Tips on writing a big fight/chase scene?

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GirlWithPoisonPen

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I've got the big scene: the hero and heroine find themselves in the clutches of the villian(s). They escape, split up, and eventually find their way to a safe place.

I'm finding this series of events to be a little harder to write than others. I seem to be better at dialog and small moments.

Does anyone have any tips? Do you draw a map? Do a storyboard?

I can see the movie in my head, I just have to get it out.
 

jeseymour

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If you can see it in your head, try just blocking the scene, concentrating on the action. Then go back and fill in the details. I had a terrible time with a fight scene last year and my writers group helped me out by telling me what made sense and what didn't.
 

RJK

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Here's a short chase scene. I surprised myself in that it only took one paragraph to describe all the action in my head.

The Chevy driver swerved away. Then, turned right at the first street he saw. The Cadillac followed and the chase was on. The cars broke out onto Ferry Avenue and it became a race. The Cadillac began to overtake The Chevy. The passenger shot at the Chevy’s tires. He got lucky and punctured both tires on the driver’s side. The Chevy swerved to the left and crashed into a parked car.
 

DeleyanLee

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The simple tricks to writing action sequences is to make each sentence simple and precise and to use active verbs. Avoid all qualifiers (almost, nearly, etc). Things happen or they don't. Keeping sentences as short as possible keeps the pace fast and, when done well, heighten the inherent tension of the situation.

Storyboarding, or even drawing O's and X's with arrows like we see in Hollywood football pre-game scenes, can work well to figure out the logistics--if such things work for you. I'm not a visual person, so they don't work for me but they work for friends of mine.

Also remember that a tight POV also helps focus what needs to be written, as well as works well with the tension build.

Hope that helps. Good luck with it.
 

C.H. Valentino

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The Corner Stone Cue. :Thumbs:

It's a band- more of a musical group- electric symphonic, really.

Anyway- they do the music that is played in movie trailers. :hooray:

Look them up on iTunes- they are great. And totally what I heard as the music for this potential scene.

Music inspires me; so I have no other suggestions other than that. :Headbang:

I realize this makes me a crap-Muse. :e2bummed:

For this, I must apologize.
 

Claudia Gray

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Action scenes are tough: No two ways about it. The best tips I've got:

Visualize -- Your imagination, and your writing, should be as cinematic as possible.

Speed it up -- The faster-paced action scenes are, the better.

Keep it simple -- It's going to be hard to sustain pulse-pounding suspense while your character spends five minutes jimmying a lock. Just break down the door. The same rule applies to your prose. Don't find beautiful, amazing euphemisms for an explosion. Just have the car expode.

Stay on your characters -- Action scenes are sometimes complicated to describe and can tempt us into writing solely about the street, the car, the door, in other words, the logistics. But this isn't what the readers care about. Stay tight on your characters and their reactions to what's going on. (Also, sometimes this can work for you strategy-wise; you don't have to explain every detail when your character wouldn't be in a position to see/analyze this detail during the chase.)

Hope this is useful!
 

Jake Barnes

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Everything is characterization, including action scenes.
 

Ruv Draba

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Break your action into beats. For each beat, have one adversary try to do something and the other adversary respond. In general the kinds of actions you can have are attack, retreat, block or distract. If it's a car chase then:
Attack: might include trying to overtake, ram or run another vehicle off the road, or shooting at the other vehicle;​

Retreat: might include accelerating away, veering off down a side-street, or the rear vehicle breaking off the chase;​

Block: might include road-blocks, tyre-spikes, swerving to cut off overtaking, using other traffic or terrain to impede the other vehicle​

Distract: might include creating obstacles on the road, shining lights at the driver, covering the other driver's windscreen, harrying one vehicle with another vehicle (e.g. a chopper), hiding your vehicle from view, or doing a hand-brake turn and trying to retreat in the opposite direction​
For any attempt there can be any of four outcomes:


  1. Yes: the attempt succeeds;
  2. Yes, but: the attempt succeeds but there are problems or complications;
  3. No: the attempt fails;
  4. No and furthermore: the attempts fails and creates additional problems or complications.
From the perspective of the viewpoint character, tension is sustained by any of the outcomes except for 1).

Significant in action scenes is who has the initiative. The character with the initiative gets to try stuff; the character who doesn't have initiative gets to react. Initiative can flow back and forth between the adversaries depending on the outcome. This contributes to suspense. You can also create suspense by leaving the outcome of some attempt unresolved for a while (e.g. the car catches fire and the hero can't drive and put it out at the same time).

Hopefully this supplies an anatomy for a car-chase (or really, any other physical action scene). Now let's talk about how to write a good one.

The good chases will have tension and suspense but they'll also be personal. There will be personal stakes, and personalities revealed through action. A good action scene strips the masks from its participants, showing us something about them that might surprise us.

In an episode of The Shield for instance, there's a foot-chase between the police and a fleeing criminal. The criminal is light and quick, and at the climax of the chase, climbs up over a fence (a distraction attempt that succeeds); the main character Vic is heavy-set and goes through the fence to bring him down (an attack attempt that also succeeds). What makes this scene exciting isn't just the spectacle of a burly policeman charging through a fence, but what it tells us about that particular burly policeman.

So to make your major action scenes sing:
  1. Make the stakes personal;
  2. Vary the stakes as the scene develops;
  3. Reveal something about the major characters;
  4. Resolve the scene with character consequences, not just a result.
Hope this helps.
 
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50 Foot Ant

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I love the advice given above, but let me offer an additional tool...

flowchart.jpg

It's not as complicated as it looks, and once you get used to it, you can sketch it down in about 5 seconds, then use it to keep track of your action.

S=Start.
Villain looks away, plucky heroine and slack jawed hero make a break for it.
1: Hero realizes he lost the heroine
2: Villain sees hero briefly and shoots at him
3: Hero stops to regain his bearings and breathe heavy
4: Villain jumps out and punches hero in the side of the head and runs away giggling
5: Hero stumbles on cursing
6: Hero hears heroine scream
7: Villain realizes that when he sneezed, they ran away.
8: Irritated, Villain sees Hero and takes a shot at him and begins to follow
(See Four)
9: Bumps into Heroine, knocks her down by accident, then grabs her by the head and pulls her toward The Room of Doom!
10: Speech time, final fight.
11: Heroine skips away, giggling, then realizes that the slack jawed Hero went the wrong direction
12: Heroine hears the gunshot
13: Heroine hears the Hero cry out in pain (punched in head) and rushes to save him.
14: Heroine encounters a bear, which falls down dead from her beauty when she screams, and off she rushes to save the slack jawed Hero!


OK, you get the point.

It's a simple tool, and it can help chase scenes, and even fight scenes.
 

KatrinaFee

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Retreat: might include accelerating away, veering off down a side-street, or the rear vehicle breaking off the chase;​

Block: might include road-blocks, tyre-spikes, swerving to cut off overtaking, using other traffic or terrain to impede the other vehicle​

Distract: might include creating obstacles on the road, shining lights at the driver, covering the other driver's windscreen, harrying one vehicle with another vehicle (e.g. a chopper), hiding your vehicle from view, or doing a hand-brake turn and trying to retreat in the opposite direction​
For any attempt there can be any of four outcomes:


  1. Yes: the attempt succeeds;
  2. Yes, but: the attempt succeeds but there are problems or complications;
  3. No: the attempt fails;
  4. No and furthermore: the attempts fails and creates additional problems or complications.
.

Thanks for this. It works just as well when it's verbal sparring and not a fist fight--I used it today for a big argument between two of my protagonists, and it really helped.
 

RunawayScribe

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Keep up the pacing. Crisp sentences speed up the feel of the piece. Too long and/or extra words will make an action scene drag. Also, make sure not to waste time on details that don't matter or ones the narrator or MC wouldn't see in the heat of the moment. They're not needed, and it wouldn't be realistic to observe them during a fight or chase. And when you're done, read it aloud. If it takes too long or seems awkward, get rid of it.

Luck :)
 

Kathleen42

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So glad you asked this. I feel your pain. Dialogue I can write all day but action is a struggle.
 

Ruv Draba

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Thanks for this. It works just as well when it's verbal sparring and not a fist fight--I used it today for a big argument between two of my protagonists, and it really helped.
Yes -- the ideas originally came from various books on conflict. You can adapt them to arguments, wars, melee, races, magical contests, espionage...
 

C.bronco

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Fight and chase scenes are a whole lot of fun for me. I pretty much make them up as I go along, and then go back and alter them as needed.

I review real battles (Thank you History Channel!) long before I write them.
 

KHCho

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I did a map for my final battle. Took a gif off a topo map and pasted it into powerpoint, then added arrows, text boxes, etc to show the strategic planning. Months later I was able to use it as a reference.

Worked for me for that scene.
 

Arkblazer

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I want to apologize beforehand for bumping a dead thread.

Its possible that all of those in this thread are no longer active in this forum, but i just wanted to thank all of you for the great tips that you gave.

i was at a loss on how to write a chase sequence, then i googled on how to write one and it linked me to this thread.

the tips that you all gave me were great, really helped me out. i literally wrote them down so i could use them as reference.

thanks to you guys. I, in records speed, wrote down a chase scene that i though would take me a while.

So let me just say one last time, that you guys are awesome.
 

tko

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my thoughts

My tips (assuming you want a memorable sequence, and not a token one to get you through the novel--which is OK for some cases):

Don't make action sequences too long.

Don't make them at the same intensity throughout

Don't make them repetitive.

(he punched, they hit back, he ran, they kicked, the door opened, the tires exploded, the shot missed, he kicked back, they ducked, bang bang bang)

And most importantly do not include wisecracks :) Unless it's Butch Cassidy.

DO include inner thoughts, thinking, and planning in the right places as methods to increase tension.

DO visualize the entire fight (storyboard.)

DO try to vary the pacing and intensity (especially for fights or chases longer than a page)

DO include lots of foreplay and tension. Much more effective to have a page of lead in, followed by a one paragraph fight, than the other way around.

Remember. Time stops in a fight or chase. Make us feel that.

Lee Child is a master of this. Read his stuff. He's got a page of foreplay, then a short fight were we get inside the character's head.

All my beginning writer's 2 cents, but I have thought about it a lot.
 

gothicangel

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Why am I just finding this thread now?

The WIP I have out on submission is a 'chase' plot, which has about four or five smaller chase sequences within it, and two 'hunting' sequences. My MC is a Roman 'bounty-hunter.'

So, it's basically a geographical detective novel. :D
 

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