Planning the scenes
When it comes to writing the action scenes in HTTK, I try very hard to get the detail as accurate as I possibly can, but I must admit that I do blur a few of the facts, as it adds to the excitement and enjoyment if everything is placed conveniently to hand, and allows the story to flow smoothly. The preparation for these scenes does take quite some time, in my head I know what the action entails, but I have to set the scene and paint the full picture before I can write it. I do this very simply by looking at floor plans and photographs, of which I collect a great deal. Wherever possible I have visited the places I use in my stories, as I feel that it helps me to get a good feel of the place, and it allows me to walk the route and figure things out better, then its back to the drawing board and the planning of every aspect before the writing begins. Below I have added a few of the things I used when writing the Bowman of Loxley and the Lost Sword of Carnac to provide you with better examples of how it all works.
Because Loxley as it is my book is partially made up and contains a few true facts, I drew out a map of what I thought it would look like. (you can see the full map in the section for maps) The picture to the right shows the village section, and by using this I found it easier to write the directions in a way that everyone without the map would understand.
By giving everywhere place names and road names, I found that those who read the books become familiar with the town, and so therefore get to know the place, even though it is imaginary and they do not have the map in front of them. I also like the idea that with your familiarity of the place, you can then draw your own pictures as to what you feel it looks like, and in doing so, you become more involved in the story, which can only add to your experience and enjoyment.
Having no photos, as this is mainly all coming out of my imagination, I turned to my pencil to provide me with pictures. I am no artist, but with a little persistence I was able to sketch what I thought the large gates would look like, and this was so valuable when writing the scenes of Robert and John at the gates with the soldiers of the Cutter army.
This picture has helped me throughout all of the books, as I return quite often to the gates of Loxley, especially with David Williams and his encounters with Rags etc..
If I am writing descriptions of places, this is the best method for myself in the formulation of the right wording, but when it comes to battles or adventurous scenes, where I have many characters interacting, I increase my visual aids and begin by looking at floor plans.
The Cathedral scene in the Bowman of Loxley was very challenging, firstly I had all the Specialist spread round the place to give cover to Robbie who was up in the balcony. Then I had the guards, and a procession of Mason and the clergy. It was the most people I had ever slipped into a section of the book, and I had to make sure that it was written as simply and easy to follow as possible, after all this was the climax to the story and so I did not want any reader being bombarded with facts that took away any of the tension, and so I began by looking at the floor plan and simplified it to the very basics. After I had finished the writing, I went back to the chapter and just added a few extra pieces of detail, this way I painted a relatively factual picture, I just blurred the edges a little.
As you can see I kept it very basic. Once I had worked out the best positions for each individual Specialist, and I chose each place to fit with their particular areas of excellence, I then filled in the guards using the red crosses, and each of the clergy and Mason and his wife. Using the pictures I had collected I had a massive resource of stimulating images to match with my floor plans and I began to write the scene as it now appears in the book. I must have read this chapter over a hundred times to get it perfect, and I must admit I think it came out pretty OK.
If you look at how Robbie planned out his assault of the Cathedral in the earlier chapters of the book, you will find that what I describe is actually the same way I planned out the writing.
Harry's biggest fear
The Wooden Partition
Mason's view of Robbie in the Balcony from his throne
Looking at the pictures above and the one to the left, you can see that I kept a great deal of the detail true to the Cathedral. I did as you can see move the partition and place it behind Mason's seat, but that really was the only blurring of the facts I needed to do, pretty much everything else was nicely in place for me.
It took about a week of study of all my material to match what I wanted for the end of the book with pictures and drawings to plan it out properly, I have about 40 pictures of the Cathedral from inside and out, and I drew up extra maps and building placements to fit in with what I had previously written had happened after the Red Death. The chapter itself took about a day to write with all my props and aides, and then over time I added and subtracted bits to keep the pace and tension.
I think its worked very well for me, and as a result it is now the way I plan out all my adventurous scenes, and there are quite a few to come.
The rescue of Alice
The rescue of Alice was a little bit harder than the Cathedral, as I had never actually been inside Craigevar Castle, although I have passed it several times on my journeys, and always found it to be a fascinating building. Most of what I was writing was blind, but even so I found a few extra tools to add to my box, and I turned to the internet and especially Goggle Maps. Using the many pictures I downloaded off the internet, I got a great feel for the building and Goggle Maps gave me the ariel shots I needed to search the surroundings and get a better idea of the buildings shape. Then it was out with the pad and using the same techniques I used on the Cathedral I planned it all out and wrote it, it did take a lot longer to put it all together, and I had to use a lot of licence on describing the insides of the building, but all in all I think as you read it you will get the right idea.
I am a very scruffy writer, but I think it gives you a better idea of how it was done.
With the right tools and a little imagination, I think anyone can achieve just about anything, Its a lot of work and does swallow a great deal of time, but I have to admit that it is some of the best fun I have had, and the most rewarding thing out of all of it is that moment when someone who has read the chapter lets you know how much they enjoyed it, and what they thought the best bits were. I think it is one part of writing that I will never get tired of, as I see the twinkle and sparkle in the eyes of those who loved it, and it is the greatest reward any writer can get. So to those of you who have read and enjoyed both of the examples above, thanks for sharing your love of them with me, you made it all a little more special.
© Robin John Morgan 2009 - 2011