Action scene approximately 400 words

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TomS

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This is a short excerpt from my WIP. Just some brief background: My characters are exploring on a planet with wildlife but no intelligent species. The planet itself is slightly larger than Earth and therefore has slightly increased gravity. The character portrayed here is the military commander who is tasked with protecting the unarmed crew in the event of meeting any dangers they may encounter. The scene takes place at the bottom of a small valley they had been exploring. The mission on the planet is just about over and they're gearing up to leave when this happens. Does it work well as a brief slice of action? I should also add that I made a deliberate choice to have much of the advanced technology in this book to be not quite as advanced as is common. This is why the laser I depict doesn't seem to work as well as people might be used to.




“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.” In one smooth movement, he drew his gun out of its holster with one hand while grabbing the rope with the other. In a few moments, he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away. It was just under three and a half meters tall and was all legs. It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth. Given its speed and ferocity, evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige in color. It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed.

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired. Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly. As it continued toward him, Don hoped that the thing couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity.

In almost no time, the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. This time, the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck trying to expel the pain. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,” to himself.

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but their troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don had shot must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhooking from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. Don insisted on being the last one to board the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside.
 
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Mouse

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“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.” In one smooth movement, he drew his gun out of its holster with one hand while grabbing the rope with the other. (Seems a bit too complicated to me. Maybe 'and grabbed the rope' instead?) In a few moments, (Why in a few moments? I'd delete that) he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away (Very specific measurements, does he know these?). It was just under three and a half meters (specific again! He can tell this by looking?) tall and was all legs. It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth. Given its speed and ferocity, evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige in color (this sentence doesn't work for me - why not just say it was pale brown, fast and ferocious?). It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed. (You could merge these two sentences together, make it snappier. Like 'It paused at the edge of the forest when it spotted him, then it ran.' Only better! You wouldn't need the 'toward him' bit, as you say it in the next sentence again.)

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired. Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly (again, the bit about the beam slows stuff down. Do we need to know this?). As (delete 'as') it continued toward him, and Don hoped that the thing (change 'the thing' to 'it' maybe?) couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity. (Too many thats!)

In almost no time, the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. This time, the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. (Nice) It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck trying to expel (expel? really?) the pain. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,” to himself. (Don't need 'to himself')

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but their (his?) troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don (he?) had shot must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhooking from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige (I'd delete tall, beige) creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. Don insisted on being the last one to board the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside.

Hi Tom, sorry for all the red! I love action, but this didn't quite work for me. It wasn't fast enough, he wasn't worried enough... I didn't feel like I was in his POV. Get right in his head and see the action through his eyes.
 

Jo Zebedee

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“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.” In one smooth movement, he drew his gun out of its holster with onerepeat of one, but I'm enjoying it already hand while grabbing the rope with the other. In a few moments, he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away. It was just under three and a half meters tall and was all legsI like it, that it's in the characters voice, but I'm not quite sure what I'm looking at. . It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth. Given its speed and ferocity, evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige in color. It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed.

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired. Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly. As it continued toward him, Don hoped that- could go, but I'm an inveterate that hunter the thing couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity. so now, I'm hunting that's and there're three in a scentence: The hill wasn't steep enough to stop an animal of such size, particularly one evolved for the gravity.

In almost no time, the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. This time, the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck trying to expel the pain. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,” to himself.

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but theirhis? plural? troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don had shot - I don't think you need must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhookingunhooked makes it more active from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige - again, do you need? you've already described it creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. Don insisted on being the last one to boardI'm still confused who the others are, but it's maybe in the context the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside.[/QUOTE]

I thought it worked well, nice little action scene. The creatures description could be tightened a little - assuming he can see it clearly, and it's not too fast - but I enjoyed it.
 

Hex

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“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.”[new paragraph? You don't need one, but I'd like it] In one smooth movement, [I'm not sure about the comma] he drew his gun out of its holster with one[ 'one' repeated] hand while [personally, I'd drop the 'while'] grabbing the rope with the other. In a few moments, [I don't like the sentence starting this way -- it feels sort of empty and, in terms of pattern, I find it similar to the start of the last sentence] he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away. It was just under three and a half meters tall and was all legs. [I don't like specific measurements very much -- my brain doesn't work that way -- but even for people who do, I suspect three of them in quick succession may be too much] It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth. Given its speed and ferocity, [I assume from this it is fast and ferocious -- have you covered this elsewhere? I kind of thought not because you called it 'the creature' which suggests they haven't seen any like it before -- if so, I think you could do something much stronger to describe or show the speed and ferocity -- as it is, it's just mentioned in passing but things would be much scarier if we knew] evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige[ in color -- you don't need this]. It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed. ['full speed' implies measurement and I'm not sure how he knows it's moving at full speed]

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired. [I think 'pointed his pistol' is unnecessary -- we could assume it, I think] Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly. [I assume there is a reason he's in a potentially hostile place with rubbish weapons?] As it continued toward him, Don hoped that the thing couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. [I think the sentences you're using are maybe a bit elaborate for action -- it would be more effective to use some short, punchy sentences instead] Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity. [whose POV? If it's Don's he's sounding awfully calm about an alien monster his gun doesn't work on charging full speed towards him with a head full of gnashing teeth]

[In almost no time, -- I don't think this adds -- and it slows the action down] the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. [oooh nice!] [This time, -- I think this slows the action and you could remove it] the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. [how does he know that's what happened?] It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck[ trying to expel the pain -- he doesn't know and I don't think it adds to the moment]. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,”[ to himself. -- I don't think you need this]

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but their troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don had shot must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhooking from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. [ Don insisted on being the last one to board the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside. -- I think this last bit would be better shown rather than told like this]

Hiya Tom, I'm not sure it quite works yet as an action scene because the writing seemed to me to be roughly the same style as the non-action bit. It's a good scene, though, and I think with a few changes it will be very effective. I'm having an enthusiasm for specificity this week, and I wonder how Don would feel trapped in a winch half way up the hill being attacked by an alien monster. What does he think it's going to do with its teeth?
 

ctg

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Dear, oh dear. This action-action is slow as emptying a can of syrup. I think you need to read a bit current action dramas and find out how the masters do it. My absolute number one favourites (at the moment) are in R.Morgan's Alternate Carbon. They are fast and furious.

“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.” In one smooth movement, he drew his gun out of its holster with one hand while grabbing the rope with the other.

In one smooth move he drew his gun ... stop there.

the problem here is double gender words. Not good.

...out of his holster with one hand ...

Although it is great to give indication about where the gun had been at beginning of the action, it's not recommend to keep repeating it as the readers might already have figure out it's in a holster. Also note third gender word.

... while grabbing the rope with other.

you forgot the comma.


You could have written:
"Okay." Don nodded sharply. "Start the winch."

He squeezed the cable tight and pointed the gun down.
You not only remove the long sentence, but you also move reader into the character head and up coming task. Although it's recommend to keep the sentence short and choppy, you can still add a bit flavour in the narrative sentence.

"Okay." Don nodded sharply. "Start the winch."
He squeezed the cable tight and pointed the gun down as the old engine coughed couple of times.
In a few moments, he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away. It was just under three and a half meters tall and was all legs.

Here's a thing. You build up tension, but then you start mixing units. Either stay with the imperial measurements or switch to metrics. Another thing is, even though you're building up tension, the reader is having hard time imagining, what we he's going. Is a rail, is it an engine, is it a swing? what is he using and where is going?

In my example, I'd have written,

"Okay." Don nodded sharply. "Start the winch."
He squeezed the cable tight and pointed the gun down as the old engine coughed couple of times. The ball, which he was standing, went through the hole in the floor and half way through, he saw it. The creature was huge. It was at least three and half meters tall.
Notice how I start to shortening the sentences, while I ramp up the tension. You should do the same. It drives the adrenaline.

It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth.

"Bring out the holy hand grenade."

Sorry, I cannot help it. I had to quote.

Given its speed and ferocity,

How does the reader know how ferocious the creature is? You're telling here, instead of showing.

evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige in color. It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed.

You keep liking the long sentences that indicate slower pacing and in the same time, you're describing the thing as if the readers would observing Attenburough's nature documentary.

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired.

You could had written in my example,

Don draw a bead and fired. Even at full power, the beam did nothing. There was no visible damage. Not even a scorch mark. And it was as if the creature had not even noticed, when it charged towards him. But he wasn't giving up so easily. Don aimed again and squeezed the trigger. This time he kept pulling and in a blink of an eye the beam intensified. At first there was puff of smoke and then a small batch of hair burst in fire. But the creature didn't stop. It jumped in the air, opened its mouth and snapped it close, barely missing the mark.
Don looked up and shouted, "Pull me up."
What I try to illustrate is a threat and response. The writing is much faster pace and I only extend the sentences to drop in enough of description for the readers to understand what's going on. What you should note that most of the world-building has gone out from the window and there's only the bare essential. And at the end, I'm trying to illustrate the duress the character is going through.

Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly. As it continued toward him, Don hoped that the thing couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. Unfortunately, he had no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity.

Watch your sentence length. Also watch how you build up tension. At here, not much is happening, even if the creature resembles the killer rabbit from the Holy Grail.

In almost no time, the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. This time, the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck trying to expel the pain. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,” to himself.


Plausibility. Why short burst in the mouth do more damage then longer one?

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but their troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don had shot must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhooking from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. Don insisted on being the last one to board the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside.

You have built up tension, but it's not really action-action. More like a short description. Not good. Or well, I'd laughing my bottom off to the image of beige, fluffy creatures with a mouth full sharp teeth.

If you're not listening me, take a note what girls has written to you. They are good.
 

TomS

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cgt,

I see I shouldn't have used the description of a jackrabbit in describing how the thing moves. It looks nothing like a bunny. It doesn't even have fur. I was trying to quickly show that it uses it's front limbs simultaneously to pull its hind legs forward. Do you think "two-beat gait" would be better? It would make it sound more like a horse, at least. A well trained show horse, but a horse nonetheless.

Maybe there's a word for it that I just don't know yet.
 

ctg

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I think you should be quite specific, give readers enough of description to give them a good idea about what the character is facing. But in the same time, you shouldn't go overboard and do purple prose. Action description is quite specific and even then, you cannot say that all the readers will see the same thing you see in your mind.
 

TomS

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I agree. I just have to be careful about which words I use. "Jackrabbit" is the wrong one. This is the very first draft of this scene, with no corrections or considerations made at all. I expected it to be torn apart.

I must confess that I just wrote and deleted a very silly and sarcastic version of this just to clear it out of my mind. As I read it through several times, it actually has (had) value in that it moved along at a much quicker pace. Perhaps a bit too quickly but still...

I intend to go to the bookstore in a few hours (It's only 5:30 in the morning here on the east coast of the US) and look for R. Morgan's book.
 

RJM Corbet

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It's cool but I'm not getting a good picture of the creature. This is a place where a sentence or two of description is needed, I think?
 

Hex

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This is the very first draft of this scene, with no corrections or considerations made at all. I expected it to be torn apart.

Hiya Tom -- next time maybe say what draft version the scene is and we can respond accordingly.

We can tear a lot harder than that :)

Also, not to be sulky or anything, but it takes time and concentration to do a detailed critique and I feel a bit sad that I invested it commenting on and explaining things that you'd have sorted for yourself if you'd edited.
 
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Bowler1

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Not bad TomS, action scenes are always difficult to do and this one works fairly well, but not quite on the money.
‘evolution apparently’ – I did not like this comment on the creature, evolution would always comes into play. It was just Don who does not understand why the creature is as it looks.
I’m a big fan of ray guns so well done, mate. However, if you were shooting at me I’d duck. So on constant beam shooting the creature was a little too easy. The shooting into the mouth was fine. Realism, a tough one in SciFi but important for the reader.
Pace, needs to be faster to create tension, all covered by ctg. The other members have beaten me to all the hard work, which is nice. Study their comments carefully.
Lastly and sadly, and this is why for me the section failed to grab me was the missing emotion. If I were being chased by a 3.5m creature moving really fast I’d s**t myself. Yet Don, is as cool as you like. Don can still be a cool character but I’d like more of what he felt to make him feel more real to me.
Still telling and could be tighter but much improved.
Some nice bits like the jack rabbit which I liked. This is a good example of reader perception and the differences in readers taste!
You’re starting to rock and roll, TomS so keep chipping away.
 

Mouse

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Hiya Tom -- next time maybe say what draft version the scene is and we can respond accordingly.

Tis also asked that we put pieces up that are as polished as poss so that critiquers don't waste time commenting on things that were only going to be changed anyway. Also, tis kinda nice to be thanked for having looked at someone else's work... ;)
 

TomS

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Tis also asked that we put pieces up that are as polished as poss so that critiquers don't waste time commenting on things that were only going to be changed anyway. Also, tis kinda nice to be thanked for having looked at someone else's work... ;)

You're absolutely right, Mouse.

Forgive me.

Thanks to all who have looked at and gave feedback on this work. I'm still processing some of it, but it has been invaluable.
 

Mouse

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Ah, well works for us cos we're Westcountry. Can get away with t'was and t'were and thee and thy too. ;)

You're welcome, Tom!
 

Kaldaur

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Thanks for submitting Tom!


“OK, I’m hooked up. Start the winch.” In one smooth movement, he drew his gun out of its holster('out of its holster' not really necessary, drawing a gun is a fairly understood gesture) with one hand while grabbing the rope with the other. In a few moments, he started the slow rise up the hill. He was just ten feet off the ground when the creature came into view fifty feet away. It was just under three and a half meters tall and was all legs(I like the imagery, though you could lose 'just'). It moved like a jackrabbit and had a head full of teeth(again, nice imagery). Given its speed and ferocity, evolution apparently didn’t give it any kind of camouflage that could be seen as it was pale beige in color(would he have time to consider its evolutionary path as it came barreling towards him?). It stopped at the edge of the forest when it saw him, but only for a moment. Then it took off toward him at full speed.

Don pointed his pistol at the oncoming creature and fired. Even at full power, the beam had to remain constant for two or three seconds in order to do any real damage, and since it (what 'it'? the beam, the creature, the power? i understand you're talking about the creature here, but it could refer to any number of nouns in the previous phrases)was a moving target, it only managed to slow the animal briefly. As it continued toward him, Don hoped that the thing couldn’t climb the hill as he was around forty feet from the bottom. Unfortunately, he had (since you didn't mention luck here, I wasn't 100% sure if you were referring to his earlier hopes.)no such luck. The hill wasn’t so steep for an animal that size and that had evolved in that gravity.

In almost no time, the thing was directly beneath him, its jaws opened wide. He fired again directly into its mouth. This time, the creature screamed as the beam seared the soft flesh at the back of its throat. It tumbled down the hill and lay clawing at its neck trying to expel the pain. As the winch continued to pull Don up to the ship, he re-holstered his weapon and muttered, “State of the art,” to himself.

He arrived at the top of the hill without further incident but their troubles weren’t over. The screams of the creature Don had shot must have alerted others of its kind. Just as he was unhooking from the line, a dozen or so of the tall, beige creatures came galloping toward the ship. They were still several hundred meters away but it wouldn’t take them long to close the distance. Don insisted on being (did he insist earlier? is he insisting now, verbally? or is this a personal decision of his, a mental one not stated with words? Need to clarify just a bit)the last one to board the ship so he stood by the loading ramp with his pistol in hand while the three scientists rushed inside.

Nice action so far! I really enjoyed the imagery of the creatures, and Don's personality is illustrated by some of his quips.
 

JoanDrake

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Imagery is very good and that is more important in an action scene than many seem to think. I agree with most others it could be tightened some but don't go crazy either....too many action scenes are so concerned with short sentences and fewer words that we don't get a good idea of what's happening. Also, they're over in 30 seconds. This was exciting and involving, very good work overall

Why doesn't the equipment work quite as well as it should? Are you trying to evoke a sort of worn, seat of the pants type of feeling? llke there is in Firefly and some parts of Star Wars?
 

TomS

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Would it be a mistake to only make changes that I agree with? Teetering on the edge of information overload.
 
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