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Exciting Conclusions — Not Just About Guns

I’ve been reading C.J. Cherryh’s amazing Foreigner series, and I just finished DEFENDER, which is the fifth or sixth book in the series.  I confess, I’ve lost count.  I’m just chewing through them very happily.

The books focus on language, culture and diplomacy rather than action though most of the books have had a short action sequence near the end.  In this book, however, the climactic scene was a dinner party, and Cherryh was amazing because the scene was so tense that I was quivering with anxiety as my eyes crossed each sentence.  A possible inter-species war is at stake, and by now Cherryh has brought you so deeply into the alien culture that you’re just wincing every time the human captain makes these statements that you know are so provocative.

As many of you know I’ve been playing a lot of Mass Effect 2, and most problems are solved with a fire fight.  Now, I really enjoy that.  Enjoy playing it.  Enjoy writing an action sequence.  Enjoy reading good ones, but not everything in life is solved with a gun, and Cherryh has vividly demonstrated that words are powerful and can have consequences.

Chandler’s Law states “When in doubt have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”  This isn’t necessarily bad advice though as my friend John Maddox Roberts pointed out — “If you do that too often you have all these men with guns wandering around the room, and what do you do with all of them?”

Cherryh’s approach to creating tension is understanding and dramatizing that human relationships are complex.  People have multiple and hidden agendas, and those can be as dangerous as a weapon.

Sometimes the reader/viewer knowing the bomb is under the table is far more tense and exciting then actually seeing the bomb actually detonate.  Something Hollywood should remember.  Think about Silence of the Lambs.  The scene where Clarice just talks with Lecter is one of the scariest, most tense scenes in a movie.  He’s in a cell.  He can’t possibly hurt her, but you’re on the edge of your seat.

All of this has had me really thinking about endings as I pass the halfway point on the third Edge book.  What is that final confrontation between Richard and the villain going to look like?  I don’t think it’s going to end in gun play.

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