Well, I totally left this blog post until the last minute so please excuse the brevity. One reason is my life has been on the fast forward motion the past few weeks. Which really, is a great reason to write about action scenes.

I’d like to share with you some snippets and tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Decide what type of scene you wish to portray. There are two types:

  1. gritty-realistic
  2. heroic-entertaining

Decide on how much ‘realism’ you wish to depict. Then you need to work out the location of the scene. I love gritty-realistic scenes (see Bound by Love, Bound by Lies, Awakening the Warriors) Is it a bar room brawl? A dual at dawn? Space ships with awesome tech weaponry? A wrestling match? Or a more simpler scene where the heroine is tied to the train tracks and the train is coming. Or the hero is running for his life away from the heroine!

BBLove shortUSE the location to evoke reader participation. Also a fabulous way to incorporate ‘props’.

USE the senses.

USE one point of view and really delve deep into that character’s POV so we know the stakes, the fear, the terror, the horror, the joy, the rush of blood lust etc.

USE rapier sharp dialogue.

When writing action scenes its more than PACE a writer should be aware of when depicting the scene. Word usage is very important and so is sentence structure. Harsh sounding words, of one syllable wherever possible and especially in the action verbs assists in picking up the pace. This type of word also has a stronger impact on a reader dragging them into the scene, and gives the scene a sense of ‘aggressiveness.’

  • Use words beginning with the consonants: T K P R
  • Use one syllable verbs
  • Use short sentences where the action is fast paced (ie make them less than twelve words long)
  • Use sentence fragments. BUT use sparingly and where it will have the biggest impact.
  • Using more than one verb in the sentence also works great at creating a fast imagery in the reader’s mind
  • Use simple tense for example, don’t use… ‘had kicked’ say ‘kicked’. It has bigger impact, the ‘had’ slows the pace.
  • Adjectives also slow the pace and the same with adverbs. Look for strong, powerful nouns and verbs that will describe what you want to say in the one word.
  • Limit or avoid internal thoughts as much as possible during the action / fight scene. The heroine won’t be thinking of separating her laundry into whites and colours while she is running for her life. If it’s necessary to insert their thoughts, do it as succinctly as possible ie I’m not going to make it. Or even better…Crap!
  • Contrast the scene by slowing the pace both before and also after the action scene.

There are usually six stages of a fight / action scene. These are:

  • Suspense – The wait, slow, provide info ie weapons, location, introspection, the why the hero / heroine is there.
  • Start – Describe beginning of battle.
  • Action – Focus on the direction of the battle / scene. Use location creatively. Mention the sounds, smells etc of the action.
  • Surprise Event – Which is out of control of the character (could be setting ie weather, weapons, other people. Could turn the tide of battle / scene.
  • Climax – Tired, weary, close to giving up but remembers the goal / purpose & perseveres. Battle / scene either won or lost.
  • Aftermath – Describe results, the scene, introspection of the character, his harrowing emotions.

Now that I’ve started I realise I’ve got a lot more to say! If anyone is interested I could do an in-house workshop on action scenes.

I love writing action scenes. I think because I can let myself go with the gruesome stuff. What scenes do you LOVE to write? And why? What scenes do you find the hardest to write? Do tell.



  1. This is a great post SE. I’m like you, action scenes are my favourite to write. There’s something about the heat of battle and fast pace action that is just downright exciting.

    The hardest to write … hmmm. I always want witty dialogue and I think it’s probably the thing I spend the most time on.

    I’d love a workshop on action scene. Like really LOVE it.

  2. Yes, a great post SE. I love reading actions scenes, but rarely write them. I would love an action scene workshop – great idea. You’ve given us plenty there to think about, so it’ll make a very handy guide.

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