Critique request: Anyone up for a fight?

Some quick new fiction below. Request follows.

She tilted her mouth to his ear, her words clinging and winding around his brain like sticky spider’s silk: “Get rid of him.”

Axton turned and took a single step toward Hal, who slid back a step of equal measure, still warning, “She’s controlling you. But you can fight her-”

“Get out,” Axton told him through his teeth. Taking another step, he curled his fingers into a fist, forcing his arm to stay at his side. Don’t go for the gun, he thought. Don’t go for the gun

“Axton,” Hal began.

Widow followed a beat after, the threatening prompt of her voice thumping with his blood: “Axton.”

“Get out!” Axton shouted, and he lunged at Hal, fist leading the way.

Hal sidestepped, hair flapping. Squaring his shoulders, he turned on his side, to make a smaller target. But Axton was faster, knew the tricks, and grabbed Hal by the front of his jacket, yanking him in for a sharp knee to the gut.

Hal doubled over but didn’t drop. Axton felt something hard – a fist – slam into his belly. Hearing himself grunt, he fought again against his survival instinct.

not the gun not the gun not the gun

An “action” scene from my latest venture. I’m trying hard to make these better with each permutation of my writing. There’s more, of course, but that would be spoiling things, wouldn’t it?

For those of you who write action, care to share your thoughts? Tips? Critique? I’m open to suggestions!

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11 thoughts on “Critique request: Anyone up for a fight?

  1. Mayumi, I think this reads very well, overall. I thought it was clear, with great build-up of tension. I also liked how you were able to separate and define each of the characters in just a few graphs. Without having read anything else of this piece, I know exactly what’s going on and who to root for.

    One suggestion would be to tighten your sentences. Basically, the rule of thumb is if the action is quick (like a fight scene), then the sentences should be short and punchy. Not all of them, mind you, because then it will sound too stilted and abrupt. Have you read this out loud to yourself? I always read my action scenes out loud because I listen for a rhythm, timing. You’ll know when a short sentence vs. a longer sentence is appropriate just by hearing it out loud.

    Also, I noticed there weren’t a lot of sounds in your detail. I could see and feel the fight throughout, but the only sound I heard was the grunt at the end. That’s just something to think about when you read out loud–what kinds of sounds would be appropriate to include?

    Nice job!

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    • Thanks, Kate! I did try to keep things quick, but your tip for reading aloud is a great one. I’m already seeing ways I can punch this up.

      The sound effect one I wasn’t considering, but a good one. I’ve got a few poks and thuds later in the fight, but maybe should spread the love around? 🙂

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback! Much appreciated!

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  2. Action scenes like this aren’t ones I’ve written, so I’m not sure I have much helpful advice. But like Kate, I felt like I had a feel for what was happening and who to root for. Maybe some sounds could be things like a table being knocked over and crashing to the ground?

    Whoever “she” is, I already know I don’t like her! That opening description of her voice does a great job of setting me against her. 😉

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    • Thanks, JM.

      Action isn’t something I do well, mostly because I have so little practice at it. I tend to enjoy writing stories where people think or talk their way through their issues. But, in some cases, we have to stop pulling punches, as it were. 🙂

      Have you ever seen one of your protagonists maybe taking a vase or a heavy book to somebody’s head, like an archaeology thief or someone messing up the lab? It could be a fun exercise!

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  3. Oh noes….run Hal! Run, you fool!
    I think this is a pretty tight action scene. The descriptions are as long as they need to be to lay out feelings without getting overly wordy and the actions are swift.
    Though I dare say maybe even too descriptive. Take for example: ” Axton felt something hard – a fist – slam into his belly”. To me, the interrupt there kind of derails the flow. What about “Axton felt a hard fist counter into his own belly,” or “Hal lashed back on instinct with his own stomach punch, forcing Axton to crunch down on his survival nature even harder”.
    Just a thought anyway. Still, can’t wait to see more of this story!

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    • Thanks, Shade! Especially the bit about too much description. That’s where I stumble a lot: I want the reader to see everything what’s in my head, but maybe I shouldn’t be writing so much for the least common denominator. I think I’ve tightened this one up a bit more in a better way. You can judge for yourself, though, when we get there. 🙂

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  4. Personally, I liked the overall flow of it. I know some wanted a change with the sudden appearance of “a fist,” but to me, that registers as Axton realizing what had just hit him and the temporary stun that the blow had dealt to him.

    I share that problem with getting too wordy, but one suggestion I would have would be where it says that Axton “new the tricks” and “was faster,” to show that he did know and that he was faster. Something like, “Hal squared his shoulders to brace himself for a hit, but Axton grabbed his jacket, yanked him towards him and slammed his knee into his gut.”

    Wait, even that was too wordy, sorry. It’s probably counter productive for a wordy person to offer help that’s also wordy, but at least we’re learning!

    By the way, I’d like to read more of this story. Happy writing!

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    • I like that “- a fist -” bit for exactly the reason you mention, because he’s not supposed to really know what’s going on. But, I understand how it breaks the flow of the piece, too.

      Good point about that “was faster” moment! I hadn’t thought of that. My goal was to get through the action as quickly as possible, but that’s a solid reminder to show, not tell. My bad!

      All insight is good. Every reader is different, but I’m seeing lots of the same critiques come through from each commenter, so it’s helping me sort through it all. The scene is a lot longer, of course, so it’s been a great help to know what’s working and what’s not.

      If you’re genuinely interested, “From Hell: A Love Story” can be found in the Borderlands section of FF.Net. It’s an M-rated story, though, and it does deserve that rating.

      Thanks!

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  5. Pingback: Voices, and a critique revisited | Even More BonusParts!

    • LOL! I often have that problem, too, Kourtney – especially in today’s era of quick-cuts! Knowing what does not interest a reader is often just as valuable as knowing what does, though. Thanks for stopping by!

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