Tips to Writing Action (by Little Scribbler)

I’ll admit it – I find action scenes hard to write. I just feel I keep repeating myself “He shot, she dodged, and fired also, but he dodged”. I’m sure there are some writers who write action scenes easily, but I’m also sure that the majority of writers find it hard. To me, action scenes are an important aspect of many books, and well written action scenes are sure to make me enjoy the book even more. So how do you write good action? As the title of this post suggests, I’m going to tell you.
Action scenes need to move quickly: I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s important. If the action is going slow, then readers will become bored, and skip ahead, or even put down the book. The quick pace of the action can be shown in the words we use. Instead of using ‘ran’, we could use ‘sprinted’, ‘darted’, ‘dashed’, ‘rushed’, ‘scurried’ or many more. The pace can also be shown using quick, short sentences.
Verbs: Action is all about movement. So you have to describe the movements. Verbs describe to the reader what happens. When writing your first draft, your choice of words isn’t so important – you can change them later, and it’s important to get the words down. But when editing, get out a thesaurus, and look up the best verb.

Minimum Dialogue: Dialogue can get in the way of our action scenes. Keep dialogue to a minimum, and keep the talking quick. Don’t have long pieces of dialogue in the middle of the action. Keep it to a few sentences.
Tension: As someone put it, ‘half the action isn’t about the action’. The other half is about emotions. How did she feel about being punched in the cheek? Is he scared of losing? How did he feel about killing someone? These emotions allow the reader to connect with the characters, and feel for them. The readers want the MC to win.
Descriptive language: When writing the action scenes, don’t just write that person A hit person B and person B fell to the floor. Describe it. How did person A hit? Where did person A hit person B? Face? Stomach? And how did person B fall? Did person B try to move out of the way, or didn’t the person see it coming? Describing those actions make the scenes more alive.
Avoid taking the easy way out: Ever seen a movie where an action scene is filled with thins that seem unrealistic? The car hit’s the wall and explodes into a fireball, or one shot from the MC into the antagonists bonnet of the car, and the car is wrecked? Readers read those things in books, and feel cheated. They feel the writer took the quick way out by ramming the baddies car into the wall where it explodes, just to end the scene. Don’t do this. Instead, write a way for the protagonist to finished the fight.
Read other Action scenes: This is a hard one for me, because when I read, I get sucked into the story. I’m not thinking about what verbs the writer uses, or about the choice of adjectives. But if you can do it, do it. What words does the writer use to build tension. What verbs are used? What about adjectives?
I hope you learn something from this post. I just finished writing an action scene but tell me, what are your tips on writing great action scenes?


About DigitalPlato

Poch is a Bookrix author and a freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to TED Conversations.
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3 Responses to Tips to Writing Action (by Little Scribbler)

  1. Liam says:

    Great advise. I’m currently working on writing some short action stories and you’ve made some good points here that I will bear in mind whilst writing.

    • pochp says:

      Hi Liam,
      Of all my young correspondents about hard boiled fiction, I bet you’re the first
      who will achieve so keep working hard. Working hard is just the first step. I’m always here to assist you.

  2. pochp says:

    If you really want to be a great action scene writer, I suggest this:
    Get involved in the ‘mean street’ life. This is dangerous and I hope you don’t
    follow my advice.
    This is a safe one. When you write action scenes, be VERY BRUTAL.
    The more brutal you are, the more readers would be interested.
    The problem with this is you have to be very famous first before you get the ‘license’ to publish crime fiction brutal scenes.
    I wish you success Little Scribbler.

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