Make sure your action or fight scene moves the plot forward. If it doesn’t, cut it!

Action – Reaction: An action should come before a reaction. The cause is followed by the effect. The reader must see what is happening first so that they can have an emotional response and react to it along with the characters.

Example 1 (Reaction first)  Blood gushed from his nose when she decked him.

Example 2 (Action first)  When she decked him, blood gushed from his nose. Or She decked him. Blood gushed from his nose.

In example 2, the reader experiences the action as it’s unfolding.

Clarity and Pacing: Be straightforward and to the point. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will slow down the action. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. Use short and medium length sentences rather than long, complex ones. However, keep in mind not to structure them all the same, as a lack of variation could lead to choppy, robotic and monotonous prose.

Emotion: Don’t forget to write the emotional aspect of the fight. If the character has no emotional response to the action around him, neither will the reader. Emotion creates more suspense. It connects the reader with the character and makes them root for their success. Be warned. This is a balancing act. Too much emotion or introspection can slow your pacing.

Expressive words: Use strong action verbs to make the scene more interesting and more specific. For example, compare the following sentences:

The drunk walked into the house. (Not very specific)

The drunk staggered into the house. (This gives the reader a better mental picture.)

The drunk crept into the house. (Also a better mental picture with a different connotation. This guy is being sneaky. Is it because he doesn’t want the wife to catch him or is he there for nefarious purposes?)

I hope these were helpful. Please feel free to share your tips for writing action scenes in the comments section.

Remember…Details about how to submit to the action scene critique will be posted on Thursday. Polish those scenes and spread the word!

~KM Fawcett

11 responses to “TIPS FOR WRITING ACTION

  1. Good points here. Thanks!

  2. Sometimes I am so focused on the action, I forget the emotion. Thanks for the reminder

  3. Action scenes need to be told as if your either a part of it or watching it take place in front of you. I have found that shorter sentences seem to work best when describing action scenes rather than long drawn out sentences. But I could never explain why to someone. Any insight?

    • Jeffrey, I believe it’s a matter of pacing. Action is dynamic and fast paced and should create an emotional response, a sense of urgency, in the reader. They have to keep reading to find out what happens next. Short, quick sentences with expressive words gives the reader the feel that the action is unfolding in real time. Because it’s quicker to read, it’s quicker to “see” in the minds eye. Overly long sentences can slow the pacing down. If the fight takes too long to explain (and too long for the reader to see), the only emotion you’ll elicit is boredom. Hope this helps.

  4. THANK YOU !
    This is one of the main problems I see with writers of RS. But also one of the problems judges who don’t WRITE RS try to correct for those who are getting it right.

    KM, I would love to post your article on my judges’ loop for a reference. I really hope this is possible.
    Co-Chair Great Expectations Contest

  5. Thanks for the insight. Great information as always.

  6. If pace is key emotion is the glue that holds all those short sentences together 🙂

    Joanna Aislinn
    Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
    The Wild Rose Press

  7. I always forget the emotion the first time around. Love your examples. I’m taking a peek at my fight scene after reading this.

  8. Pingback: Happy (early) Anniversary | Attacking the Page

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