I already know (and in many cases do) much of what will be in these notes, but I'm always open for a new perspective. Sometimes one little comment will spark something in me, open an entire new outlook on something I've been struggling with. So I continue to attend panels on which I could probably have been a panelist, in hopes of gaining those nuggets of knowledge, or just something that helps validate me.
I might post these in some kind of order; I might not. This presentation was the final one I attended on Thursday, so definitely not the first I went to! (The symposium was Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11.) Someone asked me for a copy of my notes, so I had already typed them up to pass on.
9 February 2012, Life, the Universe, and Everything 30
Writing Action--Larry Correia
larrycorreia.wordpress.com writing advice at http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/best-of-mhn/
Action is huge in every genre--even time-travel romance!
First rule--there are no rules
If it sucks, it's lame, and the readers hate it--don't put it in
If it's awesome and the readers love it--write it!
If you don't like it, your readers certainly won't
Pacing of action sequence screws up a lot of writers.
Takes up much more space than other scenes
What's the target audience? What kind of book are you writing? Make action scene big but not so long it makes reader lose interest.
Depending on style of book--can describe every move of a fight, and have a twenty page fist fight. Or shorten it down so it's not so detailed, but moves more quickly.
Don't use checklist description describing everything they do.
Convey enough to describe the action without describing every action.
Don't make it too short and concise. "The monster died."
Need some description! Clear and concise, but not too wordy. Depends on your audience. Gun nuts will love your lengthy gun description. No one else will.
Learn as much as you can about the topics you're writing about, but you don't need to be an expert!
You can't have done all the things your characters do.
Talk to technical experts on the subjects. Emotions of that method of fighting--they will know. They can tell you about things you didn't even know you needed to know--and that adds the needed verisimilitude.
If you get it totally wrong (didn't do your research), it will kick your reader who does know that subject out of the story.
Learn about sword fighting if writing an epic fantasy with sword fighting!
In real life, people don't have hit points. What really happens when you get stabbed, shot, etc.? Research this (online works).
Go shooting to find out about shooting! It will make you a more convincing writer.
Don't be afraid to mix things up. Don't have all your action sequences be the same--all gunfights, or whatever. Go beyond your comfort zone.
Action is not a separate part of the book. Action can convey plot. Expand characters during action sequences.
Good writers make characters learn and grow and change during action sequences.
PoV character determines amount of emotion in the scene.
Someone who is used to violence will be inured to it--relatively unemotional about it.
Someone who's not, will be, "I'm gonna die!"
Beware the Buffy Syndrome. Characters with no training etc. who can suddenly fight vampires.
Killers can be very analytical about killing; they've done it enough that it's just a job.
Writing style can depict mental framework and emotional state of a character--borderline psychotic character is described in long, run-on sentences.
Character's confusion can be mirrored to reader; as character learns what's happening, so does reader. (Otherwise, confusing the reader is bad.)
Change PoV, decide whose PoV would be most interesting for that scene. But use breaks when you change PoV. Let reader know who new PoV character is immediately.
When do you decide that an action scene should come in?
Do not make entire novel intense.
Normal, then intense. If too much time since action has happened, give some. If lots of explosions, let it calm down for a while. Break up the monotony. Spice it up.
Kill bridge crew, not just redshirts. Help ramp up the tension. You can kill one of the main characters, and then the reader will know no one is safe. Do horrible things to one of the most popular characters (you don't need to kill them). Raise the bar.
"I'll kill anyone." When you kill someone who's your favorite character, and your readers really care about them, that ramps up emotion.
Most of the action you've read in other novels is wrong. Do your research. Don't be lazy and just do what other novels do.
Subvert tropes. Reader thinks s/he knows what's coming, and then you change it.
Training for fighting--you can make this character development time. Yoda training Luke. Luke faces his inner demons. You learn a lot about both teacher and trainee. Wax on, wax off.
Just because someone sees the ending coming, doesn't mean the ending is bad.
Facebook is a good place to meet people you can pump for information. Also, who can vet your writing for accuracy.
Moving back and forth between opposing characters can be awesome.
See one make a plan, the other thinks they know what it is, but it's not--readers love this.
I'm going to post my very lengthy notes from the panels and presentations at Life, the Universe, and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy (LTU&E) Symposium 30 here. There were a great number of excellent presentations this year, and I took copious notes (27 pages on Friday alone), so I figured I'd share the interesting facts, insights, and information I garnered here.