Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Aaaaannnnd ACTION!

by KAK 

Judith Beheading Holofernes
by Artimesia Gentileschi
In real life, I'm not a violent person. I don't enjoy watching UFC matches or boxing. It's probably why I'm far from pro-hockey's biggest fan. I always figured school bullies needed to meet up with a Master Sergeant for a year of boot camp.


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.


  1. "When beings die, they shit and piss themselves. How's about that for a romantic moment?"

    I think that wins the Internet for the day. I seriously doubt anything else today will make me chuckle that inappropriately. :)

  2. I agree - love that! (So far, I haven't been able to think of an action scene that gave me real character insight. Maybe I don't read enough of that sort of thing?)

  3. This is such a good topic this week! But yeah - I think Hollywood in particular seems to glamorize what's really possible in a lot of these action type scenes.

    As far as character insight? Sometimes I think it's less about the fight scenes themselves as the character reaction to it. (i.e. if someone is tied up and being pistol-whipped or something - are they still rebellious as they spit out their teeth? Do they give up? And what's the inner motivation for why they do what they do. I feel like you can learn a great deal from a character by reading how they react under pressure.

    (And really, it's easy to be an armchair warrior, but the reality is that the fight or flight reaction tends to take over when most of us are confronted with the potential for violence. You can have the best of intentions, but all that might go out the window as you hoof it down the street or curl into a ball.)

  4. Zombie Joe, thankyouveddymuch. I hate to point out why you zombies are never really in pristine condition when you rise.

    Jeffe, why do I suspect you'd be able to rattle off five sex scenes that gave you great character insight? ~cough~

    Allison, you're right. It's very much about the characters' reactions going into it, going through it, and coming out of it.

  5. Actually, yes. Yes, I absolutely could.