Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing 101: Action Scenes

Can you effectively write a thrilling sword fight? Show me a round of fisticuffs with full blow-by-blow? Make me gasp my way through a frightening chase? Action sequences can appear in any book, and they should. Otherwise, you've just got a bunch of sit-down dialogue.

Show Me the Blood

When a character walks across the room to pull a book of the shelf, it's action. But this is probably easier to write than an entire jousting scene replete with horses and squires and the whole show. In either case, at some point in every book it becomes necessary to make characters move around. It's your job to do that convincingly.

Action scenes should be somewhat fast-paced. You want lots of movement, and the dialogue (if any) should be quick and to-the-point. Write in short sentences to make the scene feel faster, and don't go into a bunch of flowery descriptions. 

All the movement and quickness should make your scene exciting, but don't forget that readers must be able to visualize what's taking place. Always remember to tell readers where characters are, both in relation to each other and to the space they're in. This makes the action easier to see in the mind's eye, and that's exactly what you want.

Don't waste a lot of time with detailed descriptions. Be concise. His sword flashed through the air, toward Duncan's left shoulder. Duncan parried, raising his blade to deflect the blow. I know what a sword looks like, so now is not the time to tell me the story of the fancy hilt. Don't put that stuff in the middle of an action scene, because it will only drag at the pace.

Keep it snappy and quick and just descriptive enough to visualize, and it will feel more exciting. Balance action scenes with more lengthy dramatic and descriptive scenes elsewhere in the book, and the overall pace won't feel too rushed. Writing a good action scene will help you write a great book.

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