OK - I dare --- this is on the fighting theme
The following is a translation from German of a fighting post I wrote in a RPG-story several authors are writing in German. The participation in this story is my first ever writing experience. I had this written some weeks ago, obviously long before I read any of this thread or any other writing guidance - certainly somewhat naive on my part, but that's how it is. I certainly was not aware of what I was letting myself into, however there is fun in it.
I picked this one as a) it's my first (fighting) scene, and b) is understandable even though taken out of context (I think)
Lightfooted and silently Glance is running after the knights. Suddenly, in the corner of his eye to his left, a dark shadow. Instnctively he ducks, rolls over his right shoulder, jumps around and stands, sword drawn, with his back to a rock.
On his one side the wolf, which jumped at him, turns around towards him - on the other side two others approach him, cautiously, but with their neck hair raised and their teeth glowing.
"Wolves", he thinks, "and big ones! Even bigger than those at home!" With a smooth movement he debarrasses himself of his backpack and cloak in order to be unhindered. The two to his left jump simultaneously - one he avoids with a reflex, the second's gorge is slit with a sirring sound by his sword, but in the same moment he receives a punch in the back and falls on his nose. Teeth grind in his shoulder - a loud, breaking noise, a howl and the pressure ceases. The teeth of the third wolf have been broken upon contact with his mithril chain armor. But now the first jumps upon him again, Glance rolls around and sinks his sword in the soft belly of the wolf. He frees himself from the heavilly wounded wolf lying on him and kills him with a targeted stab in the heart. The last wolf runs away howling, his tail between his legs - and with a tooth ache.
With a deep breath Glance picks up his gear, puts it on and proceeds after the knights.
I concede that, had I written this in English, some of the wording might have been different, maybe even simpler - while I consider my English adequate for most purposes, I feel more at home with my mother tongue when following this new experience of writing fictional rather than factual.
Hi Glance! Great to have you here. Also, thanks for posting your fight scene. I will attempt to give you my comments so that you may take something away that might help you tighten up your prose. Then again, I may fail. In any event, here are some of my thoughts. Take them as you will. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/delight.gif" alt="" />
Before I begin, just want to make a side note. I am, admitedly, ashamed that English is the only language I'm fluent in. The ability to write in another language and do so as well as you did with your first attempt, humbles me. So, with that said, here is my line-by-line critique: [my notes are in orange]
"Lightfooted and silently Glance is running after the knights. [color:"orange"] The phrase "Glance is running after the knights, silently and lightfooted" gives the reader information at its most basic. And because it's basic information, a lot of questions linger in my mind: Is Glance 'following' the knights because they are guiding him to safety? Is Glance running after them in chase? Is Glance tracking them? Is the fact that Glance 'is running after the knights' important information required in this scene? Also, consider this: the words 'running after' means many different things especially when employed with the adjectives/adverbs 'lightfooted' and 'silently'. If he is tracking them, you might want to use another adjective to describe 'silent and lightfooted,' i.e., 'stealth' implies one is lightfooted and silent (just a consideration). [/color]
Suddenly, in the corner of his eye to his left, a dark shadow. [color:"orange"] This previous sentence is incomplete and inaccurate (if you are stating he 'saw' something out of his left eye, then do so). Otherwise, you are literally saying there 'is a dark shadow in the corner of his left eye'. Taking into consideration that English is not your native tongue, I understand what you're reaching for, but you haven't quite hit the mark. Perhaps you might consider the following: "Suddenly, he saw a dark shadow from the corner of his left eye." [/color] Instnctively he ducks, rolls over his right shoulder, jumps around and stands, sword drawn, with his back to a rock. [color:"orange"] There is too much action in this previous sentence. It might read better if it were broken down, in shorter, sticatto-like phrases/sentences. Keeping them short, gives the feeling that the action is quick/fast. Also, the phrase 'he jumps around' brings many images into my head. Is he jumping around 'like an idiot' or did he jump and 'turn' around [fast enough to see the oncoming danger]. [/color]
On his one side the wolf, which jumped at him, turns around towards him - on the other side two others approach him, cautiously, but with their neck hair raised and their teeth glowing. [color:"orange"] This paragraph is also confusing, however, I sense that you wrote it from the 'video tape' that was rolling in your mind's eye at the time. The phrase, "On his one side," needs expansion: which side? Left? Right? Front? If it's not important from which side the wolf attacks, then don't refer to it. Also, keep in mind most wolves who [stand ready to] attack have 'raised hair' but they don't have 'glowing teeth'. LOL If the teeth were truly glowing is it because the wolves are a special mutation? Are they alien wolves? Is the fact that their teeth 'glow' essential to the scene or plot? These are things that you, as the writer, need to consider. If these descriptive phrases are in here to show that wolves are fearsome creatures, then I don't think the phrase is necessary, since they are getting ready to attack Glance. Or are the phrases in there to tell the reader what Glance is visually looking at? If this is their purpose, then why did Glance only notice their teeth and hair? What about his other senses? Toss in the smells that are around him, were they [the wolves] drooling or frothing at the mouth? What sounds were they making? Low, gutteral growls, or whelping? I think you get my point. Your choice of words in an action scene is crucial to setting the tension and suspense. Also, it's more than implied that the wolf who is attacking him is the same one from the previous paragraph. If you want to introduce 2 new wolves, then do so in seperate sentences. [/color]
"Wolves", he thinks, "and big ones! Even bigger than those at home!" With a smooth movement he debarrasses himself of his backpack and cloak in order to be unhindered. [color:"orange"] By the way, 'debarrasses' means 'to relieve' [oneself]. This might not be the best word. I know what you're trying to say, but debarrass is not a word that's used in everyday language (which, the rest of this scene is written in). And since he's removing his backpack and cloak, in the middle of a wolf attack, it's pretty much implied he's doing so, 'to be unhindered'. [/color] The two to his left jump simultaneously - one he avoids with a reflex, [color:"orange"] a reflex[ive] what? Did he deflect the wolf with an arm reflex? His head? A nearby tree branch? His sword? The sword should be included in this part of the sentence, not the next.[/color] the second's gorge is slit with a sirring sound by his sword, [color:"orange"] I apologize, but I did not follow this part at all and I can't relate to a 'sirring sound' [/color] but in the same moment he receives a punch in the back and falls on his nose. [color:"orange"] Does he 'receive' a punch? Is that the word you're reaching for? Or was he simply 'punched'? Can wolves punch? [/color] Teeth grind in his shoulder - a loud, breaking noise,[color:"orange"] ('a loud breaking noise' - could that 'loud noise' be a 'crunch'?) The ability to draw your reader into the scene must be done with using proper or exact words. 'Teeth grinding in his shoulders, should probably be the 'He felt
(or 'feels' since you're writing in present tense) the wolf's teeth sink into his shoulder, piercing his skin... (or something like that). Teeth don't 'grind' in a shoulder. They grind in one's mouth. [/color] a howl and the pressure ceases. [color:"orange"] who howled? the wolf or Glance? [/color] The teeth of the third wolf have been broken upon contact with his mithril chain armor. [color:"orange"] How does Glance "know" the third wolf broke its teeth? Does Glance "see" bits of teeth fly through the air" or does he "hear" them break? I know exactly what the author is trying to say, but the necessary verbs and adjectives are missing. [/color] But now [color:"orange"] Note: there was never a 'then' since this scene is written all in present tense. I'll comment on that in a minute <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" /> [/color] the first jumps upon him again, [color:"orange"] where was the first during this whole fracas? Introducing a previous character takes a bit more finesse. Btw, in an action scene, the words 'upon' are archaic. The word 'on' is enough. [/color] Glance rolls around [color:"orange"] I already pointed out the problem with using the word 'around' -- it's inexact unless he literally is 'rolling around and around and around' <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" /> [/color] and sinks [color:"orange"] how about 'plunges'? [/color] his sword in the soft belly of the wolf. [color:"orange"] Here is some nice imagery: 'in the soft belly of the wolf.' Excellent job! [/color] He frees himself from the heavilly wounded wolf lying on him and kills him with a targeted stab in the heart. [color:"orange"]Oooh! Nice tight phrase: "a targeted stab in the heart." I like that too! [/color] The last wolf runs away howling, his tail between his legs - and with a tooth ache. [color:"orange"] Okay, these last two sentences are the best of this whole scene, (in my humble opinion), but you lost me with "and with a tooth ache." And here's why: This is written in what is called 3rd person point of view (present tense), therefore, Glance can have only knowledge of himself. He cannot feel what the wolf is feeling. The author certainly knows the wolf has a tooth that hurts, but there is no way that Glance can know the feelings, sensations, thoughts of another character. That's what we call 'head jumping' (in writer's terms). [/color]
With a deep breath Glance picks up his gear, puts it on and proceeds after the knights. [color:"orange"] Glance does not pick up his gear with a deep breath - that's a physical impossibility! <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" /> He would probably pick it up with a blood-soaked arm. You might say: "He lets out a deep breath (sigh of relief?) (or sighs heavily?), picks up his gear and continues to (follow) (track) or (give chase toward) the knights. To simply say he 'proceeds after' the knights is another blunder (in this case). It's called using the 'passive voice'. Which, is not encouraged in this type of scene.[/color]
Regarding writing in present tense:
It's not only hard on the reader, but harder on the writer. Action scenes written in 3rd person, present tense are not easy to pull off even for a seasoned writer. When I first began writing, I wrote everything in present tense. For some reason, it felt natural. However, I found myself writing my characters and almost every scene into corners. I simply did not understand the different points of views and tenses that writers can choose from.
I have a book that I've kept by my side for many years: "Characters and Viewpoint," Orson Scott Card - I highly recommend it for beginning writers. It's written in laymens terms by a noted and respected sci-fi author. And without having any knowledge of the skills involved in the craft of writing, Card's book made an enormous impact on the way I approach each and every scene. I don't know if there is a copy in German. Kiya would be the person you might want to ask. If you can't find it in your local library, I'm sure (if there is a German version), you can find one reasonably priced at Amazon.
Also, there are far more knowledgeable people on this board who can better explain the pitfalls of writing in present tense. Especially scenes involving combat. I admit, I'm lousy when it comes to writing in present tense and only do so for short periods of time (when necessary to the plot).
***** end of critique (Yay - finally!) <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/winkwink.gif" alt="" />
I hacked this up pretty good, Glance. Don't take this critique as gospel. It's merely my personal observations as a writer and reader. And because I made many comments doesn't imply you're not a good writer. You are. It's just important to know a few of the 'rules' (hate that word, btw) of writing if you want your prose to be clear for your readers AND stand apart from the other writers. If you are interested in learning more about writing, I'd be happy to give you a hand, Glance. I see promise in your work. And you picked one of the hardest scenes to write (let alone in a language foreign to your native tongue!). So, do you feel like rewriting this and resubmitting? LOL If you do, I'd be happy to read it through a PM if you're not ready to repost it here.
I hope these comments help you and do not hinder. That's not why I posted them. Thanks for this opportunity, Glance. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wave.gif" alt="" />
Faralas <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mage.gif" alt="" />