect.

“The numbers don’t matter, Fry.” The Reverend’s voice was soft, but deep and melodious. His voice was an instrument of the Lord, and as such he had been blessed. Truly, he had been blessed. Hallelujah.

He stood from the chair where he prepared himself and contemplated his words. The chair groaned a bit. He was not a small man, but he carried himself with ease. His dark pants were creased just so, and his suspenders were in the right place. His tie was perfect. His shoes were polished. He was presentable, and that was an important thing. He spoke often to his flock about the need to be presentable. The Lord did not ask that his children be dressed in spectacular fashion, or that they paint their faces like harlots. No, his children were to be humble, and that meant they should dress the part as well.

“What did you want to do about that Wade Griffin fellow, ‘Rus?”

He looked toward Fry with a small frown. “This close to my sermon you should address me properly, please, Fry.”

            The man’s smile was quick and thin. He knew that Fry was not quite a true believer. He wanted to be, but Faith, true Faith, did not always come easily and Fry had been through so very much in his lifetime. “Of course, Reverend Cotton.”

“Much obliged, son.” The Reverend nodded his thanks and headed for the door to the stage at the front of the congregation. It was a simple affair. There was no need for preposterous pomp. There was no need for elaborate draperies. Jesus did not find a need to robe himself in wealth or in finery and if it was good enough for the Christ, it was certainly good enough for his followers.

The pews were indeed filled with the faithful, and with the lost souls they’d brought with them to be saved.

Lazarus Cotton smiled as he looked to the faces staring in his direction. A few were looking elsewhere, but mostly they turned and faced him as he strode across the hardwood on his way to the pulpit.

He raised his hands and waved and the faithful turned toward him and grew silent, waiting for the words he would speak.

“Welcome! All are welcome here. Welcome to old, familiar faces and to the new faces I have never seen before.” He walked as he spoke, for Lazarus Cotton was filled with the Lord’s glory. He felt as strong as a dozen men and as mighty as any man could be when blessed by the Lord and that, friends and neighbors, was mighty indeed. Can I get an amen?

“I’m looking at you, too, you know. Oh, I know you’re looking at me, and I know what a few of you are probably thinking. You’re asking yourselves what you’ve gotten yourselves into.” He looked around and got a comically worried expression on his face. After holding it for a second, he let the expression change to one of mild disgust. “’Lookit that man! He dresses like Colonel Sanders’ country cousin.’” There were a few snickers out in the audience when he hooked his thumbs into his suspenders and popped them against his beefy chest.  “Or maybe you’re thinking about my age.” He waved a hand dismissively, a sly smile blooming on his broad, friendly face. “Oh, I know I’m a bit older than most of you. In fact I’m older than I look, but we’ll get to that part. What you’re wondering about is why you should be spending an evening listening to another fat old minister talk to you about Jesus and the Lord Almighty. Don’t look so surprised…I’ve been on your side of the pulpit too, you know. I went through a lot of my life as a sinner.”

Lazarus Cotton’s face grew serious and he looked from person to person earnestly. “I’ve done my share of blaspheming, and I was known to indulge a bit too much in wine and women and song.” Once again that expression of mild shock moved across his broad features and transformed into a comical look of disgust as if he realized he’s just swallowed a fly why yawning. “’Why would anyone ever? Lookit him! He’s old and fat.’” He stood taller and patted his round belly. While he was never going to be a model for Calvin Klein most of the audience could see his hand hit solid flesh and realized that it wasn’t really a matter of being flabby so much as it was being barrel-chested. He was solid. “Just you remember, Marilyn Monroe wore a size eighteen dress, and when I was growing up a certain amount of belly was a sign of success. It meant you could afford to eat regular meals.”

That one earned him a few more laughs and he could see the newer faces laughing a bit more, relaxing as they got to know him.

“That one hits home with a few of you, doesn’t it? The need to eat? The need to know where your next meal is coming from. It’s a big thing when you’re flat broke and living in an alleyway. And that’s an even bigger thing when you have heat like what we’re handling right now. Well, I’m not so worried about the heat. I can assure you there are places that are a lot hotter.”

A few eyes rolled. Yes, of course he was talking about Hell. They were in a church after all.

“Know what’s funny to me?” He looked at them and planted his big fists on his broad hips. “What’s funny is how many of you just rolled your eyes. Bet you think I’m gonna talk about sin, and hellfire and brimstone.” He shook his head and frowned with a deep enough expression to make sure that even the people in the back of the congregational hall could see the expression. “Well, you’re wrong about that. You look at the Good Books in front of you, on the back of the seats before yours, and you look good and hard. And you find a spot in there where it says you’re going to burn in Hell for all eternity.” He held up a finger. “I don’t mean a reference in the Old Testament that talks of a burning lake without mentioning Hell by name. I mean you find a spot in the New Testament where it says that anyone alive is going to burn in Hell for all eternity.” He crossed his arms and tapped a foot on the floor beneath him. “I can wait if you want to try to find the spot. But I have to tell you, back in the days when I was a bit more of a sinner I would have charged you hard cash for the Bibles I’ll let you have for free now. Back then I was a Bible salesman and I could have convinced your daddy to give me a month’s pay for a cheap Bible and I could have had him writing me the check while you momma was pouring me a whiskey and sitting in my lap.”

He paused while they considered that and the mischievous grin crept back to his mobile face. “Told you I was a sinner, didn’t I? Back in the day? Believe me, I got around and I met more than one lonely wife back in my heyday. We none of us start off as sinners and we none of us start out as saints. One way or another we have to work our way down the proper path to get where we’re going.”

He walked again, treading heavily on the small stage and waving his hands about with every word he said. “The Lord doesn’t promise us eternal damnation. What He promises, what his only begotten son Jesus Christ promises, is the chance for eternal life. If we just do the right things, if we treat people the right way and we can manage to stay properly humble, the meek shall inherit the earth.”

And now he stopped and he looked out at the crowd with wide eyes. “Eternal life. Think about that. The chance to live forever, to never grow old and die, to never suffer disease, to never again suffer the pain of illness, or to know the endless misery of losing our loved ones. Think about how amazing that promise is.”

Oh, there might have been a few who were doubting him, but Lazarus knew when he had a crowd that was listening, and nearly to the last they were paying close attention.

“Jesus Christ died for our sins. He died and He promised us that if we would but love Him and ask His forgiveness for our sins…” He paused and held up one finger again. “And mean it, that part is important, well, then, we could live forever in the glory of the Lord’s blessings.”

Several of the devout called out from the audience with a smattering of Hallelujahs and amens.

And Lazarus Cotton smiled lovingly to his children as they responded. “Would you like to know what makes me different from other ministers and reverends and pastors?” Oh, the grin he offered was a sly one, positively conspiratorial. “Would you like to know what separates me and all of my followers from the rest of the glad-handers who are offering Salvation?”

Several people whispered and looked around and finally one of the young lads in the audience looked toward him and asked, “What?”

Lazarus Cotton’s smile grew into a thing of strange and wondrous beauty.
“Well, now, the difference is that I don’t just tell you what you can have. I can show you the Glory of the blessings of the Lord Almighty.” He stood tall and spread his arms wide. “I don’t offer false promises, my children. I offer proof.”

And then did the children, the wayward and the lost, lean in closer. And then did they listen with rapt attention to the words of Lazarus Cotton.

Can you say Amen?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dropping the Soap and Other Bits of Stage Business

by @jeffekennedy

My clematis paniculata is blooming! This is noteworthy because my family long referred to this as "the birthday vine." When we moved into our new-to-us house in Denver just before my sixth birthday, this vine was growing in the back yard. We didn't know what it was and for some reason, no one ever bothered to find out. Most significantly, it bloomed right around, if not on, my birthday - an unusual even for late August. Thus, the Birthday Vine. My mother finally sold that house last summer, which was the end of an era for us. To create a bit of continuity, I found out what the rest of the world calls it and planted one in my back yard. It's struggled along, gaining strength the last couple of years - clematis are slow to establish - and yesterday, the day after my birthday, I happened to notice it had bloomed!

A good omen, to be sure.

Last week in the Bordello, we discussed dialogue during action scenes. I think I was in the minority in being all yes, yes, yes to trash talking while fighting. Never mind James and his snarky comments about mayonnaise not going with PB&J. Of course, not all of us are limited to grunting like Neanderthals.

~flutters lashes at James~

This week's topic is dialogue in non-action scenes. And yes, I did look ahead to next week to see if we're doing dialogue during sex scenes.

I mean, if we're going to parse it all out...

But, alas - no such luck.

James' defined an action scene as "fisticuffs, swordfights and knock down, drag out brawls." Which makes non-action scenes... everything not that? Which leaves a lot.

Going to the most literal level, action is "the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim."

I realize I'm dwelling here, but I want to point out that, really, there should never be a non-action scene in any book, viewed that way. If the characters aren't trying to achieve an aim, there's no story. (With the possible exception of something suitable for The New Yorker, but that's another discussion entirely.) One of the best bits of writing advice I ever received - even better because it was flip - was that your characters should never be doing nothing, that even sitting in the bathtub, someone is going to drop the soap eventually.

So, it's important to remember that even during dialogue-intensive scenes, the characters should always be doing something. Even if they're sitting on the patio, discussing the upcoming release of Rogue's Paradise (random plug), they should be drinking cocktails or fidgeting with the empty wine glass. These small gestures given movement and reveal subtext and internal monologue. Dialogue is what's articulated - and it's only the tip of the iceberg.

In acting, we referred to this as "stage business." Just as characters can't be sitting in the bath tub, actors can't stand around on stage and exchange words. Even on radio shows, they add sounds to indicate background action. It was an interesting transition when cigarette-smoking went out of fashion and then was actively banned in public spaces. There's a reason so many actors smoke - check out the movies from the 30s and 40s, every person is a chimney. It's because actors would smoke during conversations to give them stage business. And, naturally, carried the habit into their personal lives. Smoking became a stage-business crutch for many years. Far better to give a long meaningful glance while drawing on a cigarette, than to stand there empty handed.

But crutches are exactly that. Another word for the concept is our old friend: cliché. It's a constant battle to find ways to describe body language during dialogue. One of my editors has a limited tolerance for people shrugging or folding their arms. She's made me very aware of that, so I've come to use those gestures in precisely limited dosages. Which means I need to find other things.

One trick I've discovered is to find a character's personal tic. Whatever thing they tend to do habitually. If you can tie it into either what's haunting them or what they desire, even better. Remember in Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Picard, after being captured by the Borg Collective, developed the tic of touching the place where the Borg implant had been? Brilliant bit of stage business by Patrick Stewart - who, not incidentally, trained as a Shakespearean stage actor.

So, when crafting scenes with intensive dialogue, look for those bits of stage business. People are always thinking while they're talking and listening, so let their actions give them away.

No such thing as a non-action scene. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fight Scenes: Hicks or Hudson?

During a fight itself, I tend to go with the idea that there isn't much discussion. If it's a serious fight to stay alive, then hopefully the combatants are concentrating on remaining alive. Talking might be the thing that gets them killed and in real life, who's listening anyway? The other guy just wants to do you in too.

The heroes of my novels, whether in the far future in my SF romances, or in the far past in the ancient Egyptian paranormals, are meant to be the Navy SEALs of their time - quiet professionals. My standard is that I'd hope if one of my guys walked into a bar frequented by SEALs or other Special Forces, they'd be accepted as a fellow warrior. So, having said that, I don't put much dialog in the fight scene.

It's Hudson's style versus Hicks' style, to use a metaphor from one of my alltime favorite movies, "Aliens." Hudson is all jittery energy and talking to the aliens as he's blasting them (SPOILER ALERT: he dies) and Hicks is just efficiently killing them and reminding Ripley to remember to use short, controlled bursts.

The best version of the "Aliens" trailer I found on youtube can't be embedded (bummer) but here's the link:

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the movie "Act of Valor," which included real Navy SEALs. Not much talking here but a LOT of firepower:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fight Scene: Refuge of Last Resort

Fights are like monologues. They're a refuge of last resort, reserved for moments of extremity, for when a character has been backed into a corner and there is no other option. Precious few people who aren't psychotic or hopped up on illegal substances want to walk face first into a fight for no reason.

Therefore, by the time a fight scene happens, the talking should, to my mind, be over. UNLESS. Words are one of the weapons. Talking rather than acting is generally seen as a feminine trait. Acting without talking is generally seen as a masculine trait. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. They are simply tools a writer can pick up and use to heighten the conflict in a fight scene. Because in no way should a fight be about might making right. Sure, it does happen that sometimes someone shoots at you and all you can do is shoot back. But if you're writing a fight scene, you have the option to make it do double duty.

Most fights are masses of confusion, terror and noise. A police officer with the highest marksman ranking his department awarded once told me that the winner of most gun battles is decided by who runs out of bullets first - not who hits someone or something - he who runs out of bullets, loses. Reality? Maybe, certainly not good for a sense of drama though, is it?

Maybe that's why I prefer other weapons. This short snippet of a fight scene is from a short story called Emissary. It appeared in the anthology Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword

My heroine has been sent to kill a wizard who usurped his brother's throne. He's using the captain of the guard as his bodyguard.

         “Aukenhet, you have destroyed temples, murdered the priests, and defiled the sacred precincts. Your actions offend the Gods.”
          His beady black eyes glittered at me.
          I fingered my mother’s gift to me, the dagger she’d given into a merchant’s keeping before she’d died. Whether the Dagger of Heaven knew by some means that I stood before the man I’d been sent to destroy, I could not know, but strength and resolve surged into me when my left hand closed on the hilt.
          “You’ve been sent to rectify the situation?” he sneered.
          “By any means necessary,” I confirmed.
          “Sekhmet has turned you from a warrior into nothing more than a common assassin?” He clicked his tongue. “Pity. You see, Kol defends my life with his own. Kol. Kill her.”
         Kol said nothing. Instead, he circled outside of my shorter reach, watching me counter him.
          Most fighters telegraphed their intent – attack or retreat – well before executing the move. Well trained warriors had learned to read their opponent’s body language like a scribe reading a papyrus scroll.
          I knew he watched me move, hoping to learn to read me. I knew this because I sought the same information from him and shivered when a thread of misgiving wrapped a noose around my heart.
          I couldn’t read him.
          Eburi’s growl echoed through the throne room, bouncing back upon itself until I felt as if my skull rattled with it.
          “He is not our prey,” I told her.
          Aukenhet’s champion imagined I’d left him an opening while I spoke to Eburi.
          He darted in, aiming a swift cut at my sword arm.
          I didn’t bother parrying, since I suspected he’d use any contact of our blades to run up on me and lock us body to body. With his greater weight and strength, if I let him gain that advantage, I’d be dead in an instant. So I sprang out of the way, a simple leap, conserving energy.
          Poised on the edge of the dais, Aukenhet muttered. His fingers twitched.
          Eburi hissed.
          Something cold and slimy slithered up my right leg, rooting me to the floor. When I glanced down, I saw nothing. Panic tightened barbed bands around my chest. In its sheath against my side, the Dagger of Heaven warmed.
        The scent of bodies rotting in the sun wafted past, making my eyes water. The chill wrapped around my leg vanished. I could move unhindered.
          Kol’s eyes narrowed.
          Did he know Aukenhet had tried and failed to bespell me? Did he care?
          He opened his guard slightly.
          Not quite taunting. A goad, maybe.
          No matter. I’d take his dare. I dove into a shoulder roll that brought me within striking distance. For a moment, as I let the momentum of the roll bring me to my feet, I caught the startled look in his face. His lips parted and I heard the rush of air sucked into his lungs as I aimed my blade at his ribs.
          Kol backpedaled hard and barely brought his sword across his body in time to deflect me.
          That he managed to parry at all spoke of agility and strength that could all too easily best me. Why then did my heart sing at the prospect of having found so worthy an opponent?


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

There's More than a Fight Going on Here

by your friendly, neighborhood hump-day word-whore...Linda Robertson

Have you ever been in a car wreck? One where you saw the other vehicle coming and could do nothing about it?

I have.

I had two of my boys in the car with me. One of them was four, the other was about ten. I was stopped behind a black jeep waiting for oncoming traffic so it could make a left-hand turn. I glanced up into my rear-view mirror and all I could see was the grill of a truck.

In the next millisecond, so many words shot through my mind. Hold onto something. This is going to be bad. Oh my god. Brace yourself. I can't believe this is kids have to be okay. All that came out of my mouth was, "Ahhhh!"

Action scenes are like that. SOOO much more mental and visceral than verbal. Think about comic books. You get impact, you get expressions of pain or determination, you get lighting and mood, and you get sound cues. Draw that scene with your paragraphs!

Act. React. Concern for the stakes. Attack. Defend. Strike. Pain. Motivated by the stakes. Rage. Repeat.

Sure, the characters could banter. They could taunt each other. The hero could accentuate each strike with the name of someone he's avenging. That may be your characters, and your scene. But that's not the scene I'm going to share.

This is a scene with two heroes, two villains, and one hostage. And it gets a wee bit gruesome.

“You’re getting out at the corner of the mall, but the car will take me closer to where she’s hiding,” Menessos said. “I will confront her directly. The car waits with me while I try peaceably to get her to return, distracting her while you approach from another direction. You grab Beverley.”
            “Count on it.”
            When the car slowed to make the turn, Goliath exited the car—rolling into the street from a quickly opened and shut door—without it actually stopping. The late hour meant traffic was practically nonexistent. Menessos was counting on Ailo to detect the car arriving and slowing near her.
            All in all, Goliath thought this was a good plan.
            He wanted more than to rescue the child. If he could slay the shabbubitu {Ailo} and safely remove Beverley from harm, he would.
            Crouched, Goliath hurried in the direction opposite that of the limousine, circling around to enter Mall B by a pedestrian path.
            Malls A, B, and C were large landscaped areas of downtown Cleveland, green oases open to the public. Mall B had the most trees. It also had a medium-height wall to reduce traffic noise from the nearby Shoreway.
            In moments, he could hear Menessos pleading with Ailo to return to the haven. Near a tree, Goliath leaped over the wall and landed silently on the grass inside, keeping his body aligned with the tree trunk.
            As he assessed the situation, he noticed Menessos remained on the far side of the wall. Ailo had her back against some kind of stone monument shaped like a large square about three feet high and ten feet across. There were stone benches on three sides, and a tree on the other. There was considerable open space between her and Goliath’s position.
            He started forward.
            He was fifteen yards away when a dark shadow raced ahead of him on the ground. He dived to the side as a razor-like talon scraped his ear.
            The huge owl screeched and flapped her wings, rising into the sky.
            Goliath hit the ground and started to roll, but saw Ailo come running into the open, shouting, “Take us, Liyliy! Don’t leave! Take us!”
            In her arms, Ailo cradled Beverley, who was mummy-wrapped in gray silk.
            A glance at the sky revealed the large bird had circled around and was lining up for another flying dive. Her outstretched talons were open, ready to grab.
            There’s no fucking way she’s going to pick them both up and fly out of here.
            Lurching onto his feet, Goliath was racing forward before he was fully upright. From the corner of his eye he saw Menessos leap the wall and hit the ground running as well.
            Ailo lifted one arm up, ready for the owl to grasp her. She had her other arm locked tight around Beverley. When she saw the two vampires advancing on her, she stopped dead. A strip of gray fabric fluttered out and wrapped tight around Beverley’s neck. “Stay back or I’ll wring her little neck!” she cried.
            “Ailo, no!” Menessos shouted, stopping.
            Goliath sped up.
            He saw Liyliy, in her owl form, wings tucked, rocketing toward them like a missile.
            Ailo was backpedaling swiftly, holding Beverley up as if she were an offering to a sky god—but Liyliy’s nature was far more demonic. He could see the strip of cloth tightening around the girl’s throat.
            He had only seconds to save Beverley…save her from death or a fate worse than death with the shabbubitu.
            A few more steps and a leap, and he could place himself between the owl and the girl, and hope Menessos could compel—using his ancient connection and mastery over her—Ailo not to strangle her.
            As Goliath planted his foot, ready to propel himself up and into the huge owl’s path—he made a last glance toward Menessos who had his shoulders hunched inward, his arms down. His face was contorted with concentration, but his fingers were arched, and sparks danced from his palms. His lips were moving in a chant Goliath could not hear until Menessos shouted, “Ailo, fly!”
            Goliath had a millisecond to react, to decide if he would change his own plan. Or if Menessos, seeing him in action, would change his.
            Before this night, Menessos had always been the master. He had always expected Goliath to defer to his will and his choices.
            Though so much had changed, Goliath could not cast away his faith in Menessos now.
            The haven master slowed his momentum just as Ailo spun around. Her knees bent awkwardly. Her elbow straightened...
            Beverley fell from Ailo’s arms, landing directly on top of Goliath as Ailo launched herself into the air, soaring over them as she hurled herself up and into Liyliy’s path.
            Liyliy, in her unnaturally large feathered form, was unable, or unwilling, to alter her trajectory as quickly. Her extended talons slammed into Ailo’s body.
            The shrill owl voice filled the night. She beat her wings so hard the braches of nearby trees shuttered in the turbulence. Either the unbalanced, unexpected weight of her sister was too much to carry or she was trying unsuccessfully to hover and not land. She forced her legs back and forth, first pushing then pulling, trying to extricate Ailo from her talons—but her long, hooked claws had plunged all the way through her sister’s body.
            Goliath tore his eyes from the horrific scene to examine Beverley. The silky gray fabric that still swaddled her was surely Ailo’s, but it no longer seemed enchanted. The strip that had wrapped the girl’s throat had slipped off and now lay dormant and unthreatening on the ground.
            Liyliy landed not far away, and drew his attention as she bounced along the ground, trying to resolve her predicament. More than once, her path came too close for comfort. Goliath rolled, placing Beverley behind him, shielding her with his body. He came to his knees and pulled her to him like an infant, then rose to his feet and fled.
            Crouched behind the relative safety of a tree trunk, he watched the owl’s desperate efforts end as Ailo was torn in half.
            The giant owl, screaming miserably, flew into the night sky.
Okay, if you made it this's the thought on the dialogue in there.
First off, you're getting a minimal amount of 'the plan.' Enough so you as the reader can understand what is happening, and form a few expectations about it. Of course, since I've given you that hint about their intentions, it can't work out quite that easy. If they had a slightly more involved plan, and you saw it not working, it would amp up your concern. What will they do now? Hopefully, readers who had read the whole series understood that Menessos and Goliath were not on the best of terms just then, and that Goliath conceding to what he knew of Menessos as the master--a position he had recently been removed from--meant a lot more than you probably picked up from this excerpt. THAT was the point I wanted to make with the rescue scene.
In action, dialogue should be minimal. But if there is something more at stake, something to add to the scene so that it goes beyond the "radio announcer's play-by-play" weave that in, too. Your hero and your villain are both fighting FOR something. The POV character shouldn't lose sight of that. *See cartoon image above.