Thursday, 9 April 2009

How to Make Gunfights Exciting - Part Four: The Lone Draw

Steampunk World presents Clint Eastwood in the Lone Draw....

A Spaghetti Western by Scribblar!

Okay, not quite. But if you have ever seen a western, chances are you've seen a lone draw. And they're not just restricted to Western's... the pivotal part of the Lone Draw is the face-off, and this is a pivotal part of many types of fight scenes. If you read fantasy, and the hero and villain face each, trade insults, then draw swords - you've just read a face-off.

If it's Martial Arts you're into, the hero walks along, stops suddenly. A man in black (seriously, black = evil[?] wtf?) steps out and they have a face-off. Hell, the innocent, inexperienced yet survives-to-the-end heroine of any horror movie usually has a face-off with the monster. It even happens to Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Aliens, Alien blah...

So, what is the face-off, how do you write one, how do you make it exciting, and etcetera.

The Face-Off

The face-off is the intrinsic part of the Lone Draw. It is the money scene. In the Lone Draw there is very little exchange of bullets, there is very little action. The action is not that important, it's what we learn about the character (the introspection) that is important.

In the example on the left, we can clearly see Ripley's fear. This will raise the stakes by reminding us she is human. She is such a bad-ass in the movie, it is easy to forget she is not a super-human. Or even a bad-ass normal ( She's just normal, just you or me, doing what she needs to do to survive.

The Introspection

Watch a Western. The good guy and the bad guy (if he isn't the one in black, he's the one with the black moustache) line up. Cue the close-ups.

Movies can't show us what each character thinks. They focus on expressions. See the eyes, that's the introspection. The line of the mouth. The angle of the shot. These are things the movies have to use, because they lack the narrative element of novels.

The gun points down the way, the camera "looks" up at Dirty Harry. This gives him an impression of power; the grim line of his mouth and serious set of his eyes show his character. Here is a man who is pissed-off, and has a job to do.

You can show that through narration. You can enter your character's head, and tell us what he thinks. Is he scared? Is he doing what he has to do because it must be done, whilst being terrified that he is going to die? Is he having fun? Is he the 1880's version of a modern adrenaline junkie, getting into gunfights because he loves the high? If he was alive today (and wasn't 150 years old) would he be bungie jumping?

You have to tell us, and now is the best time. Get us inside his head, let us know what he thinks when the going gets tough. This is when your character is his truest self; it's when we will love him or loathe him the most.

The Audience

If you write omniscient (which most people who give writing advice say don't do, but I don't agree with that) you can show us the thoughts and feelings of the people who are watching. What does the banker think of the gunfight? What does the prostitute think? The sheriff? The bartender?

If you don't write omniscient, don't forget that your POV character needn't be the one fighting. For instance, if he sees his father/brother/wife in a gunfight, this could be a life-altering moment for him. It would be a great time to see inside his head.

The Gun

For goodness sake, don't get the technical details wrong. You cannot underestimate the importance of getting it right. If you get it wrong, you will lose all credibility with your readers. You might think that a piece of information is so far out of the normal and everyday that not a single one of your readers will know of it. More than likely, you'd be wrong.

For more information on guns in the Steampunk Era, follow this link. This is from Space 1889, which seems to be a role-playing steampunk system (one I'm not familiar with), but the details on the guns all seem to be chronologically accurate.

The Bullet

It all ends with the bullet. The introspection, the emphasis of the scene, everything. Bang! It's all gone.

This post has inspired me to write one's about bad-ass characters, about the onmiscient viewpoint, and about suspension of disbelief versus research and realism.

They're coming soon...

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