It’s so exciting to have author F.J. Titchenell with us today. It’s been awhile since she has visited us but her latest novel Stitches, the last book in The Prospero Chronicles, is finally here. And let me tell you, buy this book today!! If you have not read the series yet, start with Splinters.
The series definitely has some pretty epic battles. The last book especially. I asked the author to share with us her thoughts on writing fight scenes and making tough choices with main characters.
What was it like writing the fight scenes in The Prospero Chronicles? Was it hard to hurt your main characters? What other challenges came with writing them?
Like most authors I know, I’ve got a pretty icy heart when it comes to my main characters’ wellbeing. I love them, but I love cutting them open to see what’s inside even more. Usually that’s figurative, but sometimes it’s not.
I do find fight scenes difficult for other reasons, though.
I’m not that visual a person, so even when I’m watching movies or reading comics, I usually find the action scenes some of the hardest parts to remember and learn from. I space out a lot in Marvel movies. Even when I love an action flick, like Die Hard or Mad Max: Fury Road, I have a much harder time pinpointing what it is about the action that works for me, compared with analyzing the dialogue or story structure.
I’ve figured out that some of it has to do with editing. If there are a bajillion cuts per second and lots of explosions and energy beams without much scale or context, it’s more likely to just register as noise to me, compared with long shots from the ground level, following a character through every hit, every split second decision, every gasp for oxygen.
I try to translate that into better textual fight scenes by keeping things close and personal, giving readers the POV character’s experience of the fight rather than trying to jam a loving description of a Lord of the Rings-level battle scene through that character’s overloaded senses. If I need to explain what else is happening in the room, I do it in snippets as the character’s attention passes over it, to give a taste of the general chaos.
Sometimes I find myself going too close, and trying to let the weight of what’s happening speak too much for itself, because it feels so obvious from behind the eyes of the character. Then I have to back up and remember to give the character internal “reaction shot” paragraphs at the crucial moments, so that what they’re feeling in my mind gets across to the reader.
But that’s all execution, and really, I find a lot of the effectiveness of a fight scene is predetermined by how strong its foundation is in the story, before you even get to those flashy surface details.
Writing a fight scene is a lot like writing a sex scene. Well, obviously, they’re different in a lot of important ways too, but they’re the same for me in that, if the information contained in the scene can be boiled down to “these two characters are fighting/screwing,” I can’t really muster the enthusiasm to care about the gimmicks or flourishes or what body parts go where. Any time I find a scene in my outline that can be stated that way, because at some point I had the vague idea that this would be about time for some action of whatever kind, I know I’m in trouble.
In books (and in other media too if your tastes are anything like mine, but especially in books where you have no spectacle to hide behind), it’s not enough to make a scene look cool. It has to mean something.
If the scene boils down to something more like, “this character is trying really hard to feel some kind of contact with another person,” or “this character blames this other character for all his/her problems,” then we’re in business. Something as simple as “this character must get past this enemy to save his/her friends” is okay, but my favorites are usually more specific and less repeatable than that.
One of the fight scenes I wrote for The Prospero Chronicles that stands out the most to me is the one in Slivers that could be described as, “Mina takes her rage out on the biggest baddie she can find, thinking she has nothing to lose, and gets stomped into the ground more utterly than she ever knew was possible.”
Now that’s a life-changing enough emotional hook for me to hang a fight scene on.
Then again, that was also one of the hardest possible fight scenes to follow, going into Stitches.
Writing Stitches on my own, the fight scenes were a serious challenge. I had car chases, kidnappings, psychic attacks, buildings coming down, and some ruthlessly abrupt death scenes, but very little in the way of actual fights. I even got through five or six drafts of the whole manuscript with the main villain only having two scenes, because I was having so much trouble rationalizing how I could put her in a room with anyone and not have her instantly obliterate them.
Eventually, I bounced the problem off Matt, and we came up with a full subplot that would both give the villain more time in the spotlight and give Mina the edge she needed for a rematch with her. In the end, it came out half mental battle, because it’s me, and half trippy shapeshifter battle, because it’s The Prospero Chronicles. And it ties into the identity crisis Mina is dealing with throughout Stitches, which helped turn a scene that I was really worried would just be “these two characters are fighting” into a whole lot more.
One of my favorite things about novels is that they let you go into the details of what’s happening inside a character’s mind to a degree that can never be fully translated to screen, and yet at the same time, they’re wonderfully free of effects budget concerns. A written duel full of physics-defying superpowers costs no more to create or edit or make cover art for than a written conversation on a park bench.
I had a lot of fun taking advantage of both those strengths in the confrontation at the end of Stitches, and all through this series, and I hope readers enjoy it too!
The Prospero Chronicles Book 4: Stitches by F.J. Titchenell
Available at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Indigo
(Paperback versions should be available by the 12/18/18 release day)
Description: This is Prospero’s darkest hour. The few remaining humans trapped within the quarantine zone are all but defenseless against the multiplying forces of the Sliver Queen, Locusta. With Ben missing, Aldo among the enemy ranks, and more steel plates than bones left in her body, Mina’s passing the hours drowning in morphine and throwing heavy objects at her guards.
Stripped of her weapons, her gadgets, and the Network itself, she has just one card left, hidden somewhere under her oft-sutured skin. It might be powerful enough to complete her life’s work once and for all… or to reach the one person who could make her life into more than a means to an end. But playing it will cost everything she has, or everything she believes in.
The final chronicle of Prospero waits in these pages.
Meet the Author: FIONA J.R. TITCHENELL is an author of young adult, sci-fi, and horror fiction, including Some Side Effects May Occur and the Summer 2018 Feminist
Book of the Month, Out of the Pocket. She graduated with a B.A. in English from Cal State University Los Angeles in 2009 at the age of twenty. She currently lives in San Gabriel, California, with her husband and fellow author, Matt Carter, and their pet king snake, Mica. She has also published under the initials F.J.R. Titchenell.
You can find out more about her and her books on her website, join her mailing list for free updates, coupons, and giveaways, or become a monthly patron for exclusive access to upcoming projects and behind-the-scenes bonus content.