The art of writing a good action scene requires a lot more than I’d ever expected when I first began writing in 2014. I’ve learned a lot since that time, and now I feel writing action scenes is perhaps one of my better abilities when it comes to writing. So how do I come up with a good action scene? I’ll tell you, and at the end of this article I’ll share a scene from one of my books.
Initially, I just want to get the action down on paper, so to speak. I actually use a word processor rather than a pen and paper (my handwriting is atrocious). So, first, I begin to picture the scene in my mind, and anticipate what will happen. I guess it sort of plays in my mind like an animated sequence, where I picture movements by the characters and how they react to those movements or attacks.
Once I have the scene written in its first draft form, that is when the real work begins. I start reviewing the scene, over and over, adjusting things, injecting surprises, and refining the overall prose. I want the action to be fast-paced and exciting, so I do a lot of refining of what I’ve written, and this is all before I even get to a Beta Read status, much less editing.
Another thing I’ve learned is to not be so centered on details. I want to describe enough that the reader can visualize what’s happening, but not use more words than are necessary to convey the action. Lengthy descriptions can become redundant and cause the reader to lose interest. You want the reader to relish each sentence, to feel a part of the scene, not just an observer.
Finally, it’s my personal preference that something unforeseeable happen during such a scene, if possible. An action scene that is too predictable can be boring, and when I read such a scene, I tend to skim through it, as I already know how it will progress. As I’m writing the scene’s first draft, I look for those moments that something unexpected might happen, a moment that may make the action seem to be leading to one conclusion, but then suddenly turn.
That’s how I go about putting down an action sequence that I hope the reader will enjoy. One thing I want a reader to feel is an emotional response to the sequence, whether it be combat or some other form of action that is happening. I think more than anything else, I’m wanting the action to emotionally invest the reader.
Well, that’s about it this time, and as promised, here’s a scene from one of my books for you to enjoy. Thanks for reading.
Excerpt from Heart of the Valkyrie
Eamas completed the laser cut that released the second launcher, then picked up his rifle and took a position behind some metal plating from the crash. Nathan and Yiesa had already taken cover, all facing the direction where the Imperial scout had landed.
Jeff was still working on the last gun when the Imperials appeared from the thick trees of the forest. Their sophisticated sensors likely had already pegged the Valkyrie and her crew, not to mention the fact that they were salvaging a crashed Imperial fighter.
The whizzing sound of bullets, buzzing by like pesky insects, let Nathan know their intentions. Their electromagnetic coil guns made no sound or muzzle flash as the Imperials opened fire. Mag rounds filled the air, ricocheting off their cover. Returning fire, Nathan counted twelve armored soldiers advancing on their position.
“Damn!” cursed Nathan. “More than I’d expected. Keep your heads down!”
Yiesa, armed only with her sword and a pistol, poked her head around a piece of wing from the crashed ship, firing her pistol at the advancing Imperials.
“They’re wearing full combat armor too,” she commented, one of her shots pinging off the metallic plating.
Eamas yelled a challenging roar, standing up from behind his cover and letting loose on full auto, taking out two of the approaching soldiers as his iron bullets found vulnerable points in the joints of their armored suits. Unfortunately, he used a whole magazine to accomplish that feat.
“Nice shooting, big guy.” Jeff, having completed the last of his work, picked up his rifle to join the fray. “But can you top this?”
Jeff jerked a grenade from the chest plate of his suit and tossed it toward the enemy soldiers, sending three of them flying as the hydrogen explosion ripped them apart.
“Nice one!” exclaimed Eamas.
“Can the chatter, you two!” shouted Nathan. “This is no time for cordial banter!”
The remaining seven soldiers were getting closer, and a sharp yelp from Jeff let them know that he’d been hit. The force knocked him backward, blood flying up in a spray as the bullet pierced his shoulder. He fell against the metal of the crashed ship with a thud, dropping his rifle and becoming still.
Nathan and the others continued firing, but their situation was worsening. The Imperials had better armor and weapons, and it was now three against seven. The approaching soldiers dodged between the trees as they continued to advance, gaining ground.
Crouching behind one of the fighter’s mangled wings, the sound of bullets pinging off the metal, Nathan turned a desperate gaze upon Yiesa. “Any bright ideas?”
She opened her mouth to reply when a scream from one of the soldiers resounded across the battlefield. Nathan glanced over his cover to see one of them fall to the ground.
His first thought was that maybe Eamas scored a hit, but Eamas had hunkered down, a volley of bullets flying around his position. There was no chance he had returned a shot. Then Nathan saw what really happened.
His instinctive concern about those strange, flowering plants had been justified. They had turned the face of their flowered petals toward the Imperial soldiers and shot forth seed-like projectiles, about the size of a bullet, which pierced their battle suits as efficiently as armor-piercing ammunition. In fact, the seed seemed to melt through the plating.
Two of the Imperials had already fallen to the vegetative onslaught. The spray of gunfire on the defenders ceased, as the Imperials turned their attention toward the plants.
“Captain!” came Yiesa’s urgent cry. Nathan turned just in time to see her sword slashing through the air, slicing through one of those seeds.
“Damn it!” she shouted, seeing a tiny melted notch in her sword.
Now more worried about the plants than the Imperials, they began firing upon the stalky plants around them. By the time they’d taken down any close enough to attack them, all the Imperial soldiers were dead. One of the men had almost reached their position, and they could see his face through the dissolved faceplate of his helmet. It was grotesquely distorted in a façade of pain, the skin a sickly green and orange.
“Get Jeff inside!” commanded Nathan. “Ania, we have an injured man!”
Eamas picked up Jeff’s limp form, tossing him over his shoulder. They swiftly retreated to the cargo ramp, watching to ensure no other plants were turning their way. Once inside the ship, Ania rushed into the cargo hold, as Eamas began removing Jeff’s armor.
His shoulder appeared to have exploded from within, a gaping wound from which blood flowed freely.
“Them bastards were using explosive rounds!” said Eamas with a furious scowl.
Ania took a flat pad from the pouch attached to her side and placed it over the wound. The bandage attached itself with a sucking sound, sealing the wound and stopping the bleeding.
“Get him to the medical bay,” said Ania. “I’m going to need to perform surgery.”
“I got him, doc,” said Eamas, his brow furrowed with concern. He carried the unconscious man from the cargo hold, Ania right behind him.
“We should’ve been more worried about the plants than the Imperials,” noted Nathan.
“Perhaps,” said Yiesa, “but they actually saved our butts. They took down those Imperials in seconds.”
“Even so, I doubt we can recruit them to our side. We have to get that salvage loaded as soon as possible and leave before more Imperials come.”
Yiesa allowed a wisp of a smile. “I’ll handle it.”
Nathan could see that she shared his concern for Jeff. With a quick nod, he left the hold and followed Ania and Eamas.