Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Two aspects areas of storytelling take choreography to the extreme: fighting and sex. Normally, stating where a person is standing in a conversation has little impact on the situation other than providing an anchor of time and place. During sex and fighting where the two (or more) characters are located, where they are located in relation to each other, and how they interact with each other and the scenery (beds and cars) and props (guns and bedsheets) are all important.
And like any choreography, the moves need to vary to keep interest. If writing fighting, each battle needs to be different – not a one-punch and done. To Beat the Devil by M.K. Gibson does an amazing job of changing up the dance from single couple to large scale ballroom/battlefield, from no props (fist only) to canes and top-hats (magic and guns). No altercation repeats aspects of previous fights. If writing sex, similar rules apply.
Recent books deserving rants:
BOOK 1: All sex scenes followed the same pattern: oral/manual simulation followed by vanilla intercourse. All emotional levels are the same (no crying, hurt, joy, happy, anger). All sex happened in the same room, on the bed. This would be like all the fights in an urban fantasy happening in a boxing ring.
BOOK 2: A five-way relationship (one female to four males). Two complete rounds of intercourse follow the same exact order of the males doing the same exact actions; the only variation is the location, once in the living room and once in the bedroom. No emotional level variation. Even the dialogue did not vary.
For choreography to work, variation in location, emotions, number of characters, order of activities, and the props is required, whether fighting or sex. When done right each major choreographic encounter should advance the plot. In a romance, each encounter advances the romance. In an action-thriller, each encounter teaches the main character a new skill or reveals a new portion of the plot.
Each dance results in movement, emotional sweeps to plotting quicksteps.
Limiting the dance of fighting or romance to a single step or pattern of steps is like watching the tango with no dips or spins.
WRITING EXERCISE: Create a fight or romantic scene of 1,000 words or less between two characters. Change one of the following and only one of the following and rewrite the scene: (1) location or (2) emotional driving force behind the scene.
READING EXERCISE: For your most recent read, write down every “dance” within the book – include location, emotional level, number of characters, prop/powers used, and activities. Did the variation help keep the “dances” fresh?