Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Action: Tips from Larry Correia at the Writers for Life Workshop

Larry Correia, best known for his Monster Hunter International books, gave a presentation on writing action at the Writers for Life workshop I attended at the beginning of the month. He really emphasized correctness in writing--asking experts to make sure you're writing it right, because mistakes really jerk readers out of the story. For the rest of his fifty minutes, he talked about writing action.

Action is a tool to vary intensity. Having too many scenes without action or too many scenes with action gets boring. In fact, being bored is the key. Ask your readers, Were you ever bored? Those are the places that need revision. The two banes to action scenes are boredom and confusion.

Larry emphasized staying true to your character in an action scene. This means incorporating their personality, emotions, and skills just as you would in any other scene; the character can't suddenly change, or that connection to the reader will be lost (unless you're the Incredible Hulk or something, but then, that should be established, eh?). Using the character's thoughts and emotions in an action scene will help the reader to connect to him. And when it comes to action scenes, especially fighting, there are a few key notes:

  • People default to their level of training; they don't rise to the occasion. So your average Joe isn't going to be able to pull out some unknown Kung Fu moves to protect himself when he gets jumped in an alley.
  • In real life, people don't have hit points; they have blood pressure. Understand how the human body works. Often it only takes one wound to down someone. Larry recommended Googling "wound ballistics," but don't look at the image search unless you have a strong stomach.
  • Understand what adrenaline actually does to the human body. Adrenaline makes you stronger, but did you know it also causes tunnel vision, lowers your auditory capabilities, and numbs your fine motor skills?

It's important to remember that action is not separate from plot, it's integral to plot. Don't just throw in an action scene for the sake of having action. If it doesn't advance the story, it shouldn't be there.


  1. I've definitely noticed the auditory weakness under adrenaline. I'm practically deaf any time I'm playing soccer with a full head of steam. Although sometimes it seems to make my fine motor skills finer.

  2. Good tips about action. I tend to be heavy on the action when I write, but then that's also what I like to read.

  3. LOVE these tips! I love action in books and movies, but if it's not done right it can ruin it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Good advice. Thanks for sharing Larry Correia's tips.

  5. Not the tips I was expecting, but very interesting and very valuable. Thanks!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.