Friday, February 24, 2012

Putting the 'O, man!' in Romance with AIllison Merrit

I'm going to be honest. I write adventure romances in the guise of steampunk. My main motivation is getting the romance across to the reader. First and foremost, that's my intention. But I love action and I love writing scenes where the reader is on edge going, wow, what will happen next? 

There's something to be said for tender kisses and frenzied sex scenes. They get the blood going, don't they? But so does a well set-up action scene. The first action scene I ever wrote, I bungled. That's okay, I was learning the ropes. A critique group told me I was drawing it out too much. What I was doing, of course, was telling, rather than showing the action and it makes the reader lose interest. I'm a dialogue girl, I love witty conversation, but it's not like I can write an entire book with dialogue. If that was the case, I'd be writing screenplays. 

The senses are what's going to put the oh, man! in your writing and keep your reader turning the pages. So, how do you write a tight, compelling action scene? Let's take a look at some tips.

Show, don't tell. You want the reader to feel the urgency behind the thoughts and actions of your characters. When you show, make sure you're not using a writer's favorite crutch, adverbs. Keep your thesaurus handy and watch for words like loudly, suddenly, quickly. You can find replacements for them like bellow, explosive, or unanticipated.

Throw in the tangy taste of blood, the scent of the attacker's cloying cologne that doesn't disguise his body odor or the burrito he had for lunch. Show me the dark parking garage where a rogue werewolf has cornered your heroine. Take me there.

I'm a fan of fragment sentences. They are useful in action scenes because they're sort of jarring. You don't want to bring the reader out of the scene, but a fragment can make a stand alone sentence really jump out.

Keep the pace quick. Your characters are required to think on their feet because they're fighting for their lives. You might be writing about a paranormal character who has quick reflexes and is expecting to be attacked. But if you've got a human character, he or she might not have the same abilities to move like a mother. Get in your character's head and see what he/she is seeing. You might even--go ahead and laugh--try acting out a scene or two. Watch movies, note how the actors move and file that away so that when you write your scene, you can relive what you've seen.

Know your weapons, know your characters and don't force the scene. It'll sound out of place mixed in with the rest of your novel. Remember (most of the time) your characters want to move forward and find their HEA scene and a good action scene before that really helps reinforce the bond between your characters.

Tell me about your favorite actions scenes or your favorite way to write an action scene.

Buy links for The Treasure Hunter's Lady

Romy Farrington seems to have the perfect life—a world-famous archeologist father and upcoming marriage to a wealthy businessman. But to Romy, her new life in the city is a punishment.

For years, she traveled the world at her father's side, exploring new lands and uncovering ancient secrets. It was everything she ever wanted, until a near-fatal encounter with hostile natives forced her and her father into a life of retirement in Boston and an undesired advance into proper society.

Everything changes again when she's saved from an accident by a brash Texan in a back alley. Abel Courte may act like a care-free cowboy, but he's harboring a secret—he's searching for the Diamond of Uktena, a legendary jewel that can cure any disease known to man. He needs information Romy's father has in order to get to the jewel. When he traces the origin of the Diamond to Dakota Territory, he sets off to claim the treasure, only to find the archaeologist's fiery redheaded daughter stuck to him like a bug in sap.

In a race against time, Romy and Abel must learn to trust each other as they undertake a cross-country journey that will expose them to lands uncharted by white men, a deadly battle against the fearsome creature in possession of the Diamond and a fight to return to civilization where they might make the greatest discovery of all—love. 

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  1. Hey, great advice! I don't like to write action scenes very much. I like dialogue and would be ver Heminway-ish if I could.

  2. Me too, D'Ann. I have to catch myself and go back to add in action around my dialogue. I'd write an entire book of dialogue if I could get away with it.

  3. I don't really pay attention to very thing that happens in a written action scene and piece it all together in my mind. The one that had me visualizing it most of all is the "big to the death scene" in Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews.

  4. Great post--and tips for writing action scenes. I'll be the first to admit I don't write too many action scenes. That might be a bad thing, lol.