Action scenes

Some of my novels, especially Second Nature, have a lot of fast-paced action.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when writing action scenes:

  • Action scenes need immediate action. That means they’re not the place where you include flashbacks or other jumps in time. Keep the action linear. Cause, then effect. Action, then reaction.
  • Characters don’t stop to think or reflect a lot.
  • In action scenes, most sentences are fairly short. While you shouldn’t create scenes where all sentences are long or all sentences are short, in action scenes or scenes with high tension, the sentences become shorter. You can even put in a few sentence fragments. This is especially true for thoughts. No one thinks in complete, long sentences when he or she is scared.
  • Keep paragraphs mostly short too. Start a new paragraph every time the action shifts from one character to the other. Frequent paragraphing makes the reader’s eye move faster down the page. The pace increases.
  • Be careful with “as” constructions and participles. Both imply that the action happens at the exact same time, simultaneously, not one after the other.
  • Use a minimum of words to pick up the pace. Unnecessary words slow down the pace.
  • Choose powerful verbs that convey a sense of fast movement (e.g., smashed, clanked, etc.). Replace slower-moving, weak verbs like stood, was, etc.
  • Don’t neglect the senses and physical sensations. No long descriptions, but give us enough hints to make us feel we’re right there. Let us experience the main character’s exhaustion or pain.
  • Make sure the actions are physiologically possible. Keep track of the relative position of the characters.

I hope these tips will come in handy for your next action scene.

Created by Krystel Contreras & Jorge Courbis