What more can be said of Tom Cruise in sci-fi roles? He always seems to deliver, so I was expecting something a bit special when I sat down to watch Oblivion last week.
Things were looking good after half an hour; great sets, great scenery and great special effects. Cruise was, as usual, dry in his delivery of Jack’s lines and held my attention.
But then I noticed something odd; Andrea Risborough, as Jack’s girlfriend and teammate Victoria, was acting badly. I thought, ‘Oh yeah, she must be an android and this will all be explained properly later,’ but no, the further into the movie I got, the more it became apparent that Victoria was human, and therefore badly portrayed. I am not saying Risborough can’t act, but she must have been at least badly cast here. It makes all the scenes with Cruise wooden and the love-making scene was just embarrassing. Continue reading “Movie Review: Oblivion, 2013”→
So you have your plot of Rudolph’s adventures all worked out and you know where the climax and twist will be. Now you are considering writing the climax and want to know how to show tension when Rudolph can’t get the tractor down a narrow alleyway, or gets stuck in a snowdrift. So how do you show the tension?
It’s not as easy as you might think!
Action Words and Expletives
The first rule is to use more action words when you are writing action sequences. These are words like ‘ripped,’ ‘spun,’ ‘yelled,’ ‘wrenched,’ and ‘panted.’
Here is an example. See how this sentence sounds quite calm.
– He knew he needed to get through the door. He put down the axe and walked up to the door. He pulled on the handle and it opened. He went thought the opening and all was well.
That definitely lacks tension. Let’s try it again:
– He had to get through the door. He only had seconds left! He threw his axe down, spun round and leaped toward the door. Grabbing the handle, he pulled and pulled but the door wouldn’t budge. Using all his strength, he gave it one last almighty heave and wrenched the door open. The wood cracked and splintered as the lock broke, and he was through!
“What’s the problem Rudolph?” Santa yelled.
“The door! It’s bloody stuck!”
Okay, so I went a bit over the top there; it’s twice as long. But it’s much more exciting.
Notice the use of words like ‘grabbing,’ ‘cracked.’
Also notice saying ‘had to’ instead of ‘knew he needed to.’ Forget about considered thought in tight situations. People just act and think later when they are desperate. This is one place where we definitely don’t need to know what the hero is thinking.
Also note the use of an expletive (swear word) by Rudolph. You might not want to use expletives in your writing but it’s a fact that people swear a lot when under pressure. Leave swear words out and you risk losing realism.
For the last reason above, short sentences are good in action sequences. We want simple action, and short sentences tend to increase the pace.
Another trick is to use time. If the hero is not only fighting against an evil adversary or obstinate door, but also against the clock, this will dramatically increase tension.
I used this a great deal in Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate.
Adversity or Obstacles
Elements of adversity of obstacle can also add tension. In the example above the door wouldn’t open easily and he had to wrench it open. Small accidents can also increase tension. He needs a key to unlock the door but he drops it, as people do when tense or in a hurry. Both accidents and obstacles also prolong the tension, which also helps create tension.
Use of Commas
The use of less commas during action sequences can increase tension, but this is a technique not all authors employ. If you try it, you still need to observe good grammar rules.
A Word of Warning about Length of Description
As you probably noticed in my example above, quite often action sequences can make the prose longer. For this reason, you will need to allow a bit more space for describing action, perhaps as much as 50% more space. But on the other hand, if you use short sentences carefully and avoid any description of inner feeling, you can sometimes keep the prose in action scenes as short as elsewhere.
Slowing the Pace
It may sound crazy, but sometimes you will want to slow the pace!
You can’t have climactic scenes throughout the whole book. This would be exhausting to read, and would ignore the whole point of climaxes. But you may want more than one climax. In The Devil’s Own Dice I knew there would be a big battle in the middle of the story. Inevitably this has to be very tense and a climax of some sort. But I didn’t want it to be the final climax. This made things tricky. I got round it by making the lead up to the battle quite leisurely and keeping the tension high afterwards. I also had a strong ‘insight’ scene after the battle, so that we see a previous love affair in detail and how it affected the main character. This kept the pace up, because of the tension of an affair, but also allowed the reader a bit of a contrast to battle. I had to make sure the final climax was even more exciting, but on the whole I think the reader feels they got a bonus, rather than a let down
Using Chapter Breaks and Scene Switching
I put these 2 factors together because they sometimes amount to the same thing.
Because you will want the climax somewhere near the end of the book, each chapter should, on the whole, be more gripping than the last. This drags the reader along and won’t let them put the book down. For this reason, you should normally end each chapter on a cliff-hanger. That is, they should either be just about to learn something, or have just seen some action but not know the outcome. This will make the reader want to turn the next page.
If the book has a large cast and a complex arena of action such as the invasion of Earth in my science fiction book Worlds Like Dust, you might try switching between different areas of action, either at section breaks or chapter breaks, rather than trying to describe it all simultaneously. Allowing yourself to describe one piece of action completely before switching to another increases tension, because the reader is wondering in the back of their mind what has happened to so-and-so in the other scene. Tolkien does this brilliantly in Lord of the Rings. You must handle continuity very carefully when you do this.
So, in conclusion, to vary pace, use:
Action Words and Expletives
Adversity or Obstacles
Reduced Number of Commas
Chapter Breaks and Scene Switching
Join me for the final part of this series 6. Editing in two weeks’ time.
Let me know what you think of my tutorials by commenting below:
I wanted to let you know that I will only be posting every second Monday from now on. I have to focus very hard on my latest novel and the real world tends to intrude as well so I don’t have to much time.
If you really want exclusive inside information on what I am working on, what is coming up, competitions freebies AND THREE FREE THRILLERS, then you need to sign up for the Lazlo Newsletter.
You will always find a page with the link to the Newsletter in the menu at the top of all my blog pages.
Short post this weekend because I am hard at work on the June Newsletter. This month: no less than 3 chances to win free books and one of those gives you the chance to spend an hour with me onlie for an interview and keep a copy of the interview to share with your friends! There is still time to sign up for the Newsletter here – If you sign up before Friday 10 July, I will send you a copy of this month’s Newsletter. After that, no dice!
Two other things to mention for this Independence Day in the USA:
Lotus is Free from today 3 July until 7 July at 8am EST.
Lotus is an encounter between a soul and Satan. Satan uses every trick possible to torture the soul, who is reincarnated at Satan’s whim but eventually Game Theory proves the undoing of one of them! Click here to get the deal!
Attack Hitler’s Bunker!
This wartime thriller has just been accepted for translation and distribution in China so to celebrate, I am offering it in an Amazon Countdown Deal. This means it will drop to 99 cents from 8am on 4 July and gradually climb back up to its usual price of $2.99 by 11 July 12am PST. So hurry because it will only be at 99 cents for a day or two! Click here to get the deal!
Another great vote this week; which is the best scifi vehicle of all time?
The choice is HUGE but below are just a few suggestions to get you started. Please nominate your favourites by commenting here or tweet me @Lazlo_F or message me on Facebook. The nomination deadline will be 22 June at 5pm. Then we will vote!
Ein weiterer großer Stimme in dieser Woche; Welches ist das beste SciFi Fahrzeug aller Zeiten?
I woke up this morning wondering what to blog about and I decided the best post would be about the subject of my pondering at the moment; what makes a good hero?
Everyone (well, in the West anyway) will know who Marlon Brando is, possibly the greatest and certainly one of the greatest actors of all time. Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins in the recent Hobbit films.
I am as big a fan of Bilbo as anybody, and nobody can deny Bilbo is the hero of The Hobbit. What is more, he is an ‘everyman.’ What that means is that everyone can identify with his situation because he is just a normal guy. Brando, on the other hand, rarely plays normal guys; from The Wild One to Superman and Apocalypse Now, nearly all his characters are superhuman or out-and-out rebels; men on the edge of society. Continue reading “Should a hero be a Brando or a Martin Freeman?”→
Stop the Press! Occult Thriller Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate is being Translated into Chinese
Great news! Yes it’s true. I recently submitted half a dozen of my books to a publisher that specialises in translating books into Chinese and distributing within China and Ordo Lupus and the Temple Gate has already been accepted and partially translated. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I have made concerted efforts to reach the Far East Market as well as the Middle East (which Amazon ignores and in fact in which it positively blocks downloads) but I didn’t know how to reach any Chinese readers.
Timescales are hazy at this point but it looks like it will be available around the end of the year if all goes well. I will keep you posted if I get anything firmer.
I can also confirm that the next Newsletter will go out around the 15th March and in it you will find information on two different ways you can get any of my eBooks FREE! So sign up to the Newsletter today!
The results are in! I wonder if you will agree or disagree with the people’s choice! Please comment with your opinion or tweet me @Lazlo_F or facebook.com/lazloferran
In first place we have Tom Cruise as Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire.
In second place, we have Salma Hayak as Santanico Pandamonium in From Dusk till Dawn.
Tying for third place, we have Jack Nicholson as Will Randall in Wolf and Christopher Lee as Count Dracula in various Hammer movies.
Did you know?
Interview with the Vampire:
Tom Cruise and all the other vampire actors were required to hang upside down for up to thirty minutes at a time during the make-up application.
Johnny Depp was offered the role of Lestat.
There’s a scene towards the end of the movie where Louis is watching Superman (1978) in a cinema. This scene doesn’t appear in the novel because the book was written in 1976, two years before the film was made.
Welcome to the last leg of the UK General Election Wacky Races! I am your host, commentator and reporter; Pedro Diamond.
Pedro Diamond: The last race was won by David Caravan when Ed Millipede crashed out while in the lead with grip problems. Here’s an interview I did with Ed earlier:
Ed Millipede: Yes Pedro; I had the wrong rubber on my brogues! The crowd were good and encouraged me so I managed to catch it before I hit the black stuff! It’s always difficult to choose the right rubber when the conditions are changeable. Dunlop have been great support, giving three different choices, but I understand David Caravan was on the hard compound on the day so he had an advantage. Lesson learned!
Pedro Diamond: All contestants are neck and neck as we come to the close of this competition. Only a few more days to go in this long-distance race. One thing that has got the crowd excited and commentators talking is the introduction of a new fuel; Liquid Intellectual Energy or LIE. Using the fuel is known as LIEING. It’s use is controversial but in a moment, you will hear the views of the four leading drivers on the new fuel.
My tip for the winner? I believe it will be a photo-finish and the final result a matter of who has the deepest Political Wallet.
Now to the LIEING interviews:
Pedro Diamond: Nigel Mirage; the new fuel, LIE, is boosting all the competitors’ performances. We believe you are using it too. Are you?
Nigel Mirage: No Pedro, we won’t be LIEING. We don’t need it! Our car is faster, stronger and more reliable than all the others.
Pedro Diamond: But you have repainted your car completely white? Can you explain this to the Wacky Races fans?
Nigel Mirage: That’s not true. In fact, if you look under the hood, you will see that the top of each carburetor of my old Austin Mini is blue.
Pedro Diamond: A car designed by an Italian.
Nigel Mirage: Well yes, the Italians do some things really rather well. I am very fond of a good Chianti.
Pedro Diamond: So the car colour has nothing to do with your racial views?
Nigel Mirage: I don’t have any racial views. I merely want to win this race and restore the country to the good ‘ol days of a Free Market Economy and Empire!
Pedro Diamond: Thank you Nigel. Now over to Nick Pleb. Nick, what will be your main tactic to get over the line first?
Nick Pleb Red lines Pedro. I have red lines on my gauges and I will not red line my vehicle anywhere. I am a great believer in sticking within red lines.
Pedro Diamond: But that’s not true, is it Nick? You have red-lined in every race so far. In the very first round, you crossed the red-line with your new Tuition Fees engine and blew up, costing you most of your fans.
Nick Pleb: Who needs fans? I only need to win. I don’t care any more what it takes. In fact, I don’t care any more about anything! There was a mouse. Where? There on the stair…
Pedro Diamond: Right Nick, but are you going to be LYING?
Nick Pleb: Oh sure. I guess. Everyone else is. In fact you can take my comment about red lines as a complete load of cobblers. Wasn’t there a cobbler in the mouse story? Or something like that. There’ll always be an England…
Pedro Diamond: Now let’s see if we can grab a chat with David Caravan. I can see the umbrella girls are starting to leave the starting grid, including Rebekah Brooks, who is wearing a rather fetching blue bikini. Oh look; she is whispering something into David’s ear, something about the Sun newspaper, if my lip-reading is up to scratch. Better not interrupt them. She’s going now so let’s move in. David? Can I have a word? You look rather busy.
David Caravan: Yeah Pedro, too many women, not enough time. Oops, should have said that with the wife around. Boris is much better at this sort of thing that me.
Pedro Diamond: Can I ask you what your main tactic to win will be?
David Caravan: Well, I think I have been rather clever. George Osborne is obviously finished; the little tike has really screwed up the economy good and proper, hasn’t he? I understand he is going to start a Magic Mushroom farm in Buckinghamshire with his father’s money. Not that he needs it after siphoning off most of the Country’s! Ha! Ha! Yes, as I was saying, announcing Big Bore Boris as my successor is one of the cleverest moves of my political life. I have zero charisma compared with him but now I have harnessed his to take me back into power for another 5 years.
Pedro Diamond: But wasn’t the announcement at his behest?
David Caravan: Behest is an interesting choice of word. But no, I would say I have outmanoeuvred him this time. Sort of like a double-agent.
Pedro Diamond: And what about LIEING?
David Caravan: Erm… we may be using the new fuel but I can’t really say on-camera. That would be giving too much away. Let’s just say; I will be economical with the truth. It’s better on the riff-raff, sorry, working classes; they are really not well-educated enough to think for themselves. It’s really not their fault…
Pedro Diamond: Some would say it’s yours.
David Caravan: Pedro. You are such a wit. Can I introduce you to Rebekah later? She is doing a wonderful line is gossipy Luncheon Vouchers…
Pedro Diamond: Well, I managed to pull myself away from David and we have one last grid slot to visit; pole position sitter Ed Millipede. Ed, can I have a word?
Ed Millipede: Bit busy Pedro, but okay, just a few words.
Pedro Diamond: So are you LIEING Ed?
Ed Millipede: It’s a relief to come right out with it and say; yes, I will be LYING. We will not be playing tag with other teams, using their slipstream to win but we have bribed a judge to allow us to amalgamate out team with another during the race so that our accumulated points will make us the sure winners! Genius!
Pedro Diamond: Do you care to tell us what that team is?
Ed Millipede: That’s a secret, as you probably guess Pedro. Let’s just say that my teammate, Gordon Brown, wants revenge and I intend to give it to him!
So the 4 competitors are under starter’s orders. And away they go! On the way-out Wacky Races!