Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlords and the Shoot Begins…

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking back at my diaries from ten years ago, during the filming of Robot Overlords. From now on the diary entries you’ll see are the ones featured in the back of the film’s novelisation (and if you want a signed and dedicated copy of the paperback, then please step this way and click here).

Here we go. Day one of the filming of Robot Overlords. You’ll note from the image that I didn’t write my diary entry until 1st June. To be fair, I was a very excited little puppy as you’ll see…

Friday 31st May

Belfast – First day of the shoot

The first day of filming couldn’t have gone better. We were at the Belfast Metropolitan College, an abandoned edifice, now mostly used for filming. Gillian Anderson’s TV series The Fall shot there and we even re-used one of their sets for the File Room.

The day started with shots of the VC guy coming down a stairwell, followed by the gang, then lots of sneaking around and running down corridors. Then, in the afternoon, the file room scene.

The rehearsal paid off: the kids work so well together and they look so good on camera.

I snuck off to a nearby hotel lobby (the Fitzwilliam) where they had a nice open fire (it was quite chilly for June) and worked on the rewrites. Both Chris (Clark, executive producer) and Piers (Tempest, producer) are worried about the number of line changes for SBK (Sir Ben Kingsley), so I made sure to list them separately.

It was good to see Jon in action again. Very calm, very sure of what he wants and very good at getting it out of his young cast. They can be inconsistent, as young actors often are, and I think Jon is driving our continuity guy mad with his choices of performance over continuity.

As I watched all this unfold, I wanted to go back and tell my 10-year-old self that I would get to make a cool movie… and that the next 30 years would just fly by.

After the wrap, me, Matt (Platts-Mills, editor), Paddy (Eason, VFX Supervisor), Piers (Tempest, producer), Aidan (Elliott, co-producer) and Jon had a drink at the Duke of York pub before Matt, Paddy, Jon and I went for a meal across the road where we got very excited at the results of the first make-up tests for Craig (Garner) who plays the Mediator. They’ve given him black hair and strange contact lenses and he looks like Gary Numan.

And so we’re off! They have a night shoot on Monday – rather them than me – and SBK and Gillian will join the cast.

I have rewrites with Jon today – hopefully the last major pass – before I fly home later tonight.

Let’s begin with the line changes for SBK… and yes, that’s how we referred to Sir Ben in all our emails, and yes, we were asked to address him in person as Sir Ben. I know he’s had a lot of stick for this over the years, but if that’s how he wants to be addressed then fair play to him. I didn’t meet him till much later, and all I can tell you is he is everything you want him to be: a gent, no nonsense, and completely committed to the craft of acting. We were bloody lucky to have him on board.

Separating out his line changes was a curious exercise. I thought it was a complete hassle at the time, but it was later explained to me that SBK learns the whole script. Everything. And it’s all there in his mind ready to go when the cameras turn over. So any changes can disrupt this process, and he likes to have any changes in plenty of time so that he can compare them with the original lines and incorporate them into his memory and deliver a performance with confidence. It’s a method that’s made him Academy Award Winner Sir Ben Bleedin’ Kingsley, and who was I to argue with that?

Being present for the first shot of the film was a real privilege, though I very nearly fluffed it by sticking my iPhone too close to the monitor to take a photo and distracting Jon, who almost got irritated with me. Jon is completely unflappable and focused on set. This film was a step up in budget and scale for him and he must have been under tremendous pressure to deliver, but he never showed it… despite my best efforts.

Every now and then I would be struck by the scale of the production — the crew, the trucks, the gear, the cast — and realise they were all there because of some words that Jon and I had committed to paper. It’s an odd feeling. Both empowering and terrifying. But one I like.

Stay tuned for a report on that night shoot on 2nd June…

Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlords and I’m in Charge for a Day…

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking back at my diaries from ten years ago, just as we were prepping to shoot Robot Overlords. From now on the diary entries you’ll see are the ones featured in the back of the film’s novelisation (and if you want a signed and dedicated copy of the paperback, then please step this way and click here).

After the previous day’s debacle with the chunky implant props, Jon was called away from rehearsals to sort it out. Which left me in charge of rehearsals. What could possibly go wrong…?

Wednesday 29th May

Belfast – Rehearsals

Jon had a frantic day sorting out the implant situation, so he asked me to run today’s rehearsals, while he popped in and out. 

We kept off the script and improvised scenes not featured in the film – little moments before or after key scenes on the film, so the actors could get an idea of their characters’ lives outside of the script. I was worried I might become the kind of hippy-dippy workshop-happy drama teacher I hated at school, but actually it all went really well. Callan (McAuliffe) didn’t completely buy into it — he’s a very no-nonsense kind of actor, but the others seemed to really enjoy and benefit from it.

Had a good one-on-one session with James (Tarpey) going through his lines. In the middle of our meeting he got a call from M&M World, his current employers, whom he had to inform that he was quitting his job to make the film.

The kids got to try out the quad bikes today. Great fun if their excited squeals were anything to go by.

Our new Executive Producer, Chris Clark, arrived today with an armful of script notes compiled by him and the BFI. Chris is an experienced producer who’s worked with Gillian Anderson and SBK (Sir Ben Kingsley) before on films like Johnny English and Thunderbirds. I was worried by the number of notes he had, but none of them are drastic, mostly to do with clarity, and Chris’s objectivity has helped focus on a few weak spots.

I like Chris a lot. He’s very calm and methodic. When I first heard we were getting an Exec Producer to look at the script from a creative perspective, my writer’s paranoia kicked-in and I was concerned that he would sweep in and demand huge changes or you’re fired. I needn’t have worried. All of his suggestions have so far improved the script.

The only trouble we had was pinning Jon down to go through the changes. He’s so busy with the implant issues and other shoot prep that if we’re going to do this properly I might have to extend my stay until Saturday.

Jon Wright (director) and Piers Tempest (producer) checking out the implant props during pre-production.

Thursday 30th May

Belfast – Rehearsals

A frantic day for Jon, an odd one for me. I wrote some additional dialogue for a scene at around 9.30am this morning, but couldn’t get Jon to approve it till around 6pm (it’s for tomorrow’s shoot). He was around for some rehearsal this morning, but also had to visit the set for tomorrow, look at the finished implants (much improved), and then had to go clothes shopping with Callan because they couldn’t find him a suitable outfit (and Jon hates clothes shopping).

Rehearsals were okay, but Callan wasn’t that interested, and the others were giggly,— they just want to get on with the film and I don’t blame them. But it was nice to hang out with Jo Donnelly again, she’s a lovely person and a fine actor.

Paddy (Eason, VFX supervisor) turned up in the afternoon and I was happy to see a familiar face. He showed us a few pre-viz VFX clips which were just terrific. Some of the images and framing seemed to have been plucked directly from my brain. Paddy kindly put them on a memory stick, so I can show the kids when I get home.

And tonight we finally finished our script notes with Chris. Jon and I will use Saturday to do the final rewrite.

This has been a great week. Tiring, sometimes worrying (the implants), but a great learning experience. The team at the production office have been friendly and helpful and it’s been humbling to watch all these people work so hard to bring this story to life… and the shoot starts tomorrow.

Poor Callan, James, Ella and Milo. Suddenly their director is called away and they’re left with the bloody writer to run rehearsals! No wonder they were all a little antsy. We did a few games and bonding exercises, but by the Thursday it was clear that they were all ready to rock and all anyone wanted to do was start filming.

The sessions with Chris Clark were terrific and I wish we’d had him earlier on in the process. He challenged every scene in the script and there’s no question that he helped make the story stronger. I don’t recall how much sleep I got that night. I doubt I got much. It was the night before filming and I could hardly believe it… We were about to make a bloody movie!

Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlords and Rehearsals Begin

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking back at my diaries from ten years ago, just as we were prepping to shoot Robot Overlords. From now on the diary entries you’ll see are the ones featured in the back of the film’s novelisation (and if you want a signed and dedicated copy of the paperback, then please step this way and click here). However, there were a few things that I left out of those book entries, that I’ve reinstated here (mostly me moaning about money!). We’ve got three entries in this post, just as we started rehearsals with our young actors including one new addition to the cast, James Tarpey, who brilliantly played Nathan in the film…

Sunday 26th May 2013

Belfast

Staying at the Crescent Townhouse Hotel, ready for the start of rehearsals tomorrow. Met with Jon tonight to run through the schedule and work on ideas. We’re both still smarting from not getting our deferred fees, but at least the extra money we need for VFX is now in place, and the movie won’t look like a bad episode of Doctor Who.

In the paperback diaries I changed that last line to “like a bad episode of Blake’s 7”. I clearly thought I was in with a shout of getting a Doctor Who writing gig and didn’t want to offend anyone. Looking back at interviews from the time I say that I’m a big Doctor Who fan. Actually, it turned out that I’m a big Russell T Davies fan, having lost interest in the show after he left as show runner.

Monday 27th May

Belfast – rehearsals

Read throughs. We’re in a room in the production offices in an industrial estate on the edge of town. It’s bare, but we can work in relative peace and everyone’s raring to go. I had already met Ella and Milo at the audition stage, and was probably more excited than they were to start rehearsals.

Met Callan (McAuliffe) for the first time. Nice guy, and our new Nathan, James Tarpey, fits right in. For him, today was as much an audition as it was a rehearsal. Happily, Jon offered him the part at the end of the day. We needed a couple of adult actors to read-in the other parts, and we got the fabulous Jo Donnelly and Lalor Roddy (who would also play Swanny). Jon loved working with Lalor on his previous film Grabbers. He’s huge fun, and, it turns out, worked with Declan Mulholland back in the day (an actor/director I worked with at Unity Theatre about 20 years ago, and was the actor who originally played Jabba the Hutt in the first Star Wars movie). Jo was terrific, such a good actor and a delight to be with through the long days.

I was taking notes throughout the day and we have some minor tweaks to make to the script, which I started tonight.

One fly in the ointment. A guy called REDACTED brought in the prototype for the implants and, frankly, they were shit. Bulky, with poor illumination and not at all what we need. They look like roller disco earrings from the 80s. Jon wants to investigate a CG solution, if we have the budget.

I know creative types bang on about this all the time, but our cast really was a lovely bunch of people who had an excitement and energy about them that comes across in the film. It was important for the four kids (Callan and James were adults by this point, but they’re playing kids in the film, so I’ll refer to them as such: sorry, gents) to feel like real friends, so the next few days were crucial.

Having Jo and Lalor around was such a great help. And Lalor returned to play Rory in Unwelcome where he gives one of my favourite line readings in the film, ‘Big feckin’ hole in the roof.’

And yes, the implants aren’t great. The ones in the film are a slight improvement, but not much. Not at all what Jon and I imagined — we needed something small, battery-operated, that could flash and change colour — but it all came down to the lack of time and budget in the end. I think we’d definitely do those differently if we were making it today… That said, when people talk to me about the film now they almost always mention them, ‘Oh, yeah, that film where they’ve got those lights plugged into their necks!’

Tuesday 28th May

Belfast – Rehearsals

Read throughs. We got to the end of the script today. James is really making the part of Nathan his own.

There’s still no easy solution to the implants issue. We might resort to single colour devices that we can tweak in post. Not ideal.

Got to the end of the script today and finished around 4:30, giving me time to visit the Belfast Titanic Museum.

Belfast is a beautiful place to film. Having grown up in the 70s/80s I’d always associated it with the Troubles, but you could not ask to meet more friendly and welcoming folks. The city is a great mix of old and new and yes, definitely take the time to go to the Titanic Museum. The real awe comes from going around the back where they’ve marked the slips for both the Olympic and the Titanic. The sense of scale was quite moving.

It was great to see James take ownership of the role of Nathan, as you’ll see from the next entry (coming on Monday!), this was a big deal for him…

Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlords and my Last Day in the Office

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking back at my diaries from ten years ago, just as we were prepping to shoot Robot Overlords. This entry is from my last day in the day job (I was a sales manager at Orion Publishing) before taking a six-month sabbatical…

Saturday 25th May, 2013

Up early. Too many things rattling around my head. Not least a £1000 VAT demand for money we’ve not received. I’ll have to sort that out with the accountant, pronto.

Yesterday was full-on. It started with a text from Jon. The BFI are coming in to save our VFX and shoot budget, but not our deferred fees. Jon’s really pissed off.

Meanwhile, my agent Katie was apologetic, but at least had news of a meeting with someone at Left Bank in a couple of weeks (they liked Myths & Magic and want a general meeting).

It was also my last day in the office before rehearsals next week, so I was trying to tie-up all sorts of loose ends, while also enduring a launch meeting, and putting together a presentation to Gollancz. All done, though. Now it’s in Jennie’s hands.

To be clear: I got the VAT sorted! You don’t muck around where the taxman is concerned. And the Jennie I mentioned there was my colleague Jennie McCann who is now a managing director at a major publisher and is one of those people who is brilliant at whatever she turns her hand to. I had no qualms about leaving all my accounts in her hands.

Jon and I were so angry about the deferred fees thing. Not least as it was done without anyone giving us the opportunity to properly protest it. You can read more about my thoughts on that here

I don’t recall if that Left Bank meeting happened, but the project they liked — Myths & Magic — was an early version of what became The Witches of Woodville series. Back then, it was a TV series idea set in a modern day village, but I could never quite get it to work. It took years of going round in circles before I realised that writing it as a series of novels and setting it in the Second World War is what it needed to click into place.

Leaving the Orion office on a sabbatical was a big step and the first time I had ever done anything like this. I had fantasies that this was it, and I’d never be coming back, and it was a thrilling and liberating feeling. I was a writer. One who’d been paid to write a movie and a novel, and they were now flying me out to Belfast to rehearse with amazing actors on location. We were off! More on that tomorrow…

Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlords, Spitfires and Letting the Grass Grow

Long time readers of this blog will know that I’ve been looking back at my diaries from ten years ago, just as we were prepping to shoot Robot Overlords.

Pre-production was in full swing with location trips by the director Jon Wright and the production team. I could only sit at home and dream of such exotic locations…

Thursday 16th May, 2013

The Robots production and VFX team have been on recces to Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man this week. Some great 360°/180° photos from Paddy (Eason, VFX Supervisor). The one sticking point is the Spitfire: we can’t afford to park a real antique in the middle of a wood, and we can’t — apparently — afford to build a model. Thinking caps on…

The script had the Spitfire hidden from robot drones in a woodland clearing. Here’s the page in the script as the gang chase a boy through the wood and discover the Spitfire…

In the end, we set the scene on the edge of a wood and put the plane under camouflage canvas. Can’t recall who came up with the solution, but it works really well in the finished film…

From L-R: Milo Parker, Ella Hunt, Callan McAuliffe, James Tarpey

Friday, 17th May, 2013

Apparently the BFI are making noises like they might come in with extra dosh. Jon also reports that the locations and crew are great — he’s in good spirits.

A nice report from Screen International today — mostly on the finance, but a mention from Tim Haslam (Producer) on the strength of the script. Another piece on an Isle of Man news site looking forward to the start of production. It said the grass around the castle is being allow to grow after a request from the production.

See, we were into No Mow May long before it was fashionable! The grass had to be overgrown because no human had tended to it since the invasion, and gardening was not a priority for the robot invaders. They were more into harvesting minds!

Here’s that Screen International story. Not sure that ‘strength of the script’ quote is quite what I make it out to be. I guess we all see what we want to see!

The next entry will be on 23rd May where we lose a cast member and discover if the BFI are able to give us the extra money we need. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out…

Ten Years Ago Today: Robot Overlord Rewrites and Panic Attacks…

Here’s an extract from my diary on Monday 8th April, 2013…

Slept badly last night. Panic attacks. It’s only 7 weeks till I leave. It’s becoming a reality now. Jon was looking at locations in Ireland today. Says he’s found a great ravine and a castle.

I got the official go ahead from Piers to work on the tie-in novel of Robots. Started work on the pitch and opening chapters right away.

PS. Jon and I did some good work on the cuts on Saturday. Molinare was empty. We found a quiet nook, ordered some tea and went about cutting thousands of pound from the VFX budget.

Some context: following on from my previous blog where I was asked to write the Robot Overlords novelisation, our producer Piers had to get it signed off by all the other producers. This will become a recurring motif through the making of the film and publication of the book: it could take forever to get a decision because so many people had to sign off on every major choice. It’s not that people were difficult, it’s just that there were so many producers and they’re all busy people.

In order to convince Gollancz that I was up to the job to write the novel, I put together a pitch which included a document outlining the project, a video with pre-viz VFX from the film (still a relatively new and snazzy thing) and about ten thousand words from the opening chapters.

This may have contributed to the late night panic attacks. To be honest, these weren’t anything new. I’d been having them for years, and still get them occasionally (had one just this week!), but I’m sure the big changes just around the corner we’re giving me conniptions. I had arranged to take a six-month sabbatical from work while the film was in production. This would not only allow me the time to write the novel full time, but I could also be more available to the film at its most crucial time.

Molinare is the post production facility just off Carnaby Street and where the film’s editing etc would be finalised. Jon and I were lucky to have it as a place where we could meet and work on tweaks to the script to shave away VFX in order to meet our budget.

Also, as an aside, Margaret Thatcher died on this day. I was never a big fan, but our current leaders make her look almost palatable. Almost…

More diary updates coming soon…

If you’d like to read the Robot Overlords novelisation you can get a signed copy here.
The film is available to download from Apple, Amazon, Sky etc and is currently streaming in Amazon Prime in the UK.

Ten Years Ago Today I Was Asked to Write the Robot Overlords Novelisation

Here’s an extract from my diary dated Friday 5th April, 2013:

Piers has officially asked me to write the film tie-in novel. I ran up to ask Gillian if Gollancz would be interested… they would! It all depends now on a deal being struck (and the film getting a release!), but I might be getting published, along with Claire, in 2014! Speaking of which, the first part of Claire’s advance has been paid: the company’s first bit of income.

So, let’s unpack all that… Piers Tempest was lead producer on Robot Overlords and in the run-up to production there was talk of merch like t-shirts and games, and also a book. I immediately volunteered for it, thinking that this could be a great way to get my first book published. And it made sense for me to pitch it to Gollancz, which is the SF&F imprint at the Orion Publishing Group where I worked.

Me running upstairs to ask Gillian Redfearn (I think she was a commissioning editor at Gollancz at the time. She’s now Deputy Publisher!) if Gollancz would be interested might sound like the deal was done there and then. It certainly wasn’t. In fact, and to their credit, Gollancz were wary of publishing an employee and I all sorts of hoops to jump through yet. But if you’re reading this and thinking ‘Jammy bugger’, then you’re right: I was taking advantage of my position within the company to get my work in front of a publisher. But also bear in mind that I chose to work in publishing precisely for this reason! So much of this business is about who you know, and if Gillian had said ‘No, thank you,’ then I had a long list of alternatives that I could approach. I had hoped that a day like this would come along eventually, and when it did I wasn’t about to let it slip by.

I was a little optimistic on the publication date of the book. The film had a premiere at the London Film Festival in 2014, but wasn’t released until March 2015. The book came out just before in February 2015.

And my wife Claire has beaten me to it in pretty much every field. She got an IMDb credit before me and her books were published before mine! Lottie and Dottie Sow Carrots was published in April 2014.

And the company? I was advised to start a Limited Company to manage the money coming in from our writing. In the UK, if you’re self employed and do your own self-assessment, if you have a good year, followed by a lean year (which is what it turned out to be) you can get walloped by a big tax bill. Having a limited company meant that we could manage the money without having to beg for rebates. And the company is still going ten years later!

Also from my diary that day…

Jon (Wright, director of Robot Overlords) gave me the fright of my life yesterday by sending me a grid with a list of cuts of VFX shots. It looked like we’re cutting back to virtually nothing! But then he explained the colour coding system on the grid. Blue is ‘cut’, orange is ‘cut from the “skimmed” version’ (which we’re preparing for the purposes of closing the deal), but we’re still intending to make the ‘full fat’ version, by chasing that extra £1m. We’re meeting tomorrow to go through the script.

A little context for this: we were still short of meeting our budget by about a million pounds, so we needed to write a version of the script where we could still make the film, but with fewer VFX shots. We had three versions: the ‘full fat’ was as written, the ‘skimmed’ version was with fewer VFX, and the blue version… well, we might as well have made it with stick figures. In the end, I think we shot something that fell between the ‘full fat’ and ‘skimmed’ version. But that’s a diary entry for another day…

Oh, and apparently it snowed that day, too!

If you’d like to read the Robot Overlords novelisation you can get a signed copy here.

The film is available to download from Apple, Amazon, Sky etc and is currently streaming in Amazon Prime in the UK.

Robot Overlords: Test Shoot at Pinewood 16th March. 2013

I’ve only recently realised that Robot Overlords is nearly ten years old, and that we started shooting in May 2013. But before that we had a day of test shoots at Pinewood Studios. It was to see how the kids worked together, and so a set was built of a sweet shop for the scene where the gang stock up on fireworks and sweets and decide what to do next. At that point we had two of our eventual cast, Ella Hunt as Alex and Milo Parker as Connor, and two cast members who wouldn’t be in the finished film: Harry Lawtey as Sean and Eros Vlahos as Nathan. Not sure why it didn’t work out with Harry and Eros, who were very good, but such is the nature of the movies and they’ve both gone on to great things.

Jon workshopped the scene with them all day. As screenwriter, I wasn’t really needed (but there was no way I wasn’t going to be there) and so spent most of the day wondering just how much grub I could pinch from craft services before I was evicted from the studio.

Here’s one entry from my diary for that day…

The big surprise was Milo, who — once you stopped him looking at the camera — was just terrific. Funny, watchable and full of energy.

Here are a few pics from that day on Stage H, Pinewood (and more to come throughout the year)…

Robot Overlords Half Price Sale

Before I wrote about witches, I wrote about Robots and it was eight years to the day when the novelisation of Robot Overlords was published! And so to celebrate, I’m selling the paperback at half price for one week only exclusively at the Woodville Village bookshop. That includes the DVD and Blu Ray bundles, and the bundle with all my books. Click here to grab your copy.

Here’s the film’s trailer to whet your appetite…

Robot Overlords is available on digital download in the all the usual places and is currently streaming in the UK on Amazon Prime.

ROBOT OVERLORDS BOOK FACTS…

  • The paperback includes my diaries while we were making the film.
  • It has a list of the whole cast and crew
  • And an exclusive short story called THE MEDIATOR PROTOTYPE!

The sale is on till Sunday 19th February 2023 at the Woodville Village Bookshop, so grab your copy now while stocks last etc…

Grab a paperback here.
Here’s a paperback with a Blu Ray steelbook.

Six Tips for Writing Action

Six tips for writing engaging action and fight sequences in your fiction…

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello, folks, as I get closer to the end of this draft and I start ramping up the tension and the stakes and the action and, well, I’m about to embark on a big old action sequence. Here are six tips for writing action in fiction. Number one, don’t just have action for the sake of it. It needs to advance the story. By that, I mean it needs to create change and have consequences. Your characters will have to make choices in the heat of the moment that will affect what comes afterwards.

If you can just take that action sequence out of the story, and the scenes that sandwich it still work together, then maybe the action sequence isn’t earning its keep. Remember, we had two big action sequences lined up for Robot Overlords. A chase in an ice cream van. And later, a chase with our heroes pursued by a new robot called Octobots. And these were fun sequences, but ultimately they had zero effect on our story and characters and they had to be cut.

That said, I’m still keen to try out an ice cream chase one day. I always file these things away for later. Two. Let the reader do the work. This is where, strangely, action sequences have something in common with sex sequences. Don’t feel the need to give the reader a blow by blow account.. Oh, behave. We don’t need every punch, kick, swerve, stab and parry. It gets tedious pretty fast. Give the reader just enough detail for them to create the action in their head.

And if there’s some sort of skill involved with a sword or a gun, then it’s worth doing a little research to make it feel real. Again, we don’t need to know the inner workings of a Glock whatever to know that it goes bang and that bullets hurt people. I rail against a lot of modern thrillers where the author seems to get sexually aroused when talking about guns. In fact, I try to put mistakes in my stories just to wind up NRA members. Ha! Three. Pace.

That is, don’t just give us big blocks of action, mix it up with some dialogue, write in short, punchy (ha!) sentences and keep the internal monologue visceral. This is not a time for ponderous reflection. That can come later. This is a time for panic, fear, anger, fight or flight. Use all the senses, the crunch of the bone, the taste of blood, the sweat and filth of battle. That will really help put the reader in the middle of the action.

Four. Think of the setting. Is it a chase down narrow streets in Paris, or the skies above the Grand Canyon? When your hero falls, is it on sand? Tiles? Stinging nettles? Can they hide in the jungle, or are they exposed in a wide open desert? What weapons are at hand? I love those unconventional fight scenes where Jason Bourne uses a rolled up magazine or John Wick uses a book. Use the setting and its props to make the sequences as fun and inventive as possible.

Five. Give it a beginning, middle and end. I’ve used the word “sequence” a few times already and I find that it helps to think of any action beat as its own little short story with a beginning, middle and end. One where the stakes are continually raised with a growing sense of urgency. Compacting all that story into a frenetic action sequence can make your hero make bad decisions — creating those consequences I was talking about earlier — and it will leave the reader breathless and wanting more. I’m quite breathless myself.

Six. Aftermath and keeping it real. In too many stories, the hero walks away from a fight with nary a scratch, and even if they do get wounded, they often bounce back with superhuman speed. That may be appropriate for some stories, but readers will better relate to characters who hurt, who get the shakes, who mourn the deaths of their friends — and enemies — who regret having to do terrible things. This is, again, where a little research will help as well.

What does it feel like to break your ribs, be shot or stabbed? I bet it hurts a lot more than we might imagine. I speak as someone who stubbed my toe recently. Well, I hope that was helpful. Any questions or comments? Then please pop them below until next time. Happy writing and stop fighting.