Judith Beheading Holofernes
by Artimesia Gentileschi
When it comes to action scenes, I'm past liking them and squarely into the "highly obsessed" camp. As a reader, I consume every word the author wrote -- for better or worse. Sex scenes, fight scenes, what-just-happened scenes. I don't skip sentences. I don't skim pages. If the author thought the words were important enough to include, then I'm reading every last one of them. This is why, when an author glosses over an action scene, I get annoyed. "He swung the battle ax and beheaded the monster. He turned around and kissed his girl. Together, they headed to the next locked door."
Are you kidding me?
I want to know how the weight of ax threw the hero off balance. How the reverberation of the strike against the monster's scaly hide sent pain from hand to nape. I want him to react to the warm spatter of blood blinding him. Of the ax getting caught in the partly severed neck. What? No one beheads a monster in one blow. Well, unless the monster is made of cotton candy...then maybe. His girlfriend has either fainted or barfed. There is no kissing. There is no skipping down the hall to the next challenge because there's a big fucking corpse oozing all sorts of ick. When beings die, they shit and piss themselves. How's about that for a romantic moment?
Details, people, details.
I love to write action scenes, battle scenes, fight scenes, whatever you want to call them. I write them in detail because conflict by its very nature changes everyone involved. People get hurt, people hurt others. There should be physical and emotional reaction to that -- from the gals swinging the punches to the bystanders hiding in the trees. If the action scene doesn't provoke change in the characters and their relationships, then what the hell is it doing there hogging up precious word count? I want the reader to know if and when there is hesitation in either party, but I'll let the reader figure out why. I want the reader to know the heroine will accept an injury if the move lets her inside her opponent's guard to deliver the fatal blow. Details like that are important statements of the character.
How people fight tells you a lot about them.
What about you, dear reader? Can you recall an action scene that really gave you insight into a character? Share the moment and the story below.