Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for author Nikki Jefford.
Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be Nikki’s guest today! I’m Thomas Winship, author of Væmpires: Revolution, Væmpires: White Christmas, and the upcoming Væmpires: Zombie Rising.
Today, I’d like to speak about cinematic scenes—specifically, my cinematic scenes.
Well, let me back up a few steps first.
When Nikki invited me to write for her, I had no idea what to write about—a frightening admission for a writer, but one that was nevertheless true—so I asked for her assistance. She suggested cinematic scenes and I readily agreed.
I then Googled “cinematic scenes,” because I had no idea what she was talking about.
Another frightening admission? Perhaps. But I’d rather disappoint you with the truth than entertain you with a lie.
Well … that’s not exactly true, but it sure sounds good, so we’ll just move along.
I researched the topic, going through a good portion of the 74.7 million results that Google returned (“good” being shorthand for “a good five or six”) to gain a rudimentary understanding of the topic.
Once that was achieved, I checked out the newest Makayla Maroney memes, re-watched Will Ferrell’s Trampire video, pre-ordered The Hunger Games on Blu-ray (it includes an ultra-violet digital copy!), and realized I had allowed myself to get distracted.
Dragging myself back to the topic, I also realized that I had forgotten most of what I’d learned about cinematic scenes … but that didn’t matter—when it comes to writing, I’m used to flying blind.
My next order of business was a self-test. Do I write cinematic scenes?
I think I do, but I know enough not to take my word for things, so I checked with the experts. In this case, I didn’t have to look any further than to my fellow authors. Here’s what a few of my favorites had to say about Væmpires:
“I think it would make the coolest video game in a long time. Seriously, read it and tell me that it wouldn’t kick ass as a multiplayer -or- an individual campaign game!” S.M. Boyce, author of The Grimoire Trilogy.
“His fast-moving, cinematic story is punctuated by vivid fight scenes.” Wynne Channing, author of What Kills Me.
“There are no lulls in this book. You catch your breath just in time for more battles.” Christie Rich, author of The Elemental Enmity series.
And even my gracious, talented host had this to say: “Vaempires is action packed from page one. The fight scenes are some of the most descriptive I’ve ever read.”
With feedback like that, I have no choice but to accept the fact I write cinematic scenes.
Furthermore, readers seem to like them.
How awesome is that?
To anyone who’s read my books, it probably comes as no surprise that cinematic scenes are my favorite things to write. Of course, some might argue that it appears that cinematic scenes are the only things I can write … but we’ll just label them as “haters” and block them on Twitter.
Confession: I don’t actually have any haters, but I’m excited about the prospect of having haters one day. How else will I ever be a relevant artist?
Anyway, back to cinematic scenes. Believe it or not, a lot of work goes into creating them. I’ve got to figure out which character has the most dramatic need, what each character’s motivation is, define the core conflict …
Actually, I don’t give a hoot about any of that. I just want two things: action and reaction.
I visualize each scene in my head; before I write it, as I write it, and again, after I write it. Each engagement has a rhythm and flow that gets worked and reworked until it feels right as I read it. Each move is considered and weighed, accepted or rejected, based upon an ever-changing group of factors dictated by the fight (and story) itself.
Even the dialogue is fluid. When Cassie battles Vielyn, there’s a history between them that needs to color everything and bleed through now and again. When Daniel faces an undead army that’s incapable of speech, the lack of dialogue has to be overcome.
There is no one, formulaic, approach that I employ.
In a fantasy, I’d have a big gymnasium connected to my office and a team of people—gymnasts, acrobats, martial artists, dancers, athletes—at my disposal for research, roleplaying, and visualization purposes.
In the real world, I rely upon my own imagination and a lifetime of watching action movies. So far, my characters have fought with fangs and claws, so much of their action scenes are based on hand-to-hand fighting and martial arts, which are quite prevalent in the latest generation of films. Everything from The Matrix trilogies, to the Star Wars prequels, to the glut of superhero films has served as resource material.
The introduction of humans in subsequent stories will require cinematic scenes that employ more weapons-based exchanges. It should be fun!
Now, there are a few things I absolutely require when I’m getting into action writing mode:
1. A few minutes to mentally prepare
2. Rock music
#1. This probably speaks for itself. When I hit the point where a fight breaks out, I get excited. The adrenalin starts pumping, my mind starts running a mile a minute, and I become a bundle of energy. It’s a bit overwhelming and counterproductive. So, the first thing I do is walk away from my desk for a minute or two. I’ll get a drink, visit the restroom, or even just stare out a window, while I calm down to the point where I can actually write again.
#2. I can only write an action scene in two environments: complete silence or while listening to rock music. The former is reserved for times when I really can’t concentrate or I’m having difficulty nailing a particular exchange down … and is rather rare (thankfully). The latter really seems to complement my writing and really helps to keep my energy level high.
I love all kinds of music—pop, rock, and country—from the 50’s through today, but hard rock is my music of choice and the only music that can be playing when writing action. I can’t imagine writing a scene in which Daniel beheads a væmpire while Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” is playing in the background. Give me Godsmack, The Used, or Papa Roach for the tough stuff.
In fact, I wrote most of the final draft of Væmpires: Revolution while playing Bad City’s “Welcome To the Wasteland” on repeat. Halestorm’s “The Strange Case of …” and Vain’s “Enough Rope” provided the background music for Væmpires: Zombie Rising.
#3. I crave sugar when I write action scenes. Peppermint Patties, orange slices, gummy bears, a five lb. bag of Domino Sugar … I don’t really discriminate when the need arises. A few weeks ago I came across some leftover Christmas candy—leftover from Christmas 2008 or so, that is—and I didn’t turn it away.
I’m not saying it was the right thing to do … but it got the job done.
So, there you have it, folks: some random, and rambling, thoughts on cinematic scenes. I’d like to say that I hope it was as good for you as it was for me, but that would probably be misinterpreted, which would provide fodder for the “haters.”
Wherever they may be.