Have you ever come to a scene in a book and really wanted it to be extremely fast paced and chaotic? Frantic characters running around the scene, trying to control what they can? I can definitely tell you, I’ve had a hard time writing a scene that truly captures chaos. I’ve done a lot of reading in my time, one of my favourite trilogies is The Left Hand of God series by Paul Hoffman. He did a lot of research when it came to his battle scenes and they drew me in, I could see the armies of each side, facing each other in a grim onslaught. Although, sometimes I felt it needed to be more gritty. Sometimes it focused too much on the tactics of the battle itself. So how can you truly make a chaotic scene? How do you capture the essence of chaos in writing?
Google defines below:
|synonyms:||disorder, disarray, disorganization, confusion, mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, madness, havoc, turmoil, tumult, commotion, disruption, upheaval, furore, frenzy, uproar, hue and cry, babel, hurly-burly; More|
The one thing that I am sure we can all agree on, is that chaos is not slow. It’s not paced, it’s not trudging, it’s certainly not stationary. It’s wild, it’s thrashing, it’s fast and out of control. You can see key words above that lend to this; mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, madness, havoc and the rest. Writing chaos can be tricky. There seem to me like a few key rules to writing a chaotic scene.
Have A Character Among The Chaos
Orland Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven, (picture above, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it now) is a prime example of a man amongst chaos. He’s your measurement, you can define the chaos as it unfolds around him, because he is the pin which it spins around. Seeing through the eyes of a character who’s pace is slower as he witnesses everything happening around him, helps to show just how chaotic it is.
Keep Your Sentences Short
As much as you want to go into heavy detail about what’s going on around it’s imperative that you keep your sentences punchy. Shorter keeps things fast paced and frenzied, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Take an excerpt from my novel, (still currently being written) during a battle scene.
There were no ladders as the shield wall on the battlements looked down at the Leonhardt using their claws to scale the great wall. Archers continued to fire, hoping to catch the second wave. Rhyn ordered the first row of archers to the front row of the battlements to fire down upon the ones who had started climbing. Lions fell left and right, taking some with them back to the bottom of the wall. Closer and closer they came, making it further to the battlements. The cauldrons of boiling tar were dropped over the wall to stall what they could. The main body of Leonhardt had quickened their pace and also began to close in on the walls. Rhyn ordered his men to loose again at the main body, more fell but it was not enough to have an effect. Rhyn looked down the wall in time to order his shield wall back to the front with their spears, desperately trying to fend off the lions that had nearly made it to the top.
I think this captures the urgency of what was happening without giving too much description of the technical side of a battle.
Set Your Chaotic Scene Up
You know that only saying, the calm before the storm, well I think that is put to good use in writing. Slowly things down and hearing the preparation for an up coming scene can be key to showing a comparison for how bad things are about to get for your characters. One minute, the world spins at an easy pace for them, the next there is hardly any time to grab a weapon. Chaos usually catches you off guard and even when you do have time to prepare for it, even the preparation can be chaotic. If an approaching army sets up camp to have a siege on a city, then the men inside the city won’t be strolling around thinking their defenses can wait, they’ll be rushing to their posts, grabbing their loved ones. Getting ready for it to hit the fan!
Give The Readers A Breather!
Chaos can be fun to write, I certainly love the fast paced nature of a battle scene in full swing or a fight mid swing. At some point though, you have to ease off. Giving the reader a bit of breathing space can, once again, allow them to appreciate the mayhem of the situation they’re reading about. Let them take stock of what is happening, before plunging them back into the fold. Dialogue isn’t needed during the breather, maybe it’s just a good time for a character to stop and notice his surroundings, the battle cries of soldiers, the onslaught of the enemy, the bodies littering the streets, the screams of the wounded, the sound of steel meeting steel. There’s just so much going on, and that is chaos defined.
I hope you enjoyed my blog today on writing a Chaotic Scene for your novel. I hope you found it useful and informative.
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