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Can you critique this action scene please? (Novel excerpt included)

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  #1  
Old 01-03-2010, 03:48 PM
Catherine (Offline)
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Default Can you critique this action scene please? (Novel excerpt included)


It's an old-world fantasy novel. This action scene is the first action scene I have ever written. Does is flow well? Does it excite you? And, how can I improve? It's taken from the middle of a random chapter, so it probably won't make much sense. And this fight is a little graphic in places, so if you have a weak stomach then don't read.

To her right she spied the village of Sparring-on-Deen. The Deen River gushed on the edge of the settlement, white peaks blooming on the choppy waters. Hmm thought Athena. That river is still playing up then? Violent one day, and calm the next. Most unusual. And indeed it was unusual for rivers to have mood-swings; so much so, that the Tallengal had their suspicions that it was all being caused by some pre-Graduate Magic Scholars, messing around with their Pocket Spellbooks. Because of this, a mean-looking Troll was on permanent standby next to the river, cunningly disguised as a fisherman (decade-old wading boots teamed with a battered hat, and complete with jaunty feather.)
The Troll caught her looking and regarded her with suspicion. Yes, she did have a Scholarship in Preliminary Magic. No, she didn’t want to waste time annoying politicians and fish. Athena was about to wave her hands as a sign she meant no harm, when she noticed the Troll’s expression change to alarm. In fact, he wasn’t even looking at her.
She followed his gaze in time to witness about a dozen footmen and horsemen stream over the hill and into the village. Metal clashed and screams could be heard. Blobs of orange flame could be seen, brandished by the attackers.
Without hesitation, Athena steered Amsi in the direction of the village, urging the beast’s strong muscles to move faster. Hurtling down the path, she attracted the attention of the attackers. Some turned to look. One of them moved his horse to face her.
‘Don’t come any closer, or the Deen will have your body floating-’. He was interrupted mid-threat, when Athena launched herself from Amsi’s back and crashed into him, head-long. They slammed into the ground. Athena grabbed his wrist and gave a sharp tug. She flipped him upright, and at the same time, silenced him with a rough thrust of her sword. The hero dragged his body upright, using him as a makeshift shield. Four other men, seeing the commotion, ran up to her. Encircling her. She kept the body in front of her, poking he sword through one of his arms and swivelling herself round on the spot. The men took pot-chances, bashing their swords at her. The dead man took it all; his lifeless body was being hacked up by his own comrades.
Athena realised there was only so long she could keep up this defensive pirouette. With a roar, she pulled the body up higher and threw it straight at two of her tormentors. The impact winded them, and sent them reeling into the pig-trough.
The remaining two laughed without humour. ‘Nice move,’ commented the uglier one. ‘Unfortunately there will be no more dead bodies to throw. Unless it’s yours.’
This guy was severely annoying. The hero ran up to him quickly. Surprised by her suddenness, he resumed his fighting stance. Too late. Athena ‘disarmed’ him with a swift kick to his crown jewels. He sank to the ground, a pained moan rasping from his lips.
By now, the residents of Sparring-on-Deen were watching the fight with awed eyes, their fright forgotten. Another of the attackers ran up to where the remaining man was engaging in a sword-fight with their interferer. Honestly he thought Didn’t women know their place. Well, I’ll kindly point out where her place is. In a grave. Chuckling at his own wit, he jogged up.
Athena, noticing another participant in the battle, leapt up with nimble feet onto the fence surrounding the village, thus ensuring that nobody could pull a nasty move from behind. Athena’s fighting-style was ruthless. Never mind all that hopping about, twiddling your sword. She didn’t believe in any of that fancy nonsense. Crashing metal heavily onto metal, brutally slicing at any exposed body parts; that was the way to fight.
As she fought, Athena kept her eyes peeled. One weakness. One wrong move, and it would be the key... there! She swung her sword with a strong, sideways swipe. She killed the first, dislodged her sword and twanged the second around the face with her blade.
However, from her triumph emerged despair. More men were running towards her. Athena was getting worried. She was outnumbered. Dangerously outnumbered. Stumbling from the fence, she legged it towards the thatched houses, breath gasping. Energy zapped. Panic started setting in. In her terrified state, she saw only one escape. Only one advantage. Kicking chickens in the direction of her nearing enemies to buy time, she scrambled onto the thatched roof, hands grasping for any wood-knot to propel her. Once up, she risked a glance over the edge to see a ruffian already spitting in his hands, clearly intent on following her. Jump onto another roof.
She ran along the uneven thatched roof, resolved to leap across, when she halted. An attacker. On the roof opposite. And more closing in behind. She knew there was a better chance of tackling one person than the mob climbing the wall behind her. She took a run up.
‘Don’t even think about jumping over here’ he growled, brandishing a torch threateningly.
Athena was about to laugh, but stopped. The torch. Fire. A thatched roof. But surely he wouldn’t drop it when he was on the roof too?
‘I’ll drop it’ he warned.
Athena smiled. ‘Go on then.’
She jumped.
He dropped it.




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  #2  
Old 01-03-2010, 04:27 PM
Dougmysticeye (Offline)
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I am a big fan of well described action. I don't fancy myself the best mentor in this regards but do have a couple of cents worth of comments.

First, I think, pesonally, you need to describe the characters better (just my humble opinion mimd you). These attackers, what did they wear? Do they have shields, armor, what sort of weapons. Did they have anything that showed who they worked for like livery or painted shields, banners on lances or polearms, etc.

Illustrate the surroundings. Was the town walled, low hedges, open against the river bank. Give the reader some tactical view.

What did the Troll look like? Was he huge and lumbering with green pustules over his body and massive, musclular arms. As the reader I am meant to think there is an encounter brewing with the Troll first so describe it better. Does the Troll enter the battle in some way (bloodlust getting the beter of it)?

The action gets muddy in the middle too. I will try to illustrate:

Another of the attackers ran up to where the remaining man was engaging in a sword-fight with their interferer. Honestly he thought Didn’t women know their place. Well, I’ll kindly point out where her place is. In a grave. Chuckling at his own wit, he jogged up.

This felt like a strange break to me. If it were me I would keep the focus on Athena and not change view points like that. Especially since it is only a snippet.

In this one:
This guy was severely annoying. The hero ran up to him quickly. Surprised by her suddenness, he resumed his fighting stance. Too late. Athena ‘disarmed’ him with a swift kick to his crown jewels. He sank to the ground, a pained moan rasping from his lips.

This reads like the hero ran up on him quickly and was suprised by her, he then resumed his fighting stance.

It seems as if the Hero is someone different than Athena, a guy perhaps. Again, keep the focus on Athena.

Example:
Athena found this adversary particularly annoying. With a feral growl she launched herself at the guard. Startling him with her suddenness she cauth him unpreppared and with a deft flip of her slender blade sent his weapon whistling through the air.
The boot to the guards crotch gave her great satisfaction as she watched him double over and sink to his knees.

That was off the cuff but does that make sense.

Hope that helps some. If you want to read some great blow by blow action sequences in a high fantasy setting pick up some RA Salvatore books. He is very good at describing detailed combat. Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden files, does this nicely too.
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Old 01-04-2010, 01:55 AM
SatyricalRaven (Offline)
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I actually think it's quite good for a first draft and if you follow some of the suggestions above, I believe it will run smoother.

A few grammar points. I'm not going to go through the entire thing but for example: The Deen River should be The Deen river
(decade-old wading boots teamed with a battered hat, and complete with jaunty feather.)
No need for the brackets, use this to describe the Troll as per above suggestion.

Metal clashed and screams could be heard. Blobs of orange flame could be seen, brandished by the attackers.
A bit of effort here could make this into a great biuld-up. Take out BLOBS, it just doesn't work at all. Try reversing some of the words and adding others for instance: Screams and the clash of metal could be heard over the explosive roars of orange flame.

You also have 'HE where there should be 'THE' & many other spelling/grammatical errors. Try working those out first as this will make it easier for the reader to get involved in the story.

Good luck
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:01 AM
TooTsaka (Offline)
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First drafts are always going to be dodgy. You just need to know where you went wrong. For me, the descriptions were a bit sloppy and wasn't enough to convince me of this world. You need to be thorough in what you're describing to paint the world how it is. Also, the action scene wasn't exactly action packed. You need to create tension, then it can be called 'action'.
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Old 01-05-2010, 01:11 PM
Catherine (Offline)
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Excellent comments! They are really helping me!
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