Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writing Action Scenes

by Kim Smith

Planning on writing a suspense novel? How about a fast-paced thriller? No matter if it is one of these or just a plain old romance, you should plan on getting some action in your fiction. Drama, tension, and action will keep your reader reading all the way to the end.

How can you figure out action and what it is? Pick a book out of the shelf in your house and find the place in the book that made you read faster. What did they do style-wise that made you read in a hurry?

My guess is, several things including but not limited to :
1. Short choppy sentence structure
2. Heavy dose of active verbs
3. Build up of the scene with tension

These things make the action scenes read snappy and quick and make our hearts race a little until we get to the resolution of either the scene or the whole story. Don’t forget to make sure your character in the midst of the action scene is performing acts that are plausible and possible. Can’t have a guy landing a punch and pulling out his gun at the same time!

Another great way to build action in your book is to use all the senses. What do they smell? Blood? Sweat? What do they hear? Slaps? Thuds? What about taste? Yes, in all things bring taste in! He could taste his own sweat where it runs into his mouth from the sides of his face if he is bending down, face toward the ground. He could taste blood. He could taste – well, you get the point. And so on.

One little note, don’t keep stuffing action scenes in your book with no build up and especially with no let down. We all need a breather in there. Imagine watching a ramped up version of the hot television series 24 with no commercials!! It’s very exhausting with no break from the tension, so be kind to your reader.

One more thing, it helps to have a character that fits the bill for action. A wimpy “fainting Violet” will never do in an action scene. A hard-nosed kick-butt hero or heroine will surely make that tension more believable.

Happy writing!


s.w. vaughn said...

Mmm. Now I can taste sweat! LOL

This is great advice, Kim. Love it! It takes a lot more than most people think to write a good action scene.

(But I do hold one thing different in my writing - I don't give breaks. No breathing, reader! If you can't hold your breath for 300 pages, get out of the kitchen... *G*)

That's not to say I think everyone who slows things down is wrong. I just happen to suck at descriptive and/or quiet scenes, so I keep piling on movement. :-)

Marta Stephens said...

I LOVE action scenes! Add internal tension to everything going on around the character and you have the makings of a paging-turning scene. :)

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Yes, employ a variety of the senses where possible.