Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An excerpt from my upcoming Fight Scene class

Hi! I wanted to give my fellow writers a taste of an online class I'll be teaching on Fight Scenes beginning Sept. 4, 2017 for Savvy Authors. You'll find information here about signing up for the class,
This class is designed to help people get a handle on writing fight scenes. It will include 12 lessons taught in the month of September on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Students are invited to post sample fight scenes on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my critique.
Now, here's the class introduction: 

by Angela Knight

First I would like to thank you all for taking my class on writing action sequences. This is one of my favorite topics, since there are two types of scenes which I enjoy writing the most: love scenes and fight scenes.
This may seem an odd combination, but they have more in common than you might think. 
Both are scenes in which two or more people engage in physical contact as an expression of strong emotion.  In one, it’s the love between your hero and heroine, while in the other, it’s the hate between your hero and villain.  But both are the passionate expression of a relationship. The more passion you can bring to each type of scene, the more effective it is.
You create that sense of passion through vivid, clear descriptions of both the physical action and the emotions of the characters.
For someone who wants a career in genre writing, being able to write a good fight scene may be an even more important skill than the ability to write a good love scene.  There are a number of genres where you may never have to write a love scene at all, such as science fiction, inspirational romance, and mysteries.  Almost all genre fiction requires writers to be able to pen a good fight. 
My objective in this class is to share the writing techniques will keep readers on the edge of their seats – and editors begging for more.
Classes will be posted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I will also upload the classes to the files section of this group so you can download the completed file to keep.
Note I often find that students’ questions raise new issues, and I may decide to do additional classes to address those issues.
Here’s a rough list of the lessons I’m currently planning for the class:

  1. Introduction
  2. Characterization: Handling heroes, heroines and villains in fights
  3. The importance of motives and high stakes in a fight. Without this, there's no tension.
  4. Setting: Choosing the best location for the fight you have in mind
  5. Choreography: Planning a fight
  6. Violence levels: How to avoid turning the reader off
  7. Pacing: Escalating the tension through fights
  8. Language and description in fights
  9. Types of combat: The differences and techniques of sword fights, fistfights and gun flights
  10. Genre and fight scenes: How do you create a fight tailor-made for your particular genre
  11. Climactic fights: Avoiding an anticlimax
  12. Summing up
Now let’s examine the question of why fights are often so difficult to write.
I think there are some fairly simple reasons for this.  One is that many of us were brought up to believe that ladies don’t fight.  People get hurt, and they sweat and bleed, and other unpleasant things happen which we would prefer to avoid. We’re supposed to be society’s nuturers.  Violence is the business of men.
At the same time, the very definition of the word “hero” implies combat: heroes are people who fight and win, often at great personal cost.  So to show that our hero (and heroine) is heroic, we must show him or her fighting. 
Yet for many of us, the last time we were in a physical fight was in grade school.  You’re supposed to write what you know, so how can you write about fighting?  It’s like a nun trying to write a love scene.
I have an advantage when it comes to this problem, because I took fencing in college.  It’s been 20 years, but I still remember what it’s like to fence competitively.  I vividly remember the intense concentration, the effort and exhaustion, the desire to avoid pain and to defeat my opponent.  (Getting poked with even a dull foil leaves nasty bruises.) 
I've found I can apply that experience to the fights I write.  How much more intense would the experience have been if those swords had points?
If you’re serious about writing, you may want to take a martial arts class to give you some idea of what it’s like to fight.
But if you can’t take martial arts, there are other alternatives. 

  • My go-to these days whenever I need an idea for a fight scene is YouTube. In a book I wrote recently, I had two paranormal characters similar to eagles, who were locked in aerial combat. I obviously know nothing about fighting in the air, so I started watching YouTube nature videos. I discovered that eagles don’t use their beaks when they fight, but lock their talons together and whip in circles around their joined claws as they fall to the ground. The centripetal force rips at them, and the one who gets pulled loose first is the loser. This gave me all sorts of cool ideas. I also researched all kinds of other cool fighting techniques for police officers, soldiers, etc. Give it a shot.
  • Check Hulu or Netflix for films with particularly dazzling choreography.  I became a big fan of the Highlander TV series because the sword fights were amazing.  Make lots of use of the pause button to get a feel for the attacks and blocks.
  • You can also find books on various styles of fighting, but it’s harder to get a sense of physical action from a textbook. You need to be able to visualize the fight in order to write it clearly. And clarity can make or break a fight. You don't want to confuse the reader.
  • If you go to a movie and see a fight scene that’s particularly striking, consider sitting through it again.  Analyze what made that scene so exciting.  Can you create similar effects with your writing? A lot of the recent crops of films like Captain America: Civil War and Wonder Woman have featured stunning fights. Atomic Blonde also had some of the most brutal fights I’ve ever seen. I found them particularly striking because periodically the heroine and her opponent would collapse, panting, until they could regain the strength to go at each other again. It made the film seem more realistic and added to the heroine’s sense of peril.
Another film I found inspiring was QUANTUM OF SOLACE, one of the 007 series
There’s very little dialogue in the Daniel Craig fights, unlike some of the older Bonds.  There’s just a raw savagery that sends your heart into your throat.  It gives you the feeling of what it must be like to fight for your life, to fight to kill.
Those scenes also tell a lot about what the film makers are trying to say about Bond as a character.  He’s a ruthless man who doesn’t let fear or pain stop him.  He is powerful, he’s agile, he’s a very skilled fighter.  And he’s insanely brave and dedicated to serving his country.
Which brings me to the topic of the next lesson: characterization.  Fight scenes are a great way to reveal the inner truth of your characters. It’s said you never really know what’s inside someone until you see them in danger.  What will they do when their lives are on the line?  Will they fight or run?  Will they risk their lives for the people they love? 
A character can talk a good game all he wants, but until he shows what he’s made of, the readers won’t really believe he’s a hero until he proves it. 
Too, there is no better way to create sympathy for a character than to show him in pain, in danger, and fighting for his life.

Thanks for reading! I hope you'll join me Sept. 4.

Angela Knight

Monday, June 26, 2017

An Excerpt from Master of Magic, Coming Oct. 17

Dear Reader -- I'm delighted to share a sneak-peak at my newest Mageverse novel, Master of Magic, coming in October, 2017 from Berkley Sensation.
Return to New York Times bestselling author Angela Knight’s Mageverse in this never-before-published novella about a man with mysterious abilities and a hidden past—and the woman who must help him decipher his secrets.

Olivia Flynn finds herself on the brink of death, unable to call upon her Sidhe magic, when a handsome stranger rescues her. But this male is no ordinary human, and Olivia wants nothing to do with him. The foreign magic boiling around him is far beyond the power of even the Sidhe.    

Rhys Kincade has never been able to explain his magical abilities. Olivia is the first person he’s encountered who shares his gifts. But before he can ask her about them, they find themselves under attack by a pack of werewolf assassins. An even deadlier threat follows, and the pair is forced to rely on each other as they fight unknown enemies—and an ever-growing attraction between them.

You can pre-order the ebook here:

Amazon         Barnes and Noble     Kobo

Olivia Flynn shivered as the March wind cut through her thin sweatshirt. The metal park bench she lay on held an icy burn against her side. She drew up her knees, curling more tightly in a futile effort to conserve body heat. It had to be near freezing. Goddess, I've got to get off this bench. But she couldn't.
It wasn’t paralysis: she could move her arms and legs. But every time she attempted to rise, it felt as if she were chained there.
The cause was obvious. When she looked down her body with her Sidhe senses, sparks of green swirled over her skin. A compulsion spell. Someone had put a geas on her.
Why? The thought pounded through her head for the hundredth time since she’d awoken here, like this. Who did this?
It didn't feel like Sidhe work. Olivia was no lightweight; she had more than enough power to shield against a compulsion cast by one of her people.
 Grimly, she focused her will yet again, trying to unravel the binding. As if angered, it clamped so tight, it burned. She let her head fall back against the bench with a hissed curse.
Basically, she was screwed.
Shivering, Olivia peered around. She lay in a puddle of light from a nearby streetlamp, one of several along the sidewalk. Directly behind her stood Noodle Monsoon, evidently some kind of Thai restaurant, now closed and dark. On either side of that stood an antique store whose sign read “What’s Old Is New Again,” and a consignment shop called “Southern Notions.” Both appeared to be the kind of mom-and-pop operations found in small towns. She’d lived in in a lot of places like this since fleeing to Mortal Earth.
Looking up and down the street, Olivia realized none of the other buildings were taller than three stories. There was no traffic whatsoever, though she could hear the occasional rumble of a car in the distance.
Well, Toto, it looks like we’re not in New York anymore. No more arugula dog treats for you.
The last thing she could remember was walking out of Bushido, the Manhattan martial arts studio where she took classes. Hikaru Sensei was a spry old fox of a man, surprisingly quick for a human. He was so damn good with a blade, he'd taught her a few tricks even though she'd been studying swordplay for two centuries. And then...
...She woke up here. The goddess alone knew how she’d gone from point A to point B.
Impotent anger warmed her. All these centuries she’d sworn she’d never be helpless again. She’d worked her ass off learning how to fight, up to and including using glamour to disguise herself as a man so she could study swordplay. Hell, she’d even gone to war twice, partly out of idealism, but mostly so she could learn courage under fire.
All so she’d never again be helpless…
The worn rug he lay on was dyed red with blood. A small arm lay flopped over one of his shoulders as if the child had fallen asleep in his arms.
And a sword thrust straight up on the other side of him, point buried in the floor.
With a shudder, Olivia dragged herself from the memory. She couldn’t afford to lose herself in guilt and grief, or she’d never get off this bench.
Teeth chattering, she wrapped her arms around her body and watched her breath curl in front of her eyes in a streaming white plume. Trying to distract herself, she wondered what happened to her parka. She wore only the jeans and sweatshirt she’d had on under it. If I don't break the compulsion soon, I'm going to freeze to death.
 But she’d been beating her head against that particular concrete wall for the past half hour. Time to try something else. Again. Hadn’t worked the last time, but maybe her efforts had weakened something…
Closing her eyes, Olivia drew on the Mageverse – the source of all magic — straining to conjure a jacket, a blanket, hand warmers… Hell, a candle. Anything at all.
Nothing happened. She tried again. It went right on not happening.
Olivia snarled under her breath. She was going to find whoever laid this geas on her and gut him, her, or it.
Assuming she didn't die of hypothermia first.
The rumble of an engine approached. She looked around as the car purred down the street toward her, slowing as if to get a look at her.
Oh, what now? No, I'm not a hooker. Go away. Though on the other hand, if he let her in that car, at least she'd be warm...
Olivia grimaced at her running nose, automatically tried to conjure a tissue, and swore when one didn't appear. With no alternative, she wiped her nose on her sleeve. Maybe it would turn off the would-be john. Or maybe I’d better hope it doesn't.
The white Porsche 911 pulled into one of the diagonal parking spaces in front of her bench. Even stopped, it looked as if it was speeding.
With my luck, I'm going to have to fight this idiot off. Which would be an issue, since she couldn't even get off the bench. Think positive, Liv. Maybe he’s a good Samaritan.
More likely, he’s a serial killer, retorted her inner pessimist. Unfortunately, her inner pessimist had the better track record.
Sniffling miserably, Olivia watched as the Porsche's driver's door swung open. Compensating for something, buddy?
Then she got a good look at him as he rose to his full height — and knew he damned well had nothing to compensate for. The man seemed to tower in the trench coat that swirled around his long legs as he started toward her. He had the muscle to go with that height too; his shoulders were obviously broad under the coat's fine black leather. Blond hair, cut neat and short, gleamed under the glow of the lamp. She had the impression he was handsome, though it was hard to tell in the harsh shadows the light cast.
Then again, Ansgar had been handsome, and look what a murdering bastard he'd been.
As if that wasn't alarming enough, her Sidhe senses detected magic radiating from him in a blizzard of blue-white sparks. As he approached, that sense of power grew until she found herself shrinking against the back of the bench in dread. Oh, sweet Goddess, what does he want?
She ached to jump up and run, but her body refused to so much as twitch.
What was he? Not Sidhe — he had far too much power, much more than Olivia. Not Magekind either. Male Magekind were always vampires, and vamps couldn’t cast spells.
If he’d cast the geas, no wonder she couldn't break it.
Anger came to Olivia's rescue with another shot of heat and determination. No, dammit, she wasn’t just going to give in to whatever he had in mind. When I said ‘Never again,’ I meant it.
She threw all her will, all her magic, against the smothering blanket of the geas, fighting to punch through.
Shaking, longing to scream in defiance, she stared up at the man as he looked down at her from his considerable height. The light of the streetlamp painted the rise of his cheekbones, the swoop of his nose, the full curve of his lower lip. Shadows modeled the sculptured contours of a square jaw line, while his eyes gleamed in the shadows cast by thick brows. Oddly, there was no trace of malevolence or gloating in his expression. Instead he looked concerned. "Ma'am, are you all right?" His voice held a honeyed southern drawl. "You need me to call 911?"
"L…Leave m…m…me a…a...alone." Her teeth chattered so hard, even she could barely understand what she'd just said.
He frowned, his obvious concern growing. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just afraid you've got hypothermia." Dropping to one knee, he leaned closer. She had to fight the urge to recoil from his snapping, roiling power. "My name’s Rhys Kincade. What's yours?"
She eyed him suspiciously. Why was he trying to act like an ordinary mortal when he was obviously anything but? Still, she’d learn more by talking to him. At the very least it would give her more time to think of a way to save herself. "O…Olivia... F…F...Flynn...Did you... Did you d…do this to me?" She supposed it was possible he hadn’t.
Though it was damned unlikely.
Rhys drew back, sensual lips tightening with a hint of offended surprise. He studied her, and whatever he saw on her face made his expression warm. "No, I've never seen you before. How'd you get here?” His tone was so compassionate, it pissed her off even more. He scanned the length of her body as if looking for injuries. “Are you hurt anywhere?”
Olivia had no intention whatsoever of answering, so she was shocked when the words came out of her mouth anyway. "I d..don't...know." Had to be the geas. Which seemed to confirm he was the one to cast it.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"Walking out of a d…d...dojo... in New York."
"New York? You're in South Carolina now. A town called Pinedale. How’d you get here?” Frowning, he sat back on his heels and shook his head. "We'll figure that out later. Here."
Sliding his coat off broad shoulders, he draped it over her, then caught her elbow and lifted her upright. The binding spell seemed to vanish at his touch. It was all Olivia could do not to gasp in relief.
Even better, the coat’s silken lining felt deliciously warm and smelled of expensive leather. Whoever he was, he had money. Despite her fearful anger, the heat was an exquisite relief. “T..thank…you.”
"You're welcome." Rhys laid one big hand on her shoulder. Magic began to rise.
Instinctively, she sought to raise a shield, but again the geas blocked it. It wasn’t broken after all. Dammit.
But instead of the attack she expected, precious heat rolled from his palm on a wave of pale sparks. Instantly, Olivia’s shivering stopped and her teeth ceased chattering, though pain stung her hands and feet from returning circulation.
Rhys released her. "Is that better?"
"Yes, thank you." She eyed him warily and shrugged into his coat, biting back a moan of pleasure as she slid her frozen arms into its warm sleeves. Her muscles felt stiff and resentful, but at least they obeyed. The geas had evidently released that much, though it was still forcing her to answer his questions.
Had he kidnapped her or not?
"Do you know what day it is?" He helped her to her feet.
What the hell kind of game he was he playing? Once again, her mouth moved without the intervention of her brain. "March 4th, 2019. It was six p.m. when I left the dojo."
"Well, that's the right date, though it's 11:45 right now. I guess it's possible you could've flown here... Or..." His expression closed.
The pretense of ignorance was seriously pissing her off. "You think I’m lying?”
"Are you?"
"Would you believe me if I said no?"
"Actually,” Rhys said thoughtfully, "I think I would."
I’m not in the mood for this. "Look, drop the act. Why did you put me under this spell?" With a flick of her fingers, she tried to conjure a magical shield.
Nothing. Again.
"Spell?" Rhys took a cautious step back, broad shoulders tensing. Goddess, he really was big. A good five inches taller than she was -- and she was 5'11" every one of which was hard with muscle. His impressive build was obvious, given he now wore only a thin blue dress shirt that hugged his powerful torso, along with black slacks, a black leather belt and well-shined black shoes. He should be freezing, yet he seemed completely unaware of the cold.
He also looked absolutely flabbergasted. "You think I cast a spell on you?” His lips took on a mocking twist. “What have you been smoking?"
"You think I’m too stupid to spot a geas while you stand there radiating more magic than Gandalf? What are you, anyway? You're not Sidhe. Dragon?" He had almost enough power to be Dragonkind, but if he was, she was screwed.
He laughed. It sounded strained. "Those must be some really good drugs."
"I am not high!" Olivia’s hands balled into outraged fists, but she couldn't seem to swing them. It was infuriating. She’d trained for two centuries, yet now she was just as helpless as she’d been last time. "Take a good look, dammit -- it should be obvious I'm not a mortal drug addict. Or is my power beneath your notice?"
His eyes narrowed, and he reached out a hand, fingers spread as if to sense her magic. She glared at him, refusing to cower.
Rhys recoiled, eyes widening with an emotion that looked like wonder. "Oh." He said it in a soft, yearning voice. "You're like me."