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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Undefined Element of a Fight Scene



Over the course of this series of blogs, I have gone into the mechanics of fighting and how to try to capture those on the written page (novel, screenplay, short story, and so forth) .  I have written about the psychology and general strategy of the trained and untrained fighter. We have discussed the general places to strike and how the weaker opponent can easily defeat the stronger opponent. But, before we can step further, there is one element that we need to explore--an undefined element of passion.

I use the word passion with a great deal of trepidation. Most people might imagine passion to be emotion. It's emotion, but only a portion of it in the context with which I use it here. The word passion is used here to define the determination and the core from which your character (or you yourself in real life) drive yourself to win the conflict. If you have watched and read enough fight scenes you have seen the well written scenes and the ones that have struck you falsely. Not because the fighter or fighters did something that was improbable (or simply impossible). It was because the fight scene seemed arbitrary--derived solely because some formula said there had to be an act of conflict at that spot.

The good fight scenes are organically grown from your protagonist need to confront the antagonist. Ask yourself:

  • Why is the protagonist fighting? A fight is dangerous  or even deadly.
  • Why don't they just run away?  
  • What does the protagonist risk if he fails loses?


The really good fight scenes are not only organically grown from the protagonist, but the antagonist.  Your antagonist doesn't think he is the antagonist. He thinks he is the hero.  Treat him as such. Ask yourself:

  • Why is the antagonist fighting? A fight is dangerous  or even deadly.
  • Why don't they just run away?  
  • What does the antagonist risk if he fails loses?


The outstanding and memorable fight scenes take this organic growth even further, by asking the following questions:

  • What does the character gain if they lose the fight?
  • What do they lose if they win?
  • What do they win if they lose?


You may have just blinked reading these last questions, so let us explore them by using a few examples. While I don't know what you read or watch, I will use a few examples:

  • In Star Wars--the Original trilogy--Luke Skywalker fights Darth Vader, his father twice. In the first fight, he risks losing his life. Vader only cuts his hand off and rips off his innocence by declaring Luke was his son. In the second fight, Luke is determined to win his father back to side of light. He first risks losing his life. What does he win? He does bring his father back, but at the same time he loses his father.
  • In Star Wars--the prequel trilogy  (made after the original series)--Obi-Wan Kenobi fights Anakin Skywalker, his pupil and self-proclaimed brother. He has to stop Anakin and try to get him to come back to the light. Obi-Wan risks losing his life and possible failure as well as losing his friends to the dark side. Obi-Wan wins the fight. He does lose his friend and leaves him for dead (or dying really). Anakin loses all he loved for a mechanical suit and the dark side.
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Dr. Horrible, in this tongue-in-cheek reverse tale of where the villain is the hero, goes to fight his arch-nemesis Captain Hammer. Dr. Horrible risks losing his opportunity to join the Evil League of Evil that he dreams to join and his life--for failure is clearly to be met with his own death. The opposite of this is what he will gain if he wins.  What he does lose when he wins is the love of his life, Penny, as she dies in his arms and perhaps his own desire to be what he has become--for in the end, after all the celebration, he is alone and looks lost to himself.


There are a lot of other examples I could have chosen from. Instead, I ask if any of my readers would take a moment, think about the questions above, and write in the comments about a story that you can diagram as the above.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Having Coffee with Angie Fox, NY Times Best Selling Author.



This month, I am having coffee with Angie Fox. I fell in love with Angie's series of the Accidental Demon Slayer with its humor and adventure. Now she has come out with the first book in a new series, and for some reason my mind keeps replaying two songs in my head as I think about it: the theme song to M*A*S*H and Monster Mash. You will quickly understand why.
 
Book Blurb:
No one patches up the incoming wounded like Dr. Petra Robichaud. Recruited by the gods for her uncanny medical skills, she’s the best M*A*S*H surgeon in the army. Along with a nosy guard sphinx, vegetarian werewolf, and other paranormal paramedics, she bandages soldiers who are built like Greek gods (literally). But when one sexy immortal ends up on her operating table—half dead and totally to-die-for—Petra’s afraid she’ll lose her patient and her heart… 
Commander Galen of Delphi is one gorgeous but stubborn demi-god. When his spirit tries to slip out of his fatally wounded body, Dr. Petra has to slip it back in—unwittingly revealing her ability to see ghosts. Now that Galen knows her secret, he’s convinced she’s part of an ancient prophecy. If the oracles are right, Petra could lead Galen’s army to peace. And if he seduces her on the way to hell and back? Heaven knows—all’s fair in love and war…

After the interview are pictures from the book launch of Immortally Yours.

David Alan Lucas: When you are starting to work on a new novel, what do you find brings the story into focus for you? A Character? A setting? Something else?
 
Angie Fox: I start with a kernel of an idea that amuses me. For example, the Accidental Demon Slayer series began with a series of what-if’s. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Oh, and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?

I started writing and let the storyline evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations.

I began the Monster MASH series by wondering about all the things that could happen in a paranormal MASH unit. In most paranormal books, characters heal themselves and that’s it. But what if my world required paranormal doctors, nurses and medics to serve during a paranormal war?

What if my protagonist is drafted into the middle of this conflict? What if I gave her a vegetarian werewolf roommate? Add in a vampire with an almost obsessive need for peace and privacy (which you are just not going to get in a tent with two other people). What if I give them a commander who is an old Spartan?

I let the storyline evolve based on the interactions between characters and the impact of war on the soldiers, as well as the MASH staff.


DL: What attracted you to Paranormal Fiction? Have you always written Paranormal?

AF: I’ve always loved paranormals. In fact, I remember discovering them back in college. In my sophomore year, there were six of us, living in this tiny place. One night, my roommates started talking about Interview with the Vampire. They were shocked I’d never heard of it and, like the enablers they were, they managed to put together Ann Rice’s entire vampire series, which they stacked next to my bed the next day. I picked up the first book and wow. I was always a good student, but I skipped class for the next week and read the series straight through.

Ironically, when I decided to actually try and write a book of my own, I completely ignored my love of paranormals. Because, you know, that makes sense. I decided to write mystery/suspense with lots of science and research involved. I’d outline, I’d write pages and pages of character notes, I’d force myself to do those little note cards. And I hate note cards. In retrospect, I was fighting my voice. When I was about ready to go insane, I’d sneak off and read Jim Butcher, Anne Rice or Kerrelyn Sparks, just to catch a break.

It took three unpublished books for it to click and for me to realize that hmm…maybe I should write the kind of books I love to read. I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.  

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of Leah Hultenschmidt, who asked to see the whole thing. Leah bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And I didn’t write one single note card.


DL: What key things make your stories work?

AF: Like with any story, I think you have to make sure characters are both dynamic, and down-to-Earth. They have to be doing things, learning things, exploring issues that are exciting and new and make us want to turn the pages. Yet, we need to be able to relate on a fundamental level to their very real struggles.

One of the challenges – and the great joys – of writing Immortally Yours was balancing the humor with the stark tragedy of war. The darker emotional context makes the light moments even funnier, and works to lend entire tone of the book a nice texture and more depth.

Petra and her colleagues at the MASH 3063rd have been drafted until the end of the war, which is bad for Petra but even worse for people like her vampire roommate, Marius. They’re living in this quirky, ad-hock camp, trying to make the best of it while they work long hours in the OR, putting soldiers back together – knowing that they’re probably going to see these injured heroes again and again – if they’re lucky.

The underlying tragedy brings the oddball personalities in the camp together. They develop ways to keep their sanity and to create the kind of relationships that offer a port in the storm.


DL: What themes in your fiction writing seem to drive you the most?

AF: I tend to write about characters who struggle against the system, and the powers who tell them who they “should” be. In the Monster MASH series, I also tackle everything that drives me crazy about mindless government, bureaucracy and the seemingly insurmountable forces that seek to control our daily lives.

It’s about people who stand up, despite the odds, and take that control back. Plus, Immortally Yours was simply a fun book to write. It was a great challenge to construct a new world that is starker than ours, yet holds many of the same challenges.


DL: Do you work on multiple novels at once? If so, how many?

AF:  Ha! No. I wish I could work on more than one project at once. Alas, I can’t even write on a novel and a book proposal at the same time. My brain has tunnel vision that way. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m always subconsciously working on story ideas, and I need to focus that energy.

DL: How easy was it to take the leap of faith to become a serious writer and chase this career? What did you find that you had to do to take the step?

AF: It was extremely hard and it took me many years to do it. It takes a lot of faith to stay home and work on a chapter while everyone else is out enjoying a pretty day or going to the movies.

As far as what I had to do to take the next step: I had to decide to do it. I even asked for my husband’s buy-in, because I knew if I got serious about my writing and actually stuck with a writing schedule, it would take time away from him.

Then – and this was hugely important for me (as well as a struggle) - I had to let go of the idea that everyone was going to cheerlead me and tell me how great it was that I was writing a book. The truth is, most people will not understand it at all. And here’s a secret that you may not want to know: even if you hit the New York Times list, people will still not understand why you do what you do.

The people who are closest to you will tend to be the ones who care the least about your writing. That’s just the nature of relationships. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just what is.

But here’s the key: you can’t write hoping to gain the approval of other people. On the other hand, you can’t always write for the pure joy of it because sometimes, it’s really hard to sit down in front of that computer. Writing is something you do because it fulfills you on an entirely different level. And when it does work – wow – it’s like nothing else in the world.

           
DL: When you plot your novels, from whose point of view do you plot from? The protagonist’s? The antagonist’s? The narrator’s? Some one else?

AF: I do it from my point of view – what I’d like to see happen to these characters. If I let my protagonists plot their own novels, they’d take the easy way out.


DL: What novels, books, articles, magazines or other media most useful when you are researching your novels?

AF: It depends on the novel. For the Accidental Demon Slayer series, the best research I ever did was to ride around with Harley bikers. It made my biker witches so much more realistic.

For Immortally Yours, I spent a lot of time learning about how MASH camps operate. I also called up my nurse and doctor friends and asked them questions like: if I was going to make a banshee do X, Y and Z, by how much would I need to increase normal lung capacity? And what does that mean physically? How would they look different? Sound different?

And then I watched Patton to get a feel for my camp commander (and because I like Patton).

Research really does vary from book to book. There’s no one “right” way to do it. It’s all about what inspires you and enables you to write a better book.

DL: What is your writing schedule like?

AF: I write in the mornings for about four hours. The afternoon is spent on research or on emails, reader correspondence and interviews like this one.

DL: If you could have coffee (or drink of your choice) with four other authors from any time period, who would you choose and why?

AF:  I’d like to have a beer with Edgar Allen Poe (because I’ve read everything he’s written and definitely owe that man a drink), Jeff Shaara (you know he’d have amazing stories), Charlaine Harris (she has such a great sense of humor) and Malcom Gladwell (so I could debate his theories with him – plus, I’m betting he’s even more fascinating in person).

DL: Many authors focus on social media and other creative marketing strategies. How do you promote your books?

AF: I’m all about creative marketing. It’s fun and my brain just thinks that way. For the Accidental Demon Slayer series, I developed the What’s Your Biker Witch Name quiz? It went viral, which has been a blast. You haven’t lived until you get emails from physicists in China telling you that their biker witch names are things like Wino Wally No Brakes and Two Date Tessa Hard Rider. And now for a shameless plug: you can get your biker witch name at: www.angiefox.com.

For Immortally Yours, I’m doing a quirky little viral program that is cracking me up right now because it is getting slightly out of control (which in my world, means things are going well). I’m offering readers an interactive experience that centers around the news network that is covering the war.

In this new series, PNN is the paranormal version of CNN. So I’m basically setting up the “official” PNN website to be like The Onion, only paranormal. It allows me to have a blast, while giving readers a taste of the series and immersing them in the world of PNN. Plus, it’s an entertaining way to poke fun at the love/hate relationship I have with 24-hour cable news. Check it out at www.PNN-Network.com

DL: How could my readers learn more about you?

AF: Just visit www.angiefox.com. I’m running a contest right now where you could win naming rights to a character in my next Monster MASH book. It’s up on my blog.
Thank you Angie Fox!

















How do you win a free copy of this book?  To enter the contest, simply leave a comment or question on the Writers' Lens blog between now (September 1, 2012) and midnight September 30, 2012. Please include your email so we can reach you if you win. The more comments you leave, the greater your chance of winning the contest. If you refer others to The Writer's Lens who mention your name in their comments, I'll enter your name again in our random number generator along with theirs, also increasing your chances at winning! The winner will be chosen after midnight on Sunday, September 30 and the announcement made on Monday, October 1. Good luck and comment often.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

The winner of Zero Time



The winner of August's book giveaway , Zero Time by T. W. Fendley, is Arlee Bird. Congratulations! Please send me an email to David@DavidAlanLucas.com with information on where to mail your book.

Thank you for reading and please visit www.davidalanlucas.com and www.thewriterslens.com. You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.