Tag Archives: Joe Abercrombie

Hiding in a Corner to Get Shit Done

Great news! I’m all moved in, the housewarming party went off without a hitch — the guests were great, the food was great, you were great and I was great. Even if you weren’t there.  Just roll with it.

A few announcements:

  1. Borderlands Books is hosting Joe Abercrombie tonight. I adore his books. They’re a brilliant balance of violence, grit and humor, punctuated by F-bombs and tiny glimmers of heart-wrenching honesty.
  2. There’s something really and truly exciting on the horizon that I can’t disclose right now, but once I do you will be as giggly and excited as I am.
  3. In light of #2, there are a few deadlines I have to meet and will be offline until August 16th or so.

 

In the meantime, I have an assignment for you. In the morning, think of one good thing you’d like to do. A small thing, like an errand or a phone call. Then do it. The following day, come up with a slightly more complex task. Then do it. Make all of these things something you can accomplish in a single day — and keep going until I get back. Blog about it. Tell me about it in the comments.  Imagine that I am breathing down your neck, telling you to get your shit done.

You can do it!

Please meditate on my safety-dart bored, and the magnetic poems that were donated to my home.

dart

You Have Authority

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Liebster Nomination, and embarassingly personal stuff

Check it out! Margit Sage of Ominous Whimsy nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Liebe really IST für alle da!https://i0.wp.com/margitsage.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/liebster-blog-award-2.png

Rules:
1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them. (Done)
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator. (See below)
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers. (See below)
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (down further below)
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them. (Message delivered)

ONE:  What is the soundtrack to a great writing day for you?
RAMMSTEIN
.  At least right now. Ask me again in a few weeks and it may be showtunes, The Duhks, Qntal, Christen Lien; who knows.

TWO:  Is there a song that embodies your favorite character (or poem) that you’ve written? If so, what is it?
Almost all my characters have theme songs. Music helps us set the tone. For one of my toughest, hardest characters, Sirenia’s “Save Me From Myself” jumped out immediately. The song is so mournful, it reminded me of all the impossible choices she made and decisions she refuses to second-guess. She amasses political and martial power because she’s hurting; and no amount of armor will ever be able to make her feel safe again.

THREE: Do you know exactly what each of your characters looks like? Or do you just have some vague notion (or none at all)? Does your visual conception of characters change over time?
Some characters are as clear as day — right down to their cheekbones and the smell of their sweat. Other characters are more vague, as though they’re two blocks away. I have a file of image references, but connect more strongly to their personality than their appearance.

FOUR: Why do you write?
Because I have to.

FIVE: How does your writing begin? With a visual, a concept, or something else entirely?
It always feels like addiction in the beginning. Sometimes it’s a piece of music. Sometimes it’s visual, like a key on a bracelet. Unbearable emotion is another source. If I can’t talk about it — or talking isn’t enough — I apply those feelings in a completely different context and let them unravel there.

SIX: When you write, where are you? What are you surrounded with/by?
I am in the story. I am in the character. Whoever is talking and thinking — whoever the narration focuses on — I am in their soul and their heart, feeling around. If they laugh, I laugh. If they cry, I cry.

SEVEN: What author do you wish every writer you talk to had previously read?
Joe Abercrombie. Or Paulo Coelho. Or both — I love a hard-ass with a soul.

EIGHT: What are your writing goals this year?
Snag an agent for my fantasy novel, finish the steam book, and finish the antichrist book.

NINE: What advice would you like to share with your blog readers right now?
That thing you want to do, you can do it. Seriously. Even if you’re scared.

TEN: What is the reaction you’re most hoping for from your readers? What reaction would put a giant grin on your face?
I want them to feel. I want them to relate. I want them to step outside themselves for just a moment and realize how much more is possible — and then I want them to pass it on.

On a more superficial level, I want to see them dress up as my characters for a packed reading at the Castro Theater. That would be such a great party.

~

Now you, RD, Yvone, TomCarry, Susan, Shana, Bob, Michelle, Kira Lyn, and Drew must answer the following ten questions:

  1. What’s the harshest piece of criticism you’ve grown from?
  2. If you had to be without one of your five senses, which would it be and why?
  3. What material is hard for you to write, and how do you tackle it (emotional rawness, erotica, gore, etc)?
  4. What did you have in mind when you started blogging, and how did your blog deviate from your original idea?
  5. What’s the strangest compliment you’ve ever received?
  6. What question do you wish people would ask you, and how would you answer?
  7. How do you deal with an unhealthy obsession (if you don’t have obsessions, I suspect you’re fibbing — but go ahead and give advice for ‘your friend’ who does)?
  8. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do, and what would be the first step toward accomplishing that goal?
  9. What makes you a great friend?
  10. What does your personal paradise look, sound, and smell like?

The world is not obligated to care.”
– David Drake, from Shared Worlds Exhibit

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”
– Eden Ahbez

How to Write Realistic Brawls/Scraps/Fights

Come at me, meow!

Realism* is your best friend when dealing with a fight. We already know realism makes romance and erotica come alive, and it’s the same with a fight. Without realism, the erotica will be limp, the romance will be un-relatable, and the fight will be boring.

*As much realism as you can have when magic and super-speed are involved, but more on that later.

Combat is a physical, visceral thing. Showing, not telling, is key. Spending words on your characters’ thoughts will slow down the action. If you’re getting mugged, do you think your mugger would pause while you reflected on your unfortunate circumstances?

No! He’d take your damn wallet and run!

That level of urgency is important in a fight. Do warriors analyze the situation? Of course, but that analysis is instant. Their experience and ingenuity will be better reflected in your writing by describing what they DO, not what they THINK.

Just as a physicist will be unimpressed if you write bad science, fighters will be unimpressed if you write bad fights. Always ask if you’re not sure!

Here are some quick principles and a practice exercise to help you tighten up flabby fight scenes.

BLOW-BY-BLOW! The best written combat sequences obey the following rules:

  1. Short, direct sentences. Make them clear and to the point.
  2. Vivid description. By vivid I mean specific, not florid.  “She was hit hard in the face by his elbow,” is awful. “He broke her nose,” is alright. “His elbow slammed into her nose with a  sickening crunch,” is better.
  3. A blow-by-blow account. This is the difference between a good scene and a great  scene, and sportscasters have known this for years. Chat with your local dojo’s demo-team instructor, or watch movies choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping. They’ll give you good examples of sequence. (Ideally you could sign up for martial arts classes yourself!)

These principles apply equally to gun fights and magical onslaughts. I don’t know much about tank/ship/spaceship combat, so let’s omit vehicles for now. All the same, seeing the essential steps of the dance will give it beauty.

EXERCISE ~ LINKING ACTION AND REACTION

reaction

Kill Bill, 2003

Take a short fight scene, slow it down, and practice describing  the sequence of strikes. Capture the sequence first, and add details later. I chose THIS RANDOM VIDEO as an example. I’ve named the woman in pink “Kelly,” and her opponent’s new name is “Mary.”

STEP I: Break the moves down to their simplest choreography 

Kelly punches Mary.

Kelly looks at her knuckles.

Mary kicks Kelly in the groin.

Mary drops.

Mary grabs Kelly‘s hair.

Mary drags Kelly across the floor.

Kelly tries to get up.

Mary throws Kelly into a table.

Check the video again to make sure you didn’t miss anything. They do the same sequence twice.

Now that you have the skeleton of the action, you have a clear view of how each fighter acts and reacts to the other.

STEP II: Relate A’s actions directly to B’s actions.

“You knew this would happen,” Mary said. Kelly smiled, and punched Mary in the eye. Mary’s head snapped back while Kelly looked at her bruised knuckle. Mary took a step forward and kicked Kelly in the groin, which made Kelly drop to her knees. Mary then grabbed Kelly by the ponytail and dragged her across the floor. Kelly kicked and screamed. She tried to get up, but Mary threw her into the table. Mary put a hand to her eye, growled and stomped away. 

STEP III: Edit to give it life. Omit unnecessary action, shorten sentences, break up paragraphs and add tiny embellishments for color.

“You knew this would happen,” Mary laughed.


Kelly smirked for half a second, then socked Mary in the eye. Mary’s head snapped back.


The shock didn’t last. Mary lunged, kicking Kelly in the groin. Kelly dropped to her knees. Mary grabbed a chunk of Kelly’s hair and dragged her kicking and screaming across the floor.

Kelly tried to scramble to her feet, but Mary was stronger. Mary slammed Kelly into the table, and Kelly dropped like a sack of rocks.

Clutching her stinging eye, Mary stormed off.

To Recap:

Principles:

  • Short, direct sentences.
  • Vivid, specific description.
  • A blow-by-blow account.

Steps:

STEP I: Break the moves down to their simplest choreography.

STEP II: Relate A’s actions directly to B’s actions.

STEP III: Edit to give it life. Omit unnecessary action, shorten sentences, break up paragraphs and add tiny embellishments for style.

Final Notes:

  • I omitted some of the details I felt slowed down the narrative, including grunting and screaming. The body language was enough.
  • I spent more time describing actions that took longer to execute. Your words are like a film reel, dedicate the time only where it agrees with pacing.
  • Only use active verbs. “Kelly was punched by Mary” sounds like a crime report. “Mary punched Kelly” sounds like it hurt.

Based on the text, you should be able to re-create the fight. Ask yourself, was the pacing the same? Did you feel the same way reading the text as watching the video? Most importantly, are you creating an authentic fight, or mimicking what’s been done before?

Red Sonja (1985). I love this movie, but standards have gone way up since then. Don’t recycle the same tricks.

This example is very basic. The point is to practice flow and sequence. As your instincts get stronger, steps I and II will merge, and you can get right down to the fun stuff like spurting blood and what it feels like to have bone fragments grinding against each other.

I couldn’t find any good quotes by Joe Abercrombie about writing combat, but R. A. Salvatore nailed it right on the head. In my opinion, those two are the absolute best combat writers in fiction. As someone with over twenty years of martial arts study, working with demonstration teams, stage-fighting and practical application, I’ve learned the value of writing sequences that are both pretty and realistic.

Writing a fight scene is about mechanics (it’s got to make sense to  people who know something about fighting–kind of like the science in a  science fiction book has to pass the physicist test!)… Mostly, a good fight  scene is about the pacing. I notice that my sentences get shorter,  paragraphs become single sentences or even sentence fragments, and  characters are too involved in staying alive to muse about the meaning  of life.” –R.A. Salvatore

Questions? Critiques? Leave a note.