Writing Exercise: Action

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Action is center to many genres such as Urban Fantasy and Thrillers and an important aspect to many others like sword and sorcery fantasy and military science fiction. To write action well, like everything else about writing, takes practice. Tools in writing can help bring the action into a more visceral experience for the readers.

No need to explain blow-by-blow, unless the main character actually has time to think these things through. Usually even well trained, actually especially well-trained, individuals do not think so much as act.

One of my favorite scenes in the newly published Storm Forged is about someone taking martial art classes getting in his first fight after the lessons began but he is still at the intermediate stage where one is thinking instead of acting, and he is faced off against one of the student-teachers who got themselves drunk – who doesn’t need to think.

“Go home, Turk. You’re drunk.”

“It’s all your fault, your fault.”

“What is-”

Turk’s stance shifted just a bit. He slipped into Flashing Wings, his fist striking straight at me. I blocked and stepped back.

“Turk, stop now.”

Marcel stood off to the side, paralyzed.

“It’s your fault.” He charged in, Gathering of Snakes led to Glancing Lance to Reversing Circles to something I hadn’t learned yet and me slamming into the concrete wall. I felt something in my shoulder tear. Pain flared hot, a sudden fire through my head and shoulder.

Quick and to the point. Short sentences. Barely time to think. He would have been better off not thinking. This one scene impact two full chapters from its fallout. That is also important to action, not only does it need to snap, it needs to have a reason to exist, to move the plot forward.

A.J. Hartley goes into this deeper in Magical Words with “Writing Action Scenes”; the post can be found here: (remember to read the comments).

WRITING EXERCISE: Choose a genre you don’t normally write in and create an action scene. What part is the hardest – getting the location of the people right throughout the scene, getting the POV observations right, keeping the damage carrying throughout, making the reader feel the heart pound, etc?

READING EXERCISE: Break down an action scene from your present book – it doesn’t have to be a fight. How did the narrative change for the action sequence? Did the POV limit what knowledge was available about the scene? Do the results of the scene (win or lose) get carried forward in the book?