Topic: Confrontation creates powerful drama. This month, use one scene you've written (published or not) that shows confrontation between characters with a brief explanation.
Alllllriiiiggghttt. I'm actually really stoked for this Round Robin, if you couldn't tell by my enthusiastic overuse of letter repetition. I love conflict in books. It's the reason we write books. If everything was hunky dory, plot wouldn't happen. Even when things are slow (like, say, the group of heroes is sitting in a library trying to learn about where to find Cronus's scythe is), there's a threat of confrontation. They're racing against time. The heroes have made other heroes explosively angry, simply based on the face they they've been chosen to find a sacred, beyond powerful relic and the older heroes have been pushed by the wayside (which may or may not be a plot point in my Serpents and Flame books, hehe). And, besides reading it...confrontation is incredibly fun to write.
Below is a scene from Nicholas, because that novella is all geared up to come out this winter (*insert joyful scream here*) and because it's the most cut-and-dry scene I could find out of my novels queued to be published. Nicholas, the title character, is a very skilled Westminster thief who tries to help the Crown Princess escape an assassination attempt. In this scene, he had been pretending to be a German ambassador but two would-be assassins tracked him down before he can join Alexandrina, the princess, at a pre-coronation dinner.
“Have a nice sleep?”
The voice rose from behind him the same time Nicholas realized he hadn’t needed to unlock the door when he left. He spun, glaring at the shadow as it unhinged itself from the darkness. It was the taller one.
Nicholas scrubbed at his hair. “Why yes, thank you.” He didn’t bother with an accent.
“You were on the roof. Same way you got in.” The shorter of the Rickets came shuffling down the hall, unable to hide a trace of admiration.
“It’s referred to as stealth. That’s how respectable thieves work.” Nicholas rolled his shoulders. “It’s more civilized than murdering people in their sleep.” He paused, making sure his back was to the wall, and adjusted his white gloves. “It would’ve been easier to ambush me, you realize? Or weren’t you sure I was on the roof?”
“The duke warned us about this room, though nothing was moved. But we couldn’t find you anywhere else so we thought maybe—” the taller man started, but the other silenced him with a harsh noise.
Nicholas raised an eyebrow. A tremble kicked up in his shins but he ignored it. He forced his breathing to regulate; deep breaths soaking into him so he wouldn’t let the nerves envelop his thoughts. Nicholas pretended it was all a game. He was messing around with Hugh or some of their acquaintances, nothing more. “I suppose you want some revenge before taking me to the duke. Your plan was to rough me up a bit, for making you look stupid.”
The shorter grinned, holding two fingers close together. “A bit. Just to give you a taste.”
“Pleasant.” Nicholas unbuttoned his coat and slid off his gloves.
Nicholas was not a large person. Hugh could easily flatten him within a few seconds…but Hugh wasn’t usually threatening Nicholas’s life and the life of the future monarch.
Shirking his jacket off in one fluid motion, Nicholas flung it into the taller man’s face so hard he thought the brass buttons might leave bruises. A heavy body leapfrogged onto his back. Nicholas’s face connected with the wall but he turned, using the momentum of the short brother to aim his fall at the taller, who had just gotten the jacket off his head and scrubbed at one closed eye. All three bodies tumbled to the ground with Nicholas on top. As he fell, Nicholas used both elbows and the back of his head to add impact.
A nasty crack—like an egg under a heel—made the Ricket under him expel a muffled moan and fling Nicholas upward; he scrambled to his feet and was promptly thrown off them when a hand grabbed ahold of his boot. But he had them headed where he wanted them; the narrowest of service stairwells waited in the gloom as Nicholas rolled onto his back and shielded his face from the blood spurting out of the shorter brother’s shattered nose. The taller man grabbed for Nicholas’s other boot but instead had one connected with his face; Nicholas needed them on their feet, more or less, and danced upward, using a sconce for support. When it snapped off under his weight, he raised it like a baton and gestured at the men as they got their bearings.
Nicholas only froze a moment when they both charged. Then he stepped into the doorway of the maintenance stair, seized the metal railing, and let himself be bowled over.
When he could genuinely see the murder written in their eyes, Nicholas flattened himself against the wall with the railing and saw the murder turn to horror. Their momentum sent the brothers soaring past into open air. A hand tried to clamp onto Nicholas’s shoulder but faltered; both men flung headlong down the stairs and settled into a jumble down below.
Nicholas peered down at the unmoving bodies until one twitched; then he paced out into the hall and brushed off his jacket. A moan from the stairwell quickened his step; he schooled his face into one of polite blankness before running down the stairs.
See? Interesting. Originally I had bypassed this scene, jumping from Nicholas being confronted by the two goons and then skipping to where he meets up with Drina. It was sort of a well-use-your-imagination thing, like you could make up what you wanted but my editor was like, "Excuse me...no-no-no. You write that scene right now. I need to know what happened!" So I did. Nicholas is much more about stealth and disguise; he isn't the beefiest guy in Westminster and realizes he isn't. So this scene kind of showed a different side to him: one that was a bit more rough, more coldly calculating.
Confrontation doesn't always have to be this physical smackdown, either. I browsed through Shubiao's Girls while writing this post and found a lot of confrontations that were spoken conversations. No one laid a hand on each other, but tensions crackled nonetheless. I didn't put them here because setting the scene would take too much time or give away the whole plot. :)
So, what do you think of confrontation in books? Do you prefer fight scenes? Spoken showdowns? I find that writing scenes where people are testing their dominance just by speaking to another person can be really fun to write. Oftentimes those can be more powerful than two characters just going MMA on one another. Thoughts?
If you so choose, follow the thread and see how other swell authors deal with (fictional) confrontations!
Dr. Bob Rich
"Write what you know." -- Mark Twain
“The more you know, the more you know you don't know.” -- Aristotle
"I know nothing." -- Jon Snow
TWIP = This Week in Progress
I'm kind of nauseous just typing this write now, and I'm going to tell you why. I would love to admit it's because I'm hard at work on some gripping novel, but the truth is it's Finals Week. And finals are hard. I literally exclaimed, "Oh, I is smart!" while editing a paper maybe 40 minutes ago. I'm at that level already. Yesterday I spent over five hours creating a study sheet, and another hour today finishing it. I fixed up a 21-pg rough draft on the cultural uses of Central Park this morning that my professor viciously edited but now I come off sound pretty darn smart. Why am I bothering to write about this?
Because I know what I write.
Okay--pause. That sounds dumb. What I mean is, I'm really thankful for what I'm going through right now, because it happens in my books. And you know what phrase, "Write what you know"?
I heard that phrase when I was very young--I mean, like when I was twelve and I was first realizing I wanted to be a writer. Since then I've heard people who preach this and people who want to hop in a time machine in order to murder whomever first said it (Goodreads says Mark Twain. Watch your back, Mark). The point is, I took it to heart, then rejected it. If you only write what you know, you're going to have pretty limited options. Now, I take it as I make sure I know what I write. When I wanted to write about a faux Degas artwork that was hiding a real, unknown Monet, (Monet Evanesce, a novel hopefully coming out in 2017) I did tons of research that even included going to the National Gallery in London. That was unintentional, but I went so far as to buy a book solely on Monet and stumbled across a version of Le Gare Saint-Lazare, where I quickly went into cardiac arrest and died because I never thought I'd see the painting that plays a key role in my novel in the flesh (or, canvas).
And, speaking of, my main character, Apollo, gets under an indescribable amount of stress while he's planning the largest art forgery ever attempted--to the point where he nearly has a breakdown and buys coffee and alcohol in bulk. I almost suffered a breakdown (okay, maybe like two) this semester, and that was just because of college. It kind of threw things into perspective for me and I almost wonder if I should have him more on edge.
And so, at first I was really bummed this semester because I've had no time to write. Well--I had time to write forty pages' worth of information on gender studies and Central Park, but no fake stuff. That was really hard for me to deal with. BUT--aha!--I forgot one of my novels coming out, Shubiao's Girls, takes place at a college in Massachusetts. And the main character is a college junior, as I am now. And she gets incredibly stressed, as I am now. She also has a mouse spirit attached to her, stealing her life as she sleeps, but that's a different story. I have all this personal angst and fatigue now that I 110% understand where my MC, Cara, is coming from. Now whenever I get my edits, I can compare what I imagined with what I felt this semester, and that's kind of exciting.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to stagger away from my laptop and return about 10ish books to my campus library. Wish me luck!
Official website of Rachael Kosinski, 24.
Pen for hire.