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Friday, January 16, 2015

Mastering the Art of Action Scenes

Most books have action scenes in them. These action scenes can be a fight, a car accident, a chase, etc. It takes a lot to get these scenes just right, but don’t worry because I am sharing ten tips to help you master the art of action scenes.

1. Show action and reaction. In a fight, every movement from one person causes a reaction with their opponent. What happens when someone receives a punch? Their head turns with the impact, they stagger, and sometimes fall.

Who doesn't like kittens?
Image from commons.wikimedia

2. Describe, describe, describe! Describe each step of a fight and the pain a character feels from injuries. Bring a car accident to life with speed, bending metal, and shattering glass. Let your words make the suspense!
TIP: Keep the tone of your story in mind. If you don't use much detail in the rest of your book, only add a little more detail during the action scenes to give your reader's a clear image of what is happening.
3. Use action verbs! And try not to use the same verbs over and over again. A thesaurus can help you find a good alternative.

4. Write short sentences. Shorter sentences quicken the reader's pace, giving the illusion of fast action.

5. Use “All of a sudden” and “Suddenly” sparingly.
6. Don’t forget dialogue! Action is not all about what a character does, but also what a character says. Have your characters spit threats back and forth. Adding a character's thoughts can also add a great deal of suspense.

7. Read books by your favorite authors and study how they write action. Note words and phrases they use, but don’t plagiarize!

8. Get into the mood for writing action by listening to rock music.

9. Act it out. Even if you can’t do half the things a fighter can do, by acting it out you can understand how a body moves to better describe the movement with words.

10. Watch action movies. Depending on what you need to write, find movies that show a lot of it and then study them. Now write the scene in your book as if you are watching it unfold on a television screen.

* This is an updated version of an article previously posted on my blog, Write with Fey.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Some excellent point! Action and reaction, short sentences, and action verbs--all great ways to connect your reader to the scene. I like your thought of writing a scene as if it was unfolding on TV.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Chrys, Oh I love action verbs and short sentences. I get so out of breath when authors use massive sentences over and over and over...it should be a rule to read your stuff Out Loud. Hugs...great post.

dolorah said...

Good tips. But please, no long conversations or insightful thoughts in the middle of a fight scene!

One of the disappointments I'v had for action books lately is that "action" seems to entail an endless chase. The characters start running at the beginning of the novel and run non-stop all the way to when they kill the bad guy(s). To me, this does not substitute as "forward movement" or action with the plot.

And a book full of short, three and four word sentences is difficult for me to read.

Don't worry, I get what you are saying here Chrys. Writers need to take the tips in moderation for their action scenes, not the entire novel.

Or, is it just me with this complaint?

Diana Wilder said...

I loved this post. But, Chris, you really need to warn your readers that if they are going to act out an action scene, whether fight or death or passionate smooch (probably with the back of the author's hand) it is absolutely crucial that you not be visible from the street. Imagine choreographing a fight scene and raising your head from the floor (where you are playing the part of the dead villain) and hearing applause and cheers!

...now to read some more posts on this blog...

Chrys Fey said...

@Sia Thanks! :) Picturing action scenes as movies is my number one technique.

@Tanya Thanks for taking the time from your guest post on my blog to come here. :)

@Dolorah You're right! A character wouldn't have time to think a lot during an action scene when adrenaline is pumping. And a full conversation would kill the action. A curse or threat is nice though. As for those short sentences, a few in a sequence can pick up the pace without the whole scene being written this way. I wouldn't be able to read a book full of short sentences either! ;)

@Diana Haha! Complete privacy would be important while acting out a scene. Oh, and also caution so you don't end up knocking over a lamp or something. :P

Liz A. said...

Thanks for this. I've got a couple of these scenes that need a little help.

Chrys Fey said...

@Liz You're welcome! :D