For Every Action (Sequence), There Is An Equal And Opposite Reaction

Sorry for the lengthy silence. It’s almost faire time, so my creative energy is definitely going in other directions.

Which is not to say I haven’t been writing. I have, as time and energy permit, because (as reported in my last post) I have, essentially, another entire novel manuscript to complete so I can re-submit Action Figures.

I recently hit a sticking point that’s requiring a lot of thought and a lot of re-writing, and that sticking point is an action sequence.

Sometimes these things come together very easily, but other times? Eesh. Bostonia got hung up for several weeks as I stumbled and fumbled my way through a major action set piece, and the bit I’m working on now is so far not as much of a headache, but it definitely is challenging.

The set-up sounds simple: two characters (one hero, one villain) are beating the shit out of one another while three other characters (the other heroes) do what they can to assist their teammate. The challenge is in making everything make sense. I always have to keep in mind why a given character takes a particular action at a specific moment, and how the effects of that action impact what happens next.

For example: Joe Good Guy and Max Bad Guy, kung-fu experts both, are fighting in a mall. I decide that Max is going to throw Joe through the display window of a Victoria’s Secret. So, does Joe spring right back up? Getting pitched through a plate glass window is no small thing; Joe would need a reasonable amount of recovery time, but logically, it makes sense for Max to jump on Joe and press his advantage before Joe can get back up. Now my hero, who is supposed to win, is at a disadvantage from which he has to recover in a convincing fashion.

For sake of argument, let’s say Joe is a tough guy and does recover quickly enough to continue the stand-up fight. But now, instead of being in the relatively open space of a main thoroughfare, they’re in the relatively constrained space of a store filled with displays. If you’ve ever been in a Victoria’s Secret, you know there’s not a lot of space to throw roundhouse kicks, something our martial artists would do in the course of a fight, so moving the fight into the store limits my character’s options.

Of course, I could just “Hollywood” the fight and have the characters recover instantly from getting punched, kicked, hit with chairs, thrown through windows, and while that would address a lot of issues, it would bug the hell out of me. If a character gets punched in the nose in my stories, I want him screaming in pain, bleeding like a stuck pig, and dropping to his knees in agony — all while the guy who punched him is cradling his broken fingers.

I guess part of the problem is that I over-think fight scenes, but I’d rather over-think them and wind up with action sequences that are both exciting and plausible than sequences that work only as long as the reader doesn’t stop to think about them.


One thought on “For Every Action (Sequence), There Is An Equal And Opposite Reaction

  1. Rob

    *G* Welcome to my world! You’ve just described the way a fight director has to think, pretty much all the time. Of course, you have the extra burden of creating the characters as well as the action… On the other hand, you’re guaranteed that no one will blank out or get hurt, unless the story requires it! ;^)


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