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Thread: How can I infuse action scenes in my script?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Jul 2013

    How can I infuse action scenes in my script?


    I'm writing a story about a couple of cops on the trail of a serial killer. I've written the outline of the plot and everything but there's one space in which I'm having trouble. My story doesn't have action in it and it has a possibility to get boring. Just to clarify, this is not in the thriller genre which needs suspense and tension. This is more of a buddy-cop genre with elements of comedy throughout. But because of my premise and story, it doesn't qualify as an action comedy yet.

    In most buddy-cop movies, they have to take down a drug empire/drug lord. So there's action in that. Fighting with the henchmen, being attacked by a gang, etc. But since in my story, they are chasing a serial killer, I can't have the same mechanisms. And the killer taunts and challenges them but never physically.

    So could anybody please help me out here? How can I have action scenes in this kind of story?

    This has been really troubling me. I don't want to part with the premise and I'm unable to work out this particular problem. I'll be really grateful for any help and/or clarity regarding this. Many thanks!

  2. #2
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Total brain fart, maybe you need a second group of antagonists whose activities cross over into what the cop duo see as their main target, so they have to stay in pursuit of the serial killer while dealing with the pesky heist artists or whatever they are, like their captain demands. Or if not on the job itself, they get in trouble with something else entirely, the favor for a pal that turns sour and attracts the wrong kind of interest, interfering with their investigation as well as putting them in danger.

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  3. #3
    Travelling around the sun cbenoi1's Avatar
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  4. #4
    Arranger Of Disorder WriteKnight's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
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    NO Action? They sit in a room and talk the entire time?

    ACTION may not involve the serial killer. As others have said, they're cops. They work more than one case. Could be a 'b-plot' storyline that requires action. Could be a comedic confrontation while on the job - requiring action.

    Think about your characters. They are 'men of action' by virtue of their jobs. It requires them to 'act'. How do you personify their internal characteristics - or better yet the dynamic of their relationship - by showing it IN ACTION?

    Is one fit, the other fat?

    Is on aggressive, the other passive?

    Is one silent, the other talkative?

    How does this play out - when confronted with solving a 'physical' problem, requiring action?

    Remember - the scene must advance the plot AND illuminate character.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW odocoileus's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
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  6. #6
    Good suggestions so far.

    I personally (and also humbly) will suggest here that you probably need major 'wildcards' to add to this story no matter how unique you already think it is.

    Why? Because all serial killer stories are sooooo over-used nowadays, as are 'hit men' and 'drug dealers' and 'terrorists'.

    I appreciate your ambition, but 'cops pursuing a taunting serial killer' is hindered right-out-of-the-gate because its simply a very used-up motif. Extremely hard to 'make it fresh' again.

    So --if I were you-- I would add in something entirely unpredictable just to bring the whole concept out from under the glaze it will already appear to have on it, when anyone's eyes meet up with it.

    An example might be: two small town cops think they're on the trail of an unsuspected serial killer...they've been working on this case for three yrs. Suddenly, a team of federal agents swoop in with their own investigation and they want to grab this killer for themselves and get all the glory.

    And then when you find that 'something unpredictable' ....(such as the above) then it in itself, had better be extraordinary, rousing, rollicking, and exciting all on its own. Something that it itself, will lead to huge sprawling, conflict. Otherwise you have a very linear A--->B narrative which people can 'see ahead to where its leading' type of tale. You don't want that.

    An example (furthering the above wrinkle) might be: the two local cops go to pieces at having their work snatched away from them. They take on the fed agents and wage a behind-the-scenes war to wreck the FBI's case and finish their own, instead.

    And then, amp it up even more: of the FBI agents is actually...the estranged brother of one of the local cops!

    And/or: of the serial killer's victim's was the mother of cop #1!

    (Just an example, to illustrate what I mean. I know this is all probably in conflict with everything you've written so far)

    Why all the ratcheting up? Because 'external conflict' is often too-easily resolved. Internal conflict is knotty and thorny. Great stories come from plots where the audience can't even begin to imagine a way out.

    Your specific question: 'how to add action to your plot' depends on such deeper structural changes first, before you worry about scenes that-may-be-too-sleepy. In other words, if you just 'plug in' a car chase...or a shootout..or an explosion. Nothing like that will ever be enough. It will seem contrived.

    Ideally, action ought to be used judiciously; action is nothing without good anticipation and build-up. If you have strong conflict (as I clumsily try to describe above) then you may find appropriate places to infuse action.
    Last edited by dinky_dau; 10-23-2016 at 12:32 AM.

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mr.Bohemian's Avatar
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    Feb 2017
    I am mainly a stage playwright. My focus is almost never on action, as the stage is a boring circus. What I would suggest is continue the dialogue of your characters, perhaps with the buddy cops you described. Maybe after more dialogue your action will naturally come clear.


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