Monday, April 1, 2013

Creating amazing action scenes

"Never confuse movement with action." ~Ernest Hemingway



There's nothing like a good action scene to get your heart pumping and glue you to the pages. Even if a story doesn't fall into the thriller or adventure genres, it's not unusual for action to pop up from time to time. I've gathered a few tips to help make these sometimes tricky scenes work. 


  • Pace: Action scenes work best when they move fast. Too much description and the excitement quickly wanes. Now isn't the time for back-story or scene-setting passages. Keep to the point and incorporate needed details into the action. 
  • Setting: While it's never a good idea to spend much time on descriptions in an action scene, it's still important to ground readers in the story by using a few well chosen setting details. In an action scene, it's best to introduce setting details by incorporating them into the action. Have the characters knock over the multimillion dollar sculpture or put a fist through the dirty, paper thin wall.   
  • Structure: Use short paragraphs with short or fragmented sentences to give a feeling of urgency.
  • Set-up: If a character needs to be an expert at karate or have on him a certain weapon in order to survive the scene, make sure he uses those skills or that weapon throughout the book to make it believable when he pulls it out during the action.
  • Stakes: The most powerful action scenes put characters in a real jam. Maybe he's not only fighting for his own life, but also the life of whomever he loves most, or the lives of an entire city or planet. Have the character desperately need to be somewhere, time is running out, or already out, and the action is delaying him. 
  • Verbs: We're all familiar with the passive voice woes. Active verbs, while always a good idea, are especially important in action scenes.
  • Dialogue: This isn't the place for long-winded conversations. Short powerful dialogue can often be more effective at keeping readers breathless. 
Tomorrow's post: Beautiful beginnings

Special thanks to Arlee Bird for starting the A to Z Challenge! Visit his blog at http://tossingitout.blogspot.com/

15 comments:

  1. These are great tips. Action scenes are my favorite ones to write. In fact, I find myself rushing through the boring character building parts so I can get my characters fighting ASAP. :-)

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    1. That's awesome you like to write them. I find them challenging most of the time, but so rewarding when I get them right!

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  2. Great reminders for bloggers, too! Use action and short sentences! Hey, yhanks for the tip about using the artichoke to paint with. I can see how a cross sction of one looks like a rose. As an art teacher, I will tuck that tip away fr future use!

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    1. You're right, bloggers could use this too! That's awesome that you're an art teacher. I'm glad I mentioned the artichoke stamp. :)

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  3. An excellent start to the challenge and excellent tips.

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  4. I knew there a was a reason I wanted to follow you - and you give examples too. Thanks for A - C u at B

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    1. Thanks Ida! I'm so glad to see you again. I still need to pop over to your blog. I can't wait to see what you've got!

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  5. "Short powerful dialogue can often be more effective at keeping readers breathless." Great tip! And a great image too. I can just imagine a breathless reader flipping the pages as fast as he or she can.

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    1. Thanks Connie! That's the image of me reading a good book. :)

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  6. What great tips thank you! Looking forward to tomorrow's post.

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  7. Great post! I always struggle with action scenes a bit. And hey, the name of your blog is similar to mine! (Mine is The Trewand Pen, from Sidney's Astrophil and Stella 1). Feel free to stop by my blog if you'd like - I'm writing a collaborative story this month, so you could stop by and add on your own awesome action scene! =)

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    1. What a great idea to write a collaborative story on your blog! I wouldn't miss it.

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  8. Great post, can't wait for the others.

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