Thursday, September 30, 2010

Larry Correia: writing action scenes

Larry Correia: Writing Action Scenes
From Book Academy Conference at UVU
My notes

Larry has written Monster Hunters International and this week has released its sequel: Monster Hunter Vendetta.

Find the highlights of an action scene and focus on those, not on every play.
Cut the stuff that readers get bored by. Have writers group say what parts are boring
Avoid the "checklist" . . . Achieve the feel of chaos and anarchy in action, less linear
Leave readers breathless
Know what you're talking about, don't fudge on important details and do your research
Don't think of action sequences as separate from the plot . . . Action should forward plot
Character growth and change should happen in action scenes
Resolve some plot points in action scenes
Flavor the action scenes differently based on who the POV character
A hardened character will show less emotion and more jaded callousness
Work with real biology in characters receiving damage, not "the hit point system"
Keep injuries and expectations plausible with injuries
Don't use "write what you know" as an excuse not to write about interesting things
Most of us haven't fought battles in armor, staked a vampire, killed dragons
Read and study action sequences in books you like
Use a training montage to have junior characters learning how to use magic, martial arts, guns, strategy, etc. See Jim Butcher or Mistborn with Vin
Don't use magic in action as a crutch or deus ex machina
Use microcosm, personal moments of action while also showing big picture action involving many characters or large scale
Action is about potential or kinetic energy or a combo of both
Sometimes you're ramping up action, sometimes you're breaking the tension.

Pass the popcorn

Last week my family was visiting my mom and since Grandma never gets to spoil the grandkids because she lives 3,000 miles away, the day with grandma included a trip to see a 3-D movie. Yep Grandma is secretly a 3-D fanatic. She even saw "Shark Boy and Lava Girl" (No grandkids were available to go with her so she took her long suffering spouse.)
Last week she had willing volunteers to see "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole" in 3-D.
Here is my breakdown of the experience. We went through 2 large popcorn tubs while we were there. Meaning either it was so exciting we kept reaching for the popcorn without realizing it or it was so boring there wasn't much else we could do. Both are true depending on who you ask.

I was enthralled and loved the colors and the animation. I think it was a beautifully done movie. My 4 year old got bored half way through and started running laps of the theatre when his popcorn ran out. Since no one else was in the our showing I didn't bother chasing him so I still enjoyed the film.

My mom thought it was "confusing." She felt several plot points were never explained. She chalked it up the fact that it's based on a book.
My 9 year old turned to me at the end of the film and said, "I bet the book is ten times better." So we went to the Library and got a copy and by Saturday afternoon he confirmed that the book was better from start to finish. He still enjoyed the movie though.
What's the verdict on the Owls of Ga'Hoole? Its worth seeing, but if you can read the book before you go, then it might make more sense. My warning is that the middle story building might get tedious for younger children although they will probably like the beginning and the end.
Any opinions on this one?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I, DJ, am sick.  I am sucking down cherry cough drops.

I have now fulfilled my obligation to post.

I am going to bed.

Love you all and goodnight!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books I've Read Recently

Obviously, if you've been following along, you know I read Mocking Jay a while back. I also read Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. In fact, I just finished that one a couple of days ago. And, now I'm bringing it down with a little Elizabeth Gaskell. She wrote a delightful little novel called "North and South" in the mid 1800's. It was made into a BBC movie which came out in 2004. I've seen the movie and now I'm reading the book. I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed. :) What have you all been reading lately?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An opinion

I saw the following quote on Twitter this week:

"It's better to have a terrible first draft, then no draft at all."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hunger Games

Today I was walking through my local K-6 school and I saw one sixth grade teacher reading Hunger Games to his class. I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I love the series (it may be one of my new absolute favorite series).  But is it OK for 11 and 12 year olds?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Holding Out For A Hero

I recently had a disagreement with someone (technically two people). As I do with most things that happen in life, I found myself relating the situation back to writing. I tried to find their motivations (they were wrong), understand how they could misunderstand me (again, they were wrong), and figure out how that could play into a story (them = antagonists).

But seriously, I love to take every day situations and put them into a magical story land that lives in my head. In these adventures, I am forced to do some self-evaluation, because we all love a well-rounded character, and I sometimes even have to admit that I am gasp wrong. Not often, but there is a rare occasion.

Anyway, I don't really have a point in this. I just wanted to relate that dealing with people is easier if we can look at it from a story standpoint. Analyze their reasons, and understand your own reasons. Of course, there are going to be times when you run into that crazy and illogical antagonist. When that happens, no amount of storytelling will help. But at least you can walk away with the knowledge that you make a great hero!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reading? Yes! Writing? Yes! Arithmetic? Not so much

After one has work time, kids time, housekeeping time, husband time, and required-sleep-to-avoid-becoming-homicidal time covered, there is only so much left in a day. Thus, I usually end up choosing between reading or writing during my precious solo free time (sure, I do indulge in TV time, but that is part of my downtime with Hubby).

This week, I did much more reading than writing, even though I had done some trash talking on the Inkers' group email early in the week about how I will retain the Inker o' the week title indefinitely. My rationale was, reading a lot is an important part of becoming a good writer, not to mention, the book in question was due back to the library over a week ago.

What I have been reading is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I have not quite finished it, but decided to go ahead and write about it today. Here is a plot summary from

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

This is a really good story. I especially love the characters and dialogue. There is enough intrigue to keep the pages turning. I'm excited to finish it tonight because I feel like I know these women personally, and I'm rooting for them. Each of the three main characters alternates telling the story in first person every three chapters or so, which makes you really get a good feel for the characters because you are not only in their heads, but also see them from the point of view of the other two.

My criticisms would be, at times through the middle it dragged a bit and I felt like some of it could have been cut to pick up the pace. Also, the author makes several references to To Kill a Mockingbird, which annoyed me because it is one of my favorite books of all time and I thought she might be trying too hard to make people view this work as a peer of that classic.

Another thing that I found interesting is a large part of the plot revolves around the women collaborating on a book and trying to get it published, which of course is something close to my heart.

Overall, I would highly recommend it for its emotional impact and great characters. As I've been reading it, I could see how it would translate well into film, and in fact there is a film version coming out next spring.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Family Ties

The same ties of affection that bind us to the people who have known us our whole lives can also tie us in knots inside. No one knows better how to push our buttons or get our tempers rising and yet we so often let them do it. Why? Because that's who they are to us. As we talk about post traumatic stress disorder and other great insight into the human character let's not forget the ties that bind us. For better or worse they are part of who we are.

This week I've had a chance to be so grateful for family and to feel equally loved and criticized. Why is that? Because its family. When building families in our writing its important to remember how important and infuriating they can be.


Arlene did an excellent post yesterday regarding Hunger Games.  She mentioned Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I've got a friend who is a military wife and she also has an outreach program for returning soldiers dealing with PTSD.  I talked with her at our school's 9/11 commemoration about some of the struggles these soldiers face.  I was totally blown away.

I had no idea the emotions these men and women have to deal with, and all that their families have to endure.  I was amazed at her forgiving and understanding attitude.  I thought I was forgiving, but she takes the cake.

What does this have to do with writing? I'm not sure.  But its interesting to think about in regards to character studies.  The strength that some people have to endure, or to return.  The craziness that is going on in someone's head--in real life we don't see the nightmares, we only see the actions.  Maybe we can all dig a little deeper and bring a little more depth to our characters.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I was in the shower this morning (where I do my best thinking), reliving various moments of the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Now, you have to understand that I finished reading Mockingjay about a week ago, so the fact that I'm still thinking about it should be an indicator to you all how fantastic this series is. Specifically, Collins' ability to bring a very unique intensity and reality to the world she created. My dad served in Vietnam...twice. It's not something he has talked about much in the past, but recently, as he's dealt with the post-traumatic stress disorder that has plagued him most of his life, he has opened up about some of the experiences he remembers and still dreams about. It is these experiences that he has shared that my brain jumps to when I read the Hunger Games series. How does a person come through in the end, intact and whole? The answer is: they don't. But it's not all bad either. Decisions are made and lived with and life keeps going. This series encompasses what, I think, most people are willing to fight for. More humanity. More peace. It's just that so much is sacrificed to achieve that end...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Death Becomes Her

Last Friday I was murdered. Stabbed in the heart 12 times with a butter knife. Did it hurt? Not nearly as much as realizing I couldn't even solve my own death!

I was attending a murder mystery dinner, and turned out to be the victim. My name was Purple, a diva rock star with anger management issues.

As the story unraveled and the guests got into the roles, I really thought a lot about the writing of a mystery. In a novel, clues should be slowly revealed, not too obvious, but clear enough that at the end, if you haven't figured it out, you have a Homer Simpson, "DOH!" moment. The murder mystery dinner did not quite end up that way. The clues were confusing, if not entirely vague, the characters mostly unaware of what they were supposed to do. Not even the murderer guessed that she did it. Speaking of which, the picture is of me and my murderess. The white mask I'm wearing is the representation of death...or something like that.

So, did I have a good time? Absolutely! I was obnoxious, I yelled a lot, and everyone hated me. It was awesome. But with better writing, I think those mystery dinners could really take off.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Human Spirit

On September 11, one can't help but think of the horrible events of nine years ago.

My thought process is usually the same. At first it saddens me to remember all of those who were lost at the hands of terrorists. Then, I am inspired by recalling the numerous stories of courage, selflessness, and patriotism which came out of those terrible circumstances. It reminds me there is no greater force in the world than the human spirit, and that when tested, the good far outweighs the bad.

That day, a small number of people tried to bring down more than buildings and airplanes. Because of the basic goodness of human nature, they did not succeed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Time and Travel...not time travel.

Time: We all have the exact same amount of it in a day so I'm told. Although if you board a plane in LA and fly to, let's say, Japan then you actually don't get the same amount because in the 12 hours it took you to fly you will go back 16 hours in time and arrive 4 hours before you left. If you stay in Japan you have added 4 hours to your life but if you leave you have to pay the piper and you loose all that time again. I know it doesn't seem fair but time waits for no man.

Because I have family back East we travel back sometimes and find that we have lost two hours. I like to lose them at night because it seems easier that way but still they're gone until we fly home and get them back, which I like to do in the day time cause then I feel more productive...see how that little cheat works? Out at night and lose sleep, back in the day and gain two hours to unpack.

Maybe there is something to this whole time travel thing after all.
What's your take on time and travel?

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I grew up watching The Price is Right and often fantasized about the moment when I would have a chance to win A BRAND NEW CAR. Well, I had that chance today. I was one of 100 people who qualified for the chance to win a new car, courtesy of a local radio station. About 40 of us showed up at the car dealership in Ogden, UT to see who would be the lucky one to drive home the prize.

We waited a couple of hours for the big moment, with hubby and I struggling to keep the kids happy in the heat with the provided free hot dogs, an inflatable attraction, and the requisite booming music.

The longer we were there, I started to feel a bit silly for participating in such an event. Although I held no real expectation of winning, I wanted to come because the odds were decent and I didn't have to embarrass myself by performing a typical radio stunt such as a pie eating contest, karoke, or similar. I was there simply because of filling out a form and having my name drawn.

As luck would have it, the station decided to draw a few more names for the contest from those in attendance and hubby was chosen to compete.

The procedure was, those who qualified were given a CD and would take turns putting their disc into the car's player until one announced the winner. Somehow, in the process of distributing the CDs, hubby was skipped and the station employees went into a mild tizzy trying to figure out where their mistake was.

Unable to rectify it, they took us aside and promised us free tickets to an upcoming concert as an apology/bribe not to make a fuss. Hubby and I, not ones to pitch a fit unless there is more serious injury, accepted the deal.

I proceeded to line up with the other hopefuls, everyone clutching their CDs in anticipation. A woman who was first in line slid into the driver's seat, popped in her disc, and all the bells and whistles indicating the winning entry went off. I guess the deejays have something to learn about building suspense.

Although I left sans new car, we were happy to get something for our efforts, unlike the rest of the disgruntled group. I was also happy to note I had observed the woman who won reading Mockingjay while we waited for the contest to begin. At least I lost to a fellow reader of quality material.

Friday, September 3, 2010


We want Kirk, we want kirk, we want kirk.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stop the invisible cows!

This photo has very little to do with my story but it made me laugh.

So I drove by a stop sign today that I have driven by several times before...and by several I mean almost weekly for 4 years, so about 200 times. And if you caught that I drove by without stopping that's because the sign is not on the road I drive on. It's next to the road at what should be an intersection. The only problem is I just noticed today that there is no intersecting road.

In my digital distraction, child screaming, radio tuning drives by in the past, I've assumed it was a dirt road intersecting with the main road and hence a stop sign on the edge of this field.
NO ROAD, folks.

I was driving with my two youngest children 7 and 4 today when I saw it.
I said, "Hey there's no road there. Just a stop sign."
Daughter: "Maybe it's for the invisible road, with the invisible cars."
Me: "I hope they watch where they're going cause I can't see them."
Son: "No, Mom. It's for the cows. The invisible ones."
Daughter to son: "Stop acting like you know everything."
Me: "If there invisible, why isn't the stop sign invisible too?"
Silence in the back seat for 10 seconds...bliss.

So does anyone out there want to tell me why a stop sign would be out in a field with no road leading to it? Feel free to be creative. As you may have guessed, the rest of the drive home I was distracted with stories of spacial rifts and invisible cattle-flying.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Earl is approaching.

So my question is: If you had to evacuate, what would you grab?

For me: After my family and dog were safe I would take with me: wedding pics, all my picture CD's, my thumb drive, (laptop if possible--it has all my stories on it), my framed sand dollar, the book of letters from Steve, two of my favorite necklaces (I swear those two calm me down and if I am evacuating, I need calm).

My kids would have their own lists.  One would grab his collection of Hot Wheels, one would grap books, and my "baby" (who is almost 6) would try to take all her toys.

I'm not sure what my husband would grab. I may have to ask him later today.  That may be good deep thinking time together. :)

Well, what would you grab?