Monday, May 24, 2010

Fight! Fight! Trying to get it right.

Three hours work today on Among the Departed, Molly Smith #5. I worked on an action scene, which I find difficult to write. Difficult meaning trouble getting the words down and the action described properly. In this scene Smith is called to a fight outside a bar. Probably a typical Saturday night fight: drunken louts swinging at each other, drunken onlookers cheering them on. Smith arrives and the fight breaks up.

But one of the fighters pulls a knife on her.

She’s come alone, her backup is delayed, the bouncer nowhere to be seen.

I myself have never been in a fight in my life. I’ve never even seen one – other than on TV or at the movies. How does Molly Smith feel? Is she frightened? Is she calm? All I can do is try to write the scene as I would expect a person in that situation would feel.

I try to play the scene over and over in my mind, using what I’ve read in books or seen on the screen. To watch the characters moving so I can describe it – how she turns, faces the guy, how he comes in towards her, the look on his face, how he’s holding the knife, the swing of the knife, light flashing on the blade, someone calling out a warning.

I get to my feet and stand in the living room, pretending someone’s coming at me. (I am hoping none of the neighbours are peeking in the windows). What do I do? How do I move? Yes, yes, let’s pretend I won’t scream at the top of my lungs and run for the hills. Let’s also pretend that I don’t say “ouch, ouch,” when I swing my hips because I’ve pulled a muscle in my back.

This scene isn’t the climax of the book, and in the overall plot it isn’t all that important. It takes place somewhere in the middle, and is only used as an illustration of what Molly Smith does on the job. She's a beat cop remember. Young and new and very green. She is not a detective, and I try hard to show the ordinary street cop going about a shift. Police officers have a lot more things on the go at any one time than just that one mystery to solve, you know.

An action scene takes a lot of work, and it takes more time, for me, than most other parts of a book. It’s important to get it right, or at least believable.

Even if most of my readers are people just like me – mild-mannered middle-class women who would clutch their pearls and have the vapours if someone threw a punch at them – we all, me as well as the reader, want to believe that we’re in Molly Smith’s head and standing in her shoes and we are watching her go through her moves.

Incidentally, I learned what little I know about fight techniques from observing O.P.P. in-service training. Thanks, as always, to the many police officers who help me with the books.

No comments:

Post a Comment