writing action scenes-www.themanuscriptshredder.com
Adventures in NaNoWriMo

Writing Action Scenes NaNoWriMo day 17

The hero has a goal, now it’s time to go for it.

We need an action scene

Action scenes are different from normal scenes. The writing style needs to adjust to increase the tension and forward momentum. Writing actions scenes might seem intimidating, but by following these seven easy tips, your action scenes can be the most effective in your novel.

Seven tips for writing actions sceneswriting action scenes-www.themanuscriptshredder.com

  1. Use short sentences
    Keep the sentences tight. Kill any extra words or adverbs. Short sentences feel faster. Faster sentences feel more intense. Action scenes need this intensity.
  2. Keep dialogue fast-paced
    Eliminate any unnecessary beats and use little description between the lines. Beats are the small breaks between lines of dialogue. These are often used to slow down the pacing, show character reactions, or give main characters time to think. During action scenes, characters will not have as much time to think before they speak.
  3. Don’t get nuts with the thesaurus
    Using the best possible verb is critical to a good clean sentence. But in your quest to eliminate every adverb, watch out for unusual verbs. Using unusual verbs will pull your readers out of the story by drawing attention to themselves. If it’s a word your character wouldn’t normally use, it’s probably not the best choice.
  4. Get personal
    Use close details rather than broad descriptions. Showing the character getting sprayed with glass is more intimate than telling the reader the bullets flew through the window. Make sure you keep the reader’s experience in sync with the point-of-view character’s experience.
  5. Watch out for point-of-view errors
    Keep the action focused on the point-of-view characters experience. Point-of-view errors are easy to do in action scenes. While you as a writer need to know what all the other characters including the antagonist are doing during the scene, the POV character will not know these details. You cannot include these in close POV. Make sure everything the character experiences comes through his five senses. If he can’t see, smell, taste, touch, or hear it, he can’t know about it.
  6. No big thinks
    This is not the time for your main character to wonder about things. During action scenes, characters need to maintain their focus on the goal at hand. This is not the time for them to start thinking about backstory or an offscreen conflict.
  7. Use little to no extra description
    Your character is not going to take the time to notice the subtle variation of color on the brocade sofa when he is trying to dodge bullets. If the reader really needs to know something about the setting, pick a small detail that paints an entire picture, and move on.

Action scenes are not the time to stop and smell anything. Get moving.

Writing action scenes doesn’t have to be intimidating. By incorporating these seven tricks, you will have a fast-paced action scene your readers will love.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.

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