1. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    How many pages should a good action sequence be?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Alex R. Encomienda, Apr 10, 2016.

    To get to the point, my story is fantasy story. It doesn't have much action except for a few peak points of the arcs.

    I was wondering, for a book over 70,000 words, how many pages do action sequences need to be? And do you prefer to read books where the whole scene is done in dialogue (my arm is cut clean off! Help me! Yelled the man in agony.) or when there are dialogue scenes mixed in with narrative (amongst the turmoil in the evergreens, there was a man- and he was yellin something awful.)?

    I appreciate the advice!
     
  2. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    If you're dealing with something like a pitched battle, it should probably be of some length. They lasted a while, and there's a lot of emotion and sensory stuff to go over.
    In a one on one fight, I don't think it should be more than a few paragraphs. Those fights last seconds, and there's so little space for thought because it's pretty much all reflex.

    As for dialogue, I don't want it at all in a fight. People whose arms are gone are more likely to just scream incoherently than to call out an inventory of their wounds.
     
  3. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    It really depends on what's going on. I don't think there's much you can really be told generally. The advice would have to be specific to apply.
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It's a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string type question.

    Your scene should be long enough to achieve your goals for that scene while being short enough to maintain the pacing you want for that section of the book. Not too helpful, probably, but... there it is.
     
  5. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    2.36 pages of A4 in Times New Roman size 12.
     
  6. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    I thought is was in Arial! This whole time I was using the wrong font. Typical.
     
  7. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    :D:D
     
  8. Lalochezia

    Lalochezia New Member

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    Bleeding Cowboys all the way.

    As to the question, I agree with the above: it just depends on what you want to do. I don't think there's a magic number.
     
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  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Arial is only for flash fiction writers.

    Bestsellers? They use Comic Sans.
     
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  10. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    :superlaugh:
    ... But what about Times New Roman that you said earlier? :unsure:
    Are you just lying to us!!:supershock:
     
  11. Lalochezia

    Lalochezia New Member

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    War and Peace was originally written entirely in Wingdings.

    (Which is all the more impressive without a computer)
     
  12. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Non-bestselling novel writers use TNR. You're not allowed to use Comic Sans until you've hit the top 10 in The Times' bestsellers.

    :D
     
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  13. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    You shittin' me?

    And apparently YA books use Arial too.
     
  14. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel

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    An action sequence is the right length when it raises the tension of the book while maintaining a smooth, unbroken narrative flow without becoming bogged down in excessive detail. As others have suggested, length is a function of content. A domestic dispute will likely be shorter than a military engagement between two armies.

    You also need to consider the perspective and involvement of your MC. If the MC is involved in the battle or conflict, then more detail will likely enhance the story, but if the battle is not a significant part of the events the MC experiences, then perhaps a short paragraph that summarizes the action would be appropriate.
     
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  15. doggiedude

    doggiedude Contributor Contributor

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    "I like to study wars, not battles. A battle is meaningless to the outcome of history."
    ----- A quote by some character in the Wheel of Time series that I don't remember the name of.
    I've read a few books that detail battles excessively throughout the entire story. As a reader, I just want to know the basics and the results. I couldn't care less about tedious descriptions of the way people jumped, swung swords or dived & ducked behind things as bullets passed by. I guess there are people that enjoy all that sort of detail but I'm not one of them.
     
  16. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I enjoy that level of detail as long as it has other things like thoughts, sensations and emotions, and that it doesn't go on for more than a few large pagesish
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    I can only think of two things to say here...

    1) Serif fonts (yes, that's a complete thought... well, it is now)

    2) Any scene, battle or not, needs to accomplish the following: establish (or remind the reader of) the scene goal, show how hard it is to achieve, waylay the scene's focal character with a distraction so it's even harder, and (finally) either show the FC reach the goal (but with an uh-oh) or get pushed further from the goal... unless, of course, it's the climactic scene and then you can let the poor bastard reach his goal.

    And all that needs to be done in as few words as possible without leaving out any necessary details... but those 'few words' might end up being fifteen pages or more.

    And (if you're still reading) what it boils down to is what @BayView said.
     
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  18. Indefatigable Id

    Indefatigable Id Member

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    The quicker you cut to the chase, the more impactful it will be. Nobody wants a play-by-play of everything that happens, stretching fifteen seconds of action over three minutes of reading.

    "He put his finger on the trigger, thought about his dead family, and squeezed the trigger. The hammer dropped on the bullet, compressing the agitated mercury under the firing pin, starting a chemical reaction inside of the bullet which caused an expansion of gas, which then propelled the bullet out of the shell casing and into the barrel, twirling through the rifling like a ballerina or something, sailing through the air like a bird I guess. It traveled towards the dark haired man with a Casio wristwatch, who earlier had watched an episode of American Idol and tweeted about Simon Cowell's disagreeable disposition. The bullet impacts the man in his left shoulder unceremoniously. The man doesn't even realize he's been shot for a moment, then the pain sets in. He reaches up and grabs his arm. It hurts real bad."

    vs.

    "He shot the guy and then did other stuff, then shot another guy, then got shot and hid behind some stuff. Then, there was an explosion and it was all cool and what not."

    If you are really making an action sequence, you're going to want each beat to be something happening. So, I think less than one page.

    A more smart ass answer being... isn't it all "action"? You can't really write about inaction.
     
  19. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    It depends on what kind of fight though, doesn't it? If it's a long battle, especially the military kind; it might be quite elaborate and require some detail to get through it all.
     
  20. Indefatigable Id

    Indefatigable Id Member

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    In 1939 World War 2 happened. Germany attacked everybody, then England and America fought back. Also, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Allied forces defeated Germany and its allies, including Japan who surrendered unconditionally after the USA dropped 2 atomic bombs on them.

    ...I dunno, I guess it comes down to whether you're trying to tell a story that has a plot, or whether you're just describing a bunch of stuff that happens. But no, there's no 'required' level of detail that a military kind of battle necessitates. This goes back to plot. What is the plot? How does describing every detail of an elaborate war further the plot? Is your plot about characters--or just a series of events?
     
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  21. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I did say "might" and when I say require I mean it might become apparent it would clearly benefit from. And I'm not saying you go over ever little thing, just that some long battles might want some detail. For example, some of the big battles in lord of the rings like Helms Deep or the Siege of Gondor. There's quite a bit of detail there, but without being crazy overwhelming, and sticking to what achieves the story's goals.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2016
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  22. Indefatigable Id

    Indefatigable Id Member

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    I am vocal about my opinions, but I would be willing to guess that not everyone would express this unpopular opinion: I am not a big fan of Lord of the Rings, the book. I couldn't really get into it. I really liked the movies, whoever wrote those screenplays did a brilliant job. But after what felt like a near lifetime, the hobbits were still meandering through the Forest, hadn't even reached Bree yet. It got dull.
     
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  23. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a pretty big nerd so I like folklore, societal exposition and the play out of politics or battle strategies.
     
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  24. Indefatigable Id

    Indefatigable Id Member

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    Maybe you should put a disclaimer someplace!
     
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  25. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I've said in other places that I enjoy details about world, history, and other such potentially boring details. And my profile does have the word "weirdo" in the personal description message thing in the information section.
     
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