We’ve already covered how the difficulty of writing action scenes is often underestimated. In order to improve your action scene writing abilities, one of the most important steps is practice. No, we’re not suggesting that you go skydiving or scaling the side of a building, but continuing to practice your action scene writing through writing workshops, exercises, games, etc. will allow your writing to improve within your manuscript.
One way to improve your action writing is by writing a scene with a simple premise: two characters get into a fight. This may sound overly simplistic, but that’s why it works as a perfect tool to practice action scene writing. An engaging action scene in manuscript format can’t be solely about the action taking place because simply reading about punching and kicking doesn’t translate the same way in a book that it does on screen. Instead, the focus should be on what is at stake on a character level.
By writing a scene based on this simple, you’re able to focus on the why behind the fight, rather than making the action exciting as we’re often feeling pressured to do. For example, let’s say we have two characters: Matt and David. Matt and David get into a fight, why? Are they two friends who had a falling out based on some dishonest behavior, only to wind up running into each other at a bar one night and having it out? If that’s the case, what was the lie and what did it cost each of them?
Or are they two strangers out at a club who bump into each other, a few harsh words are exchanged, and suddenly punches are being thrown? If that’s the case, what put them each in a bad mood? Maybe one of them just has anger issues, what has his anger cost him in his life? What could this moment cost him, should it get too out of hand? There is so much going on behind a fight and, in a manuscript format, focusing on these aspects is how you’ll be able to keep readers engaged and excited about the action.
Writing Prompt: Write a scene where two characters get into a fight. You can choose two already-made characters or create two new ones for the purposes of the scene. What is the relationship between the two characters? What caused the fight vs. why are they fighting (sometimes these are two different answers)? What are the stakes of their fight, both internally and externally? Put your dukes up, writers.