So what goes on in a writer’s head when you run into a detailed action scene? While the answer will certainly vary based on the writer, for me it ends up being about cause and effect - the accidental side effect I didn't anticipate. I went through this during the last weekend on my first draft of what will become “Siren’s Song”. I’ll keep things vague to omit spoilers, but It sort of went like this:
The setup – two individuals in an underwater tunnel heading toward a defended objective. One of them is the title’s namesake – a siren. The tunnel is made up of both natural spaces and an occasional concrete tube where rock had to be bored through in order to connect the spaces.
At this point I take the seat of those folks watching my two intrepid characters. What would they do? Simple enough. In short order, two anti-personnel missiles streak through the depths.
Time to ask my two characters the same question. The siren sees a chance to take out both incoming projectiles while they are in close proximity to each other – which means inside one of those concrete passages. So she does what her kind do, and two small warheads detonate within an enclosed space. Now we get to the other side of cause, namely effect. In this case, what’s going to happen inside that short tunnel? Yep, it collapses. I hadn’t seen this one coming when I planned out the encounter. My accident engine only kicks in on demand.
So now I’ve a collapsed tunnel. This, in turn, results in injuries to the siren’s companion as he gets shoved through a ragged space. The accident engine really kicks in now, demanding a respite upon reaching their objective, and more importantly, an incapacitated character that now means the hapless siren must achieve their objective alone. Which results in more problems since she really didn’t understand the “how” part (that was her companion’s job).
And no, the engine’s not done with me yet. Other characters, as well as events, must now contend with the time it takes to clear the passage. Things will need to be hurried, and when you rush, there is a higher risk of mistake.
Blame the engine. At this point I’m reacting to the punches as much as the reader is. Why? Because I need the story to remain credible. Sometimes, the inspiration for creativity often comes from the same brush the writer paints themselves into a corner with. In every case, for me at least, it is an opportunity to supply those details that prompt a reader to ask how I came up with them.
Well now you know. By accident.