Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

February 14, 2013

Adventure Beats in Scenes

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:35 AM

As many of you may know, I don’t read a lot of fiction.  Haven’t for many years.  (A capital crime for a writer in some circles) What I do is watch movies. Lots and lots of movies. Consequently I write my novels as movies.

And I’m not alone.

One of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a “highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader”. Many of his novels did eschew obfuscation and wrote for purely entertainment. The story had to move.

I like what one commenter said about Hemingway’s writing.

After he finished “The Old Man and the Sea,” he wrote his brother, Leichester, telling him that he did not think there was single wasted word in the book. He may be right. It is a lean, powerful tale. So lean that it may well be the only book ever written to have very nearly every scene transposed into the film version.

So, after 4 novels and a book of short stories in the thriller, action/adventure, Sci-Fi genre, I am face with a challenge in my up and coming 5th novel – MURRAN.

MURRAN is a mainstream fiction novel. Through there is drama and action in the story, it never comes close to the type of stories I’ve written in the past. I find myself, with this new novel, having to ‘show’ more than ‘tell’ – with a long series of ‘telling’ narrative needed to explain background in the story.

So how do can I move the story along inspite of the long narratives. With what Dave Farland calls ‘adventure beats.

 Anything that has to do with exploration, journeys to strange places, threatening situations, verbal confrontations, or battles are all “adventure beats.”

What I did was earmark the places in the plot that did show adventure beats and wrote the narrative into those scenes. That is, I made sure that a narrative spoken by the characters ended or contained in some kind of adventure beat — a conflict that could be physical, emotional or psychological. This then would keep the story interesting and moving forward.

Here’s an example.

Trey – the hero in the story – is conversing with Jackson, his high school teacher in the Kenyan bush. He acts as tour guide pointing out the history and geography of Maasailand as they walk to his village. I didn’t want to make that scene sound like a travel documentary on the Discovery channel but the information had to offered to the readers to orient themselves.

I knew that Jackson had been holding something back from Trey – something about this background and he had to tell Trey since I made several references to this. So this was a good time to intersperse the ‘travel’ dialogue with an adventure beat – some tension.

After his tour guide narrative, Jackson finally tells him why he could not go back to his village after all these years. I was able to insert some tension into the ‘tour guide’ narrative.

Here’s another example. Trey is watching a celebration of the murran in the village. Dancing singing, etc. Not much of an adventure beat here but necessary to give the reader information on the warrior culture of the Maasai. When asked by Jackson what he thought of the celebration, Trey said it made him woozy. Even sick.

He was. He had malaria. This fact drives the plot into another direction unexpected by the reader and creates an adventure beat of tension.

I’ve tried in my new novel, to insert adventure beats even if the genre is mainstream fiction. You can tell me if I succeeded when MURRAN is released.


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