When it comes to action scenes, many end up one of two ways. Either the action scene comes off confusing or it is overly descriptive and lengthy. Both make for rather boring action scenes, hardly building any tension and the reader simply glides through them. For a lot of novels, this isn’t such a big deal, but for action/adventure stories, well, it is a big deal.
Here’s how to write a cool action scene!
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1. Be Concise
Let’s start simple. You are trying to get your readers full attention. Fights are often tense, important to the story or the characters. You cannot afford to bore them or drag things on.
Lengthy descriptions are meant to describe the complex. An action scene, a fight, be it with guns, swords or good ol’ fisticuffs, is simple. The descriptions should not drag on, you need to get to the point as soon as possible. Don’t describe the wounds, as there is no time to examine the details of the wound.
During a fight, the only goal of every participant is to see their enemy down and out. You can still describe grace, you can still describe wild, you can convey how people fight with a single word and that word should be enough. The human mind can picture the rest, so keep this in mind.
2. Be Impactful
Speaking of the words you use, you are trying to convey an interesting fight. Use impactful words.
The bullet tore through his shoulder.
The punch flattened him.
The kick collided with a grim crunch.
These words not only paint the picture, but they also give it life. You can picture the action, you can hear it, you can see the emotions, your human empathy will let you understand the pain. Don’t mince your words when you are trying to be impactful, try to hit the nail on the head when describing the results of each reaction.
3. Be Realistic
The most intense fights are realistic. The combatants feel pain, this pain holds them back. Suddenly each fist thrown has a grunt of exertion. As the fight continues, stamina is tested as well as pain tolerance. It won’t be long before both combatants are huffing and puffing, feeling pain all over.
Sheer will power keeps them standing, primal energy fuelling them, the desire to survive clear in their mind. In many cases, survival for one means death for the other. A fact that is understood by all.
Even when writing a superhero, I recommend setting such limits. An air of realism will make these action scenes more compelling. If someone is shot, punched or stabbed, make it painful. Make it throw the character off-balance. Make it weaken the character, forcing them to exert themselves if they wish to continue.
Mortality is the word, it should be clear in your mind and your characters’.
4. Use Dialogue and Emotions
Taking a step away from the realistic, let’s discuss the dramatic.
Often action scenes are broken up with dialogue. The most moving fight scenes are between characters who know each other. If a hero fights a random goon, there is no banter, no emotion. Quite simply, this is a small distraction along the way.
However, if a hero is to fight an old friend, a nemesis, there is a lot more emotion involved and even dialogue. I need to describe the many examples of dialogue during combat. Instead, it can be words of revenge, words of honour, words of justice. The conversation depends on your story.
If you are to write an impactful dialogue along with an awesome action scene, the chapter will make for an excellent read. It’s worth the effort and highly recommended. Show emotion and where necessary, use dialogue.
5. Use Inspirations
With the core of the fight established, the next challenge is choreography. How do you describe a great fight scene?
Quite simply, draw inspiration from fight scenes you have enjoyed in movies or tv series. These are fight scenes that have expert choreographers scripting every strike, every step. These are actions you can replicate in your story. If you need a visual to describe, don’t be afraid of looking to other fights for help.
IN addition to that point, try to find fight scenes that closely resemble the fight scenes you see in your novel. If it is a fight in a car, find such a fight scene that uses such close-quarters combat. If you are describing a gunfight in the rain, find a gunfight in the rain. You will notice that the environment, even similar characters, affects the fight in ways you didn’t think of.
When writing a great fight scene, I often look to fight scenes in books that I have enjoyed and try to improve upon them. Many I find either too short and uninteresting, while others almost Shakespearian in length and drama. Finding that middle ground is important.
Often, my fight scenes are short, involving dirty tricks or simply one combat outmatching the other in a big way. However, if there is to be a fair fight, then I take my time. In my personal opinion, action scenes are like any important scene. You take your time, edit it constantly until you have written a scene that you can picture perfectly with the words you have used.
Hope you found this piece helpful and as always.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!