Action Scenes: Using Action in a Story

Action in a story always serves a purpose when done well. To make sure action scenes are effective, consider what they ask of the reader and how they advance the plot.

The Nature of Action Scenes

When it comes to the nature of action scenes, it is important to recognize that a big difference between movie action scenes and written action scenes is what they ask of the reader.

Action scenes in movies require no audience participation, but in written form they require a lot of reader participation, particularly with fight scenes. It takes effort to understand what is happening in a fast-paced action scene. Action, in general, is often chaotic. To readers, action scenes can easily become confusing for the reader to follow what’s going on if it is not written clearly and interwoven with other components. Action works best when balanced with description, exposition, internal dialogue, and emotional reflection.

Why something is happening is just as important, or more important in some cases, than what is happening in the scene. Makes sure the why is clear during an action scene in order to prevent the reader from getting bored or lost in an endless description of movements.

Asses an action scene to make sure what you are asking of the reader provides an equal payoff, by having a purpose that is understandable and clear.

Using Action to Advance the Plot

Action must matter to the story itself, or it won’t matter to the reader. When considering what is the point of an action scene, ask what you are hoping to accomplish with the action scene.

Purposes behind action scenes might include revealing information, providing character development, affecting the rest of the story in some way, making the reader ask important questions, showing or revealing a character’s skill or talent, providing a transition, etc. Once you pin down the purpose of the scene in relation to the overall story, make sure that is also apparent to the reader.

If you cannot define the purpose, or the scene seems to be accomplishing nothing, cut it or rework it to fulfill a clear purpose. Then evaluate the scene again. Does the action scene actually accomplish its purpose? Critically assess it to make sure the scene adequately addresses the purpose in a clear way. Beta readers can be a wonderful resource in assessing single chapters to determine its purpose. A reader should finish the scene having learned something important about the character or story.

When scenes have a strong and clear purpose, and work to advance the reader’s understanding of the characters and story, readers will engage more fully with the story and feel that their effort in reading and following the action was worth the investment.

Published by

DelSheree

DelSheree Gladden was one of those shy, quiet kids who spent more time reading than talking. Literally. She didn’t speak a single word for the first three months of preschool, but she already had a love for reading. Her fascination with reading led to many hours spent in the library and bookstores, and eventually to writing. She wrote her first novel when she was sixteen years old, but spent ten years rewriting it before having it published. Native to New Mexico, DelSheree and her husband spent several years in Colorado for college and work before moving back home to be near family again. Their two children love having their cousins close by. When not writing, you can find DelSheree reading, painting, sewing, running, and adventuring with her family. Find out more about DelSheree and her books here: https://delshereegladden.com/

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