Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm good!

By nature, I'm pretty humble. I may joke around about how awesome I am, but in reality I don't always have a very high opinion of my abilities and skills. And I know I'm pretty good at some things, but it's just not important to me that everyone else says it. That being said, let me take this opportunity to toot my own horn a bit.

I write damn good action scenes.

Anyone who has ever read any of my stories knows that action and physical conflict are always at the heart of the tale. Sometimes my characters are thinly-veiled carbon copies of more famous action characters, and they sometimes handle the situations they get into in the same, standard manner as any famous character of their cut would. But that's not where my creativity lays, I don't think.

I chalk it up to reading a LOT of Robert E. Howard since I was about twelve years old, as well as reading a lot of Mack Bolan and other action-adventure books since around the same time.  Not to mention the sheer number of action movies I have watched. I think I have a pretty good grasp of how a fight scene works, and I think I do a more than fair job of relaying what is happening in my mind's eye to the page.

So, where does that leave me?

I'm not sure. I have been told that I am pretty good at characterization as well. I seem to be able to convey a character's personality, background, and motivations pretty clearly, and all within a short span. I have to admit, this part took some practice. And it really boils down to the old writer's adage "Show don't tell."

Related to this, I try to avoid infodumps like the plague. Even if it's only a single paragraph, I will always try to figure out a way to convey the info in some other way, or jettison it if it's not integral to the story. The downside of that is that my stories tend to leave people wanting more. Which I guess is a good thing, except that I have a hard time going back and picking up for the next story. Maybe when I sit down to try to write an entire novel, I will leave the infodumps in, until I can go back and maybe streamline them a bit.

One area of weakness that my wife always points out is physical description. A lot of times the characters are so real in my head that I forget that I need to tell show the reader what they actually look like. However, as I learned last week, when I am running out of room (as in approaching the word count max), this can be one of the first things to go. In this instance, I had to rely on the reader's assumed knowledge to fill in the details.

Incidentally, that story was a pretty cool experience within itself.  I found a market, wrote a new 2,500-word story, edited it, ran it by alpha-readers, and submitted it for consideration, all within about a 12-hour period.  It was a hoot!

So, see? I can't even just brag. I have to balance it with admitting flaws. But, I wouldn't be humble (yet totally awesome) little me otherwise.


Joe Bonadonna said...

Tom -- you really don't have to tell people what your characters look like if it's not important to the story or you just don't want to. As your characters inter-act, our imaginations will conjure visions of what they look like. I have started working on giving each one a different way of talking, their own "voice," because I feel this will be a good way to let the reader "imagine" what the character looks like. I always run out of things for them to wear. You established a good character in Bear in such a short story. You know what you're doing. I don't need to give you any advice, though sharing tips and secrets is always cool.

BTW, I AM a robot.

Keith said...

Joe's right. You don't always have to tell readers what the characters look like. It's nice but can be overdone. Unless the physical description is integral to the story, or maybe the character is one you intend to reuse, I don't think it matters.

I got beat on pretty good on this point at a writer's workshop at a convention a few years ago. All the women in my critique group (including the two professional instructors) griped because I didn't give physical descriptions of the characters and they wanted to know what the characters looked like. The men didn't seem to care.

So when do we get to read this new story?

Charles Gramlich said...

As a reader, action scenes are really important to me.

Tom Doolan said...

Thanks guys! :) I liked the character in the story. So, I will probably try to write a bunch more about him. If this story gets accepted, I'll obviously let everyone know. If it gets rejected, it might end up in an eAnthology of westerns by me. I've never really written westerns, so it would be cool to try that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I thought I had commented on this post. I was just saying that I really enjoy good action scenes. It's a question about the character description. I don't mind some.