Some time ago I posted upon the problem of how to represent a fast paced action scene with several participants. As I tried to write one myself, I felt torn between enough description of what each participant was doing against attempting to give the illusion that each participant was doing their thing simultaneously. The longer the description, the more laboured seemed the action and it also became more sequential rather than actions in parallel to each other. In the end, I just wrote the scene down with a note to myself to rewrite it in the second draft.
This week though I came across a passage from a novel that might just be the answer. The novel in question was ‘The troublesome offspring of cardinal Guzman’ by Louis de Bernieres. He was describing a scene where a small village was putting on a show for visiting dignitaries, which soon descends into chaos. The technique he uses seems to be to set the general scene (a carnival) and at the same time just mentioning the characters in a superficial way that will later become important.
Next he describes what each of these characters is doing. Because we have already been introduced to the characters (albeit briefly), this part just gives their names and a sentence or two on their actions.
Next we revisit each character, but this time the sentences are shorter. This is repeated a third time with even shorter single sentences.
The overall effect is that we both feel the actions are being carried out simultaneously and that the action is speeding up – voila!
I’m going to try to put this method to use for my scene and see how it goes. Have you tried anything similar?