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Writing An Effective Action Scene


I’m going to admit that I really struggle with action scenes. Or struggled, depending on what my publisher says about the myriad of actions scenes I have sprinkled throughout the sequel to When Stars Die.

My publisher really had to tear up the one action chapter I had in the climax of When Stars Die. Amelia spent too much time personally reflecting on things while fighting a ruthless Shadowman (dead witch), trying to kill her so she can’t stop him from getting revenge on the people who murdered him– people who kill witches in the first place. This will not contain any spoilers to When Stars Die. The chapter was originally nine pages. Now it is six.

  1. Try to minimize character introspection, or try not to use it at all. Your characters are fighting to survive, so they should only concentrate on the immediate action going on around them. They’re not exactly going to concentrate on the human condition of the reason that they’re fighting, which is what I originally did when Amelia was fighting Sash.
  2. Try to keep sentences short and paragraphs short. Action scenes are fast paced. Wordy sentences and lengthy paragraphs can slow the pacing.
  3. Keep dialogue interactions short. This is all about the action, the exposition, the immediacy of what is going on around the characters. Within the first two pages of the chapter involving the fight between Sash and Amelia, I had one part where the dialogue was too drawn out, so I trimmed down the dialogue, only concentrating on the most important points to lead up to the action. Lengthy dialogue can slow the pacing. Plus, realistically, you wouldn’t stop in the middle of a fight to start engaging in some conversation with your enemy.
  4. Quick reactions. If your protagonist’s options of surviving start to dwindle, force the protagonist to make a quick decision. Don’t spend even five sentences having your protagonist trying to plan out what to do. Realistically, your protagonist will not have that time.
  5. Physical movements. This goes back to concentrating on immediacy. Really concentrate on the physical actions taking place, like running, punching, kicking, whatever. Break it up with some dialogue, too. Anything to keep it interesting.
  6. Create unexpected consequences. This isn’t a spoiler, because everyone, when reading a genre book that includes action, expects some antagonists to die. But Amelia isn’t the one to kill Sash. In fact, she feels sorry for him and is very hesitant to do so.

Hopefully these points will help you write some effective action scenes. Here is a short paragraph from the chapter between Sash and Amelia from When Stars Die that conveys some of the elements above:

“I raise my hand and shove it in Sash’s face (there is fire on her palm). He screams and drops me on to the dirt. I scramble away, back toward Theosodore. The angry fire races beneath my skin, thirsting to be used again. I keep my attention on it, feeding my anger and channeling it into the heat (her skin is heated).”

I am going to do a blog post every other day on my Tumblr. My next blog post will concentrate on creating effective dialogue.

Re-blogs appreciated, especially if you know other writers who need this advice.

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