Well, I don't know if they're simple. But they worked for me.
(They can also be used for fight scenes or foot chases.)
I'm in the midst of writing a contemporary YA novel that involves a car chase. Easy to outline, haha. Clayton & Jenn in car chase. But when I actually got to that scene, I was lost. How to begin? I've never felt so underprepared or overwhelmed. Dialogue? Yes. Car chase? Oh, heck no.
So I googled it. The most helpful link was, by far, this one on the AbsoluteWrite forums, which set a foundation for me, something to start from.
- WRITE QUICKLY. More periods, fewer commas. The faster the characters are acting, thinking, and reacting, the faster it needs to read. And don't be afraid to play with the punctuation as long as it flows.
- My example: "He takes a sharp left. We're not in a neighborhood anymore. Four-lane road. Red stoplight. Clayton doesn't care. Turn right."
- Or, if you want an example of quick writing from a published book: "Franco dropped the cigar and lunged, his hand already scrabbling in his jacket pocket. It came out holding something. There was a soft click and seven inches of glinting silver leaped out of nowhere. He had a switchblade." (EAGLE STRIKE, by Anthony Horowitz)
- WHAT DOES THE CHARACTER EXPERIENCE? As long as your POV is not omniscient (ie. they don't know everything that's going on), their experience of the chase is limited. They can't see the black suburban turning the corner behind them, or the bullet that hit their bumper.
- I didn't understand this until my car was turning a quick corner, and I was tired of writing, "Clayton whipped the car around the corner." Jenn was the passenger, and I wondered what her experience of turning the corner would be. (Note: My MS is in first-person, present-tense, which is well-suited to this step.) There would be no conscious thought of turning the corner - but she'd be very aware of her head hitting the window as they turned. (Be creative. If there's more than one way to write about turning the corner, there's more than one way to cross the street or see a blow coming. Use the senses!)
- STAY IN CHARACTER. Nowhere in the writing rulebook does it say that your characters lose their personality once they get in a car chase. The cars are not the characters! Instead, this is a great time for your characters to really...get into character. They're under pressure, facing life and death situations, and this is when their true personality really shines!
- In my MS, Clayton's driving the pursued car as fast as he can. As he presses down on the gas, he laments the fact that he's going "fifty in a thirty." His rule-following, judicial personality gets lots of screen time in this statement. (As does Jenn's ends-justify-the-means, sarcastic attitude when she replies, "As if anyone cares!")
- ALLOW DIALOGUE. Even paragraphs and paragraphs of quick writing can get boring if no one's talking. Surely they have something to say! They're being shot at and chased and punched, and somebody's got to say something! (This doesn't work as well when you have one person fleeing alone.) This contributes to #3, because dialogue should always be building character. (See Example #3.)
- DON'T FORGET THE PLOT! There's a reason they're running away, right? Don't forget about it in your quest to make the reader's heart beat. Staying in character and talking to each other gets nowhere if the plot isn't being furthered. Yeah, you want suspense, but a good writer can make something suspenseful and vital to the story. Don't sacrifice plot for pages of whipping around corners and ducking as the glass shatters.
- However, sometimes just staying in character can be furthering the plot (if your characters have anything to do with the plot.) This may sound contradictory, but don't try to cram plot into every line. Let it flow, make sure it doesn't drag, make sure your characters are in character.
There you go! I think tomorrow I may just post one or two movie examples that use these points.