Writing Fight Scenes that Matter

David Keener Teaches Writing and Fighting

I ran my latest workshop, “Writing Killer Fight Scenes That Matter,” at Capclave 2018 on September 30. I had a lot of fun and the workshop was well received by the audience (I know this for sure, because I distributed a Workshop Evaluation Form at the end).

At conventions, the workshops are two hours long. The first hour was focused on violence: how people react to violence, different types of fights, gender differences in danger scenarios, and decision making in fights. The exercises were real life scenarios; attendees then had to figure out the best way to survive the situation presented. It was rather eye-opening and shocking for a bunch of them.

In the second half, I described a basic framework for fight scenes. We also discussed how to make fights more realistic, and more plausible, by leveraging the lessons from the first half of the workshop.

All in all, I thought the workshop went well. I look forward to conducting it at other conventions in the future.

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Build a Space Battle

Build a Space Battle: A Workshop

I’ll be conducting my new workshop, “Build a Space Battle,” at Capclave 2017 tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it. Here’s the official description of my the workshop:

So, you want to include a titanic space battle in your military SF novel or your galaxy-spanning space opera. But…who’s fighting? Why are they fighting? You’d like to make the battle realistic…but what tactics and strategies make sense? In this workshop, you’ll learn by doing as we collaboratively build an epic space battle.

My accompanying presentation is already complete and uploaded to SlideShare.net.

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Balticon Schedule

The Program Schedule for Balticon 51 has just been released. I’m pleased to announce that they’ve selected me for six panels, two of which I’m moderating, and also elected for me to conduct a workshop on Sunday.

My workshop is called: “Is Your Setting Strong Enough to Support a Series?” For those who have taken my previous workshops, it was previously known as “Creating an Adaptive Setting.” I last ran the workshop at Capclave in 2015, so I’m looking forward to conducting it for a whole bunch of new people.

Here’s my Balticon Schedule:

Balticon 51 Schedule for David Keener

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Workshop: Build a Space Battle

Workshop: Build a Space Battle While I was at Capclave 2016 this past October, I was asked by Cathy Green, the Vice Chair for Capclave 2017, to contribute a workshop to next year’s convention. As always, I’m gratified to be asked to do these types of things, and even more gratified that people seem to enjoy them.

I’ve done workshops for Capclave before, and each time I try to do something different. Past topics have included:

  • Public Speaking for Writers (2014)
  • Creating an Adaptive Setting (2015)

Capclave is run by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). At the WSFA meeting last Friday, I kicked a few workshop ideas past Elizabeth Twitchell, the con Chair for next year. The one we finally settled on was: “Build a Space Battle.”

The concept is that I’m going to provide a basic science fiction scenario. The tasks for the workshop attendees will be to fill in the details until we’ve collectively created a consistent background and timeline for a significant-sized SF space battle (hence the space battle pic at the top of this entry).

I’m looking forward to this. I think it will be a lot of fun for everybody involved.

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Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016

I attended the Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016 on a whim. Here’s the description from the program:

Micro Fiction Workshop
Coordinator: Dustin Blottenberger, Deidre Dykes (M), Brigitte Winter
Micro Fiction, a subset of flash fiction, are stories of 300 words or less. Learn how these word count restrictions force writers to boil stories down to their most powerful core elements. You will create micro fiction pieces through a series of exercises, learn about exciting markets for tiny stories and discuss how micro fiction can be a useful tool for deepening your writing skills.
Limited to 15 people.

Now, flash fiction isn’t something you can make a living at. And micro fiction, well, ditto. But what the heck? I figured at least it would be two hours of writing practice that would exercise literary muscles that I didn’t always use.

I was pleased to discover that Dustin, Deidre and Brigitte had put together an excellent workshop with well-organized content and useful exercises. Even better, the final exercise was to write a 101-word Halloween story (that’s 100 words plus a 1-word title). I ended up with what I thought was a rather nifty Halloween story with a killer last line…and a market to send it to. Next Saturday (10/15/2016) is the deadline for the Halloween “issue” of 101Fiction.com.

I’ll be submitting my story as soon as I complete some minor polishing.

Meanwhile, here’s the selfie that Dustin took at the end of the workshop:

Micro Fiction Workshop at Capclave 2016     Photo Credit: Dustin Blottenberger

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Capclave 2016

Capclave 2016: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literary Convention Capclave is the Washington area’s premier literary SF and Fantasy convention, hosted each year by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). I had a great time at Capclave, as always (it’s my fourth time), but especially from the business perspective of a burgeoning writer.

I was here with Marty Wilsey, a fellow member of my primary writing group, who was here to promote his indie-published military SF trilogy, the Solstice 31 Saga (it’s doing very well, by the way). I’m also on the verge of significant publication myself, with one of my novelettes due to appear this month in an anthology called Reliquary and another one about to be indie-published as soon as I can work out the cover issues with my cover designer.

From the business perspective, here’s what went really well:

  • Cathy Green, Capclave 2017’s Programming Chair, asked me to do a workshop for Capclave 2017. I’ve previously done workshops at Capclave 2014 and 2015.
  • I got to discuss the Reliquary anthology with the production team.
  • I got to discuss a future anthology, possibly two anthologies, that I’m putting together for publication next year.
  • I attended a workshop on “Book Design” put on by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, an industry professional who has successfully published many anthologies, including the highly amusing Bad-Ass Faeries series.
  • I networked with people who can help me promote my indie-published works.
  • I got to talk craft and business with other writers…who treated me as the professional writer that I believe I’m becoming.
  • I attended the “Microfiction Workshop” conducted by Dustin Blottenberger, Deidre Dykes and Brigitte Winter. I ended up with what I think is a publishable 101-word Halloween story and a venue to which to submit it.

In addition to workshops, I attended a number of great panels. One thing that was gratifying, and isn’t always experienced at cons, is that all of the moderators quite obviously spent time to both prepare for their panels and ensure that the content was suitable for the people likely to attend, i.e. – if the topic was aimed at writers then they made sure there was useful information for writers.

As both a writer and a fan, it was great conference and I look forward to attending again in 2017.

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Creating An Adaptive Setting: Slides Available

The slides for my workshop, Creating an Adaptive Setting, from Capclave 2015 are now available online at Slideshare, which is where I host most of my public presentations and workshops.

For those who may not have seen my various advertisements for the workshop, here’s the general description:

Creating an Adaptive Setting

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve noticed that a lot of authors are making money with series. But crafting a series is hard, and it’s a subject that’s not covered in most writing manuals. Come learn a set of steps for creating a coherent, consistent and connected background to support multiple stories leveraging the same setting, primary characters and supporting characters. Give your series the foundation it needs to become what you want it to be.

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Speaking at Capclave 2015

Two reasons to go to Capclave 2015: 1) it’s the best literary SF convention in the Washington DC metropolitan area, and 2) I’ve been invited to run a “Public Speaking for Authors” workshop there again this year.

[Editorial Note: After discussion with the Capclave Program Coordinators, it looks like I’ll instead be giving my new workshop, “Creating an Adaptive Setting,” formerly known by the title, “The Reactive Net.” For more information, click this link.]

Capclave 2015

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Workshop Attendees at Capclave 2014

Some of the attendees from my workshop, “Public Speaking for Writers,” hard at work on, of all things, a writing assignment (a brief story pitch, which they than had to present to the class). The man in the middle on the far side of the table is Tom Doyle, best-selling writer of American Craftsmen.

You can just FEEL the concentration…

Workshop Attendees: Public Speaking for Writers

The workshop was held at Capclave 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD, in a room aptly called “The Boardroom.”

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Loudoun County Writers Group

Loudoun County Writers GroupThis past spring, I realized that I was getting really serious about my writing. One of my stories had failed to come together, but the next one was coming along extremely well. I wanted to get other viewpoints on my writing, hopefully informed viewpoints from other writers.

I decided to find out if there were any writing groups in my area. It turned out there was one. It was called the Loudoun County Writers Group. The group met every Saturday from 10:00 AM to Noon for the Saturday Morning Review. Once a month, they ran the Writers Workshop on Sunday at the same time, but at the Atanta Bread Company, a nice restaurant for breakfast/lunch. Group membership and the meeting schedule were coordinated using Meetup.

I decided to check them out further. I literally had no idea what to expect. Were they going to be a bunch of pretentious literary types? Or a dismal group of no-talent wannabes? Or, maybe, just a group of serious, hard-working, aspiring writers like myself?

The Saturday Morning Review was capped at 12 attendees, and the next one was full. The closest, upcoming event was the Writers Workshop the next day, so I registered for that. Even if the experience was negative, at least I’d get a good meal out of the Atlanta Bread Company.

I showed up early for the event and got myself a drink and a breakfast pastry. Then I sat down and waited to see if a group coalesced anywhere, figuring that would probably be the workshop attendees.

My plan worked. A few minutes later, I was one of seven people sitting around a couple of tables that had been pushed together. In the center, the organizer, Elizabeth Hayes, had placed a bunch of books that had something to do with the topic of Point of View (POV).

Over the ensuing two hours, we had a wide-ranging discussion of POV, as well as other writing topics. I had a lot of fun, and felt that I learned something from the discussion as well. Further, and this was a curious effect, I felt more like a writer. Here were people who were experiencing the same problems I was.

Granted, the attendees varied in what I perceived as their writing level, but some of them were clearly competitive with my own skill level. I seemed to have the edge on everybody there in terms of depth of knowledge of the science fiction field, although Elizabeth Hayes probably had me beat in the fantasy realm. She also knew more about The Lord of the Rings than anybody I had ever met. Interestingly, I had also met one of the attendees before. Beth Sadler had been in the same Writing Workshop as me at Capclave 2013.

Since the Writers Workshop had been such a positive experience, I decided that my next step was to attend a session of The Saturday Morning Review. I registered for the next session online. I also submitted my story, “Winter Roses,” for review.

The first five stories submitted each week by Wednesday at 11:00 AM were reviewed on Saturday. Each story, or chapter or fragment, was expected to be under 2000 words. All of the attendees would review all of the stories, discuss them on Saturday, and then hand the author of each story their notes.

Now, I submitted my story as a bit of a test. It’s really a speech. It takes about ten minutes to present. As a speech, it has some inherent limitations as a prose story. It’s locked into one scene, one POV, and has the narrator relating his feelings about some incidents in the past as his lover lies dying. In 1500 words, it’s a love story, a crime drama, a fantasy and a revenge tale.

I wanted to see how the group critiqued it, because that would really let me know how good they were. Essentially, I wanted to know whether this group was going to be worth the investment of my time.

For me to read and do a quality review of 8000 words per week (all the stories except my own) took about three hours. The meeting itself was going to last for two hours. That’s five hours per week out of my already hellacious schedule. Frankly, the group had to provide some tremendous value in order to be worth that much of my time.

Prior to the meeting, I had quite a good time reviewing the other stories. I learned a lot from what the other writers had done well, and also what they had not done well. I was able to write up what I felt were some very good notes for the other writers.

Next, I attended the meeting on Saturday at the Cascades Library. There were eight of us present. Overall, the reviews of the various works were very insightful

Then, my turn came up. The group quickly pinpointed all of the issues that I had expected. They also came up with some good ideas for expanding the story so it would work better in prose. Finally, one of the other writers even suggested a plot twist that I’d never thought of that could help take a longer prose version of the story to the next level. I was extremely impressed.

There was no question in my mind that the review session had been exceptional useful. By the end of the meeting I had already decided that the Loudoun County Writers Group provided exactly the type of support that I needed to take my craft to the next level. Those five hours a week — indisputably worth it.

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