Tag Archives: Monster Hunter International

The Value of Violence

Last night I dreamt I went to went to Manderly again…

Actually, I didn’t, but it’s a famous opener for a reason. It sounds a heck of a lot classier than:

Last night, I dreamed I was running around with a bunch of kids fighting a bunch of other kids on a populated island, and then we holed up in a mobile home. I had just dyed my hair a blue that was both dark and bright, with streaks of lighter aqua and was thinking about how it really brought out my eyes when the bad guys came to the window and tried to get us. So this one girl lunged at them, a look of intense and horrible concentration on her face and the girl who was hanging in the window gasped as all her teeth turned to white chicklet gum and fell out of her mouth to the floor, blood spilling everywhere. So then they were really mad and their fists turned to small, flesh-colored cinderblocks, and they were duking it out with the intense girl and Clark Kent through this little kitchen window. It was pretty freaky, what with the block fists with the holes in them on both sides, but not wholly threatening. Until the trailer started to move and the slid across the packed dirt of the lot…

My interpretation: I’ve been thinking about action scenes.

The other day I talked about Monster Hunter International which is full of action. And that’s part of why I read it, because I’m not comfortable writing the fight scenes, and I need to read more and see how it’s done.

B and I were watching the special features on the Challenge of the Super Friends the other night and one of the things that kept coming up in the commentary was how there had was a period of relative non-violence for superheroes, where they’re tackling a lot of natural disasters and stuff, and that part of the awesomeness of Challenge is how they actually had cool villains to battle. (ah ha, tip 1, make it hard). Even so, they’re still not terribly hands-on and it is what it is.

In a lot of my reading, the action hasn’t been very hands-on, unless we’re talking the bedroom action (oh. yeah.). There’s been a lot of out-witting the foe. A lot of distance. The occasional surprise elbow from a spunky heroine that allows the hero to get the drop on the villain. So much threatening from weapons that are never fired that you start to wonder if any of these guns are even loaded. But, you know, it is what it is.

I don’t object to violence in my entertainment (as long as it remains entertaining). On the contrary, violence can pull you in, invest you, raise the stakes and make you feel the story like little else can. Sometimes the mere threat is not enough. The reader has to know you’re serious. Has to feel like you can might just cross a line–even if you’re in a genre where some lines are just never going to be crossed. As a reader, I’ve found the the shock value of a good beat-down is a way to get there. Wizard’s First Rule, by Terry Goodkind, is a great example of an author who just shackled me to a character with my utter devotion because he just kept on torturing the poor the guy and yet Richard would just keep getting up, finding his feet, and choosing to move on with his mission. (Of course, in subsequent books, he just pushed past my personal tolerance and I had to quit, but the first book will always rock.)

I think this is part of what’s going on with the popularity of paranormal romance. Certainly not all PNR is violent, but the fantasy aspects seem to lend permission to it, and I think we’re seeing more vivid stories and higher stakes than we were seeing in romantic suspense.

Or I’m just totally off base. I don’t know. I’m just yammering here.

Back to the Monster Hunters. MHI was most definitely hands-on, although there were also plenty of shotguns, grenades, and some anti-tank weaponry. Two things I noticed here:

1. The use of all five senses in the battle scenes. Carefully, of course, without getting in the way, but thinking about loss of hearing, the sound of screams, pain, the look and feel of spattering body fluids, the smell of battle, the dirt in the mouth,  rage, desperation… And delivering it all fearlessly as as a writer.

2. Sequences. These were rarely simple in-and-out missions with one fist fight to serve as the conflict before the prize. These battles started off with scary odds and then just kept growing. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any bleaker, something new would happen. Challenge after challenge after challenge, each one drawing you in, investing you emotionally as you turn pages to find out how the protag is ever going to get out of this and if all his friends will survive. So that by the time it’s over, you feel like you’re nearly as exhausted as the rest of the group.

So I don’t really have a conclusion. This isn’t one of those things where I feel like I know what I’m talking about. I just thought I’d throw out some observations about writing action and violence and see if anything bounces back. Got anything ideas?

Something else…

I really think that nothing helps you grow as a writer like a really good crit. The biggest thing that the indie movement has working against it is a lack of good editing. Editors are out there, but we don’t know who to go to, we’re concerned about the costs, will it be worth it, should I trust this person’s opinion of my work, etc.

I would like to have professional editing and proof-reading recommendations, but so far these have been services I’ve traded with friends since I’m lucky enough to have some BAMF indie friends. I’d love it if you would email me with your experiences using professional editing services. What you thought of the quality of the work, how long it took, how much was paid, anything about the process that a fellow indie might like to know. Email me with those stories, ask your friends to do likewise, and if I can collect enough info I’ll be able to present them in some way hopefully others can benefit from. Please specify if your editor work on your content, or proof-reading only. Please understand that I’m looking for client testimonials and will probably not include info sent by editors directly. Please ask your clients to contact me.

Thanks!

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The Hero Had a Certain Owenocity About Him…

Whenever you have an Oweny character named Owen, some blog titles are just moral imperatives. Nuff said.

I finished reading Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. This book was originally self-published, then picked up by Baen, which seems to be a division of Pocket/Simon & Schuster. Excellent book. I said somewhere, while I was reading this 700+ page monster (in paperback!) that it’s not exactly romance. I really find I have to take that back. It actually really was.

What’s more, while I rarely read books by male authors because I so often find myself disgusted or insulted (and this is probably because I tried to read “classic” SF/F), I found this author delightful. Which may be a strange word to use for a fic that’s got a gun culture following due to lots of weapon specifics (and the author is so good that my eyes didn’t even roll back in my head as I read those), and is just packed with scenes of super violent, gory, monster-slaying action. It’s also well-constructed, really well-written, highly imaginative, and this guy’s got a great sense of humor.

What really endeared the book to me was the portrayal of the first-person protag, Owen Pitts. Yeah, there’s a heroic name for ya. And Owen Pitts is an accountant. He’s a big, awkward, self-described oaf of a man, who doesn’t get a lot of chicks, and, in the absolutely fabulous opening scene of the book, is unhappily working as an office drone for the nightmare boss that most of us have felt we’ve had to put up with at some point. And then he throws the boss out of a window.

But he had a really good reason. Trust me.

The character of Owen is brilliantly done. He’s confident in the skills that he has, but not proud, in the sense that he would brag about them. Because a lot of the things he can do haven’t been doing him much good. His military vet father trained him up to be a great shooter, and Owen loves the hobby, but that’s all it is. He’s a good brawler, and while that earned him some cash in the past as a bouncer and at other things, it seemed to be more bad than good and he’s trying to put all the violent stuff behind him. So he sets about trying to use his brain, and he’s very smart, but then he ends up in the shitty job with the shitty boss from Hell. And all this makes for a character who’s not dark, damaged, and tortured, but sees himself as tends to see himself as sort of socially awkward and oafish, pushed around by life in general.

My Mary Sue warning sirens were going off like anything (not that I’d want to have to call this big guy with all the hardware Mary Sue). He’s got all these skills, and some pretty interesting stuff starts happening to him–this thing was obnoxious wish-fulfillment waiting to happen. But it did not go there.

Instead, the author kept it fully in check. Kept the hero challenged. Let him make bad decisions. Let him fail. Let him want to curl up and die after a hard workout, and have to stand there, trying not to throw up, while talking to the girl he liked. Somehow, as badass as Owen kept becoming, as his importance to the events of the story kept building, he managed to keep both the confidence he needed, an amount of self-doubt and anxiety that made sense, and a humility that made him endearing all the way through.

Probably the most endearing thing for me, though, was the way he thought about his love interest. This guy showed so much respect for his lady that I wanted him to date my daughter–not now when she’s six, but you know. When his ardor for her increased, it was never due to the way her boobs wanted to spill out of the barely there dress she was wearing. It was because of things like courage, competence, brains. (Kind of like “just the way you look tonight” except “just the way you wielded that spear against the undead.”)

Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it. This book was a great package, a book outside my usual reading zone that delivered on a lot of levels. Recommended.

Now this is interesting. I carried this paper monster around in my purse for the last few weeks–which really shows my devotion. Since it wasn’t even on Kindle, I figured it wasn’t available in E (plus, we had the paperback in house, so it was easy to pick up). While investigating for this post, I FOUND E! Not only did I find it, I found in cheaper than paperback, in multi-format, and they seem to be DRM-free–at least, I was able make sure the EPUB I downloaded would convert for future unknown device. Everything we want. Plus PayPal option. (Yes, you’ve figured out that even though my husband had already bought the paperback and I’d already read it, I had to buy it again in eformat. Is that wrong?)

The only drawbacks I see are that they play this subscription thing out so that you have to wait until they’re done serializing a book before you can read it as a whole. I don’t even watch TV series that way, so hopefully that’s more a sneak preview thing that comes before the actual release. The other is that they don’t also sell the books in e on other sites–like it’s not in the Kindle store–and I think that’s a big loss of browsing customer sales for their authors. I just stumbled across this because I was looking for info about the author, and that only because I had heard he was an indie-to-contract story. At least now I know that if I’m intrigued by a Baen-published book, I can probably actually buy it instead of going through the library. Yay for that! /tangent

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Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance