Writing an Action Scene
So you're writing a thriller. Or an espionage. Or a huge fantasy epic.
Or maybe a drama that involves a big chase.
Or maybe a scene with a big war - and you aren't sure how to approach writing that scene.
Here's the best advice you can get: zoom in.
Take, for example, the following scene describing a battle:
Planes fly over the field, dropping bombs. On the ground, hundreds of soldiers run out of the way. They fire their guns at each other, unable to do anything but fight.
Pretty basic description, isn't it?
I mean, it serves its purpose - it tells us what is happening in the battle, and it tells us quickly. But how do you feel when reading it?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
So you zoom in.
Planes fly over the field, dropping bombs.
Don't tell me about the plane - get closer. Tell about the pilot in the plane. Tell me about that pilot's heartbeat. Tell me how much it's thudding. Tell me about the butterflies in his stomach, about how he feels as he drops bombs and kills people, about what is running through his head.
On the ground, hundreds of soldiers run out of the way.
Don't tell me about hundreds of soldiers running - zoom in on one of those soldiers and tell me about what it's like to be amongst those hundreds of stampeding soldiers. Focus on the senses - what does he hear? Smell? Taste? Can he taste the gunpowder on the air? Can he smell the smoke making him choke on his lungs? Can he hear anything other than the thudding of the other soldier's feet shaking the floor?
They fire their guns at each other, unable to do anything but fight.
Don't tell me about lots of people firing their guns - zoom in on those people firing the guns. On the action of the weapon as it shakes in their arms, the site of bodies falling limp as they watch the bullets they have fired land in their enemy.
Now let's have another go at this scene...
The pilot's heart thuds with the exact same rhythm as the engine, making his body wobble like the jelly his grandma used to make him as a child. As his finger traces the perfect, unused surface of the trigger, he wonders how his grandma might feel about him pulling it and exploding those below.
On the floor, gunpowder chokes a single, solitary soldier. He runs, following the crowd, a sea of faces just like his, hearing nothing but their feet pounding the quaking floor, disguising the background ambience of death.
He fires his gun. Taking aim at the masses, and watching the bullets he fires as they travel through the chests of his enemy, ending their lives in one swift action. His arms shake. His resolve stays resolute, but his arms falter, watching as his friends fall inside out around him.
So it's not perfect, it still needs some revising - but can you see the difference between what was written before?
Now, we don't just have a clearer image of the scene, we are feeling the scene as well.
TASK: Find a paragraph you have written that contains description of a busy scene. Have a go rewriting it, zooming in on the various parts of the scene that capture its essence and emotion.