Creating Movement in an Action Novel

wildfire

Source: WSET, Virginia

I don’t know why, but I’ve been fascinated with fire since childhood. The duality of its beauty and danger captivate me; flames licking, eating, destroying; yet warming, inviting, even trance inducing. Many years ago, as the first chapters of Rescue on White Thunder formed in my mind, it was very different from the end result. I suppose that’s where the creativity and individuality of the writer comes in to play. Fire has become a running theme in my books and it is once again a large part of the next installation in what has become a series because I so enjoy the characters I’ve created. (And I’ve already got ideas and a premise for a third.)

For a writer who prefers to write a good action story, movement is crucial and including fire made it easy. Fire provides good movement in a story, whether it’s the fire itself or the characters involved with the fire and what they’re doing with it or to it.

In this excerpt, you can see how the characters move into action as a result of fire:

Braddock was already well above the rest of his crew on the fire line when Jim suddenly yelled, “Wind change!” 

The crew immediately stopped what they were doing and ran downhill. When Braddock and Smoke turned to do the same, a flare-up stopped them in their tracks. It was an unexpected blowup – the southeasterly winds, with pressure from the storm overhead, shifted north and caused crown fires to increase rapidly. Flames raged high and hot and separated Braddock and Smoke from the rest of the team. Braddock turned in every direction, trying to find a way out as the flames shot through the loose underbrush, creating a wall of fire around them. Branches burned off trees fell to the forest floor, spitting burning embers everywhere.

In this portion, the fire itself is the action, providing rich imagery as well:

Fires spread quickly over a fresh, loose layer of humus covering the solid ground. Tree trunks caught fire one after the other as flames overran the surrounding brush and now-dead timbers toppled from last year’s big storm. The crackling roar of the fire amplified and they had to shout to hear each other. Braddock knew they would soon be forced to move to higher ground. Some of the firebreaks held but winds were increasing in strength and velocity, propelling fresh embers to other areas. More trees and small brush ignited, creating walls of flames that nearly licked the upper branches of the tall pines.

You can also have both the characters and the fire creating action where one influences the other:

6:30 am: The explosion reverberated throughout the house. Braddock flew out of his chair at the breakfast table and Jim sprung to his feet, knocking his chair to the floor, both of them spilling their mugs of coffee.

Quite a distance away, they could barely make out a thin grey line of smoke over the trees southwest of White Thunder Mountain. Minutes later, the wail of police sirens pierced the air; honks like foghorns from multiple fire engines interrupted the morning’s serenity.

When it comes to action, you have multiple opportunities to create movement in your story when you include an active subject matter like fire or other extreme forms of weather. Track whether the story flows or if it skips; too many changes between scenes may break up the story’s rhythm. Use whatever tools work best for you; have friends/family read portions for feedback, build a story board on a wall in your home office (or where in the house you write), even sketch out the physical layout of the story’s location (this works for me) to keep timelines and movement in sync.

Remember, movement is life in a good action story.

Mood, Weather, and Technology

Hello All, I’m baaaaccckkk…

I know, I went missing for a bit there…that’s because I was busy packing up my life and moving to new digs while breaking in a new day job. The older I get, the longer it takes for me to unpack and get the rhythm of my life in order, including my writing (this blog, my novels, etc.). Here in NorCal we’ve been hit with a deluge of rain over the past six weeks (I’ve actually lost count as to how long this has been going on) and I am showing signs of wear. This much rain reminds me of Seattle; I lived near there for about five months many years ago but left because the weather was depressing and so was I from a lack of vitamin D. I don’t know about you, readers, but weather – especially consistent torrents of rain – quashes my ability to express myself in any uplifting way. That, coupled with the fact that I’ve yet to get internet in my new home, has made for the only dry season around here. So I am in both an emotional and technological desert, brought on by relocation and mood-deflating weather. What’s a writer to do?

Tomorrow is a day off from work and a state holiday. Since most businesses are closed, I plan to work on my novel (the sequel to Rescue on White Thunder), see if I can get any closer to resolving the main issue: the darn thing is too short. I’ve got to stretch it out, perhaps a sub-story, to make it at least as long as the first novel. I’ve had writer’s block on that subject for over a year. The upside is that the weather is supposed to be pretty stormy, meaning I’m staying in for the day. I have some movies to watch (no cable at the moment either, but I do have my DVD player); hopefully I’ll spend the morning and part of the afternoon writing before vegging in front of the movie screen.

I have to admit I haven’t missed the internet all that much. Nice to come home and not worry about checking emails (which I can do from my phone), updating the new residential address, or checking in with the latest round of idiocy from our new Il Presidente. My home is definitely more quiet and I admit I’m in no hurry to busy it up again. Except with some good writing…which I will endeavor to accomplish, in spite of the mood, weather, and technology issues.