1. Nicoel

    Nicoel Senior Member

    Jan 4, 2015
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    How do you jump into action?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nicoel, Jun 2, 2015.

    I'm fairly decent at writing homely everyday scenes, but I do need to include action scenes and I just don't know how to start them.

    An example is like, "Suddenly, my phone started making a weird siren noise and the shock of it made me drop it." This just feels weak and inexperienced for a sentence.

    How would you go from a character just standing there chatting, then an attacker comes from the shadows and tackles them to the ground? (In first person - when I write in third person my tense and perspective get's confused easily)
  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    If it were me, I'd just keep writing as you are, including the weak, inexperienced and boring sentences. Get your characters into the action scene any way you can. THEN, once you're finished with your story, go back and edit it. Most of the time these kinds of 'introductions' to action scenes are best fixed by simply removing them. Find the point where your reader actually needs to enter the scene. That's what you fix during the edit.

    I love the phrase 'literary throat-clearing.' You know, all that harrumph, cough, unaccustomed-as-I-am-to-public-speaking noises you make before you start an actual speech in front of a group of people? That's what you end up clearing out of your writing. But rather than worrying about it when you're writing your first draft, just keep going. Then, during the edit, concentrate on the point where the action begins, and see what you can do to pare away the preliminaries.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
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  3. Jared Carter

    Jared Carter Member

    Jan 23, 2013
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    For jumping into action, I wouldn't start it with suddenly. Not a big fan of suddenly. I believe it cheapens the effect and comes across as a form of telling rather than showing. If its sudden, then make it sudden to the readers.

    For your example, I would've written it something like: "Once I slipped the phone from my pocket, the wailing of a siren emanated from it and an electric shock surged from its circuitry and singed my hand, making me drop it to the ceramic floor. The phone's faceplate popped free as it clattered against the tiles, exposing its innards, and the siren ceased. I clutched my chest as my heart raced out of control. Dammit! Someone is trying to kill me!"

    I don't know if this is how you would've interpreted this scene, but this is what I wrote based on what you gave me. I just thought it could be fleshed out a little more. Not only is detail important for conveying action, but you should also give some kind of impression of what the protagonist is feeling in response to the action. I hope this helps.
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    I love soup. Especially when I have a little bit of a sore throat. This was just the right kind, bisque, a little creamy but not too much. I dipped my spoon and slurped, dipped and slurped, settling into perfect contentment.

    The phone rang with a howl more suited to an air raid siren. I dropped my spoon, splattering creamy pinkness across the perfect beige carpet. Dammit.
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  5. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I think there are at least two approaches - the "suddenly" approach (whether you use that word or not) and the "and finally" approach (again, not necessarily using those words). That is, the action can come as a total surprise, or it can be foreshadowed or led up to.

    Is your character eating pink bisque, or is she searching for her lost daughter at the mall with increasing alarm and finally panic?

    In general, I'd say your example sentence feels distant from the action. You can get in closer to your character and be a bit more descriptive to give a stronger reader response:

    The siren pierced my skull and shattered my thoughts. My whole body jerked, my fingers spasming with alarm, and my phone tumbled to the concrete floor. Only as it fell did I realize it was the source of the horrible noise.
    Lots of different versions! I think the key is to try to focus on your character, not on the action itself. You want your readers to do more than just understand what's going on.
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