Writer’s Craft #12 – The Crowd Scene
The action is rolling along fine. Then your hero bursts into that special obstacle: the crowd scene. Whether the build-up to the crowd scene is psychological or blood-and-guts fighting, the risk of losing momentum while you pause to set up the new situation is palpable.
Have a look at my example, below, from my work-in-progress, Unholy Science. Which version works best for you and why? Does one appear to solve a different problem than the other does? I haven’t decided which to use yet and there aren’t any right or wrong answers.
Do you have a crowd scene in hand, yourself? How about sharing it with us? Remember: this column is about learning from each other’s real-life writing experiences in a supportive, friendly spirit.
Background: Eler has to get to a character called Fahild, the Golden Emperor, who is on a balcony on the far side of the crowd scene. The use of a laser gun is culturally shocking.
Crowd Scene: Take 1
A scene of slaughter greeted Eler when he emerged onto a landing. Honor guards in the emperor’s colors lay where they had fallen, their bodies sliced by what looked like laser fire. A single Nesak body balanced the harvest of a dozen Golden princes. Around the invader lay the bodies of six Golden women, as peaceful in death as the petals of a plucked and wilted flower, although their dead hands still clutched the broken glass or borrowed swords they’d used to kill the Nesak when they mobbed him. The rest of the landing was full of pretend-servant women and a handful of men in the long white robes of luminary monks. All of them were wild-eyed, their bloody hands filled with heavy ornaments, kitchen knives and the broken frames of portraits torn from the walls.
Crowd Scene: Take 2
Eler burst onto the landing at the top of the stairs, prepared to head straight for the balcony.
Death and madness barred his way.
He wasn’t alarmed by the dozen guards of honor, slain by laser fire and looking pathetic in their brocade uniforms, many of them with their swords half drawn. He already knew the Nesaks weren’t playing by court rules. What spooked him were the six dead women who had mobbed the invading Nesak with whatever weapons came to hand. Their victim lay dead in their midst, slain by heavy ornaments, broken picture frames and inexpert blows with the swords of the lawful men he had slaughtered.
Beyond the dead, the space between Eler and the balcony was full of wild-eyed people, shocked beyond the limits of their sanity but each – perhaps – as willing as the dead women to throw their lives away in defense of their beloved, Golden Emperor.
PS: re-writes to experiment with the challenge are always welcome, so long as they are done in a spirit of respectful camaraderie. And, of course, the original author gets to use any re-write or advice submitted if he/she wants to do so.