Tuesday 22nd November 2017

I made good progress with the novel today.  Only 3 or 4 chapters, but progress is progress.

It’s funny the things that can trip you up as you edit.  Case in point today.  I have a big action scene set on a carriage and I approach such scenes as if I were making a movie.

I want my action scenes to be exciting.  I want there to be explosions and peril and a rollercoaster of emotions.  I want great stunts as well as some awesome visual effects.  All of which you’d not think was possible in a book.

When I was about 9 or 10 I got told it was impossible to write a car chase.  I disagreed and wrote one and so as I’ve grown as a writer I’ve continued to push the envelope so that my action scenes feel like you are watching a holiday blockbuster inside your own head.

I probably start with a few set pieces.  In this case I wanted the carriage to get trashed.  I wanted bits falling off and the reader thinking that it’s going to crash with our hero on it.  But that’s not enough.  I need some foes on there as well so that the hero doesn’t just have to be worried about the carriages but the bad guys as well.

Then I think how one can cause the other, and from that I’m able to come up with a rough idea of the sequence.  I throw in a few set pieces that I think will seem cool and from that pretty much have a fight.

I guess I want my fights to tell a story, even if that story is just how the good guy defeats 4 opponents.  I have to be careful not to fall into the trap that the defeat of foe #1 isn’t the same as #4 because I think repeating can sometimes run the risk of making the fight boring.  Instead, they must each be dispatched in interesting ways.

Of course, that might mean swapping things around.  Someone being thrown off the carriage isn’t as cool as someone who hits a wall.  The excitement and coolness should escalate rather than deescalate with the dwindling opponents.

But sometimes it can throw up some interesting problems, like today.  The bad guy is wrestling with the carriage driver over a pistol when our hero arrives.  Bad guy tackles the good guy who loses his pistol, only for the bad guy to then hold the good guy at gunpoint.

Now this simple scene in a rather complex action plot has caused me all manners of problems today.  If the bad guy has the pistol when the hero loses his, why not shoot him.  Likewise, if he stops struggling with the carriage driver, wouldn’t they pick up the gun he put down and just shoot him.

The easy answer would be to have the good guy wrestle the bad guy for his pistol but that ruins some of the tension and humour in this scene and makes it a bit more bland.

I basically needed the bad guy to lose the pistol for 30 seconds but not allow either the good guy or carriage driver access to it.  Sounds simple, and in the end it was… but I had to run through a bunch of scenarios and find the one that didn’t cause a logic hole (wouldn’t the bad guy just shoot the good guy) but also didn’t mean removing some of the good bits I’d written.

Stuff like this, whilst resulting in miniscule changes a lot of the time, often requires me to go away and think about the problem… and that takes time.

But I guess that’s all part of the process of editing.  I was glad I gave myself the evening off because sometimes it’s so easy to get lost in your own head when you’re writing.

If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels.  Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.

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