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Home » Archives » October 2006 » Getting Some Action
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10/10/2006: Getting Some Action

We were talking about action sequences, in answer to a question from Karen in Virginia. And I promised to tell you a little about writing action on some of my more recent non-Buffy shows. So here goes:

On Battlestar, I was confronted with something different than Buffy. Space-adventure type action, with CGI effects. Turns out, it didn't really make any difference. Just like at Buffy, it was all about picturing it first, then writing it. And, as always, just as it is when writing spec scripts, the secret is to study the produced scripts. I studied how the 'real' Battlestar writers wrote the action stuff, and then made mine sound like theirs. Very lean and spare, just like they do it.

It's probably worth noting that I still left the action stuff for last, but this is for different reasons than it used to be. I used to dread it, and leave it for last in the hope that the script elves (Tinker, Polish and Tweak) would take care of it for me. Now I leave it for last because the emotions in action sequences tend to be really straight-forward, so I can just skip over them while writing, without any fear that something subtle will happen in the scene that will affect the emotions in the next scene. These scenes get left for last because they're the least important, not the most feared.

And that, really, leads up to the only trick-of-the-trade that really matters for writing action, now that I think about it: confidence, writing without fear. Action is just all about making a decision. This will happen, then that will happen. She'll kick him first, or the Viper will be hit from the left. You can't be vague with this stuff, so commit.

This became really clear when I got to write an action sequence for my latest project. On Andy Barker, PI, the Andy Richter half-comedy I'm working on now, my script required an unusually long action sequence in which Andy grapples with an attacker. Since I had more experience writing action than the other writers (who have spent their writing years becoming far far funnier than me), I tackled the sequence with more confidence than I usually do. And I love how it turned out -- I used the props well, came up with cool little moves. I just generally wrote my little heart out. Confidence, I recommend it! And it should be easy to be confident about your action-writing skills since the greatest action-writing skill IS confidence. It's a moebius strip of self-bolstering rationalization! Hop on!

Lunch: Chinese BBQ pork and noodle soup from Noodle Planet. Mmm.


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