Apocalypses and Armageddons

I was thinking this week about nuclear weapons. And yes, this was before my phone blipped with the headline news about North Korea and certain inflammatory remarks. I was remembering how, even though I’m a little too young to have hid under my desk during the height of the Cold War, fear of nuclear Armageddon was the big specter of doom hanging over my childhood. I remember seeing graphics about how many times over we could destroy the world with the current arsenals of the US and the Soviet Union. Today I looked up the exact number—at the height of the nuclear arms race there were more than 64,000 nuclear warheads on our planet. That was in 1986. I was ten. I don’t remember what television shows and films I saw at that time, but I clearly remember the image of ICBMs streaking across a radar map of the world, the American ones in blue and the Soviet ones in red. Going in opposite directions. I’m sure I didn’t see this image only once. Of course in most movies a spy disarmed the nukes, or a superhero stopped them, or there was some amazing last-minute diplomacy and they all blew up in the sky. (more…)

Writing fight scenes, part 2

Two more thoughts about writing fight scenes.
  1. Stay in your POV character’s head.
This is always important no matter what you’re writing. In a fight scene, though, it matters a lot whether you’re writing from the point of view of a person who’s never been in a fight before and is terrified and confused, or a person who is used to combat and knows what to expect and watches for their enemy’s tells, or even a robot or other non-human person who observes the entire thing without emotion. The same fight could look very different from different points of view. (more…)

Writing fight scenes, part 1

Fight scenes are crucial in any adventure story. Most writers, though, have never had to fight for our lives, so how can we write convincingly about people who do? Luckily, we all have experience with some sort of movement, and can draw on that experience to write fight scenes that make sense.
Here’s my movement background: I teach dance for my day job and am fond of contact improvisation, in which dancers do impromptu lifts and partnering. Contact improv requires an intent focus on and synchronization with your partner. It’s like a non-confrontational martial art. I’ve also done foil fencing and SCA light fighting.
Coming from my specific movement background, here are some things I’ve noted about writing fight scenes. (more…)

On Writing As A Team

I was going to write about SF clichés next, but it occurred to me that since Ruth and I write as a team, and that’s the exception rather than the rule, it might be worth musing a bit on what team writing is like. When I was little I wanted to be a writer (well, also a ballerina, and a car mechanic, and the President, but that’s a different story) so I got books from the library about how to write. This was before the existence of advice on the Internet. Most of the Internet advice for writers that I’ve come across pretty much amounts to the same thing as those books anyway—write, and keep writing, and read stuff by good writers, and revise, revise, revise. But the one thing that always got me down from those books was the assurance that writing was a lonely craft. “You must sit at your desk alone, and work. You must do this every day, alone. Did we mention ALONE? No one can help you.” This advice made me a little sad—because of course I believed it, it was written in a book—but since I was a solitary sort of person anyway and I really wanted to be a writer, I didn’t let it stop me. (more…)

In Defense of Good Characters

Ruth and I are always talking about stories, our own and other people’s–what we like, what bothers us, what could be done better, what we wish we saw more often. I thought I’d transform some of these conversations into blog posts, to get them clear in my own mind and to share them too. The first thing I’ve chosen to do is be a bit of an apologist for the good characters in stories. (more…)