ACTION PACKED SCENES

911DR - 2BAll of us are risk-takers. Just getting out of bed in the morning sets us on the road to making hundreds of decisions each day. What a character eats and wears aren’t very interesting unless they’re enjoying exotic foods in faraway places. No one really cares if the character brushes her teeth, we just assume she has. A reader wants to experience life by living vicariously through the activities of others.

Choices have consequences. Our characters get themselves into terrible predicaments. It’s those crises readers like. They experience being stalked by a madman or chased by zombies from the comfort of a Barcalounger. Driving too fast, mountain hiking without bear spray, driving while drunk, aerobatic flying, firing someone and getting pregnant are all potentially dangerous common experiences from choices made and sometimes regretted. When characters get themselves into dangerous situations the events must be realistic.

We like to read exciting books about complex characters who keep us awake long after the lights should be out. How do we write action scenes about risks and make them compelling? Conflict drives a story. The character is often in deep trouble because of poor choices that carry risk to lives, safety, lovers, finances, family or world. If you are writing an action scene, reading how other great authors do it can save you time and angst.

The event must be appropriate to your genre and characters. Accuracy is also important. If you are writing a gun scene and have never fired a weapon, research online and handling the type of weapon used in the scene along with interviewing a reliable shooter will make your scene more accurate and believable. If, on the other hand, you’re writing a memoir, you have the emotion, circumstances and scene embedded in your brain forever, but can you write it effectively?

Be sure the scene reveals your character accurately? Having someone critique your work is important to assure validity and readability. Being factually correct is essential in nonfiction. In fiction, we just make it up, but this doesn’t mean you don’t have to be accurate. Each of us has expertise in varied areas and when scenes are factually incorrect, readers will notice, and reviews may be negative.

If you have questions about specific aspects of your scene, ask another writer with expertise in the area, or interview someone in that field. My history of flying, marksmanship, and practicing ER medicine frequently generates questions from authors who are writing related scenes. A law enforcement crime scene evaluation course I took has proven valuable when writing about investigation processes.

Here are a few thoughts on constructing action scenes:

  • Remember, each scene has a beginning, middle and end.
  • Building tension with conflict begins with simmering emotion that accelerates and foreshadows the event. Include mood and setting.
  • Action verbs are key to sweeping a reader into the scene. Example: He ran quickly… is not nearly as effective as: He bolted through….
  • Clarify the characters’ needs and emotions. What is at stake? What if she/he loses?
  • Use time-lapse to intensify the scene. Is time running out?
  • Be sure actions are shown and dialogue is short. Intensify a visual of emotion by few words and a descriptive action. Examples: He yelled, “You can’t go. Please stay. I love you so much.” More effective: He pulled her back in an embrace. “Marry me.”

 Take some risks in your writing, join a critique group. Contact Authors of the Flathead.org to join a group of writers helping writers.

Be safe and enjoy life.

Happy Thanksgiving from my yard to yours.

6027.cropped Turkey

Betty Kuffel

Dr. Kuffel’s books on Amazon

November Book News

                                                                November Light

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Flathead Valley Go Find Book Tour Fall 2018

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In case you want to catch a lecture from Susan or attend a book signing, here is her November and December Schedule. Mark your calendar now.

November 15th

Flathead Valley Community College LibraryKalispell, MT. November 15th, 6:30pm. Trivia Contest (with Prizes) Search and Rescue K-9 Power Point, Q &A, and book signing. Learning Resource Center FVCC Library #102. 

December

Whitefish Library, Montana. Dec 3rd. Avalanche awareness discussion and book signing. 7 pm.

Kalispell Rotary, December 6th at noon. Discussion and book signing. Hilton Garden Inn. 

Imagine Library, Kalispell, Montana December 18, 2018, 6 pm. Avalanche awareness discussion and book signing. 

Questions? Call Susan Purvis 970-596-2999 or email at susan@susanpurvis.com

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Cookie CrumblesLESLIE BUDEWITZ: Delighted to be starting November in Dillon, attending the Murder Mystery dinner on Friday, November 2, and teaching at the Mystery Writers’ Workshop on Saturday, November 3, both sponsored by the Dillon Public Library and held on campus at University of Montana-Western. But you know I’ll sneak over to the library — one of the classic Carnegie buildings — for a poke around!

Later in the month, I’ll be joining the holiday fun at the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center during the annual Christmas Art Walk on Saturday, November 17, from 4-7 p.m. It’s the perfect setting for me, since AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES is set in my version of Bigfork — I call it Jewel Bay, but you won’t be fooled! — and starts on Decorating Day and ends on Christmas Eve! Shop a while, grab a bite, and stay for the tree lighting as Montana’s Christmas Village lights up for the holidays.

And on Saturday, November 24, from 1-4, I’ll be chatting with shoppers and signing books at one of my favorite shops, Nancy O Interiors, on Hwy 35 north of the village. Soup will be on, and you’ll find all kinds of fun gifts for your home and the people on your Christmas list!

Remember, books fit in almost every Christmas stocking — and make great hostess gifts, too!

 

 

Learning my colors

By Janice McCaffrey

One of my first blogs back in February 2016, I shared a technique that helped me enhance first, second, third, and so on story drafts. Layering. I start with a very rough draft and then work on applying layers: dialogue, body language, physical descriptions of characters and settings, etc.

Currently I’m layering color.

In my July 2018 blog I listed online resources to help improve descriptions. I’m working with site kathysteineman.com to learn my colors. It lists adjectives that help describe a certain color.

For example

and

Then there are words like hue, tone, tint, and shade to describe differences in colors. According to DifferenceBetween.net a hue is the brightest, purest form of a color…red, yellow, blue, etc. A general term that refers to a pure color that has been lightened or darkened is tone. A true color that has been lightened is a tint. A true color that’s been darkened is a shade.

 

 

 

Hair colors are fun to play with. There are many descriptions of blonde online. Here are two:

 

 

 

Reviewing the color wheel has helped me dress my characters and decorate their space

 

 

 

 

And check out dailywritingtips.com’s How to Punctuate Descriptions of Colors By Mark Nichol – It’s a short two minute read and very helpful. Easy to understand explanations for  the correct use of hyphens and commas and how their misuse can change your intended meaning.

Metaphorically, I’m a three year old. No, not in dog years . . . in writers’ years.

And I’m having fun learning my colors!

Besides Having More Money: The Rich in Fiction

By Karen Wills

There’s a famous, though perhaps apocryphal, exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Fitzgerald says, “You know, the rich are different from you and me.” Hemingway responds, “Yes. They’ve got more money.”

I’ve been pondering wealth and its effects and just how authors have depicted very rich characters in fiction. Pat Barker’s novel, The Silence of the Girls, silence of the girlsis set during the Trojan Wars with characters out of Homer’s Iliad. One of her characters, Agamemnon, is a nasty, boundary-ignoring king who never learned to share. He possesses vast wealth and vast power. He takes Briseis, a high-born captive woman awarded by the army to Achilles, away from him. He is brutal to Briseis, lacks honor in his dealings with Achilles, mistreats the powerless, and lies to his soldiers. But he pays a price in his greatest hero Achilles’ refusal to fight,  the scorn of his Greek officers, and the costs of prolonged war. Although we don’t see it in Barker’s story, which centers on Briseis, Agamemnon comes to a bad end in spite of all his gold, concubines, and power when he returns home to his wife.

Move ahead to Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, in which a plain governess discovers that the wealthy, brooding, yet attractive master of the mansion has a mad wife kept in the attic. It appears to Jane that our tortured hero is an innocent victim of fate. jane eyreBut wait, in the sixties another British author, Jean Rhys, started puzzling over the madwoman. The result was a new novel, The Wide Sargasso Sea. Since reading it neither I, nor many others, have been able to see Mr. Rochester as anything but a money and power-hungry monster. His naïve first bride loses freedom, fortune, and sanity at the hands of this now rich and powerful villain. He even eventually gains smart, loving, caring Jane as his wife. But before that, the madwoman/victim inflicts some serious damage of her own.

Now back to F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, that story of wealthy scofflaws pursuing an amoral version of the American Dream. I’ll focus on Tom Buchanan, great gatsbyborn into the upper class with an ego-fed sense of entitlement and an Agamemnon-like disdain for those less privileged. When Tom’s wife commits a hit and run, he buys them out of trouble that threatens to upset their lives. As the story ends, fate hasn’t seemed to exact a price for his corruption and carelessness with the lives of others. But I take comfort in the fact that The Great Gatsby was written and set in the mid-twenties. We all know what happened at the end of that decade.

These three characters, arrogant and immoral, are three different authors’ depictions of the very rich, written and set in three different time periods. They tend to be villains and authors find them useful antagonists. I’ve been trying to think of any wealthy character who challenges these recurring character types.

Can you think of any?

river with no bridge

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