Writing action can either go very good or very bad.

Air Force Target Hardening Self-Defense March 13 2010

How many books have you picked up that’s let you down with a half baked action sequence? How many stories have you written with an action scene? Do you like writing action scenes or are you more of a script writer, you do all the amazing lead up then put THEY FIGHT in brackets?

I am more like a script writer, but I always go back to write the action scenes. I just need a bit of physical help to do so. Here’s how I write action scenes and how I enlist physical help to do so.

Top Tips

  1. If you are a writer you should also be a reader. Do your research, read other action sequences and take notes on the following:
    1. Sentence structure.
    2. Paragraph size.
    3. Affects of the attack (pain, descriptions).
    4. Anything mentioned that’s happening around the attack (click of cameras).
    5. How conversation is portrayed during the action (yelling, calmly, screams, etc)
  2. Watch YouTube; see some experts and their moves. Here’s one I used: (Note: The video I used was more advanced but I can no longer find it. This is the same move but without the technical explanations behind it).

3. Take a class on how to fight Martial Arts, street fighting. any of these classes can help give you a basic understanding of what you are doing. alternatively find someone who has taken a class and ask them questions, take lots of notes.

4. Write out your action scene as steps first.


Writing an action scene as steps. Make them brief notes, what you want to happen in what order. Here’s my notes from one of my scenes.

  1. Colin gets in the way, Hawke takes him out with a 3 jab pressure point. (Sensory, not concussive).
  2. Kaz gets grabbed by Hawke she does a quick release on her wrist (up and down).
  3. Kaz pulls Hawkes arm behind him attempting to lock it in place.
  4. Hawke reverses the move.
  5. Kaz breaks loose.
  6. Kaz attempts to bring colin round.
  7. Hawkes uses a spinning kick that knocks her into the windowsill.
  8. Kaz pulls curtain and rail on top of him.
  9. He trips and Colin helps throw him in the cupboard.
Air Force Target Hardening Self-Defense March 13 2010

Quick straight to the point tips. You can’t write the scene yet though, here’s one more vital step.

Get Involved

Actually act it out. Find yourself someone who is willing to help and play the scenario move by move.

This works best if you know what you are doing. I am blessed to be married to a guy who has an idea of what he’s doing, he also has a brother who is a Master at his technique and a brother who used to be a cop. All that research together makes for an awesome scene when they agree to help. (Yes, I married for writing reasons.)

The scene below was played out by step by step showing me exactly how the moves worked, what was possible, what’s not possible, how they would move, what would hurt and so on. The only thing we didn’t do was throw around mugs of tea or bring down the curtains, the landlord wouldn’t let us.

Obviously, be sensible. Even if you just have one other person with you do the moves step by step, slowly. This way you can see what works, what feels forced, what needs changing and so on.

A Piece of Action

The following is an extract from the Outlaws series. This extract was created using the exact method mentioned above, you should have seen the bruises afterwards. Read the full book here.

Colin stepped between them and put one hand toward Hawke. “Okay, I’m going to have to ask you to-“

Hawke weighed Colin up for a second then grabbed his arm hitting it quickly in two points before landing a jab to the base of his Skull.

“HAWKE!” Kaz yelled indignantly, moving forward as Colin collapsed. Hawke grabbed her wrist and went to repeat the move. Lifting her arm quickly, Kaz pulled it back and down with as much force as she could muster, freeing herself.

Then she gave a quick jab to his gut before spinning behind him, taking his arm with her as Priestley had taught her, she pulled it up his back placing her other hand on his elbow.

Hawke moved faster and stronger, breaking out of the hold, he spun around reversing the move on her, getting her own arm up her back. Balling her hand into a fist she hit it back, aiming where she knew it would hurt, forcing him to release her. Using the moment of freedom to put some space between them, she jumped over the coffee table and glanced around for a weapon.


Hawke was already recovering. Thinking fast she grabbed one of the half-drunk mugs of tea and threw the content into his face, then grabbed another one and threw it at Colin.

Hawke grabbed the table and tossed it aside sending the laptop, tea and papers in all directions, then delivered a spinning kick to her middle sending her flying back into the windowsill.

Kaz saw red as the pain shuddered through her body, her breath catching in her throat.

Seeing Hawke advancing she pulled hard on the curtains behind her and ducked out of the way, bringing them over the top of Hawke. Jumping into the air she kicked out with both feet. He stumbled and slipped on one of the mugs sending him crashing into the couch which tumbled backwards.

A recovered Colin half picked Hawke off the floor and threw him into the closet, curtain and all, before slamming the door shut and helping Kaz right the couch and push it against the door, preventing escape.

Try This

Here’s a writing prompt for you. Go away and write the epic battle scene that follows.

Hero leaves the building on a rainy night. Villain strikes fast from behind.

Simple, right? Don’t worry about descriptions, the reason why the hero is the hero or the villain is the villain, or if it’s in a town or village.

Do consider; the rain, the movements, the order of the battle, wounds and how they would be viewed in the moment (don’t make a big deal of a wound if it slows the pace of a battle), the immediate surroundings (building wall, a road? a bin?).

Do share theoutcome below.

How’d You Do?

Did you do the prompt? Write your action scene in the comments below. Tell us how this worked for you. did you enjoy it? Do you have any more tips?

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