Friday, March 13, 2009

A Good Fight

In my reading, I’ve realized that I love a really good fight scene. Not the fistfights or kung fu that my husband would prefer, but a heated, crackling argument scene between the hero and heroine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I love to see others in anger and pain. It’s all about creating characters I can relate to. And sometimes I have heated, crackling arguments with people I love myself. Would any of you raise your computer mouse to that? ;)

Unfortunately, anger and hurt are emotions that go hand-in-hand with love. It makes perfect sense because the people we love the most have the power to upset and infuriate us the most. And being the sinful people that we are, we often retaliate in ways that just make the situation worse.

So back to books. Especially in Heartsongs where the strict word count is a factor, I sometimes see internal conflict that is resolved too easily; it’s kind of just patted down during a romantic moment and the reader is left to wonder when and how ugly it will rise up again. I also frequently see the conflict as some simple miscommunication and the characters just won’t go tell each other what needs to be said. And that can be realistic, too. But what gets frustrating is when it drags on and on and I’m yelling at the characters to “Just say something already!” even if it causes a fight. Because at least the fight gets it out in the open and hopefully the characters on the road to resolving the problem and growing closer to each other. And oh how sweet those makeup scenes can be after a good fight, right? What a great way to portray the love, grace, and forgiveness that God extends to us through Jesus.

Please don’t take this as my recommendation to go running to your WIP and insert a gratuitous fight among your characters. :) Obviously a confrontational scene needs to develop naturally in light of the characters’ personalities and conflicts, and at least for Heartsong it needs to eventually be resolved in a biblical way.

That said, I’ll end with a couple of my favorite fight scenes from upcoming Heartsongs as examples:

From Under the Tulip Poplar by Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver HP #860

“I saw the evidence with my own eyes, Rebekah. I cannot give you a reason why Wohali would do anything so horrendous, but I know he did it.”
Rebekah’s eyebrows drew together. “You cannot know that.”
Asher pried one of her hands from her reticule. “How can I make you understand the truth? Your innocence leads you to believe the best of people, but sometimes they don’t deserve your trust. Do you know how scared I was when I realized that the weapon used to kill Mr. Marshall belonged to a man who lived next to you and your family? I must have died a thousand deaths on the way to Wohali’s farm. I was so afraid that he might have turned his rage on you.”
Rebekah jerked her hand away. “You have no need to worry about me anymore.”
“Please, Rebekah, let’s not start that same argument over again. You know I love you, and I know you love me. I promise you that I’m going to talk to your pa as soon as this is all—”
“Do not use that patronizing tone with me, Asher Landon. I’m not a child you can pat on the head and make empty promises to. I may have been protected by my loved ones, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid or easily misled. If anyone is being misled in this room, it’s you. You are so blind you cannot see beyond your own nose. Noya has given me the only tomahawk that her husband owns.”
Asher raised his eyebrows. “And you believe her?”
“Yes, I believe her. Coupled with the fact that Pa has worked side by side with Wohali for all these months and the fact that I know where he was that night, I have no doubt that Wohali is innocent. Instead of being so eager to believe that only Colonel Lewis and his daughter know the truth, why don’t you ask yourself who might benefit from having Wohali arrested?”
If the situation had not been so serious, Asher would have laughed at the jealous comment she made. But it was serious. A man’s life hung in the balance. “I cannot believe you think I am incapable of discerning the truth.”
“And I can’t believe you’re not taking me seriously. Asher, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. I was willing to believe that we could still have a happy marriage even if it meant I had to move to Nashville. But now I realize that you are not the man I thought you were.”
“Rebekah—” Asher tried to break in, but her words struck him like blows, robbing him of breath. The expression on her face brought back his nightmare with vivid clarity.
“That’s my fault, not yours. It’s become obvious to me that there is a chasm between us which cannot be bridged. I was too self-centered to realize it earlier, and for that I do apologize. When Pastor Miller helped me realize that I had not been asking God for His leading, I turned to Him and asked for a sign that we were supposed to be together.”
Asher had to be dreaming. That was it. That was why he couldn’t make his tongue work—why he couldn’t stem the flow of Rebekah’s words.
“I guess the fact that you will not listen to reason is a pretty clear sign, so I want to formally release you from your promise.” She stood up and walked across the room. “I pray you find your way to happiness.”

From Stillwater Promise by Becky Melby and Cathy Wienke HP #857

Her head lifted from the pillow. “What did you do? You ruined ev–ry–thing, that’s what you did! You made pizza and pudding with my girls!”
A smile threatened to move his lips from their tight hold. This is where he’d gone wrong way too many times. He had to take her seriously—even when she was overreacting, even when she looked so adorable with her face all scrunched and angry. He’d found out the hard way that saying “You’re so cute when you’re mad” wasn’t the way to disarm the bomb. This one had to be disassembled wire by wire. And to do that, he had to see pizza and pudding through Sara’s eyes. “I’m sorry.” Man, this wasn’t easy. Sorry for leaving her, yes. Sorry for being an insensitive, self-absorbed idiot, yes. But sorry for baking a pizza? Lord, show me. . . “That’s your special thing to do with them, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” The word came out rough and gravelly.
“I should have realized that.”
“Yes, you should have.” She smashed her face into the pillow.
“I’m sorry.” Enough, already! He was sorry. Brock had told him about the Sunday tradition; he should have realized that having supper ready for her when she walked in the door wasn’t a help. But there were just so many times a guy could use those two words without feeling like a total slug. He needed to save them for the really vital things. “Sara? Can we talk?” Where had he heard that before?
“Talk? Sure” She leaned on one elbow. “Let’s talk about how I had to quit my jobs and get out of our lease and move into subsidized housing. Or maybe you want to know what it feels like to apply for food stamps and medical assistance. Or how about all the choice little names I’ve thought up for you in the past two years?” She laughed, cold and biting. “Do you really want to hear what I have to say, James?”
He took a deep breath, another step, then made a move that was certain to hurt him in one way or another. He sat on the edge of the bed. “Yes.”
Sara sat up, clawed at the buttons of her jacket, and ripped it off, hurling it at the floor. She drew her knees to her chest like a protective fortress. His one word answer seemed to have created a lull before the storm. Raw pain, more than anger, blazed in her eyes.
“Do you have even the slightest idea what you put me through?”
“No.” James held her gaze. He knew he needed to hear her out without defending himself, but he wasn’t going to cower from her. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, he knew that his sins against her had been paid in full. It had taken a lot of late-night talks with a small group of God-honoring men and hours on his face before God to bring him to the point of accepting that he no longer needed to be punished for what he’d repented of. He did, however, need to face the consequences like a man of integrity. A soft answer overcomes wrath. “I can’t imagine.” Sara turned to face the wall, her knuckles pressed against her mouth. A silent sob shook her shoulders, and James commanded his arms not to reach out. “I’m listening.”
Red eyes blazed. Her fist lowered. “You. . .can’t. . .do. . .this.” Her words snapped out a staccato beat.
“Do what?” Try as he might, he didn’t have the sixth sense she’d always wanted from him.
“You can’t just walk back in acting like two years was nothing. You can’t use the Jesus card on me, James. I’m not that stupid. You can’t tell me that in six months you’ve become this. . .this perfect, sensitive guy who’s suddenly going to be an attentive, responsible father. It doesn’t work that way. You forget. . .I know you. I know that the only thing that really matters to James Lewis is James Lewis.”
Bam. Hit the floor. Get back up. Lord God, I can’t do this. James rubbed his hand across his eyes. “I’m a work in progress, Sara. I’m a million miles from perfect, but I am different.” He hammered his defensiveness back down where it belonged.
“For how long? Your brother went through a Christian phase, too. Remember? It lasted until Caitlyn Douglas died of leukemia after all her friends had prayed around the clock for weeks. What’s going to turn you away, James? Do you honestly think I’d let you move back in like old times and just sit around and wait and pretend that everything’s wonderful until something gets too hard for you again and off you go to Canada or England or Timbuktu?”
James dug his fingers into the dark blue bedspread. “I’m not asking to move in. I’m just asking for a little patience, Sara. I don’t expect you to believe I’ve changed just because I say so. But the only way I can prove it to you is if we spend some time together and—”
“And you worm your way into my girls’ hearts? No! I can’t let you do that.” She pointed to the door. “Just get out, James. Go back to your music and your roadies and quit pretending to be something you’re not.”
James released the fabric balled in his hands and stood up. “This isn’t about the girls and you know it. This is about you. And if you ever decide to be mature enough to carry a conversation all the way through, maybe we’ll actually get around to talking about your side of this. I didn’t just walk out on a whim. I left because I finally caved in and agreed with you. I finally believed that you were right, that you could do it all better than me and better without me. My goals were getting in your way big-time, and running my life on top of yours and the girls’ was just a bit too much of a strain on you, wasn’t it? So I finally decided to just get out of your way.” He turned, took two steps toward the door, and looked back. “You win, Sara.”


Rachel Overton said...

Hey--Diane and Aaron, i really like your revisions! I can't wait to see the book!

Stillwater Promise sounds intriguing, too.

We've got some really good stuff coming out of Heartsongs in the next few months, guys. You'll see! :-)

Aaron McCarver said...

Wow, JoAnne! Thanks! I am thrilled that you like what Diane and I did. We really did work hard on this relationship between the hero and the heroine. And thanks to you and you, too, Rachel, for helping us make it better!

Diane Ashley said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have really made my day!! What a wonderful compliment to include our scene as one of your favorites. Wooooohoooo!! As soon as my feet touch ground again I'll get back to work on our WIP. Thanks to you, Rachel, for your help with and enthusiasm for our book.

Becky Melby said...

Thank you, JoAnne! Before we started on Stillwater Promise, Cathy and I wondered if we'd be able to generate enough romantic sparks between two married people. We should have realized from our own marriages that the history between James and Sara would make conflict so natural...and making up so fun! Aaron and Diane, your story sounds fascinating!

Cara Putman said...

Hmmm, I remember getting a comment like that in my last book LOL Just say it already. But it's true...I think sometimes as an author we know what the characters are supposed to say. We just have to make sure they actually say it. :-)

Mary Connealy said...

I love a good fight scene too. They're really hard to get right and always seem to benefit from being worked over hard again and again. Like I can't seem to build them from scratch. I have to build them then start adding to that frame work.