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Writing action scenes

Not all action scenes hold a reader’s attention.

Point in case: (And, shh, don’t tell my hubbie about this post) Hubbie loves war movies and action. He tends to roll his eyes when I bring home a romantic comedy from Red Box. Wanna know why? **giggling**

He usually falls asleep during “his” movies – a lot of running, great music, a lot of running, shooting, explosions, great music, dialogue, more running, shooting, great music, explosions.

**more giggling** And he stays awake during “my” movies – great dialogue, great dialogue, great dialogue, great dialogue, great dialogue. (note the emphasis on great)

So, on Friday night, when he stayed awake for the entire romantic comedy (and it was a tad bit cheesy), I thought about action in stories. And why it’s so hard to get right. And why it sometimes falls flat or the reader loses interest.

  • Action in stories can’t be just a bunch of punches. Or explosions. Or running. Those things are good, but not by themselves.
  • Action needs to show the character reacting to the punches, explosion, and running.
  • Action needs to move the story forward and be more than one escape attempt after another. Increased stakes. New revelations.
  • Action needs to bring out an emotional response in the reader. We need to care about the character.
  • Action needs to be sprinkled with our main character’s internal thoughts. We can’t lose touch with the reason our reader is reading.
  • Action, whether in the opening or in the climax, needs its own arc.
  • Action that doesn’t keep the brain working puts the reader (or viewer) to sleep.

I’m still figuring it all out. But there are action scenes where my heart pounds and there are action scenes I skip through to see what happens because most of it is filler.

What are your tips for writing riveting action? Do you have any good reads with great action?

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