Revising My WIP
Writing Action Scenes
What’s so hard about that?
I mean, things happen. People fight with swords and cars crash through barriers and things blow up.
But…have you watched an action scene and come away confused. You weren’t quite sure what happened, or why. The scene seems to be an excuse for special effects.
If that’s the case, ask yourself three questions. First, what led up to the action? Second, was your POV character interacting with one or two people at a time, or was she lost in a mob scene. And third, what did she do that caused her future trouble?
So that we understand, I’m using Jordan Rosenfeld’s template for actions scenes, as she wrote about them in Make A Scene. When I started my story, I had no idea how many action scenes. At the moment, I have 94 scenes. Six of them are action scenes. Just six. And none of them use very many words.
What am I trying to do in an action scene?
I am changing my story arc by letting my POV character instinctively do something in my action scene which she cannot take back, and is certain to cause her trouble. And that trouble becomes a key turning point in my story.
So, let’s imagine a scene were our MC is at school and comes around a corner to find a bigger kid beating up a smaller kid. Without thinking, she steps in and clobbers the bigger kid. What are the girl’s words as she runs off? “I’m going to go get my gang and come back and beat you to a pulp.” Oh boy. And our MC spends the rest of the story trying to deal with that.
So, what does a dramatic scene look like?
Every scene has an opening.
We can either start with foreshadowing, or we can jump right into the action.
I used both openings. In some of my scenes, my POV had been off stage for a long time while other POV’s did their thing. So I used a few paragraphs to set up the action. Where she was coming straight out of a prior scene, I used the prior scene to foreshadow the action.
Then we move into the middle of the scene.
As quickly as I could, I got my POV character into a one-on-one. If they needed to deal with multiple people, I arranged for them to deal with one at a time.
Forget about character development. We want our POV character to react, and use their instincts to guide them.
I concentrated on physical beats at the expense of almost everything else. I used only a little description, and almost no internalities (inner monolog or emotional reactions).
I wanted the action to be fast, so I used a mixture of short and long paragraphs, interrupted dialog and unfinished actions. And I tried to throw unexpected twists in as I went along.
And, most of all, my POV characters did something they could not take back, something that was certain to anger opponents or cause supporters to doubt them, and cause them mental anguish after the fact. This is the true purpose of an action scene.
After all that energy and excitement we end our scene.
Our POV character should be changed by the action, by the thing they did that they couldn’t take back, and whatever this thing is should resound through the story.
We could break the scene off as a cliff-hanger and move on.
We could also slow it down and let our POV character take an out-of-time moment and ponder what just happened, how they feel about it, and what it all means.
How did I do in creating suspense in my scenes
Once again, I had two things helping me. I already had six scenes written. And I knew how I wanted my reworked scene to help my story.
Using my coloring book, I took notes on what I already had in my scene, and how it applied. My biggest challenge was to identify that action which changed everything. And it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. But I got it done.
Fortunately, none of these six scenes were larger than about 1,800 words, so I could scan through them, finding what I needed. I think I came away with stronger, tighter scenes that clearly advanced my story. I didn’t force my characters to change, just get out alive.
Did I do that?
I think so.
I will revisit these scenes, along with all others, when I work on character arcs.
I have 89 scenes left that I think are the types I want. Seventeen of them are dialog scenes. Since I think I’m comfortable with that type, I will look at them next. By doing that, I will look at half of Part One. And I need to do that since I’ve given little attention to the first part of my story in some time.