This journal is a response to the request of a role play friend for me to offer my thoughts on writing action scenes, the implication being that writing action is something I do well. Whether that is true or not I do love trying to convey frenetic action sequences in my stories and role play. And I think that is the first thing that helps with doing anything well. Love it.
Flattery will get you nigh everywhere so here is my attempt to respond to his request by running through some specifics that might be helpful. No doubt at one time or another I have myself violated all of the following suggestions, but think of them as general guidelines.
I tend to see things in my mind as if I were choreographing a movie fight or chase scene. Think about where you would focus the camera. Ask yourself what’s the most important or telling part of the sequence at any given moment. Focus there.
Describe actions and reactions directly, clearly and concisely. The artsy shot of the shadows on the wall is cool once. Do not do it repeatedly. Readers want to understand, particularly with action. They do not want to be confused about what just happened.
The same goes for similes and metaphors. Use them sparingly in action sequences and in places where there is a real need to convey something extra. Use sentence length to indicate action sequence flow and punctuate for dramatic effect. Deep breath.
Earlier I stated that I like to think in terms of movie choreography. I do. And it is great for the visual aspect. But the great thing about prose is that you can bring in the other senses as well. Imagine yourself in the scene. What are you aware of? The deafening roar of the chanting crowd? The taste of sweat running down face? The burning pain of the rough rope tightening about neck? The smell of death rising up from darkening tights? The absence of it all of it as your hanged body slumps?
Yes, action is visceral. You want to make the reader feel that aspect without ever losing the pacing that conveys the frenetic quality action frequently takes. It’s a challenge. In role play you basically have one shot at it. Otherwise I suggest a lot of revision. Read it out loud. Keep revising until you don’t stumble over any part of it. Good luck.
If anyone has additional thoughts please add them in comments below. I’d love to hear them as I would certainly like to improve my own skills.