Action Scenes: Describing and Pacing Action

Writing effective and interesting action scenes requires appropriate description and careful pacing.

Describing Action

Use simple language when describing action. Technical terms or jargon will get lost and can easily confuse readers in a fast-paced scene. If certain terms are important to the story or scene, be sure they are explained in an earlier scene so readers are familiar with them and don’t have to stop to look up or wonder at their meaning. This slows the pace and breaks the reader’s focus.

Action scenes aren’t the place for similes and metaphors, either. Large-scale metaphors may be communicated by the overall scene, but avoid using metaphors and similes in fights scene because they slow the pace and can be distracting.

Use shorter sentences that match the pace of the action taking place. Long-drawn out sentences slow the reading speed and ask the reader to more carefully consider the meaning of the sentence. Shorter sentences keep the pace moving in time with whatever action or movement is taking place.

Be specific when describing what is happening in the scene. Vague descriptions slow the pace and can confuse the reader unnecessarily. Clarity is crucial during action scenes or readers will miss important information. Be clear about who is involved, where it happens, weapons or powers used, risks involved, and consequences of the action or overall scene.

Avoid the passive voice. Action should always be described using an active voice. This makes the action feel more immediate and draws the reader into what is happening rather than making them feel like they are being told about what happened after the fact. For example, “Mark slapped Adam” is more active and compelling than “Adam was slapped by Mark.” Draw the reader in with active description. Remember, the characters are involved in the fight scenes, it’s not happening to them as passive bystanders.

Pacing and Action Scene

Appropriate pacing keeps an action scene from dragging on and boring readers. It also helps to keep the scene from seeming too short and inconsequential. Pacing of the scene should match the action taking place in it as well as the overall importance of the scene.

In order to appropriately pace a scene, vary sentence length to match what is happening in that moment. When you need a break in the action, use longer or more complex sentences. This gives the action a break as well as gives the reader a moment to take in everything that has happened.

Mix dialogue with action to give the reader a mental break to process the action and learn something important about what is happening in the scene. Limit internal thoughts and dialogue to avoid slowing the pace too much. Use these when a pause is intentionally written into the scene.

Don’t drag the scene out unnecessarily. An important part of pacing an action scene is determining how long it reasonably needs to be in order to communicate what is happening and why. Fight scenes and chase scenes, especially, only need to be long enough to accomplish their purpose. These types of scenes can quickly get boring for readers when they are not concise.

Keep action scenes focused and clear in order to effectively communicate what is intended to the reader in an engaging and exciting manner.

The Myth That Is Writers Block

Yes, I called writers block a myth. Why? It doesn’t exist. Not in the sense of it being some magical, unstoppable force that keeps writers from being productive.

What IS going on then when a writer sits down to write and can’t seem to get a single word down on paper? It’s usually one of several things we all experience at one time or another.


bb5f5-clock2balarm2bclockThis happens to me every time I start a new series or have to end a series. Doubts of “will it be good enough?” or “what if this fails miserably?” stall out my desire to write. I’ve gotten a little better about this over the years, but it’s still a tough thing for me.

How do I combat this? Deadlines. I don’t have time for self-doubt if I’ve already set up blog tours or paid for promotions on a certain date, or even just publicly announced the release date. Deadlines get me moving like nothing else.


Beach SceneDoes the well of inspiration feel like it’s dried up? It probably has, but not in the form of writers block. Creative work isn’t easy. You need a break every once in a while. If you’ve been pushing and pushing, yeah it will definitely tax your mind until it simply refuses to produce anything of quality.

Best way to combat this one? TAKE A BREAK! Go read a book or watch a movie. Get out of the house and go for a walk. Get some fro-yo. Do anything BUT write for a while. A day. A week. A month. Whatever it takes to get your head space cleared out and ready to be creative again.


Most writers have more than writing to worry about. They’ve got bills, family, day jobs, health issues, etc. Stress is not conducive to creativity. It’s draining. I only work part time right now, but my husband also loves writing but has been super stressed out at work lately and he can attest to the fact that a lot of days he just doesn’t have the mental energy to write in the evenings. It happens.

While it’s impossible to completely clear away all your stress, taking some time for yourself can help. Yoga, meditation, horseback riding, whatever it is that relaxes you. Give yourself time to get away from everything. Maybe this just isn’t a time of your life where writing fits in. While we were selling our house and buying our new one, I didn’t write for six months. There wasn’t any time and my head just wasn’t in it. That’s okay.


Open Blue BookWriting is a skill, but so is creativity. You have to exercise that part of your mind by doing it regularly. There have been studies about how your brain can be trained to be creative at certain times based on routine.

What does that mean? Write often and if possible, write on a routine basis so your brain power is ready to be focused toward creating at a certain time. If that’s not feasible for your life, try a pre-writing routine to get yourself ready, like deep breathing exercises and stretches prior to a yoga class.

While I don’t believe in writers block, there are certainly factors of life that can make writing difficult. It IS possible to work around these problems and get back to creating.