[MISC] Thunderclap #2 - Little Steps

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 27 07:54:57 PDT 2006

rickhindle at gmail.com wrote:

> Author's Notes: I do apologize a bit for the way I changed the
> point-of-view from third to first person, but I decided that it was
> necessary - I have a bit of a problem writing a good action scene from
> the first person (something I do need to work on).

Well, one way you could have done it was to approach it not so much as
an action scene, but more as an investigation of Clay's doubts and
fears.  You have him go over the fight after you've switched to first
person-- maybe you could have used some of that text during the actual
fight scene.

It is extremely hard, though, to write an action scene in the first
place, let alone to write an action scene that develops character in a
significant way.  When I do an action scene, I'm usually cheating-- I
do a suspense scene instead.  For example, in JOLT CITY # 2, Martin
spends a lot of time in the gym creeping around, weighing his options--
thus allowing me to develop suspense and character.  The actual action
portion of the scene-- the fisticuffs-- is actually very short.

In one of the original issues of NET.HEROES ON PARADE, I had a lengthy
fight scene which pitted Mimi & Lily against Chatillon's lacky-- there
given the uninspired name of Dr. Pain.  I tried to develop their
characters during the fight scene, but all I did was lose the momentum,
slow it down.  In fact, Mike Friedman noted as such in the excellent
review he wrote at the time.  When I reworked that scene for the TEB
editions, I cut quite a bit of the internal monologuing-- and it
resulted in a much better sequence.  It still would have been better if
I regulated the character work to suspense portions of the scene, and
kept the action short and concrete.

The two biggest problems with writing action are, one, to be clear, and
two, to be memorable.  Since you're working in prose, you have to keep
the reader oriented as to where they are at all times, and where all
the players are-- when you have more than two combatants, this makes it
more difficult.  And you have to do this in such a way that's also
concise-- again, you don't want to slow it down-- you don't want the
reader to have to slog through blocks of text.

That's also where being memorable comes into play-- if it's just two
guys hammering at each other for a few hundred words, it's going to get
boring.  There's only so many different ways you can describe fists
hitting bodies, and really, what's the point of that?

There are many ways to make it memorable, and you latched onto one--
dialogue-- rather well, Rick.  Another way is to make the location
unique.  And while a bank isn't exactly the most unique location for
superpowered fisticuffs, you did make this particular bank unique and
memorable by providing us with a little history-- history which,
admittedly, would have been very hard for you to get across in first

One thing I do struggle with is finding oddball locations for fight
scenes.  And I'll admit that a dumpster, a rooftop, a library, and a
boxing gym aren't exactly oddball-- and I really wish I had come up
with better places for the Green Knight to meet his opponents.  I am
planning in a future issue to have him do battle at a Unicycle Expo,
and so I think things will brighten up at that point.

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with a unique location?  A prop!  A
fight in a museum gives you dinosaur bones, sculptures, and paintings;
a fight at an arcade might yield a wonk-the-mole mallet or a skeeball.
Giant Typewriter Museums would come not only with giant typewriters,
but giant red editing pens, giant envelopes for manuscripts, and giant
bottles of white-out.

Props are very handy in fight scenes because they change the rules of
engagement: they add life and colour.

I think the most important thing a fight scene has to have going for
it, is that it has to be about something more than just, hero hits
villain and villain hits hero until one of them hits the other hard
enough to make him cry uncle.  That's why I prefer stories where a hero
finds a weakness, outsmarts his enemy, or finds some kind of tactical

This fight scene was about something, though-- it was about
Thunderclap's thunderclap not working, and since the scene (and the
issue) pretty much pivoted around that, i think your fight scene

I'm certainly no authority on them-- these are just some thoughts of
mine.  A few months back, some other writers offered me some handy tips
on writing fight scenes, some of which I'm parroting here.  Here's a


The discussion of action scenes doesn't start until the eighth or ninth
post in the thread.  I think it's very useful, and I love it when
everyone gets into a discussion about the mechanics of craft.  I hope
we get to do it more often.

Looking forward to # 3, Rick.


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