Saturday, 10 January 2015

Tips To Fix Your Superficial Action Scenes

I've read a few really entertaining opening chapters on writing sites lately. They've hooked me in with a thrilling chance, a daring theft, or an exciting fight scene. The only problem is I know I could connect with the characters and felt a little underwhelmed compared to what I could have felt.

They've all missed out on the crucial element of context. A few tweaks, and these could be strong opening scenes.

I call it superficial action. We know there’s excitement and adrenaline, but we don’t know much else. Although it can be a way to hook in readers and never let them go, don’t forget that chapter 1 should do more than just thrill. It needs to introduce the novel.

Surroundings. It’s all good having an action scene, but I want to understand why and where it’s happening too. Often you can hint to both just setting the scene. Is the fight in an arena? Or in the school canteen? Those are two entirely different stories.

Stakes. If I know why you’re running and why you fear being caught, I’ll be hanging on your every word, rooting for the character to keep going. Is the penalty immediate death? Or is there a bounty on their head? Are they even sure? Maybe they could take a good guess.

Beforehand. Did they just steal a packet of chicken nuggets from Tesco's, or were they innocently sitting in a tavern? This might not always seem like an important factor, but it can allude to why they've being chased or attacked – if they know why!

Who? Not only do I want to see some characterisation from your lead so that I can connect and remember them, I want to know something about their lives other than they happen to be involved in a bit of action right now. What's their family life like? Is this the norm for them, or out of the ordinary?

You don’t have to answer every question the reader has. This isn't an extensive list and some of these overlap. 

What you want to do is give readers enough information so that they’re asking questions of their own that surpass the standard ‘what, why, when’s. Is his father’s abusive relationship with him the reason why he’s in this fight? Is a packet of chicken nuggets really worth being gunned down in the streets – and how did their get so hostile over frozen food?

And keep writing those eccentric action scenes. They’re a strong start to any young adult novel.

Cheers for reading!