One of my favorite types of games is the platforming, puzzle types like ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time’ and ‘God of War’. Though this post will focus more on the former because that put the traveling over the combat. You had to climb, jump, swing, wall run, roll, flip, vault, and pray to get to where you were going. Not easy when you have an indestructible monster following you like in ‘Warrior Within’. I never thought that these games would have an influence on my writing besides setting and character. Then I got to some of the later Legends of Windemere books.
I started sending the champions into areas that required a lot of climbing and maneuvering around ledge systems. For example, Luke Callindor climbs a mountain at some point, which is the spoiler free version of that scene. The thing is that nobody wants to read about a lengthy climb that drags on, but you always don’t want to say ‘He climbed the mountain . . . End Scene’. You need to find something in the middle and that’s when I started picturing the scenes as if I was playing them as a game. This drew them out to a few paragraphs as set up and then dialogues during rest points followed by more descriptions when things continued. Also, I remembered the tension I felt when my character would have to hang from a ledge, hop along, dodge rotating blades, battle a dizzying camera, and eventually make it to solid ground . . . where a bad guy drops to fight me on the edge of the walkway.
So, here’s what I’ve done to extend and pump up these ‘platforming’ scenes. Keep in mind that this is more of an action adventure scenario. You could put it into a Teen Romance, but I don’t think it would need to same level of death-defying unless it’s the climax of the story.
- Descriptive action words help. I know this goes against what a lot of people say, but you can’t keep writing climb and jump. We have multiple words for one action, each one having a different flavor. A jump could be seen as a mild movement with no tension associated to it. A leap sounds more action-y and can help carry the danger of the scenario.
- Remember to describe every direction. When high up, you’re told not to look down. When writing about doing stuff that involves great height, you want the readers to look down. Show what is below and around the character such as distance to the ground, murals on the wall, decaying wood around the edge of the balance beam, and other things that bring personality to the area. You can even use this for foreshadowing and to give a sense that the platforming area is unstable. Rocks crumbling and falling for no reason is a good one.
- The character’s physical and mental condition during the action. These scenes are supposed to be taxing in some fashion. Aching arms, sore legs, sweaty brows, small cuts, gasping for breath, etc. Show that the character is being physically taxed to help the reader see that this isn’t like walking up the stairs. As far as the mental condition, you can show this with facial expressions, inner thoughts, and dialogue. That last one can even work if the character is alone because many people talk to themselves when nervous or needing a boost of confidence.
- The infamous slip and other dangers. I know I’m sticking to climbing, but that was the scene I just edited. Sorry about that. Still, you can use these tricks on most platforming scenes, especially the danger aspect. To enhance the tension of the scene, you can have a momentary slip where the character either doesn’t know where to go or is stuck because of a misstep. Maybe a monster or other enemy has dropped onto the beam that is crossing the raging river, so you now have a fight. Readers may realize quickly that you won’t kill the character, but you can aim for them wondering if the scene ends with a fall. A character falling off something is a way to have them disappear for a while or continue while injured. Again, tension is a big part of action scenes.
- Remember your character’s physical abilities. Prince of Persia is agile and can take balance beams rather easily. Kratos from God of War is bigger and more strength-based, so he’s slower and more prone to falling. At least with me. So you have to be careful if you go into details, especially if you have a variety of hero types in the scene. It’s entirely possible that this is a spot where the heroes are divided into smaller groups. For example, Luke and Sari would be faster in a platforming scene than Timoran and Nyx. This is due to body type and training since the former are agility-based, Timoran is strength-based, and Nyx is kind of getting into non-city girl shape as the adventures move on. Though she could cheat with magic.
- Create tension! Just felt like I had to end on that.