Here are a couple of my favorite scenes to write. The first is more characterization and the second is an action scene (man vs. nature.)
Shem stood at attention in front of his commanding officer’s desk.
“Shem, I have two soldiers who spent the night in the prison cells with bloodied faces. They say you gave them those bloodied faces.” the commanding officer said.
“Yes sir, I did.”
“And what warranted this beating that you found it necessary to re-arrange their faces?”
“I found them forcing themselves on two women.” The commanding officer raised his head slightly.
“I see,” he said slowly, “and you thought it necessary to pummel them?” Shem’s face flushed in anger and surprise at his commanding officer’s comment and his composure melted.
“One was pressing up against a girl, forcibly, and the other had started unbuttoning the other girl’s shirt!” he replied angrily, his voice raised.
“Watch your tone, soldier.”
“Sir,” Shem replied more calmly “how can you defend them? They were caught, literally, about to rape women, and these are men of the law.”
“I am not defending them, soldier. If they were conducting themselves in a manner unbecoming of the uniform they wear, then they will be reprimanded.”
“reprimanded, sir?” Shem replied back, through gritted teeth. “Yes, reprimanded. There will be a full investigation of this incident, and upon our findings they will be dealt with appropriately.”
“Sir, with all due respect, an investigation? There shouldn’t even be an investigation. They shouldn’t even be allowed to put on that uniform again.”
“How we decide to discipline our subordinates is our decision, not yours. This matter is finished; besides you won’t have to deal with them anymore. They are being transferred. Dismissed.”
Shem paused a moment.
“Sir.” he replied, saluted, spun on his heels, and exited his commander’s office.
Shem stormed down the hallway, his fury fueling his steps. His face was red with anger, his eyes flared with rage, and his countenance displayed something akin to wrath. He passed by several fellow soldiers who, upon noticing him, dared not get in his way or even speak to him. Shem, himself barely noticed anyone, his mind maddened with anger. He was infuriated that his leadership was taking this matter so lightly. He couldn’t understand how they could take this matter so light-heartedly. He had to blow off steam, and so he decided to head to the sparring ring.
The sparring ring was outside near the armory, and it took Shem only a couple of minutes to reach it. He grabbed a wooden sword from the shelf of sparing weapons and pushed through the few soldiers watching the current match.
“Match is over!” he yelled. The sparring pair immediately put their weapons down and rushed to the edge of the arena when they saw Shem’s determined and enraged countenance. The onlookers quickly hushed, sensing an ominous spirit about Shem.
Shem strode slowly to the center of the arena and spun around, a deep, venomous scowl on his face.
“Who wants to spar?” He yelled, the promise of death in his voice, throwing his arms up in the air, and his words cutting through the air like a sword. All who heard them knew this was no ordinary sparring challenge. His words were fused with anger, with danger, with death. Those who didn’t know him sensed that he wasn’t a man, at this moment, but an animal. None were dense enough to take him up on the offer. Those who did know him had never seen him this angry, had never seen him this enraged. Both groups of men knew not to spar with this man, turned primal from rage.
Shem slowly scanned the small crowd, dropping his hands, and his eyes fell upon two bruised faces. Faces he knew well, and faces that knew him too well. It was the two men that he had caught forcing themselves on two women.
“You two!” he shouted, pointing his wooden sword to the two men. “Which one of you wants to spar!” The two men stood wide-eyed, no one saying a word. “What? You Cowards?” Shem taunted.
“I’ll fight you.” Someone from the other side of the small crowd said. Shem snapped his neck toward the voice. He immediately recognized the soldier as he stepped out to grab a sparring sword. This particular soldier Shem knew, Joel, was his name. He was new, and felt he had something to prove. He was arrogant and a good fighter, which fueled his arrogance. “Same rules as usual?” Joel asked as he stepped into the ring. By “rules as usual” everyone knew Joel meant no rules. Sparing matches were based on real combat, and in real combat there were no rules. You fought until someone won.
Shem Nodded. The two raised their wooden swords signaling the beginning of the match. They circled the edge of the ring like a pair of predatory creatures, each believing the other to be the prey. Shem took the first action, taking a couple of steps closer to Joel. He brought his sword up high, leaving his opposite side open, which Joel took advantage of.
The day neared its end, and the dark, ominous clouds were over them now. The whole family stood above deck, staring, and though none would admit it, their hearts were struck cold with fear. The waves were sloshing the boat around, and the animals were, themselves frightened: moaning, or huffing, or whining, as the ship rocked back and forth. Normally the Tebah was way too large to be affected by the ocean’s waves. However, the dark clouds brought with them unbearably heavy winds and frighteningly large waves. The clouds sent down, regularly - almost constantly now - a steady barrage of the strange streaks of light. The light streaks, themselves weren’t the most frightening of the events, but rather what accompanied them. Every time one hit the ocean, it seemed, a loud crash boomed through the air. Light streak, booming, and a giant wave, all brought the family into an experience that they had never imagined, and they were all terrified.
The ship swayed sideways, and the family of eight had to grab the rails to keep balance.
“I think I’m going to be sick!” Zaphira said above the noise of the storm.
“It’s getting worse!” Ham said.
They all had noticed it; the rain seemed even more ferocious than when the world had been flooded. It came down in sheets, falling diagonally and felt almost as solid as pebbles, freezing them to the core as the drops of ice cold water hit their skin. Their clothes were soaked through and clung to them, flapping heavily in the powerful wind.
Another wave rolled under the ship, this one even bigger than the last; and Naomi, unprepared, fell to the deck floor, slid a few inches, then slid a few inches back the other way as the wave passed.
Shem quickly grabbed her arm and helped her up as another wave passed under.
“They’re getting bigger!” Noah hollered through the noise of the storm.
Indeed, the waves were getting bigger, but no one replied or even acknowledged Noah’s comment, though he knew they had heard him. Not only were the waves getting bigger, but they were getting closer together as well.
Soon the storm had gotten so violent that the family could barely hear anything above the wind. The rain, hard and ice cold, brought fresh sensations of burning as each drop pelted down on them. The Tebah was itself a constant swaying dance as it drifted in and out of swells and crests. The boat, entirely at the mercy of the sea, followed the currents and eventually had turned so that it passed over the waves diagonally. This was the only reason the boat had not capsized when some of the larger of the tumultuous waves had hit them.
The first of the big waves came as a surprise. None of them had ever experienced a storm, let alone one of this magnitude. They felt their already unsure footing angle upward as the front of the Tebah rode the massive wave to the crest. The family held on for dear life, and any barrels not tied down slid, and fell to their side, rolling toward the back of the boat.
Shem didn’t see the barrels until they were almost on top of him. Four barrels rolling with deadly speed at him. He had moved from the side of the rail - as had the rest of the family - to a more secure location. He chose to wedge himself between two barrels that were fastened tightly to the rail.
The other seven members of the family, safely secured elsewhere, all saw the barrels on their path to devour their loved one. They yelled frantically. However, a massive, thundering crash erupted, drowning them out, their voices lost in oblivion.
Shem’s eyes grew wide as he finally saw the four barrels racing toward him. He scrambled to get out from between the two barrels that now signified his doom, rather than his protection. The first barrel slammed into him, then the next two, and finally, the last. To Shem they didn’t feel like four barrels, they felt like one massive barrel crashing into him. Luckily the barrels he had trapped himself between took the brunt of the impacts. The wind was knocked out of him, and he felt splinters spray his body, and the small of his back erupted with pain as the railing dug into his back. Then he went over the edge.
It seemed to the rest of the family, the very moment Shem fell, that several streaks of light burst through the night sky and shot onto the front of their ship. They all felt a massive jolt, unbearable pain erupting throughout their bodies, and they all knew that excruciating pain would be the last thing they would ever feel.
None of them understood what had happened during the light strike, nor did they understand how they were alive. None of them had ever experienced pain like that. All they knew was that after a few moments of pain all was black. Then the horrifying crashing sound jolted them awake. They didn’t know how long they had been unconscious, but they all suspected it was only seconds.
The next thing they saw horrified them beyond experience. Not because it was some terrible creature, or even a loved one dead, but because what they saw meant that they may all very well perish and everything they had striven for would have been for naught.
They all, as if of one mind, leapt in unison from their places of security and onto the unsure footing of the deck.
The ship, had now begun its descent down the other side of the massive wave’s crest, and so their footing shifted, and they half fell, half ran toward the very thing which struck horror and despair into their hearts.
One by one they rejoined together as they half ran half fell, using each other to help steady themselves.
“We have to use the water barrels to put it out!” Noah ordered as he pointed to a tied down section of barrels. They all nodded and made their way to the barrels.
Despite the torrential downpour, the fire started by the light strikes grew slowly, but still, it grew. The ship had leveled out, now in the swell of the next wave, and the family took only seconds to open the barrels of water and dump their contents in the direction of the fire.
It only worked partially, the base of the fire that had been on the deck sizzled out instantly. However, the fire had spread to the wall of the living quarters by now and was climbing. Adding to their dilemma, the ship’s front end, again angled upward, sending the family to their backs, searching for something to grab onto. All but Mirriam were within reach of something fastened down, so she went sliding. Sliding in the same path the barrels that sent her husband overboard had taken.
The family watched as yet another loved one plummeted into the depths of the raging sea. They had no time to pause, though, like they had no time to pause for Shem. They struggled to their feet in a desperate attempt to try to put out the fire, climbing the wall. Noah suddenly had an idea. He hollered for Ham and Japheth and pulled himself over the edge of the water basin. Immediately his two boys followed, understanding his plan.
They all knew the seconds mattered, for the fire still grew, and the ship neared the peak of the waves crest and would soon fall the other way. They needed gravity to work for them. The three men sat in the water basin up to their necks and kicked as hard as they could at the wooden edge of the basin. Finally, after several kicks, the wood gave way, and the three men tumbled out, along with a full basin of salt water. To their luck, the water splashed against the wall enough to stop most of the fire, and the rain took care of the rest.
Noah, Ham, and Japheth all slid across the ark until they slammed into more fastened-down barrels on the other side. Then the Tebah crested the wave and fell down the other side, sending the three men sliding back the way they had just come.
Noah was able to stop himself by grabbing the wall of the living quarters, while Ham maneuvered himself so he could grab onto the safety rail. Japheth, however, wasn’t so lucky. He slid right into the water basin, slamming, hard, into its opposite wall.
They noticed the next few waves seemed a little smaller, and the wind lessened slightly, and the rain didn’t seem so ice cold. With the subsequent waves smaller and the fire doused, the family remembered Shem and Mirriam.