‘Choreography’—I mean, arranging action into stages. Not all at once, not random and chaotic, but one thing visibly following on from another, unfolding out of another.
You know that special effect in movies when the camera goes into slow-mo, stretching out the time of an action many times longer than real time? A special effect where everything happens with a strange sort of deliberate lucid inevitability. That’s a trick a film director can pull only occasionally, but you can do it easily and often in words.
Sentences don’t correspond to the real time of the events they describe anyway. Rapid events don’t have to be told rapidly. You can make them seem rapid, but that’s different to the time it takes to actually read the words they’re told in.
In the slow-mo effect, everything becomes amplified and significant, we foresee consequences before they happen, each tiny twist and turn balances on an agonising knife-edge. Second warrior avoids first warrior’s sword thrust by a hairsbreadth; the swords clash at just such an angle that drives first warrior’s sword down; he stumbles, knee bending, pebbles rolling under his feet – we’re aware of it ALL.
That’s what I call taking advantage of what language can do. Writing action, much of the time you feel you’re floundering along behind the greater powers of the visual media. But the slow-mo effect, or ‘grand action’, is one thing that language does better.