Fiction Friday: 8 Things Writers Forget When Writing Fight Scenes

On Fighting by Lisa Voisin

Lisa Voisin

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Recently, I attended a session called “Writing About Fighting” at VCON, a science fict ion and fantasy conference. The panel consisted of writers and experts who were disciplined in multiple martial arts, including authors Lorna Suzuki and T.G. Shepherd, and Devon Boorman, the swordmaster of Academie Duello in Vancouver.

For me, this talk was so fascinating, it was worth the cost of admission alone. I spent days thinking about the topics discussed and tried to incorporate them into The Watcher Saga. These are just a few of them as I remember it.

Eight Things Writers Forget About Fight Scenes:

1. It’s not about the technical details

First of all, if you’re not technical and don’t know the details of fighting, you shouldn’t try to write about them. Some writers try to to include technical details of fighting, which only calls out their lack of expertise. If you don’t know what…

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Review of Jessica Jones SE1

I’m just googling when this season came out and am rather alarmed to see that Jessica Jones appeared on TV in 2015.

Better late than never I figure.

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oh and SPOILER ALERT.

Jessica Jones is my first foray into the Marvel ‘street level’ stuff and overall I enjoyed it. Bloodier and edgier than the Disney movies the serial format allows for much less heroic themes to be explored and far more dynamic character interactions.

Although there were a few things which bugged me about the season:

THIS IS WHERE THE SPOILERS HIT

The conflict between Jessica and Kilgrave just didn’t seem enough to sustain the season. While it made some sense that Jessica wanted to capture Kilgrave alive to save Hope from life in prison, it just became a frustration when there were numerous opportunities to kill Kilgrave, so much so it was almost an upturn when Hope glassed her own neck to allow Jessica to kill him. I totally got behind the fact that Jessica didn’t want to straight out murder someone, but time and time again more people got killed or caught in the crossfire of Jessica’s attempts to free Hope which begged the question: is Hope worth more than all the other innocent victims?

No to mention that Jessica essentially just became immune to Kilgrave at a plot point when it made more drama to do so, sure it lead to a half satisfying conclusion but it still felt hollow because she just did something that if she had done earlier less people would have been killed/maimed/psychologically disturbed. It probably would have been more interesting to see if the ‘can Jessica manipulate Kilgrave into doing good’ idea was stretched out longer.

I think overall I wanted to see more ‘monster of the week.’ episodes, if memory serves there really only were a couple of stand-alone storylines and normally I love long running plots, but in this case I wanted to see more of Jessica developed more generally.

 

Overall not unhappy to have watched, but hoping Daredevil and Luke Cage are a bit better (not even going to bother with Iron Fist after being torn apart by the internet and my bro who said it blew too)

Crossing the Equator 7: What Is Bad Writing?

Michael Church’s thoughts on bad writing (longish read)

Michael O. Church

Bad writing. I bring the topic up not to mock bad writing, because it’s rarely worth the time, and also because most of the sins of bad writing have also been committed by good writers, either when they were inexperienced or in quick first drafts. It’s useful to explore the topic, though. What is bad writing, and why does it exist, and why do so many people produce it? Even most intelligent people write more bad prose than good. Where does this come from?

Not (Necessarily) Bad Writing

Some tastes are arbitrary. Let’s take so-called “swear” words. Shit was once an unobjectionable term for feces; fuck, for copulation, and cunt, for the vulva. These words became objectionable because of the social classes and ethnicities of those who used them, centuries ago. Bloody is mildly profane in the UK, but laughable in the US. One of the worst German…

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The Pros and Cons of different writing schedules

Today I’d like to talk about writing schedules

Now, I’m a firm believer that not only is everyone different, but the ebb and flow of our lives changes over time too, so whatever schedule is going to work for you is going to be different than what works for me, and that’s too will be different over time. Nonetheless I think it’s worth going over some of my thoughts and experience of different schedules as I can safely say over the last 8-9 years I’ve tried them all with varying success.

 

First up! First thing in the morning St Clair (poke)

I’ve been having good success with this strategy this week (here’s hoping I can keep this up). My take on it is you really want to write first thing perhaps only allowing a cup of Oj or coffee.

Pros:

  • You can get writing done before other needs of the day take over (especially if you have a family and/or busy life)
  • The rest of the day is not spend procrastinating or feeling guilty

Cons:

  • One really has to talk themselves into just sitting down to write. I was on the verge of turning my router off or putting the computer onto aeroplane mode the night before
  • You really need to have steady sleep patterns and get early nights, otherwise you’ll be too blurry
  • There simply isn’t always time to spare in modern life. I jump up around 6am to have time to get ~500 words done

Next up:

Last thing at night

Lawyers Head (poke)

I think this is a pretty common writing time for people. Whether because its the first quiet opportunity of the day, or whether procrastination has had its wicked way. This used to be my common time pre-child, but not only has he recently settled into a good sleep routine that allows his Dad to stay up independently, I tend to find the tasks of the day take their toll and my mental energy levels are trash. Nonetheless:

Pros:

  • There is a sort of sense of having plenty of time to get writing done, after all you can just write further into the night if you’re inspired
  • I’ve mentioned procrastination a few times but sometimes its good to have a day of getting psyched up to write
  • It’s usually a pretty quiet time to get writing sorted

Cons:

  • Easy to get tired at the end of the day and just Netflix and Sloth
  • If you have a life you’ll often find your writing time interrupted by other activities

 

The ‘whenever I get a spare moment’

This is something that I could only really maintain when I was younger (both as a person and a writer) and honestly just thought I needed to get my novel written so I could get it published and never work again. Suffice to say it takes a lot of motivation to pick up your project where-ever and whenever you have a spare moment.

Pros:

  • You get a lot of words down at a fast rate
  • Momentum is preserved

Cons:

  • Hard to maintain
  • Sometimes quality suffers

 

Any other regular scheduled writing time:

All pros, no cons.

🙂

Just kidding. Scheduling a regular writing time is a great approach, my main problem with that was always getting life not to schedule things at the same time!

I’m sure there are many other ways to schedule writing. One that I have yet to organize myself to do is regular cafe sitting. I probably can’t afford the amount of treats I’d by myself but strategies like that have a lot of advantages because trying to write at home can be very distracting with all the other potential bits and pieces that need to get done.

I think I also have to compose a separate post about what sort of goals/benchmarks are best to use because I have also over the years used many yardsticks (i.e. wordcount versus timed writing sessions)

What sort of schedules you do use?

Also how do you balance different projects? (i.e. for me the better I schedule my writing, the less I end up blogging etc!)

 

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Interview with Jasmine Cui

Interview with Jasmine Cui: Brilliant ( but what an over achiever 🙂

A Young Writer’s Guide to Publishing

jasmine cuiJasmine Cui is 18 years old and is majoring in Political Science, Economics, and Violin Performance at SUNY Geneseo. She aspires to be like her parents who are first-generation Americans that fought an extraordinary battle for their place in this country. Jasmine found the courage to pursue writing when she was 17. She is the co-editor in chief of The Ellis Review, a weekly online poetry publication for emerging writers. She is not a mentee, not a Foyle Young Poet, not a Presidential Scholar (and this is not to say you can’t be those things), but she is still every bit a writer.

Q: What writing have you gotten published? How did you accomplish this: a collection of your own, magazines, or something else? What was the process like?

A: For the most part, I have stuck to publishing single poems. The process has been a difficult one…

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Review: Wonder Woman

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AKA: the actually good DCMU movie (sorry got truth lassoed)

Reviewing Wonder Woman is actually a little odd. Its one of the few movies I entered with accurate expectations, which were the movie reviews well but my friends are saying its ‘okay’ which lead to a general assumption that it would be fun, cool and action packed but perhaps lack a little depth. Personally that is how I found the movie.

Just to clarify the good bits of this film were really good the action was phenomenal and well supported by the soundtrack. The visuals were completely on point and much of the time I just really just sat back and enjoyed the amazing set pieces.

The movie was funny too, with a good range of humour ranging between sarcasm, quips and a few slapstick moments (i.e. what happens when an Amazon Princess tries on uptight turn of the century clothes.)

 

So why am I saying there was an element of ‘Okayness’ to Wonder Woman? Well to put it bluntly the plot felt pretty flat. To be fair overall it was a fun movie and it’s hardly the only action movie in the world with an average storyline, I guess the reason the plotting stood out is that it was so close to being something a bit more powerful!

SPOILERS AHEAD YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

The crux of Wonder Woman was a tension between Diana’s belief that if she found and killed Ares God of War mankind would be uncorrupted and return to goodness, and the reality that mankind doesn’t need a God of War corrupting them to wage it. This was largely shown in dialogue between Steve (the above average male) and Diana as they went about a mission together to stop a German chemical attack.

This was a great tension in my opinion, whether or not Ares existed was hidden from the audience and the question of how Diana’s naive beliefs about The Great War would play out was a compelling one.

My issue is that the ultimate question ultimately fizzled. The tension between the two world views mostly just made the characters feel bad rather than impacting the plot in any meaningful way.  For example after Diana kills who she thinks is Ares, she discovers her mistake and realizes the world isn’t a better place. Somewhat stunned she stands around watching Steve’s squad do the hard work against the Germans. The problem with the tension here is that Diana had already decided not to help them (i.e. it would have been more shocking if she was helping and decided to suddenly stop) the squad did an amazing job on their own, and finally Ares literally showed up moments latter turning Diana’s quandary into a moot point.

The final battle while visually appealing was intended to be a battle of belief between two Gods – are humans worth saving or should they perish for their evils? While the movie did a great attempt to set this up with Diana’s naivety and struggle to accept mankind’s dark side one never even got an inkling that she might ever side with Ares and not save everyone. It might have been more powerful if it had been setup so her choices were not so obvious or had more of a reason to doubt mankind (beyond colonization which granted was terrible but Diana did not witness it directly).

Also it irked me somewhat that a major theme of the film was that human beings are capable of good and evil and should not be considered one or the other but judged for their beliefs and efforts. Yet German’s were almost 100% still portrayed as ‘bad guys’ who were appropriate for Diana to slaughter to advance the Allies missions etc. I will give directer Patty Jenkins props for having what few German soldiers survived the final scene for showing solidarity and humanity by getting a manly hug from ‘Chief.’

Not to mention there were just so many cliche’s littered throughout the story – the older mentor sacrificing herself to save the hero and delivering an ambiguous death speech, the heroes being refused by those in charge to go on their mission, so putting together a rag-tag group of misfits with various emotional backstories to carry the plot, and finally the bad guy being someone YOU NEVER SUSPECTED, because there was zero reason to or any sort of satisfaction in the reveal as again it was a plot point that made little to no difference to the story, Diana was going to kick Ares ass whoever he was.

I guess to summarize I loved the juxtaposed theme of multiple truths a lot. The tension between the ideals of humanity being corrupted by an evil being that needed to be killed, and humanity actually being ambiguous in morality without help was worth exploring. I just felt like the payoff was weakened somewhat by the inevitability of the action. Both Steve and Diana were heroes through and through and both of them had their beliefs vindicated and synthesized with little more than a stuttery weird conversation.

Not wanting to be too arrogant but if I were to take a r/fixingmovies approach I would have liked to see Diana take more of a stance, perhaps refusing to fight against the Germans, believing them to be corrupted, forcing Steve to manipulate her to help the mission (which he sort of does initially but kinda low-key) the point being this would create more of a question of what will Diana do next if she discovered Steve manipulated her it might have made a more believable conflict where Diana would have questioned saving mankind.

All in all Wonder Woman was indeed wonderful. It’s actually kind of exciting to see DC pull its socks up, while I like the niche they have been filling of movies everyone loves to hate its nice to have more good options out there. Although I will say with Whedon taking over Justice League, and Wonder Woman feeling a little ‘Marvelized’ I’m worried DC movies will just become Marvel movies with different characters.

Thanks for reading, what did you think of Wonder Woman?

 

Pros and Cons of Fake Internet Points (a.ka. Social Media)

It was with some self-reproach I recently thought about my online activity and actually listed the sites that I am currently active on:

  • WordPress (obviously)
  • Reddit (probably the worst time sink)
  • IMGUR
  • Facebook
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

In my defense, Facebook and Twitter largely act as synced sources of other activities, IMGUR and Pinterest are largely mindless surfing were things of interest are saved and shared, and Amazon, Goodreads and WordPress are where my reviews and blogs posts are held (really I only keep posting to Amazon because I know it helps authors and thats were the most snarky and combative [i.e. the most fun] comments happen).

Reddit I probably can’t justify as well, while I do spend most of my time in writing related posts, the website acts as a sort of online black whole that one look up (or slightly across and in the corner) and realizes two hours have passed.

Social media [presence] is generally touted as something aspiring and current authors ‘must have’ but if one isn’t careful one simply wastes time and effort better spent actually writing. So without further ado, please see below my thoughts on social media which I hope will either help streamline your own activity or at the every least procure a laugh or two (please click like and subscribe blah blah blah VOMIT)

The Pros:

  • It can be good practice ‘reading a room’ so to speak, being able to interact appropriately and positively online – after all you do use the written word to get results you want
  • Social media can provide a good platform to ‘market’ your work (more on this below)
  • Connecting with other like-minded folk online can provide learning you might not have found elsewhere, helpful relationships and generally provide a good incentive to keep going

Just a wee tangent on this controversial subject. I want to repeat that in almost all cases its still more productive to actually write, rather than develop your online ‘presence’ however have some connections can be helpful. Foremost is that agents and publishers may be looking for a writer to work with you has some self-marketing potential. Secondly you might actually be able to market your work through your networks.

I just want to add a big fat caution in here that this isn’t about becoming some sort of snake oil blog merchant, nor do I actually think that online marketing is actually that effective at straight out sale (willing to debate the issue). What are you wanting to do is having a potential ‘infrastructure’ (for want of a better word) where you might find people to say review your work, or share it on their networks where overall you might start making sales.

My point is if there is nothing to sell, or people are wondering whether its better to push the social media thing or work harder on quality work its definitely the latter.

The cons:

  • As alluded to already, social media can become a massive black hole of wasted time
  • Along with time wasting getting addicted to fake internet points is a real thing, and worrying about social media can also waste a writer’s brain space (i.e. no-one lost a writing contract because Big_Bunny121 unfollowed them)
  • Being tight for time and effort can also make social media work against you, I have latent paranoia that my older and more snarky reviews will come back to haunt me one day, and in a similar vein poorly managed, offensive or desperate social media activities may turn people off

I’m sure there is sooo much greater depth to hit this topic, but as per my own advice I’m going to hold off. Also I have a very very cute recently two year old who literally just fell asleep on my lap so I better work a magic ‘sleeping nappy change’ before beddybise.

Chuck me your thoughts about social media below – I still have tonnes to learn

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#toomuch?

Practice: can you have a writing ‘leg day’?

There’s a question that’s been posed a few times on various writing pages – all, given some variance, asking the question whether – and what – components writing can be broken down into and practiced individually.

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I realize this does not depict ‘leg day’ but it does show a writer’s brain procrastinating via lifting 

Previously I dismissed such ideas, writing certainly does have plenty of components all of which require practice and development, but good writing isn’t just an amalgam of those components, but all the aspects of a great story are interdependent  upon each other and thusly practicing individual parts would be less like leg day, and more like ‘left leg day’ (just checking that’s not a thing right??)

However I’d been reflecting on the idea lately and it just happened to come up on r/writing recently and I figured it was a good prompt to get my thoughts onto the screen/blog.

Suffice to say I’ve revised my position, of course I still believe good writing is a complex interdependent process, but I do think there are some possibilities for compartmentalization for a developing writing.

Before I dive into my opinion of the possibilities I would like to add a caution. There are simply some things you can’t escape in regards to writing, such as prose. It’s going to be pretty hard to practice any part of writing without some focus on the words you use. This might sound kind of obvious, or perhaps so basic as to be pointless to discuss, however I think prose is an undernourished discussion point in writing (which I plan on being a whole other post) and to attempt to practice anything else writing wise while not considering your words, style, tone, sentences and so forth would be a fools errand at best. Similarly you would have a hide time separating certain aspects of fiction from others, dialogue from character for example.

My key point is that if one does embark on a journey of component practice to simply ensure one is aware of the interconnecting factors and not to sabotage their practice by neglecting vital components.

Caveats said, what are some ways a writer might practice, and what components are important?

First I’m going to dive into a controversial area:

Fanfiction

Personally I am not a big fan of fanfiction, I don’t write or read it. The closest I get is enjoying TV adaptations. BUT I do believe supporters that fanfiction is a good way to practice writing. The fact that a known universe is being used allows a writer to practice more ‘2nd act’ type writing focusing more on action tension and resolution without having to worry so much about introducing characters or settings.

One caution I would add here however is that what people are looking for in fanfiction is not always the same as mainstream fiction,.

 

Another area that can be compartmentalized is story structure and scene order, which can be practiced by:

The dreaded synopsis and/or outline

I think beginning writers shy aware from synopsis and outlining perhaps understandably being intimidated (well at least I am) by a surprisingly challenging task, but I am a strong advocate for the benefits of writing these out. I’m not saying that people have to through their pants away and become outline gurus, what I’m saying that if people wish to practice different components of writing then outlines and synopsis’ can provide the tool to practice the macro-level stuff of a book, for example planning character arcs, act structure, rising and falling tension and so forth.

 

Now as to other components I think there is a bit more of a requirement to combine pieces of the puzzle. As I said earlier some parts of fiction simply rely on others. You can technically write dialogue only, but all on its lonesome it simply won’t be as powerful (it would be akin to trying to practice long jump without the run-up). My advice for the following components would be to develop flash fiction or short stories with a predominant focus on that component, for example a character driven tale with little action, or a very vivid descriptive piece.

Which of course brings us to what components are there?

To be perfectly honest I don’t know if I can safely list all the important components of writing that one could practice to mastery, but I will take a crack:

  • Prose (including style, tone, voice, word choice, sentences, paragraphs etc)
  • Characters (including intros, backstory, development and arcs)
  • Action
  • Dialogue
  • Description
  • Settings
  • Exposition
  • Narrative summary
  • Act structure
  • Scene structure
  • Scene order

I’m sure there are other components to practice in writing, what do you think?

Ninety-Nine Ways to Fail in Writing, Publishing, and Marketing — A Writer’s Path (by Kent Gustavson)

by Dr. Kent Gustavson When it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing a book, there are many mistakes to be made (many more than 99). The #1 most important mistake NOT to make is over-investment. I’ll give a quick anecdote about that, and then give the whole list of my 99 favorite book mistakes. […]

via Ninety-Nine Ways to Fail in Writing, Publishing, and Marketing — A Writer’s Path

More Indie Publishing Tips

Great advice on self-publishing frmo Don Messenzio

Author Don Massenzio

TandEFor me, indie publishing has consisted of a lot of trial-and-error to determine what things work and what things do not. Unlike other types of sales and marketing, as an author it is not only about selling books, but, to some degree, you are selling yourself. This is something I’m extremely uncomfortable with, but I’ve found some ways to adjust my approach to make it more tolerable.

This list consists of some of the things I’ve tried that have worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

Hard sell concept.

  • Blatantly asking people to buy your books doesn’t work. Instead, I’ve tried to use my blog, Facebook, and other social media to try to convince people that my work might be worth checking out. I do this by trying to entertain or teach with the material I post.

wordofmouth

  • Word of mouth is extremely important. Your existing readers are your best salespeople. I like interacting with them…

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