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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Writing Technique: Up the Impact of Your Chase Scenes

This is from some editing I did for a writer of experimental fiction when I was on a panel for Greater Los Angeles Writers Society headed by Tony Todaro. You can apply these suggestions to the chase or getaway scene in your script or manuscript before you send it to an agent or publisher--even without an editor! Ha

Sometimes even the most fascinating detail can slow down movement. So as much as writers are told that detail is important, purge as much as you can from your action scenes and put it somewhere else or dribble it into narrative in other places in your manuscript. In the process, ask yourself if your reader really needs to know the color of the protagonist’s eyes. As important as details is, some is better left to the imagination of the reader. I can imagine where eye color might be very important, but—on average—it probably isn’t necessary.  Here are some quick suggestions:
1.    Remove some of the detail entirely. Double check. Make it meet the test!
2.    Try to use stronger verbs—especially verbs of movement.
3.    Use shorter sentences. By doing so, the rhythm could emulate a fast-beating heart and the pulse of danger. Note that clauses slow copy as surely as passive voice (or tense).
4.    In the interest of a faster pace, try dropping into present tense and moving out of it when the run or danger is past. If you write the scene that way and wait a day or two before rereading it, you’ll be able to honestly compare the effects of the two.
5.    Check your commas. They also slow the pace. Sometimes you must follow grammar rules for commas for clarity. Sometimes that comma slows their reading, indicates a pause. Other times it is a style choice you get to make. You are looking for the times readers will never notice a comma is absent. You may choose to discard some of them!
6.    Consider saving the description of your protagonist for a time when life doesn’t depend on his or her speed. His “bright face of youth” doesn’t meet that test. Is there a way to work the major description into this narrative using smaller bites or to arrange to have it come before or after the chase?
7.    Though I love that you include the sensory, be careful not to overdo that, especially in an action-moment. You have the protagonist leaning against a strut for a moment’s rest. The strut’s sensory role in this passage should probably be the reassurance it offered, not how it felt to the touch. Further, this kind of thing might best be left to your reader who will draw that conclusion anyway.
8.    At the risk of being repetitious, the sense of danger shouldn’t be interrupted unless it is necessary for understanding. Sometimes that isn’t speed (like a chase). Sometimes it is. Regardless, you—the author—want to keep the momentum going for the reader.



Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winning second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter (where she talks more about choosing and the advantages of winning contests and how to use those honors)  and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfileGreat Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and, another booklet, The Great First Impression Book Proposal helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. In addition to this blog, she helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com )