Tag Archives: action scenes

Catch Me If You Can by Guest Author Betsy Horvath

In my day to day life, I tend to be rather meek and mild.  I work.  I write.  I hang out with friends and family.  I go to sleep.  I get up and do it all over again.

But here I am, writing a romantic suspense novel and it just begs for car chases.  Exciting car chases.  Thrilling car chases.  Car chases where the hero and heroine are pursued by gun-toting mafia hit men.

Generally speaking, car chases are not a part of my daily existence.  Yet we are told to “write what we know.”  So does that mean I should to go out and run a few red lights?  Weave in and out of traffic on my local highway? Threaten a mobster?  What?

Then there’s the fact that things have to happen in a car chase.  You want to increase the tension beyond, “They shot their guns.  She drove faster.”  You want “zip, boom, POW!” excitement (or at least potential excitement).   What’s a girl to do?

So, okay. What DID I know?  If we’re looking at the longest car chase sequence in the middle of the book, I knew several things.  I knew the car they are driving.  It’s an ancient Chevy Nova.  It’s MY ancient Chevy Nova, my beloved first car.  I knew how that car handled curves and straight-aways.  I remembered the growl of the engine when I put the pedal to the metal and sped by the other motorists as if they were standing still, as if they were losers and I was on a racetrack….um…huh. Well, you get the idea.

Then I started thinking about things that have actually happened to me in the years I’ve been driving.  And, specifically, I remembered the time a huge crane backed up into my car.  The crane took up most of the road, there was a line of traffic behind it, but apparently the driver thought it would be a good idea to stop in the middle of the highway and back up because he’d missed his turn.  I and my dearly beloved Chevy Nova were right behind it, so we got pushed back several feet and the front of my car was smashed.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyway, I remembered how that crane looked backing towards me.  I remembered how big it was, how it seemed to tower over me.  I remembered how it just kept on coming and coming and coming…

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Next, I considered a highway I use regularly.  It seems to be the preferred expressway for deliveries of double-wide mobile or modular homes. Every time I turn around I’m getting caught behind half of a house struggling to make it up the relatively steep hill.

Finally, I thought about how I’d feel if I was being chased by insane gunmen on a two lane highway with a lot of traffic.

I put all of those things into the food processor of my mind, mushed it together, and here’s what came out:

The sedan was coming up fast behind them. There were so many cars around them now, so many innocent people who might be hurt or killed by a stray bullet. Katie knew that she had to act quickly. This was no time for common sense.

“Hold on,” she yelled to Luc.


Without answering or even stopping to think about what she was doing, Katie swerved out into the lane for the opposing traffic and sent Kato right up the middle of the road. They forced the drivers coming toward them over into the shoulder while horns blared and tires squealed.

The black sedan followed without hesitation.

Luc, who’d been taken completely by surprise, rapped his head on the window frame when the car jerked and swerved.

“Ow. Shit. What are you doing? Are you crazy?” he shouted.

“I hope not.”

While Luc muttered curses and prayers beside her, Katie clung to the steering wheel. They crested a rolling hill. As they started down the other side she finally saw what had caused the backup. A huge crane was lumbering slowly along at the head of the line of traffic, doing fifteen miles per hour at best.

But what caused the breath to die in her throat was the vehicle she could now see coming at them.

“Oh, crap,” she whispered.

She couldn’t believe it. She didn’t believe it. It was a house—a house for sweet Christ’s sake. Well, half a house. Half a double-wide trailer, to be precise. The oversized truck pulling it was already running in the shoulder and it still took up more than the width of its own lane of the road.

Katie’s heart pounded heavily. The road now dropped off sharply on their left, cars were on their right and murderers were behind them. They were boxed in. She heard Luc cursing, low and violently.

“You have to keep going now. Get past that crane.”

Katie didn’t bother answering because she knew he was right. She demanded even more speed from the Nova, and its wheels practically left the ground.

The truck pulling the house had seen them and stopped, but the crane still continued its slow pace forward, its operator apparently blissfully unaware of what was happening behind him. Katie was praying out loud now as she watched the gap between the two large vehicles narrow. The Nova had nothing left to give.

And the moral of the story?  Just because your commute is (mostly) boring, doesn’t mean it can’t be the basis for a zippy car chase scene.


Betsy Horvath was raised on MGM musicals, old skool Harlequins, and Nancy Drew, so it should not have come as a shock that one day she’d be writing romance.  The biggest surprise was that it took her so long to actually buckle down and do it.  Hold Me, her debut romantic suspense novel, is available from Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books On Board, and anywhere fine ebooks are sold.

You can usually find Betsy at her website: www.betsyhorvath.com, on Twitter or hanging around Facebook

Fight Scenes and Love Scenes – Seven Tips to Writing Action by Virginia Kantra

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Virginia Kantra credits her love for strong heroes and courageous heroines to a childhood spent devouring fairy tales.

The author of more than twenty books, Virginia is an eight-time finalist in Romance Writers of America’s RITA awards and the winner of numerous industry honors, including two National Readers’ Choice Awards. After writing her popular “MacNeill Brothers” and “Trouble in Eden” category series, Virginia turned her hand to single title romance. Her new series, Children of the Sea, continues with Forgotten Sea in bookstores now! Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of three kids, Virginia is a firm believer in the strength of family, the importance of storytelling, and the power of love.

Her favorite thing to make for dinner? Reservations.

Fight scenes and love scenes involve two (or more) characters in the grip of strong, basic emotion grappling at close quarters.  These are action scenes, larger than life moments that evoke our readers’ emotions and propel our stories forward.

Understanding the similarities between fight scenes and love scenes can help us identify strategies to make both kinds of action stronger.

1. Action springs from character.

What our characters do reveals who they are.

How your characters act and react in action scenes will depend on their

Level of skill



Because our fictional characters are often larger than life, we can choose to make them exceptionally well-endowed or talented.  We can write kickass heroines or sexually skilled heroes.  But to avoid writing generic fight and love scenes, keep in mind what your characters know, how they learned it, and what they bring to this particular encounter, at this moment, in this mood.

The more aware you are of your characters, the more they can surprise you and the reader.  Think of Indiana Jones pulling his gun to shoot his sword-wielding opponent in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  His action is credible and in character, yet it’s also a wonderful surprise.

2. Players in an action scene should be well matched.

Tension springs from conflict.  In fight scenes, your antagonist should be strong enough to defeat the hero, to put the outcome of the fight in question.

Your lovers should be equally matched.  While the hero and the heroine in a love scene don’t threaten each other physically (well, except for that wonderful scene in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are rolling around shooting at each other), you can increase the tension by making them vulnerable to each other in other ways.  Again, put the outcome of the scene in question.  Will the skilled rake seduce the well-brought-up virgin?  Or will she turn the tables by taking control?

3. Every character in an action scene should have a goal.

Unless your characters are drunk or otherwise judgment impaired, they should have an objective, a desired outcome, going into the scene. Whether that goal is to avoid a confrontation or to start one, to establish intimacy or distance, your characters shouldn’t jump into a fight or into bed without some kind of purpose.  What do they want?  What are they prepared to do to get it?

Remember what I said above about tension springing from conflict.  Your character must have a stake in the outcome of the scene.  Which brings me to my next point.

4. Action scenes should impact the plot.

Fight scenes and love scenes should impact both the characters’ emotional arc and the development of the story.  Scenes should not be stuck into the story because sex titillates or violence sells, but because the action of the scene changes things for the participants.  Maybe the fight clears the air.  Maybe sex changes the balance of power.  Maybe somebody gets hurt.

As with any other scene, fight and sex scenes should advance the plot and either complicate or help resolve the conflict.  The action should be significant and relevant to the rest of the story.

5. What’s going on?  Choreographed action and emotional progression.

How much detail you include in your fight and love scenes will depend in part on your story, your style, and your subgenre.  Lengthy descriptions of scenery will slow your pacing, but a brief depiction of setting will establish both the mood and the “field of battle.”

You don’t need to choreograph every movement. But the action should

Be possible

Be plausible


Fighting and making love are ultimate physical expressions of intense emotion. Your characters and your readers should be plunged into the scene, not outside watching it.  Use visceral detail: pounding hearts and sweaty palms. Sensory description can add to the immediacy of the action, but focus on how each touch, each scent, each sensory trigger makes your characters feel.  Dialogue can increase either the intimacy or the conflict, but it should be brief and to the point.

6. Actions have consequences. 

Even if the fight is won, even if the sex is great, action scenes often end in unforeseen disaster.  Now the bad guy knows where they are.  Now the hero is injured.  Now the heroine is emotionally vulnerable or pregnant.

Ask yourself, how are things better or worse as a result of this action?

7. Both fight and love scenes should escalate throughout the book to the climax.

Your characters should grow through the course of the story.

The villain should get stronger.

The stakes should get higher.

The tension should mount.

And all that pulse-pounding emotion, all that evocative detail, the pain and the ecstasy, should be that much more.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, here are two brief excerpts from Forgotten Sea, the intro to a fight scene and the intro to a love scene.  These aren’t full scenes.  But as you read, see how the different elements discussed above come into play, the way the characters’ objectives and emotions, the setting, stakes, and visceral details help bring the action to life.

THE FIGHT, p.185

Black birds ringed the parking lot like spectators at a boxing match. Or vultures.

Justin’s heart jack-hammered. The three men from the diner had Lara trapped between a big rig and the Jeep.

At least this time none of her attackers was possessed by a demon.

That he knew of.

A chill chased over his skin. Briefly, he met Lara’s gaze, blazing in her pale face. “Get inside.”

She opened her mouth to argue before she figured out his order was for the benefit of their audience. Pressing her lips together, she took two jerky steps toward him.

Tattoos took the toothpick from his mouth and pitched it to the ground. “I say she stays.”

“Let her go,” Justin said evenly.

The stocky man with the weary eyes met his gaze. “Or what? You’ll call the cops?”

Duck into the diner, leaving her alone? Risk having the cops run a make on their stolen Jeep?

“We don’t want trouble,” Justin said again.

Tattoos laughed.

The man in the red bandanna crossed his arms over his chest. “Then call off your spies.”


 “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Justin said.

“Call ’em off, or your girlfriend’s going back to Heaven ahead of schedule.”

But Lara was easing between the Jeep and the truck, retreating toward the diner, securing herself space and a wall at her back. Smart girl.

Justin started circling with Bandanna Man and the stocky guy, hoping to buy time to let her get away, get inside, trying to keep an eye on Lara and another on his new dance partners, watching their hands, watching their eyes. Hoping nobody had a knife or, Jesus, a gun.

Tattoos realized Lara was slipping away and made a grab for her. The flock of birds burst from the ground, a feathered explosion of black wings and raucous cries.

Lara dropped out of sight behind the Jeep.




Iestyn’s blood drummed in his ears like a roaring wind, like the crashing sea. Lara should have left him when she had the chance. Instead, she was putting herself in his hands. Literally.

What the hell was she thinking?

“Take me,she’d said.

Heat surged in his veins. A cold sweat trickled down his spine.

For seven years, he’d drifted, a nobody answerable to no one, responsible for no one but himself. Because of Lara, he knew who he was. What he had been. Her choices had gotten them this far.

But they had left her world behind. With every mile, they traveled closer to his.

Where they went from here was up to him. She was his responsibility now. Her safety, her satisfaction, depended on him.

He looked into her misty gray eyes and his vision contracted suddenly as if he were sighting the stars through a sextant, plotting his course by her light. All he could see was Lara.

He was no angel. Maybe he would never be what she needed. But in one area, at least, he could give her what she wanted.

Sex was part of his world. He could take responsibility for sex without any problem at all.


What are some of your favorite action scenes from movies or from books?  How much detail do you want in fight scenes?  What about love scenes?

Virginia will be giving away a copy of FORGOTTEN SEA to one lucky commenter!



IMMORTAL SEA, 2011 RITA Award finalist for Best Paranormal Romance

“Shifting Sea” in BURNING UP, 2011 RITA Award finalist for Best Novella

FORGOTTEN SEA, Berkley, June 2011

Your Villain is holding a Knife to your Heroine’s throat. Now what?

Kathy and I just gave our Kick Butt Heroes workshop at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference.  One of the techniques we demonstrated was a defense to a knife abduction.

This is a common scenario on TV and in books.  The villain grabs his hostage from behind and presses a knife to her throat.  What are her options?  In this video, you’ll see the Krav Maga answer, which is very similar to both Isshinryu and Kenpo techniques Kathy and I have learned.  Krav Maga is the self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces.  Because of its brutal effectiveness, Krav Maga techniques are often taught to law enforcement officers.  In order for your character to perform this maneuver, he or she would need significant training.  This is not something the average person off the street could realistically pull off.

Remember, we’re showing these techniques for the purpose of writing awesome action scenes.  If you want to learn self-defense, take a class from a professional.  There’s no substitute.  You can get ideas for your fight scenes on YouTube, but self-defense training requires a qualified instructor and LOTS of supervised practice.

If you’d like to see us in action, we’ll be giving our workshop at the RWA National Conference in New York City.   Hope to see you there!

Reading Action

We’ve dedicated many blog posts to WRITING action.  See these posts: Writing Fight Scenes pt 1, Martial Arts and the Perfection of One’s Character, Writing The Fight Scene, Add PUNCH to Your Action Scenes, Get a KICK Out of Your Fight Scenes and A Recipe for Action by Caridad Pineiro

This week, Attacking the Page wants to discuss READING action.

You tell us…What are your favorite action-packed books?  Do you have a favorite fight or action scene?  What made them memorable?

Please share and discuss your favorite action scenes and books that you’ve read or written (a chance for self promotion!) in the comments section.


~KM Fawcett