Writing Action Scenes

This week on Hide and Create, Debbie Viguie, Moses Siregar, Joshua Essoe, and Jordan Ellinger talk about writing action.

I see a lot of manuscripts and a lot of action scenes, and I end up spending most of my line-editing time working on them. It’s safe to say that action is one of the most difficult things for authors to write well. I’ve said in the past that as soon as characters start hacking harder, so do I.

Anything that slows your tempo doesn’t belong. Tempo is the level of activity within a scene from action, dialogue or a combination of them. Tempo and rhythm are what set the pacing of your story — rhythm being the way scenes interact with each other.
Pay close attention to that pacing too. It is possible to have too much action, just as it’s possible to have too little, so take a look. Do you have action scene after action scene after action scene? The whole point of an action scene is to get the blood moving, create tension, make readers fear for your characters. If you overdo it, if you keep hitting that same emotional beat, it’s easy to make your readers numb. They stop feeling and start thinking, “Oh, it’s just another action scene, no big deal.” So if your tension is getting stale, it might be because you’re hitting the same emotional beat too many times. Too much action — but this can be applied to any kind of scene, any kind of emotional beat.

What do you do when you keep hitting the same emotional beat? That’s when it’s time to use an opposing beat. So throw in some romance or horror. Give your readers a rest so they can step back and appreciate your action again. To put it another way — if you love eating tacos, so all you eat are tacos, eventually tacos are going to become un-stimulating, and to regain that joy you once had eating those tacos, you’re going to have to eat something else . . . I think this is where Diana would have said that’s where you go for the whole enchilada.

Anyway, you get my point.

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