Ask Bobduh: Writing Action Scenes

As an enterprising writer, I’d like to ask… how do you go about crafting action scenes?

Action scenes are really tough in prose – never is a picture more worth a thousand words than when those words are turning a series of dramatic actions into a dry recitation of motions. There’s a variety of ways to tackle the problem – you can make quick poetry of it, you can make it matter-of-fact and let the reader paint their own emotional picture, you can frame it from a secondary/adversarial character’s perspective to actually give a better perspective on your characters’ actions. But you’re asking me, so I’ll tell you what I do.

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Ask Bobduh: Storytelling and Videogames, Part One

Management: I mentioned back in… uh, May or something that I was planning on compiling/archiving some of my more worthwhile answers into miniposts on Wrong Every Time. I’ve been distracted by a variety of things since then, but have finally gotten a few together that seem worth keeping, and so here’s the first of them. Enjoy!

Maybe you’ve already answered something like this, but what’s your favorite example of video game storytelling?

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Plots Twists and Other Parlor Tricks

Look at this rabbit in my hand. See the rabbit? Surprise! It’s actually a turtle.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Alright, maybe that one didn’t work on you. How about this one. Look at this character – she’s just a mild-mannered high school student, right? Surprise! She’s actually an evil wizard.

Still nothing? Hm.

Okay, one more. Look at this upbeat, slice of life story. Got a good picture of it? Surprise! It’s actually a dystopian sci-fi drama.

Alright, you get the picture. Let’s talk about plot twists.

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The Rising Tide: Madoka Rebellion and Communal Culture

“And I / I disowned my / own family
All for love / All for love.”
The Lake – Typhoon

Madoka Rebellion

I’ve been planning on writing about Madoka Rebellion for a long time now, but Rebellion really hasn’t made it easy for me. It’s a strange beast – both reflective of Madoka Magica and totally apart from it, a continuation in some ways, a betrayal in others. Though you can certainly critique it as a film in its own right, it only really unfolds when you put it in context – and when a film’s context is “an emerging sea change in the process of media engagement,” it can be kinda hard to sum up the film as Good or Bad! If you’re looking for a simple takeaway, I believe Rebellion is a beautiful film and a terrible sequel – but why that is, and what its existence actually reflects, will take a little unpacking to explain. To understand Rebellion, you really have to understand Madoka Magica – so let’s begin there, with the series that started it all.

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Character Design 101: Want and Need

Management: Vague character-arc spoilers for a few shows here – FLCL, Eva, Tatami Galaxy, Cowboy Bebop, Hyouka. Hyouka’s the only one I get particularly specific on.

Gonna share something a little different today! Recently I’ve been thinking about characters, which is probably because I am always thinking about characters. While a lot of my personal views on character writing have obviously come from reading and watching a whole lot of stories, a fair amount of my understanding has also come from writing characters. As a fiction writer, knowing how to write a fleshed-out human being is rarely optional – but even just as someone who just wants to poke more deeply at the things they consume, I think analyzing characters from a character-creation standpoint can be very enlightening. Characters are kind of like trees – though the individual branches of their actions may look strange and circuitous, generally everything winds its way back to the central trunk of their base nature and desires. And looking at characters trunk-first can do a whole lot of work to make sense of their wildly winding limbs.

So let’s get down to that trunk, to the absolute base nature of a character. There are a few ways to approach this, but personally I think the easiest way to consider character writing is to start with two key variables. The two often-conflicting desires that tend to define their choices, their conflicts, and their ultimate resolution: what they want and what they need.

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Critical Evaluation, Part Two: One Given Perspective

Hey guys, back for Part Two of my critical evaluation piece. In Part One I argued, briefly, that art is valuable insofar as it imparts value upon the observer, and that in the collision between personal values and systems of aesthetic interpretation, we all have our own biases in such matters. Now, with that all said, it’s time to dive right in to my own stupid biases that make my evaluations crap that nobody should listen to. What kind of critic am I? Well, I’m actually pretty transparent.

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Critical Evaluation, Part One: The Human Element

So, I recently decided I’ve watched maybe enough shows to put together a useful Top Shows list, and in light of that, also decided it’s probably time to lay out a few of my own evaluative patterns and biases. I’ve talked about evaluation before – I covered it briefly in this piece, where my three main points were that people seek many different things in media, that evaluating shows requires taking their own goals into account, and that I believe not all goals are equally artistically valuable. But all of that doesn’t really tell you much about me – it’s just about systems in general, and if you’re going to get much use out of a “top anime list,” you really need more context than “these shows are great because I say so.” Who am I to say so? Well, the person who wrote all those essays on the right, at least. But can I offer a little more clarity than that?

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Why Don’t Anime Characters Ever Have Parents?


Why is it so rare that main characters in anime actually have parents? Or if they do have parents, they’re away on an extended trip, or just never show up in-show. Given how unlikely it is any teenager would be left to their own devices in real life, it seems weird that this comes up so often in anime.

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Do Characters’ Ages Really Matter?

Management: Just a mini-question today, since I found myself searching the archives for this and realized I’d never posted it in the first place. Organization!


Are shows starring adults meaningfully different from those starring teenagers? Are shows set in college meaningfully different from those set in middle or high school? I ask because I see this distinction made all the time, but generally it doesn’t seem meaningfully different outside of a setting/character-appearance sense.

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Formative Experiences and Character Writing

Management: Been a while since I’ve done a general criticism post, eh?


Are shows starring adults meaningfully different from shows starring teenagers? How about college students versus high school students? I ask because in many shows (Working! versus Servant x Service, etc), the differences seem largely superficial – the humor and character interactions all carry over.

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