“I thought we had an understanding about the price of plants and riding into work, Gary; I thought w

Ah the things I must do for my state and country…

Action scenes. Yesterday I got sent a draft of an action scene which, frankly, floored me. There were other parts to the story and those are things that I’ll steal for mine but there was an action sequence in the wuxia style that was superb.

What made it superb were a number of factors: Innovative use of surroundings, new and interesting styles and weapons, punchy descriptions and, perhaps most significantly, a problem/objective to be resolved through action in which the victor wasn’t determined from the outset.

By that I mean; when the good guy and the bad guy start something, one of the big mistakes of the action scene is relying on your audience to forget that the good guy usually wins.

Interestingly this scene was e-mailed about the same week that I reread one of John Rogers’ blogs about plotting/writing an action sequence and the news that Matthew Reilly is coming to Brisbane. I don’t know about the entire world but I’m convinced that there’s no one in Australia who can write a better action sequence than Matthew Reilly.

In Reilly’s case, he uses a number of techniques, two of which leap to mind:

1: He plots the action sequence as if it were its own story of beginning, complication and outcome. It’s not several paragraphs of people punching each other. It may start out as that but then complications arise and suddenly the threat is escalated. And the outcome isn’t necessarily the good guy beating the bad guy. Sometimes they’re fighting over an object or information or another person and that introduces that element of risk that the good guy may actually lose.

2: Reilly has no problem killing off characters. People whom you learn about or grow attached to could, in fact lose it over the next page. And again the fact that it’s done lends uncertainty to the action sequence. Whedon did this as well.

There is the other way of resolving the good guy/bad guy action scene and that is to say that if everyone knows the good guy is going to win, then lets make him really win by the largest, coolest margin. The climax of Equilibrium is a big example of this. So to is Kiss of the Dragon.

So, Friday’s activity, should you be interested or bored enough that it seems like a good alternative to whatever is in your day, is to provide an example of a good action sequence and a reason why.

Tonight’s wine choices are the Gapstead Victorian Alps Dolcette Syrah and a gamble in the form of Molly’s Cradle 2005 Merlot.

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