Action scenes are difficult for a lot of writers. Most of the questions writers ask me when I beta read have to do with the action. This list of questions is for all those high tension moments!
Disclaimer: As always, every question on this page is followed by “Why?”
Accident / Random Attacker
Some books don’t have two enemies challenging each other. Some times the action scene is a horrific accident or an attacker.
Did you see the event coming?
Did you feel any build up before it happened?
What things made you feel anticipation?
Did the circumstances make sense?
Did it fit in the story easily?
How did you feel before, during and after the event?
Do you care what happened?
Action scenes should have plenty of build up. In most cases, there is a conflict that grows until the only resolution would be a fight or war.
Does the story show the motivations of both parties?
Who do you like more? Who do you want to win?
Does their motivation seem reasonable?
How was any of the back story leading to this?
How imminent does the showdown feel?
Were you excited for the face off?
There are many types of chase scenes. Sometimes they are integrated in with a fight scene. Sometimes they are just the action. Either way, it should be gripping!
Was the chase scene entertaining?
Did you get a sense of danger?
What made you feel the most anticipation?
Was there any point where you wanted to skip it?
Was the fight scene exciting or boring?
Were you worried about anything at any point?
Could you see the fight clearly?
Did you feel like you were present in the fight or watching it from above?
Were you invested in any of the characters enough to worry about the outcome? Who?
Where the fight is can have a huge impact on the fight itself. If the setting is written well it can make the reader feel like they’re right in the action.
Does the setting convey any feelings to you?
Could you see where the fight is taking place?
Fight scenes don’t need to be blow for blow. It gets boring. But the blows that do exist, make sure they have impact. There should be some fighting in a fight scene but it’s great when there’s banter. Or something goes wrong. Use the environment. A fight isn’t just a kick-punch-repeat process. Another thing I want to mention, make it as believable as you can.
Does the actual fighting make sense?
Is it realistic for the world?
Do all the characters fight the same or do you learn things about them from their fighting styles?
If a character gets injured, don’t shrug it off. The reader notices that too and it damages believability. Sometimes there’s a magical cure but sometimes it takes the old fashioned approach. If it is old school, keep in mind the character won’t be able to do much for a while.
Was anyone injured during the fight? How did you feel about it?
What did you think about the way the character was healed?
How long was their recovery?
What did you think about the development of the other characters during the recovery?
How did you feel when they were injured?
If there is a major character death it needs to be addressed. There are many ways to write major deaths. I’ve seen powerful ones where you see them die and ones where the death is discovered. Either way, this should definitely pack a punch. Hopefully the reader will either cheer or cry!
How did you feel discovering/watching this major character die?
Was the scene realistic/convincing?
Did you worry about any of the other character’s reactions?
Are you worried about anything in the world now that they’re gone?
This is the sixth installment of my questions series. If you want to look at the other questions I have a section in my Archives / Questions section.