This great image is by graur codrin. I found it on freedigitalphotos.net. click the picture for more fantastic work by this artist.

I break my writing education into two pieces: before the beta read and after the beta read.  I’ve been writing forever.  Usually my stories were what I fondly call “soap opera style”.  Characters do shocking things with shocking results, and then they do more shocking things with even more shocking results.  This goes on until I can’t dream up anything new or I’m sick of the story.  A manuscript like this isn’t designed to end…thus the soap opera analogy.

Then, one day I picked up one of these rambling stories, saw a potential ending and wrote with that in mind.  Inside of two months, I had a finished manuscript.

At this point, I felt like I had a fairly good vocabulary.  My grammar was usually good.  I had some interesting ideas and images.  I didn’t really know what else a writer needed.  So I went to the internet and found that I was supposed to get a reader.  Or a whole bunch of them.  Preferably, someone who had a writing background.  I had one writer friend who offered to read my manuscript and I took him up on it.

The whole experience was one light bulb moment after another.

One of the first lessons that I learned was that the physical movement of the character has to make logical sense.  I, like so many other writers, wrote awkward fight scenes because I wasn’t sure how a body would move in this situation.  I would lose track of my setting during a chase.  Would the antagonist be able to see the protagonist from where he was standing?  Does the protagonist need to jump over the box that fell earlier in the scene?  I didn’t even ask these questions before my beta read.  My scenes lost authenticity because of the lack of detail.

So, how did I rectify this problem?

  • I drew pictures.  I drew a floor plan of the building where the character was located.  And then I drew a diagram of the room.  Let me stress this point.  I AM NO ARTIST!  J.K. Rowling may be able to sketch out a great image of a character but I can’t. Still, laying out the space my characters move through really helped to add authenticity to the scenes.
  • Act it out.  I’ve already mentioned my sad acting of a scene where my very confused dog stood in for a monster and my best friend played a ten year old boy.  Since then, I’ve walked through dozens of scenes making sure that the character is moving in a natural way.  That’s double-true for fight scenes.
  • I got an artist’s dummy.  They have authentic movable joints and you can see if a position you have in your head is feasible for the human body.
  • Get some realistic props.  Does your character shoot a gun?  Try to find a way to shoot a gun.  How heavy is it really?  What does “kick” really feel like?  If you have a chance to drive a car like one your character drive, do it.  So much of writing is in the details.

So, what do you do to make sure a scene plays out authentically?  Is physicality a weakness in your writing or do you have some other are where you have to go to lengths to achieve realism?