Currently working in: Revision Hell
Mood: Rather toasty
I’m a big picture person. I like overarching themes and intricate through-lines. Writing on that level is like flying with the angels — bright and cerebral, accompanied by the soothing sounds of harps and catered by cupids with Nectar of the Gods.
But a story is really told in the guts. As in blood and guts, and gutsy decisions. Scenes are the guts of the story. You get waaaay dirtier there. Scenes are slippery and don’t always fit tidily where you put them, and you’re not — according to AMA (Association of Manuscript Assassins) ethics — supposed to use duct tape or a staple gun. But messy as they are, scenes are where the story is.
Scenes hold the emotion, the action, the energy. Here are a few of my favorite scenes:
From Raiders of the Lost Ark:
Always bring a gun to a scimitar fight. The story goes, a strenuous physical fight scene had been scripted between the scimitar-wielding bad guy and Indy and his whip, but Harrison Ford was feeling ill that day. As a joke, he pulled out his gun and “shot” the bad guy. Everybody thought it was great, so it stayed.
Whether the story is true or not, the scene is wonderful. Watching it, I felt my heart race as Indy stood with his coiled whip and the bad guy swirled his scimitar. Then out came the gun and blam! The tension was perfectly released with a laugh and a wry thought that, ‘Well, yeah, that sure was smarter. I’d follow this hero anywhere.’
I couldn’t find a picture, but remember the pre-dawn scene where Isabeau has bedded down for a night on the frozen tundra with the weary wolf-Navarre? The sun has not quite risen, but the man is beginning to return from the wolf. As his dark fur morphs to rumpled hair, she reaches out to touch him. He lifts his hand to hers… Then the first rays of the sun shine upon them. Her fingers become feathers and she burst from their lovenest in a blur of hawk’s wings.
Oh, the heartbreak. That suspended moment — without a word said — captures their longing and the hopelessness of their situation. I perfectly understood the desperation that drove them into their final harrowing battle.
From The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers:
For epic battle scenes (with plenty of guts, of both the figurative and strewing kind) I think nobody beats Tolkien, and Peter Jackson’s vision was a technical marvel (yes, I watched the days of bonus material on the DVDs) and a masterful manipulation of the viewers’ hearts and minds: With such vast forces of evil raised against our heroes, how can they possibly prevail?
With awesome CG and Viggo’s twisty locks, that’s how! Bliss!
All of the above, of course, is just a transparent attempt to avoid the real topic this week which is the favorite scene I wrote. I can’t even tell you why I like this scene, because that would be cheating, since it doesn’t matter why I like it. Not anymore. Those guts I mentioned before must now come together to give life to a breathing, lusting, struggling entity quite separate from me.
So here goes… Unlike the scenes above, I chose a quieter scene from early in the story, where the heroine, Sera, confronts the hero about her new life as an immortal warrior acolyte possessed by a repentant demon fighting the never-ending battle against evil.
From Seduced By Shadows:
“Do you really expect me to believe any of this? That I’ve been possessed by a… a demon?”
“Belief is beside the point. It is true.”
It was like being told she would soon be killed by a falling piano. Of course she didn’t believe him. And yet she couldn’t help looking up. “Demons don’t exist.”
“Not corporeally, not in this world. Which is why it has clothed itself in your flesh.”
The lake wind swirled, and an inadvertent shudder ripped through her. She wrapped her arms around her waist. As if she might feel different. “And what if I’m not interested in sharing my flesh?”
A muscle in his jaw tensed. “You can cast it out, before it ascends, before it sets roots in your soul and its mark on your skin.”
He twitched back the edge of his trench coat and from the folds of supple leather released a blackened club the size of her forearm. With a snap of his wrist and the menacing schick of sliding metal, the club telescoped to double in length. He flicked it outward, and from the thickened, studded end, a blade cascaded out in a series of glittering steel segments, like a cardsharp’s precisely fanned hand almost twice as wide as her spread fingers.
From primitive club to switchblade battle-axe quicker than her stuttering heart could find its beat.
“Oh God.” She cringed back against the wall.
“I never got around to naming it.” He gripped the weapon just below the wickedly recurved blade and tugged up the sleeves of his coat and shirt.
The razor edge carved the cold light, sharper than the look he threw her as he laid the gleaming blade against the inside of his right arm between the inky lines of his tattoo.
“No.” A sickening beat of horror skipped through her, like when she’d seen the SUV hurtling toward her, about to change her life forever.
The tattoo, not Celtic nor tribal but even more primitive, swirled over his knuckles and spiked halfway up his arm. Against the black, the skin of his wrist looked tender, veins and tendons standing out in marbled relief.
He stilled, and despite the dread-full thump of her heart, she found her gaze drawn to his.
“Unforgivably melodramatic,” he said, “but effectively convincing.”
He sliced the blade down his inner arm.
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