Standoffs and Battle Scenes: Thanks for the Tip, Rob Edwards

“Standoffs keep the story going”. –Rob Edwards

Mind you, I do love a good fight. Battles in books are supreme acts of creative imagination.  The best are exquisitely described and as gripping as a hand around my throat.  When they’re over, satisfied and smiling as long as the hero won, I put the book down.  I think, Wow.

By contrast, standoffs offer your main character a chance at multiple dilemmas, so that he or she is not choosing between a paltry two options. Yes-or-no has its place, but if used continually binary storytelling makes me want to throw the book across the room.  With standoffs, you don’t simply have have fight-or-retreat.  As Donald Maas* explained in an excellent workshop, a stand-off can make your character believably do what he would never do, going a long way in few words towards explaining how character development works throughout a story.

Standoffs … yes. Rob Edwards has it nailed. Standoffs are about struggles towards exchanges of power.  Everything changes, but nothing is resolved.  I turn the page.  I think, What now?

I’m devouring CJ Sansom’s new Lamentation and, along with some ripsnorting fight scenes, there’s a fantastic standoff between Henry VIII and the hunchbacked lawyer sleuth Matthew Shardlake. Grand.

*If you ever get a chance at the Surrey International Writers Conference or anywhere else in the world, I recommend you attend Donald Maass’s powerful, inspiring and entertaining workshops.


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