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I hate action sequences

Probably the most praised aspect of my work is the action, which is funny, because I hate writing it.

I don’t hate reading it; I don’t hate it when it’s done. I despise writing it because it’s the most re-written, reformulated, and slaved-upon aspect of my work. This wasn’t always the way of things. I remember being a spry typist of 17, sitting down to pound out action scenes with greasy fingers, and relishing the visceral joy of not being limited by a special effects budget.

In a way, the action scenes were the reason I started writing: it was the mere conversion of those cinematic murder-orgies that swam through my teenage mind into something I could show people. “See? Isn’t the stuff in my brain SO COOL?”

Except… they sucked. Because those vivid murder-orgies don’t convert that well to paper—probably because you can’t just follow every punch with, “and it was totally badass.”

The pornographic attention to detail used to convey—lovingly—the fluid ease with which the hero drives his fist so hard into the bad guy’s head that the skull pops out was, perhaps, bogging the words down; my need to describe an exchange blow-for-blow was, just maybe, overly attentive to footwork and what was happening with the good guy’s hair. The FIFTH jump kick was not as spectacular as the first, even if it was freaking wicked, and happened off the back of a guy blinded by acid.

I do more with action scenes now. They’re an opportunity to learn intimate things about your characters—they’re opportunities to show how your characters behave in an extreme situation. When someone tries to snuff out her life, how does she react? With terror, or outrage, or the belabored sigh of someone who did this last Saturday and just wants to return her fucking Redbox? Action scenes are, in this way, much like sex scenes. The mechanics of what’s happening may be interesting—it had damn well better be interesting—but the scene itself is often about a whole lot more.

I want to get back to the place where action scenes are fun; but for new reasons. Instead of vibrant murder-orgies overloaded in needless, pace-killing detail, I want them to be…

…well, okay, vibrant murder-orgies loaded with succinct, pace-empowering detail.

But also feelings, I guess.

Published inActionStorycraftWriting


  1. Aselia Aselia

    As a fledgling writer, I found this quite interesting! That sure opens up possibilities for weaving pretty scenes, mhm…

    Also, this immediately made me think of Ryn (guess that scene stuck more than even I knew), when she stands and welcomes the assault at the (flaming?) building from the dragon. I had thought that scene to be gorgeous in conveying the character’s essence to us readers. Her emotional turmoil in the moment, the way she sought catharsis through pain, how she reacted, almost uncaring, when her body was kinda getting butchered; that scene was ladden with unspoken, but very much visceral knowledge of the character’s identity and what past might have shaped her thus. It was pulchrous! Oh and the “offensive limb” chop-chop, hahaha!

    P.S. do you read reviews on Goodreads? Or ought one post somewhere here? (Not sure how I even stumbled on this article. Hopefully there’s a notification system in place ;))

    • I’m often slow to catch posts on my website, if only because I rarely check it more than weekly. Facebook is the best place to hit me up if you want a quick response–but yes, I read the Goodreads reviews as well.

      I appreciate you sharing here though! I like hearing that something I wrote stuck with you; I’m so greatly pleased you enjoyed it. These sorts of responses are encouraging.

      Generally, reviewing an author’s work–especially an indie author’s–is a gracious act, as it’s the only chance writers ever really get to see how their words have affected people. It’s an invitation to let us see how we’ve done, for good or ill. We’re not performers, so the only peek we get at our audience comes through comments, missives, and reviews. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard. It’s bad form to respond to them on the Goodreads review page, because that space is for readers not authors, so I don’t–but I don’t mind saying a few words here.

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