Peggy Bechko: Have You Thought About Action in Your Writing?

by Peggy Bechko

actiontvwriter.comYour readers have.

Yep, that’s right, they pay attention. If you write a scene where your hero unknowingly slices off somebody’s head because your hero swung his sword the wrong way they’re going to call you on it.

I enjoy writing that contains action scenes and I think about them a lot when I put one together.

Key action of course is frequently fights. So how do you research to find out what fighting is actually like? Well, you can go visit YouTube and watch some videos – there’s the final scene of Karate Kid or you can just throw in a search like “MMA Fights” or other types of fighting and you’ll no doubt get a long list to select from.

And yes, if you aren’t a fighter yourself, you do need to research fighting if you don’t want to muck things up with body movement, timing, gut reactions, technique (or lack thereof).

Seriously, watch a few videos. Avoid some of these problems:

1. Taking a hit with no real reaction. – Yes I’ve seen this one plenty of times in movies, but if you want to get real and write real scenes, you have to understand there are consequences to getting punched in the face.

That ain’t no cotton ball they’re getting hit with. The ‘hittee’ is no doubt going to see stars, reel back, stumble, hear the crunch of his own nose being smashed, feel the blood spurt from his nose, get covered in the stuff. The ‘hitter’ can suffer from it as well. Knuckles can split, bones in the hand can break. You get the drift. And remember the aftermath as well. You think you get sore working in the yard and pulling weeds? What do you think happens to someone who’s been in a serious fight?


2. If it’s not a gun battle or a car chase and is a more personal one-on- one hand-to-hand battle consider the timing of events. Guns can chatter, but people aren’t weapons in that sense.

Fighters evaluate each other (watch those videos I mentioned above and you’ll see), they dance around, they move and their opponents are the same. Give your fighters a bit of time to sort things out, to move, to ‘dance’. It adds realism to your writing and drama to the story.

3. Consider balance when you write in fight scenes. The whole body has to be in alignment. Again, watch a fight (preferably a video, not one on your block) and you’ll see a fighter can’t throw a bunch with the left hand and step forward with the right foot.

Get the body into it. Understand how the body moves if you want to write with authority and the realism that locks the reader in.

4. And remember fights can involve lots more than two people. So when you decide to write a really complicated scene, consider scratching your scene out on a sheet of paper.

Think like a movie stunt director or a football coach. You don’t have to be an artist – just give yourself some direction. Use stick men, Xs and Os, whatever works to illustrate where you’re heading with your battle.

Write like you mean it, don’t skip the research.

2 thoughts on “Peggy Bechko: Have You Thought About Action in Your Writing?”

  1. you’ve been writing all these years and you don’t know?!!! Oh, oh. Perhaps a refresher course – take up Karate, biking or running to get a feel for it…. good luck gs!

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