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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Action crit #4: strong language

Last one! I have nothing planned for tomorrow, but if you pitch a question in the comments I'll be glad to take a swing at it.
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High and low flutters resonated from a flock of rising pigeons. Alerted by fresh scuffs on the ground ahead, Raymond crouched under a fern beside Torsi and peered through the cover of tree trunks. Two men shuffled along, carrying a burden in a net. Hides of long, shaggy, black hair covered their shoulders.

Kicking kings! They hadn't . . .  Tension replaced tiredness as Raymond examined the bulk sagging in the centre of the net. The unconscious Sentry, with his skin intact. "They've got the dog!"

"Men from Beartown," Torsi whispered. "They live close to Lant and the swamp. Low lives." He gestured with his finger, signalling to circle the men. "Watch out for their knives."

Enraged, Raymond dodged through trees until he reached the spot opposite Torsi with the dog thieves between them. He nodded to Torsi, who hunkered lower and advanced. They'd gone through the tactic many times in Hailing in case they met enemies and needed defense during a hunt. >>Need a better phrase here... in case they had to ambush enemies? In case they ran afoul of enemies?

Raymond sprinted out of cover. The roar he gave should keep all the attention on him. He flung his spear at the closest man. The tip bounced off the shaggy hide. The men dropped their burden although Sentry didn't move. With grunts of rage, they grasped their knives and faced him, knees bent and elbows spread as if ready to fly at him. >>You said the hide was just on their shoulders -- why didn't he aim lower? Plenty to hit.

Raymond growled and gave a hand signal to his friend. He charged while Torsi advanced on bent knees. When the man slashed out, Raymond twisted out of reach. Both fur-clad men faced him. With Torsi in place behind their knees, Raymond attacked, knocking their chests with the heels of his hands so they toppled backwards over Torsi. >>How'd he hit both at once, and how was Torsi under both at once? Because while he's knocking one down, the other should be stabbing him...

 A sharp pain stung his arm. He and Torsi dived on top of their bodies and wrestled their knives away.

Determined to maintain the upper position, Raymond pounded the head of the smelly man below him. The smacking sound sickened him, but he fought on. A jab caught him on the chin. Swallowing a spurt of sweet irony blood, Raymond punched again. Unable to dodge the fellow's fist, pain exploded beside one eye. He landed a desperate jab on the fellow's throat. His opponent squawked and sagged. Raymond's arm throbbed. Relief battled with his regret although the unconscious thief deserved punishment. >>Irony: wrong adjective. Unable to dodge: this sounds like it's describing Raymond's punch, but it isn't. Regret: what? If he wants to keep beating on the guy, he certainly can.

Grunts and groans came from the other scuffle. Breathing fast, Raymond grabbed his spear and revolved to face his friend.

The fur-clad man struggled out from under Torsi, who smashed the guy's bloodied nose and straddled him again.

One of the fellow's hands scrabbled beneath his garments, but came away empty. Smearing his bloody nose with a swipe, the near-sighted badger gurgled, "'Kay, I give up."

Raymond brandished his weapon. "We'll take our dog."

"Go on. Didn't know he was yours." The man bared his rotten teeth. "My mistake." He leered. "Bear food. She likes to kill her prey."

Raymond growled through his pain and shortness of breath. "What have you done to him?"

The stranger eased onto his elbow. "Put his head in a bag of rotten gas to make him sleep." He studied his companion, who sprawled nearby. "Is he all right?" >>What's Torsi doing?

"Don't know and don't care." Raymond jerked the man's arm to ensure his attention. No sign of the knife, which must be beneath his thighs.

"We've got to get away from this place before the blue men find us." The badger's eyes darted around.

"You should have thought before you came." Raymond pricked the fellow's chest with his spear for good measure, rolled him and snatched the knife. "Stay where you are." >>A spear kinda needs two hands to be effective...

Torsi jogged over to Sentry. "He's breathing."

Scowling, Raymond used a low, threatening tone. "He'd better be." He jabbed the knife in the fellow's direction and growled, "Keep perfectly still."

The bloodied man raised his arms, palms forward.

Using his foot, Raymond pushed the fellow's upper body down again.

"I won't give you any bother."

"You'd better not." Raymond strode over to the prone dog. They could slip away before the conscious man straightened up anyway. >>I doubt it

He and Torsi hoisted up the carrier. With another scowl towards the conscious man, they left at a jog, carrying Sentry slung in the net. >>An excellent time to be attacked -- with their hands full

"Nice net," Torsi said.

Raymond glanced at Sentry's relaxed face, tongue lolling. "That seemed way too easy," Raymond said. "Better run."

Chapter 49

The jolt in her tender ankle pitched Ginny sideways. She grasped at one of the rough wooden logs inside Larna's dwelling and leaned against the wall. Inhaling, she gritted her teeth and tried again with additional support. Could she manage on her own?

A fresh afternoon breeze swirled into the room. Larna, carrying the container of food scraps, traipsed outside. >>maybe it's just me, but "traipse" always sounds childish to me, or at least judgmental. (oh, he's traipsing around out there wasting time, I bet.) Be more specific.

Ginny stared at the open doorway, then limped to the exit. This might be her chance. Determined to try, she gripped the rail outside and eased one foot after the other down the steps, hoping Larna was in the rear garden.

With a lurch, she headed through the gate, each breath laboured. The pain from the next steps told her to sit, but she emerged through the gate after ten trembling paces. >>where is she now?

"Ginny." A man's voice, familiar in its deep tone.

She turned, unsure what to expect. Relief surged through her at the sight of Eric. "Where did you come from?"

"No time to explain. You need to stay here."

Confused, she gasped, "Wha ..." She grasped his arm for support.

"I'll get you out tonight. Be dressed and ready." His firm grip guided her back over the short distance towards captivity.

Defeated, Ginny melted like ice in the sunshine until nothing remained of her substance. However, she could never have reached the end of the walkway alone to breathe the tempting fresh air under the trees. >>But she did, you said she got through the gate...

When she studied the man beside her, a memory rose of another time--of friendship during their childhood together in the rare moments when she snatched time to play before sleeping. >>why is this relevant?

Eric had come looking for her but how did he find her? Could this be real?

Larna appeared from the rear of the dwelling, frowned and hurried over. "Hey, you. What are you doing?"

Eric's disarming smile revealed familiar crooked teeth. "I found her wandering."

"Oh, the poor wee thing. She's not strong enough to walk on her own." Larna nudged Eric aside and took Ginny's arm. "Here, lean on me." When they reached the entrance, Larna swivelled back. "Thank you, stranger. Where are you staying?"

"With Bruce and May."

"Ah. That's all right then." Inside the warm cocoon, Larna closed the door, then her face dropped.

Ginny studied this particular spider's smooth, wooden floor. No escape from the web unless she took the help Eric offered.

* * *
Breath ragged, Raymond slowed the pace and adjusted his hold on the front of the litter ahead of Torsi. A trickling sound drew him on. At the stream, Raymond paused. "Put him down." With a grunt, he lowered the unconscious dog in the net snatched from the bearmen. Torsi's movement jolted his arm. A searing sting sent a fresh reminder of the wound. "Are you all right?" >>You've been deliberately vague about this, despite that in this situation he ought to take a good look at it. Unless the wound happened before this scene?

"A bit sore." Torsi ran his knuckles over his cheek. "Glad we got away with our rescue."

"Me too. I'll see if he'll drink." Raymond couldn't shake off the sensation he'd lose Ginny forever if he let Sentry die.

Torsi, long hair dangling over his face, leaned over the animal. "Water might bring him round."

"I hope the thieving badger told the truth and they haven't poisoned him with sap from the yew tree. I hate that tree." >>Not relevant. Also, are they getting water for the dog or are they just standing there?

"No, look." Torsi pointed. "His eyes are open."

A weapon walloped Raymond's head. Buckling, he shot a glance at the crumpling Torsi. Pain seared through his skull, dulling his senses. Pinned with his face in the dirt, he huffed out soil. >>See below. This is a good paragraph with that one line deleted.

A menacing voice, hollow and disconnected, rang in his ears. "You didn't think we'd let you get away, did you?"

>>This is where he glances at Torsi, sees that he's down too. Torsi's chest moved, so he wasn't dead.

"This is better than a dog," a deep voice said. "Which man shall we take?"

"Why not both?"

Raymond thrashed about. The other bearman must have recovered. >>Think first, then thrash.

"Yeah. Maybe one of them can survive the pit."

"The harvest won't go well unless she produces a baby." >>People don't talk about things they both know unless they're in a TV show. Keep this info for later.

"Take the dog too. They'd like that."

"No. We need our arms for the men." >>Given that they only take one of the two, why "men"?

Words drifted like dandelion seeds while Raymond struggled to rise.

"Hit him again."

"Then we'd have to carry him too. Let's take this guy. He can walk. It's a long way back to Beartown."

"What about the other fellow?"

"Leave him with the dog." The muffled voice faded. "Is he out?"

"I'll wallop him, just to be sure. Don't want him following."

The voice beside Raymond rose in volume. "Get up. We've got to move."

Kicking kings! Darned if he would move. >>"darn"? LOL. This situation calls for stronger language!

"Douse him in the stream."

Arms grabbed him. Raymond dug his shoes into the earth, disturbing stones and soil while they dragged his unwilling body towards the bank. After an intake of breath, chilled water engulfed him.
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Green highlighter is phrases and words that feel weak, that water down the action, or are redundant. Notice that they stop toward the end! I kinda wish you'd left out that middle scene so we could see more of what's going on in the woods. (they're in the woods, right?)

In general, action scenes call for strong language -- mostly the verbs, though swearing works too. They're going to feed me to a bear. Darn! :) This ties back in with the idea that short sentences feel fast. Short, strong verbs feel fast, too. Kick, punch, hit, bite, stab, thrash, rip, slam, crush, bang -- you can practically hear the thudding and splattering. Break complicated moves into shorter pieces, whenever you can.

It may feel... stupid, using a lot of short, simple sentences, but they'll read faster. Save the longer stuff for a moment of emotional reaction, to break up the action.

1 comment:

Jess said...

This was very cool and helpful. Reading through the text and your comments made do some thinking about my own scenes and verb choices, so thank you!