How to Write a Skydiving Scene

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Part One

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  1. Set the scene in the airplane first. There is no need to describe how it looks inside the plane, just how the characters look: frightened, excited, happy, worried, etc.
  2.  

    »A. Who are the main characters and what are they doing inside the plane?

I.      Are they talking about what they should do once they reach the ground? Think about the reason they are going to skydive in the first place. Is it because they are on a mission or because they’re doing it just for fun?

II.     Is anyone nervous, sweating, heart beating quickly? What is the goal of this scene and how does it affect the character’s mindset?

Example 1:   Jon looked at Amanda. This was their thirtieth extreme date day out of the four months they have been going out. And, since the first time he saw her, he knew he wanted to marry this beautiful, adventurous woman. Seeing her excited like this made his heart race. Should he ask her right now? Right at this second? He didn’t know if he could wait until they made it to the ground.

 

    »B.Depending on if they are jumping solo or not (first timer or professional), your scene can go in multiple directions.

I.     Is someone shouting out directions to them?  Are they saying “Don’t forget to pull the string when you’re halfway down, blah blah…”  If the character is on a mission there might be someone telling them where to go “The hostages are in this building you need to land on the roof…”

 
II.      If the character already knows what to do, and/or is going to jump solo, then have them prepare to land by stretching their limbs, tightening their equipment, cracking their knuckles or neck, doing breathing exercise for the heck of it, or simply sleeping until it’s time to jump? Phrases to use:

  1. Looking from the open door of the plane, he began to experience butterflies in his stomach. They churned and bounced around as if trying to escape some unseen entity.
  2. The ground was simply squares of divided acreage.


Example 2:  

“Okay,” the instructor said to Jon and Amanda. “Make sure everything is tight before heading out. In about a minute we’re going to jump. I’ll go last to make sure you guys make it out alright. Now, do you have any questions?” He looked at Jon who was turning red. “Is everything good with you, man? DO you need some time?”

 All Jon could do was shake his head no. What made him afraid wasn’t necessarily the jump all the way down to solid ground… no… it was the thought that Amanda might deny his hand in marriage.

    »C.Before the jump, your character is going to think something or say something. What is that something?

I.    Is it something witty like “See you when I’m on the ground” or “I got this!” How about something nervous like “If I die, tell my mom I love her” or they close their eyes and say “Please don’t make me do this. Please don’t make me do this!” Adding in these little phrases brings humor to the scene. It reestablishes to the reader that this character is feeling strong emotions, whatever they may be.

 

II.    And/or your character will be thinking something. Could it be: “Why did I sign up for this?” or “I miss being on ground. I hate you gravity.” Be sure to match their thoughts with their actions. If they think negatively then have them swallow a lump in their throat, or tears fall out of their eyes, etc. If they are excited, have them dance, grin, sing a joyful tune in their head, etc.

Example 3:  

“I rather die in the air than to do be rejected by the love of my life,” Jon said to himself nervously. He held his sweaty palms together, while silently counting down the thirty seconds before they’d jump.

He thought about all the negative things that could happen when they arrived on the ground; it was like a plague to him, slowly but surely eating his hope alive. Jon had no reason to be so negative — yet somehow, he couldn’t help it. Maybe it was the fact that Amanda was beautiful, perfect, and out of his league. He always doubted why she supposedly loved him and Jon’s insecure constantly go in the way of their relationship. They broke two times out of the four months they were together, each time Jon was at fault.

 

Part Two

  1. Here comes the actual skydiving!
  2. »A.Now it’s time to describe the plane, but not the inside… the outside.

I.       Jump altitude could be anywhere from 3000ft up to 14000ft. These are normal exit altitudes for sport jumping. Any higher requires oxygen.

II.       Describe how forcefully the character pulls the door open and the wind comes rushing in. Describe how the plane tilts to the side, just a little, due to the pressure. Include the side effects of Mother Nature. Is it snowing outside, raining? Is the sun shining a little too bright, nearly blinding the character or the pilot? Phrases you can use:

  1. Looking from the open door of the plane, he began to experience butterflies in his stomach. They churned and bounced around as if trying to escape some unseen entity.
  2. The ground was simply squares of divided acreage.

 

III.       How is the plane holding up?  Is it making lots of noise and odd sounds because the enemy just attacked it and if the character doesn’t jump out now he’ll die? Or, is the plane doing just fine but the character somehow just threw up their lunch after seeing what the outside looks like. That drop is too far down!!

 

Example 4:  

“It’s time!” the instructor shouted as he helped Amanda out of her seat. He doubled check for safety and then helped her jump out of the plane. “You ready, pal?” the instructor said once Amanda was in the air.
“How far is it again?” Jon said anxiously.
“A little over 4,000 feet. But trust me, it’ll be over in no time. I didn’t know you were afraid of heights.”
Jon smirked. “It isn’t the height that I’m afraid of….”
The instructor pulled open the door again, allowing strong wind to rush in, nearly pushing Jon back in his seat. The sun shone bright this day, and not one cloud was in the ocean blue sky.

    »B.How long does it take the character to leave the plane?

I.         Does someone push them out because they are taking too long? Or does the character back up a few steps, then run and jump out the plane shouting “WHoaho!”?

 
II.        Are there any other jumpers or just your character? If there are other jumpers, describe them jumping out first, and then your main character sees them jump out and someone builds the courage to do the same.

 
Example 6:  

By the time Jon prepared himself to jump, Amanda had worked her way down out of view. “You know what,” Jon said, taking a deep breath, “On second thought, I’ll just stay up here.”
“I don’t think so.” Without warning, the instructor pushed Jon out of the plane.

 

Part Three

  1. It’s jumping time!
  2. »A.How does the atmosphere feel around your character?

I.       The wind must be rushing all around them, smacking their face, gliding through their fingers, heart racing faster than ever, making the character tear up. Are there any birds going by? Does an of the other skydivers bump into your character on accident?

 
II.     (B) Describe the adrenaline rushing through their veins and the wind lashing at them, messing up their hair. Other phrases you can use:

  1. All I heard was the wind screaming by.
  2. Falling at around 130 miles an hour was like standing in a wind tunnel.
  3. I couldn’t even tell I was falling because nothing around me was moving.
  4. Leaning forward, he let himself fall from the opening. His arms he spread outward, his legs scissored apart and bent upward at the knees.
  5. He wasn’t falling, he was gliding.
  6.  

III.   Can they see where their target is on the ground? Are there any complications? Free fall is 10 sec for the first 1000 feet’, 5 sec for each 1000 feet’ after that (rough calculation). Phrases you can use:

  1. Things began to come into view more clearly with each passing moment. He could make out houses and barns, cars and trucks.

Example 7:  

In less than fifteen seconds the ground came into view, and Amanda was nowhere to be found. Had she landed safely? No way was she still in the sky… crud! “AMANDA!” Jon yelled, hoping he could hear her, but of course she couldn’t. Jon had been too worried about what he thought she’d say that he didn’t even think about complications. What if Amanda died from skydiving? What then? Would he be able to forgive himself? After all, this was HIS idea.

    »B.Now what is going through their minds?

I.   How does it differ from when they were in the plane? For example, if they were afraid at first, are they excited now? If they were excited at first, are they afraid now? Usually complications when jumping makes a character afraid of their experience.

 
II.      Maybe they’re not thinking about any of those things. Maybe they’re thinking about their target, and/or hostages inside that building. Phrases you can use:
 1. Gliding through the open sky like any bird he’d ever seen. His thoughts were of eagles and hawks. Is this what they saw when looking down? he thought.

 

III.  IF they are doing this just for fun, have them think about their problems at home. So, let’s say Sam decided to skydive to take his mind off his breakup. Well, up until now it worked, but even though he’s been having such a great time, he still can’t help but think about his ex.

Example 8:   This should have been a happy, exciting moment for Jon, however it quickly turned into a nightmare. He could only hope that Amanda made it to the ground okay. Deep down, he knew he was being paranoid.

**

Part Four

  1. Time for the parachute.
  2. »A.How smoothly does this part of the scene go?

I.       He/she could open anywhere from immediately at full altitude or freefall down to about 3000 feet or so.

II.      “Houston, we have a problem” Adding complications automatically heightens the stakes. So, if you want the reader to cringe, to seat at the edge of their seats and hope the character can survive the jump, then have their string not work. Maybe it was cut off by someone, or maybe it is stuck. Whatever you decide, make sure you give your character a way out. If they are not jumping alone, have one of the other skydivers go over and hold onto them. If your character is jumping alone, have them land on something soft like a tree of a large pile of snow.

 

III.   If you want everything to go smoothly, then describe in detail how the character is aiming towards their goal. i.e.Then the parachute came out and I glided through the air at a gentle 15 miles an hour.”  Whether they are aiming at a person, a roof, or whatever, tell us what they are doing. Are they pulling out gadgets and shooting at their target? Are they taking off their shoes and putting on combat boots (all while falling)? Give this part something interesting to read about, otherwise say one or two sentences about your character preparing themselves and move on to letter “B”.
 

Phrase you can use:

  1. The open field he was to land in was to his right. On target, he spun his body to the right and let himself drift downward slowly.
  2.  When his descent gradually picked up, it was no longer gliding, but actually falling to the ground.
  3. His right hand reached to his left shoulder, grasping the ring with his index finger and clamping tight.


 

Example 9:   When Jon tried to pull his parachute string, it wouldn’t open. He panicked, kicking his feet, hollering, and hoping today wouldn’t be the day he died. No matter what, he needed to see Amanda one last time, if it was for a second. He tried repeatedly to open his string;, the faster he fell, the more he worried. Was this all a dream turned into a nightmare?

    »B.Describe the specifics of the parachute?

I.       Tell the reader about how the character has slowed down significantly. Describe how they are calming down, releasing their breath that they held in for all this time. Phrases to use:

  1. Pull! His mind shouted so loudly that it actually scared him. A smile crossed his face. He was now drifting slowly downward with his head skyward and feet earthbound.

 

 
II.      What does the parachute look like and how big is it? This would be a great time to add in a metaphor about how the parachute is “hugging” your character, or “an umbrella”. Or something along those lines.

Example 10:  (No Example Added- but you can add one for your scene)

**

Part Five

  1. Kissing the ground?
  2. »A.It’s about time to land and what does your character do?

I.   They are coming closer and closer to the ground, describe the way the ground looks and if they are going to crash into anything.

 
II.     How does the character prepare? DO they chant something repeatedly inside their heads as a way to build up their courage? Are they holding on tightly to the parachute like it’s a lifeline?

Example 11:  

The ground came closer and closer; it looked solid, definitely able to break some bones. “Oh dear god,” Jon said to himself, realizing this might be his final minutes. He begged and pleated, asking for forgiveness of everything he did in life. Then, that was when his life flashed before him, everything he loved or cared for… his parent’s, his job, his younger sisters…. Amanda. “I’m so, so, sorry, honey,” he said, as if she could hear him. “I’m sorry I never told you how much you mean to me. If I could do everything over again, I’d say you are what makes me want to live.” He soon stopped talking because the wind drowned out his voice and he could barely hear himself.

Closing his eyes tightly, Jon prepared to die. He first glanced at the world around him before coming to the conclusion. Though, it was inevitable, this was it! This was where he said his goodbyes.

     

    »B.Does the landing fail?

I.      Do they land on their feet, on their knees, on a tree… you decide. And don’t forget to mention whether it hurts or not.

II.     Is it a big bang! Crash! Bam!? Does anyone go and help your character? Does the landing draw in a crowd of onlookers?

 
III.      Or… maybe your character gotz this in the bag. Maybe they land perfectly on both feet, standing in a cool position with awesome music playing in the background. It could be because they are a spy— or they just got lucky.

Example 12:  

“I don’t think so,” the instructor said, grabbing him at the nick of time. His parachute hovered over both of them, carrying the two men safely to the ground. Jon had passed out from fear but the instructor whispered in his ear and said, “You didn’t think I’d let you fall without backup, did you?” When they arrived to the ground, the instructor laid Jon on the grass. Amanda came running over, throwing water on her boyfriend’s face to wake him up.

“What, what happened?!” Jon woke up in a startle. Amanda rushed over to hug him tightly.

“I hear everything you said,” she said.

“How?” Jon stood to feet, nearly falling back over. “Wait, where were you?”

Amanda smiled. “I landed behind the tree over there. Our instructor told me to stay there.”

“Why?” Jon had no idea what was going on.

The instructor gave Jon a pat on the back. “Well, when you told me the other day that you were planning on proposing but was afraid she might say no, I figure ‘hey, why not make this interesting?’ So, I put a microphone inside your vest. Everything you said in the sky about loving Amanda, she heard through the microphone. And the only way to get you to say those things, to admit them to yourself, was to add a little fear. Don’t hate me for this, but I made sure your parachute would malfunction on purpose. I made sure Amanda was out of the way so you think something happened to her. This was the only way you would say those things, the only way Amanda could hear how you TRULY feel.”

Jon glared at the instructor. Why did he go to such lengths to do all this? He risked Jon’s life in order to prove a point? “Tell me,” Jon said, “Why did you do this?”

“Because I once dated Amanda before and not a day goes by that I don’t regret marrying her. I only want the best for her and I knew she loved you. Only you. I figured, by the time you get to the ground you might get cold feet like I did. There was no way I wanted Amanda to go through rejection again. Not for a second time; she doesn’t deserve it.”

Jon nodded. “So you’re Mark, he ex-boyfriend.”

“Indeed I am.” The instructor held his hand out for Jon to shake it. Surprising, Jon did.

     

    »C.It’s time to look back up.

I.      Usually when people accomplish something that they are not use to, they look back at what they did. So if it is your character’s first time skydiving, have them look back up in the sky and smile. Then, have them kiss the ground, thanking the heavens they are still alive.

 
II.    Or, they might wipe off sweat from their forehead, fall to the ground out of exhaustion, faint, or beat their chest like King Kong shouting “I am human, hear me roar.” Then, when their friend/buddy/instructor asks if they want to go for another round, your character says “Hell nah!”.  Whatever you decide to do, add humor somewhere in this scene, even if it’s meant to be serious.

Example 13:  

Several months later the two love birds got married. “Aw,” Amanda’s best friend said when taking pictures. “You guys look so adorable.”

“Thank you,” Amanda said. “I know it’s weird but, I do wish Mark was hear to see this. Jon invited him.”

The friend put down the camera. “What do you mean he invited him? How is that possible?”

“What are you talking about,” Jon said.

“Mark died three years ago in a sky-diving incident. You didn’t know? It was all over the news.”

“No, I didn’t know,” Amanda said, her heart beating fast.

“Ya,” the friend continued, “some man was driving along the road and found him. He tried to get him to the hospital in time but Mark died in his truck.”

“Uh-oh.” Jon’s eyes widened. “What was the name of the guy who tried to save him?”

The friend thought for a moment. “I don’t recall his first name, but his last name sounded so weird I will never forget. It was Mr. Buckingham.”

Amanda and Jon looked at each other. “I’m Mr. Buckingham,” Jon said. “I was the man who tried discovered Mark that night. I tried to help but it was too late.”

“Oh, maybe his spirit brought you two together,” the best friend said, obviously not believing a word Jon or Amanda was saying. “I’ll leave you guys to your thoughts. Don’t forget you’re cutting the cake soon.” Then she walked away after handing them back the camera.

Amanda tried to speak. No words came out.

“You don’t think that was his ghost, do you?” Jon spoke for her. The newlyweds stood in silence until Amanda looked through the camera to see the pictures they just took. In the image, standing right behind them, with a giant smile on their face, was Mark’s ghost.

“Then it’s true,” Amanda finally said something. “I remember the night like it was yesterday. Jon and I had a big dinner, I thought he was going to ask me to be his wife. But he never showed up. I was so angry at him that I left without saying anything, and moved cities. I didn’t ever call him and I told my friends never to speak about him. This is why I never knew he died.”

Jon looked at the picture again, this time Mark’s spirit vanished. “He’s gone,” Jon said, showing Amanda.

“Maybe he went into the light,” his wife said, holding his hand tight.

“Maybe….” Jon said in a strong voice. “Maybe.”

 

**



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