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!