Reposted: The Secret to Writing Powerful Action Scenes

Check out this amazing post by author Kai Wai Cheah, readers!


The Secret to Writing Powerful Action Scenes

Action scenes are the bread and butter of pulp stories. When the story threatens to get too boring, throw in a fight scene and you revitalize it with fresh energy, stakes and momentum. When the hero finally confronts the main villain, readers expect a climactic battle to wrap up the book.

The art of the action scene is critical to writing a pulp-style tale. To craft a powerful action scene, write to what readers want from one.

Readers want the excitement and the drama of the fight, without the experience of danger. They want to feel the crunch of bone on bone, hear the crack of a bullet whipping past, see the blood spraying from a fresh wound.

Higher-level readers also want to see the technical aspects of the fight, and learn from it. They have an idea of how violence plays out in the real world, and they demand to see it on the page. They want to see violence that matches their experience — without the danger of it.

An action scene allows the reader to live vicariously through the characters, experiencing the intensity of a fight from the comfort and safety of their homes. It is a full-sensory assault, brimming with tension and drama and energy, with the characters gunning for the highest stakes.

Readers want intensity, velocity and characterisation. Write to what they want and they will flock to you.

The Spirit of the Fight

Many modern writers like to describe fights in excruciating detail. Every punch, every kick, every swipe, every little gesture.

This approach mirrors modern cinema. A movie can’t tell you the intensity of a fight scene; it can only show you. Therefore, with few exceptions, a movie shows the entire fight scene from start to finish.

In the prose world, this isn’t necessary.

There is no need to describe every blow in the scene if it’s not necessary. This is especially important for a drawn-out fight.

The act of reading, of visualising the events on the page, takes up energy. If a fight scene drags on for too long, it could exhaust the reader. It could exhaust you in writing it, which causes the story to flag.

Further, the more moving parts something has, the more likely it will fail. This includes fight scenes. If you’re not intimately familiar with violence and martial arts, a blow-by-blow account significantly increases your risk of making a mistake, one that a sharp-eyed reader will catch. This breaks suspension of disbelief, and with it, immersion.

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One thought on “Reposted: The Secret to Writing Powerful Action Scenes

  1. “Readers want the excitement and the drama of the fight, without the experience of danger”

    Yes, just like a mob from the Roman Colosseum. Nihil novi sub sole.


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