Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top ten tips for writing great fight scenes


Fight scenes

Mary Thinks She Knows Everything!?

Before I begin on this blog...that I wrote about two months ago...I need to explain why I have been totally (or almost) absent from Seekerville for a while, including missing my FIRST MONDAY OF THE MONTH POSTS for two months.
One day post surgery. Tina yelled at me for being on social media
I had a detached retina. I'm sure many of you have heard that, but I've never mentioned it (well maybe in the comments?) here.
So I had the surgery then was told I had to spend TEN DAYS lying FACE DOWN. Oh My Gosh, never ever has a treatment seemed so STRANGE. "Seriously Doc, you are requiring me to SMOTHER MYSELF?"
Doc sez, "Why you always gotta look at the dark side?"
So ten days face down...I survived with my sanity intact....trust me, I know this, because My Cowboy has serious doubts and insisted on having me tested!"
Now I've been up for about a month and MY LEFT EYE DOESN'T WORK WELL! It's so weird, my left eye is all messed up and supposed to heal but it's so SLOW.
So anyway, here I am, still a little shaky from the surgery. But finally writing again (I've been doing that for a while, but some days that's the limit of my computer time....
And now, with out further ado, I am going to write about fight scenes.
Go home. Lie face down. Ten days. Good luck.
BTW when they asked me how I got a small tear in my retina...which started the process that led to a detached retina...the doc asked, "Did you have a car crash? A fall? Take a blow to the head?...like six months ago?
I can't think of anything like that.
Doc Sez: Well, sometimes these things just happen.
Terrifying comment.
But speaking of 'a blow to the head'...no, I never got into a fist fight six months ago. And so my fist fighting blog makes some sense. (almost)

1. First write the scene



You need to write it out, over write it, not worry about the length…then tighten it, revise it.

This is true of all writing, but never moreso than in an action scene





2. Always remember character.

Your characters must remain in character while they are moving faster than ever, fighting hard, swinging a fist.




3. Advance the story with the fight

Always remember that, although these scenes, as a writer, are tense, taut, hard, important…it’s not that uncommon for the reader to skim or skip them. Can you think of an example of this?

My example: Have you ever read a Louis L’Amour book? I love Louis L'Amour. He's a huge inspiration. But his fight scenes are so cookie cutter that I never read them. My girls and I read the whole library collection of L'Amour, and we’d talk. The girls used to say L’Amour probably copied and pasted the same fight scene into every book, then went through and changed the names, and locations. Even though they were obviously climax scenes, black moment scenes, life and death scenes…we all skipped them.

It reminds me a little of the modern blockbuster movies like the Batman and Superman movies, the Transformer and Ninja Turtles movies. The fight scenes are ENDLESS AND BORING. Seriously, if I have to watch the poor Statue of Liberty get knocked over one more time, I’m doing a boycott.

Let’s face it, if it’s one of L’Amour’s Sacketts, or Superman, I KNEW the hero would win. Sure he’d get hurt, but he’d win. So if it's a movie, I check my email or try to get a few words written during a
Marvel Comic Movies, if it's a book, I skim along looking for when it ends, and then read the AFTERMATH of the fight scene. That’s very often when the fun really lurks.


4. Don't skimp on writing the AFTERMATH.

This is often the point of the whole exercise. Emotions should be sky high. Blood needs to be staunched. If he's not too badly hurt, a man should be full of sap. (define that for yourself)

5. Keep it short.

Make the fight scene not one word longer than you need it to be. You need to reveal character and
advance the plot with the fight. You need wit, action, surprises. You need to make the fight worth the read. Keep your reader in mind, much as you need to with backstory. You want them to stay with you, make what you write high stakes, charming, unique and brief.

I can remember one L’Amour shootout where the villain called out the hero to do a High Noon type shootout.

The hero came out of the saloon and just walked straight for the bad guy. No hesitation. This mental dialogue is going on in the hero’s head. Bad Guy expects us to exchange threats. He expects to tell me why he wants to kill me. He expects ‘brace yourself’ ‘face off’ ‘draw and fire’. Bad Guy's eyes are shifting, he's not as brave as he sounds. Thinking, walking, hero just keeps closing in steady, fast. Bad Guy is confused, hesitates, the hero walks right up to him and slugs him so hard he knocks him on his backside, then picks him up, punches him hard a few times, takes his gun and tosses him in a water trough.

The point here is, I remember this scene. It was different, surprising. That’s the kind of fight scene you want to write.

I rarely do fight scenes. I do running, shooting, falling, screaming, burning, chasing. But fist fights?

Nope.

I’ve done one. A fight scene in the end of Stuck Together. I can think of one other but the scene isn’t about the fight. The two brothers in the Cimarron Legacy start swinging at each other and knock over a lamp and the room catches fire while they’re fighting.

The scene is about their sister, Sadie and hired man, Heath Kincaid putting out the fire while dodging the two men rolling around on the floor slugging each other. I’m attempting to write one right now for my WIP and it’s an interesting challenge…trying to make it good enough to keep the reader reading!

5. Read great fight scenes.

Several times. As Tina would say, Deconstruct it.




6. Be true to genre.

Do you use western words, words like right cross, left jab, those are boxer words, would your character know them and think them?
If you're writing contemporary detective fiction, be aware of how those characters would talk.
If you're writing Amish....well, if you're writing Amish you probably will be keeping your fights to a minimum.
But you get my point right?


7. EMOTION.

There is emotion in the scene, this may be the MOST important.
It's not just swinging punches.

Emotion goes with pain, with fear, with anger.

KEEP EMOTION IN THE SCENE





8. Make your fight movie worthy.


Write like your book is a movie.

Think in terms of visual, living and moving people. 









9. Use the five senses.

Punches HURT. Falling and crashing into tables and chairs is noisy. Knuckles bleed. Sweat has a smell and you feel it rolling down your face. Blood has a taste. Using the senses draws the reader into any scene better than any other device in your writer’s toolkit.

10. Balance the elements. It’s very tough to balance the action, the thoughts, dialogue, the emotion, the scene setting. Any asides, any interior monologue had to be pared down and done just right or it stops action in it’s tracks. But neither can fists just swing and
connect, swing and connect.

A final bonus sort of non-writing tip.

Get a second set of eyes on your scene.

If you feel confident in your fight scene writing skills then go for it, but if you are new to it, get some neutral eyes on it. NOT YOUR MOTHER. She loves you too much to admit she daydreamed from sentence five on. A writer, not someone who will savage you, but who will be honest. Someone else can tell if the scene MOVES. They can tell if this piece of internal musing stops the action, the scene is emotionally flat. I'm amazed what others can see in my work that I can't seem to see.

Leave a comment about a great fight scene you've read, watched, written or...if you've actually been in a fist fight, you can tell me about that... to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of 
by Mary Connealy
Click to Buy--just in case you don't win!!!!
The Boden clan thought their problems had ended with the death of a dangerous enemy, but have they truly uncovered the real plot to take their New Mexico ranch? Rancher Justin Boden is now in charge. He is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn't help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on.

With her and the doc's timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It's clear now that everything that's occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Story of a Budding Novelist

with guest Linda Sammaritan.

Hello, Seekerville and Villagers! I am so honored to contribute to this wonderful site. When asked if I wanted to guest blog, of course, I said yes. Who would say no? 

And then. And… then... Deep breath. What worthwhile topic could an unpublished novelist add to Seekerville? I’m a teeny, tiny fish in a gigantic pond!

I decided to share my journey into writing fiction. Every one of you has a story as to how you plunged into the world of novel-crafting. Or, if you haven’t yet tested the creative waters for yourself, you’re wondering what your story might be. I dove in eight years ago. With Nanowrimo. National Novel Writing Month. 

The challenge: write fifty thousand words in thirty days. Wow! Several lifetimes ago, before all my boys were in school, I had slaved over seven hundred-word articles for a variety of magazines. Could I do fifty thousand? Of fiction? I love to read—three novels a week if time allows—but could I write one?

With no outline and a vague sense of what I wanted in my story, I turned the calendar page to November 1, 2009, and placed my fingers on the keyboard. One thousand six hundred sixty-seven words per day.

And what did I discover? Nanowrimo was a blast! I loved the challenge. I reached daily goals. I found out I was a pantser! I joined writers around the world, encouraged them when they flagged, and they did the same for me. A local group of Nanowrimers got together on various days and instigated write-ins. We were wild and crazy. I felt like I was back in college.

I wrote fifty thousand words in thirty days!

Were the fifty thousand words any good? They weren’t terrible. They weren’t terrific, either. I would spend the rest of the year learning to edit, which led to the recognition that I needed eyes other than mine to evaluate the work in progress. 

Enter Meet-up.com.  I stumbled upon the site and discovered a writer group as one of the options, a trio of rough men whose brand of writing was a far cry from mine, dark science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Think: Pollyanna meets the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I was petrified. These guys were serious about getting published, though, so I was willing to take whatever they dished out if it would help me forward. History proved us to be more like Goldilocks and the Three Teddy Bears. Fear is no longer part of my vocabulary when it comes to this wonderful group of writers.

The more I learned about writing, the more research I did so I could learn even more about writing. That’s how I discovered the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). What a treasure trove of information. They’ve become my anchor by providing so many connections to new information, I’ll never be able to take it all in. One of those connections was Seekerville. Add another blessing!

With ACFW, I joined a small critique group. Our personalities meshed so well online. When all of us but one were able to meet for the first time at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis, we were terrified. What if knowing each other in person spoiled the group friendship? Silly us! Time together cemented the initial bond. Now dubbed The Scriblerians, we post book reviews to help parents evaluate titles for children, middle grades, young adults, and new adults (http://www.scriblerians.com). Our friendship flourishes across the United States and Canada. Whenever one of us is within a half day’s drive of another, we make sure to get together to chat, to play, to write, to pray. 

ACFW and Writer’s Digest introduced me to the concept of writing contests. It’s a lot of work, a lot of fun, and a little money to enter those contests, but I’ve found judges’ comments encouraging and reliable. With each contest, not only have I gained another inch of name recognition, I’ve improved my manuscripts. They’ve placed in contests, and every year I get a little closer to publication.

That very first Nano novel made it to an editor’s desk, thanks to the ACFW Conference, where writers, agents, and editors are encouraged to meet and greet, to practice their pitches and request proposals. I received a very detailed rejection letter filled with constructive criticism. Unfortunately, the editor left that publishing house within weeks. Someday, I’ll get back to that novel and revise it with that kind editor’s suggestions in mind. In the meantime, I’m working on a trilogy (excerpts available at www.lindasammaritan.com), and new stories and blog topics germinate in my mind every time I sit down to write. I’ve thought of two writing-related posts as I plug away at this one!



So that’s my writing story. What’s yours? Did you know you wanted to write from near-infancy in the same way I knew I wanted to teach? Did God call you into this new ministry as a young adult, in the middle of a different career, or as a second career after retirement? Who helped you along your path to publication? I love to hear a good story. Tell me yours.


And finally, 2017 Nanowrimo is coming up in November. Have you considered entering? Details here: www.nanowrimo.org


Linda is giving away three print books from Scriblerians.Winners announced in the Weekend Edition! 

Eight Notes to a Nobody by Cynthia T. Toney
Mind Writer by Lisa Godfrees and Mike Lynch
Mardan’s Mark by Kathrese McKee


Eight Notes to a Nobody

Wendy Robichaud doesn't care one bit about being popular like good-looking classmates Tookie and the Sticks--until Brainiac bully John-Monster schemes against her, and someone leaves anonymous sticky-note messages all over school. Even the best friend she always counted on, Jennifer, is hiding something and pulling away. But the spring program, abandoned puppies, and high school track team tryouts don't leave much time to play detective. And the more Wendy discovers about the people around her, the more there is to learn.When secrets and failed dreams kick off the summer after eighth grade, who will be around to support her as high school starts in the fall? 

8 Notes to a Nobody received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. In its original edition, Bird Face, it won a 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Award, bronze, in the category Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues. 


Mind Writer

Born with a rare genetic mutation, Eighteen-year-old Rinee Newburgh has been kept in a secret government facility all her life. Trained to enhance her skills as a Mind Writer, her unique talents give her the ability to transfer a person’s thoughts, memories, personality—their soul—into a clone created for those deemed vital to society’s continued survival.

When Rinee’s friend and right hand to the President, Andrei Malotetnev, is nearly killed in an assassination attempt, she discovers the terrible truth—that Mind Writers are regarded as disposable, and life outside the Facility is nothing more than a pollution-filled world on the brink of collapse. She also learns of Malotetnev’s plan to kill millions of people as a means of freeing up dwindling resources needed by the government. Horrified at the thought of a modern day holocaust, Rinee escapes the Facility in a desperate attempt to warn the people of his evil intentions.

Locked in a race against time, Malotetnev sends his most trusted assassin with orders to eliminate Rinee at any cost before the truth can be revealed. What he didn't count on was an assassin with a conscience.



Mardan’s Mark

Abducted by pirates and taken behind enemy lines across the Great Gulf, Princess Srilani is determined to save her sisters and younger brother, the crown prince, from captivity. 

She convinces their caretaker, Aldan, and his brother slaves to share the perilous journey home. This ragtag group of unlikely heroes sets out on a quest — pursued by cutthroat pirates, merciless priests, and marauding soldiers — to return the heir to his kingdom before war breaks out.

In this epic adventure fantasy, Srilani and Aldan risk everything to save a prince and a nation, discovering along the way that death is not their deepest fear.

  Mardan’s Mark is the award-winning first book in the Mardan’s Mark series.

To enter the giveaway, share your story of how you got started in writing. OR if you love to read but you don’t write, tell me what first enthralled you about reading. In my case, I was calling out letters from street signs before I turned two. Combining letters into words, then words into sentences until sentences become stories has always fascinated me.




Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle-grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Giving Readers What They Want…Consistently (aka: What I learned from being a cosmetics junkie.)



My name is Missy Tippens, and I am a cosmetics and skincare product addict. I love face creams and foundation. Primer and powder. Cleansers and concealer. I’m a sucker for just about anything that declares itself anti-aging. :) (Please bear with me. I WILL tie this in to writing and books.)



My husband has always called me a marketer’s dream. Sales and advertisements draw me in. I love to discover new products, and once I love something, I’m a loyal user. For the last year, I’ve been a big fan of an up-and-coming cosmetics company. I’ve tried many new-to-me products, but have also experienced the release of new items. I have enjoyed the samples that come with every purchase. Very often, I use those samples and then buy the products, discovering new favorites. When I go to their website to shop, I always read the reviews before I buy. They seem to have a crazily loyal customer base, women who heartily share their love of the products with others. I found myself spoiled by the company’s business model and by those new product releases—the samples, the build-up, the special promotions.

But recently, when it had been a while since a new product, I found myself losing interest a bit. I started looking around, clicking on links in newsletters from other companies, checking out products by other brands. Then, BAM! I got an email from my favorite company about a new product release, and I was once again excited about the brand!

In that moment, it hit me… Oh, my goodness, what if books are the same? I suspect voracious readers are the same way I am with my cosmetics. If so, we authors need to stay in contact with our readers. We need to give them new products to sample and buy. We need to keep them excited about our product so they stay loyal. :)


How can we give our readers more books and keep them interested when some of us are slow writers? Or when some of us are at a place in our lives where we have family or other commitments taking us away from our writing? What about those authors facing illness or grief? It got me thinking…wondering…feeling a bit overwhelmed…

And then I got a promotional email from Nick Stephenson of the blog Your First 10,000 Readers. Nick said:
They key thing to remember is that 'overwhelm' isn't an inherent personality flaw. It's not genetic. It's not communicable. It's not a fault with you. Overwhelm is a by-product of 'not having a plan'.”
That was another BAM! moment to me. I was struck with the feeling that God was trying to tell me something: I need to work on a more structured plan.
No more saying, “When I finish x, I think I’m going to work on y…or maybe z.” No more being anxious or indecisive. I need to fully commit no matter what. I need to make decisions about the order to work on projects and then set deadlines.
I mentioned in the comments section not long back that I have a new Panda Planner. But I haven’t been using it regularly. I’m now reminded of how important it is to have a plan and to stay on track. Organization is key to keep from getting overwhelmed, which is key to producing more books, which keeps our readers faithful and excited about our work!
So, while planners can be fun and even artistic ventures (some use stickers and artwork!), and while I love my planner because it includes space for recording gratitude as well as a place to list successes, the calendar area should be a priority.
Today, I want to share some ideas I’ve had (inspired by my cosmetics addict lightbulb moment) for keeping readers interested and loyal:
--Focus on our newsletter, and try to keep a regular schedule (whatever that frequency is for you).
--Be generous with samples (first chapter or free prequel, etc.) on our website or wherever we connect with readers.
--Don’t let big gaps of time pass without offering a product, even if it’s something short or just a freebie. Work toward being more prolific so readers will remain excited about new releases. I think several of the Seekers have a good handle on this by just sticking to a daily word count goal. Consistently writing 500 or 1000 or 2000 words a day (or whatever number works for you) can make all the difference.
--Get readers involved in our work. I’ve recently read authors who recommend keeping readers engaged on social media. One author asks them questions and lets them give input on his books while writing them. And he always responds to comments. This is something I know I can improve on. I have tended to think I’m boring so haven’t posted much on my Facebook author page. But in the future, I want to reach out more often.
--Don’t overdo the promotion. The last thing we want to do is shout, “Buy my book!!” over and over until our fans get so sick of our pleas they want to run the other direction. We don’t want to shove our books down their throats. We want to keep them excited and looking forward to hearing from us. Finding this ideal frequency may take a little trial and error, but I think we’d be safe looking at how often we like hearing from our favorite authors (or from our favorite products outside of books).
--Finally, I think we should move beyond thinking of ourselves simply as creatives and try thinking of ourselves as a brand. We should be savvy business owners. Consider who our customers are and what they want. Come up with a plan, and schedule those product releases on our calendar. Break down those projects into manageable steps. Plan well ahead, especially for promotion. And always be learning from other authors who are successful.
I hope you found this helpful! I’d love to hear your input, as I’m still in the process of shoring up my plan. Do you consider yourself a brand? How do you schedule your product releases and keep loyal fans reading? And readers, we want your input! What helps keep you loyal to an author? What can we do better?
Today, I’ll be doing a fun giveaway! I’m giving away a hanging travel bag that’ll be great for cosmetics (you knew I had to go there :)) or other toiletries or shaving items. It can even be used for packing electronics (for the many chargers you have to haul everywhere). Please let me know if you’d like to be entered! (Giveaway item will be similar to this photo but may not be exact depending on what’s available when I order it. U.S. entries only this time please.)

Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope was a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Nominee. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.