Avoiding Action

As far as writing goes, I’d say I’m most comfortable and confident when it comes to writing dialogue.

After all, I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life listening to people talk, so by this point I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what authentic dialogue sounds like.

And while I do find writing scene and character descriptions difficult, I have far more trouble with describing action than anything else in my stories. 

The truth is, when I first started writing, I used to write or rewrite my stories to avoid any complicated action sequences.

That meant avoiding any wars, ambushes, dances, sword fights, chase scenes, or even heated arguments so my stories wouldn’t become “too hard to write”.

Obviously, removing all action and excitement from a story will result in the story being dull, and that’s exactly what happened. 

I wrote boring stories.

Back in Action

Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to realize that I couldn’t write a fantasy or sci-fi story with dialogue alone.

Stories are far more interesting when people dance in ballrooms, or sword fight, or battle giant scorpions.

And since I can’t just tell my readers what my characters are doing, I have to show my characters doing these things.

I wrote my first ever dance scene for a short story called Rule of Dance, and that helped me prove to myself that I can write action that’s clear and easy for readers to picture.

The trick is researching and putting in the effort.

Research is Key

To write the dance scene in Rule of Dance, I had to look up videos of people dancing, study their movements, and translate their movements into words.

From there, I had to balance describing the action with describing the scenery, dialogue, and the characters’ appearances.

It took a while, but in the end it really paid off.

I’ve written a couple other dance scenes since then, like the one in my book, The Librarian’s Ruse, but the dancing scene in Rule of Dance is still my favorite.

Fight scenes are the same way. Watching videos of people fighting (hand-to-hand or with weapons) really helped me with the books I’m currently working on.

For my fantasy novel, I also had to do research on crossbows, like how long it would take to reload one. I also had to enlist the help of a few friends to act out a couple scenes so I could get the space and timing right. (Shoutout to Alli and Lindsey)

Sometimes researching can be tedious and frustrating, but ultimately it’s helped me create some fantastic action sequences.

Getting Technical

Back when I was learning at The Company, Brad Pauquette gave me and the other students an odd assignment to help us with writing action.

The assignment was to write instructions that would teach someone how to tie their shoes.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, this assignment gave me a bit of trouble.

I know how to tie my shoes. I’ve done it plenty of times in the past, and I’ll probably do it plenty of times in the future unless I decide to wear slippers or boots for the rest of my life.

But describing how I tie my shoes and making it clear enough so that someone who doesn’t already know how could follow the instructions was quite the challenge.

This is what I ended up with:

Tying Shoes is Knot for Knot!

(12 Steps to Tie Your Laces & Not Fall Flat on Your Face)

by Thirzah Griffioen

#1 With your right hand grab your right shoelace, and with your left hand grab your left shoelace, lifting both laces straight up in the air so that they are taut.

#2 With your left hand grab your right shoelace and with your right hand grab your left shoelace, crossing the laces so that they make an “X” shape.

#3 Curve your right shoelace over your left shoelace, feeding it through the bottom of the “X” shape.

#4 Pull both ends until tightened and let go of the shoelace in your left hand.

#5 Put your left thumb two-thirds of the way down from the top of your right shoelace and wrap the shoelace over your thumb to create a loop (note that one-third of the shoelace should remain apart from the loop like a tail).

#6 Pinch and hold the bottom of the loop with your right thumb and index finger.

#7 With your left hand take your left shoelace and loosely wrap it clockwise around your right shoelace loop, right index finger, and thumb, creating a circular loop around them.

#8 Poke the middle of your left shoelace through the circular loop you’ve just formed with it, creating a third partial-loop.

#9 Place your left thumb and index finger on the side of the third loop that is closest to your right thumb and index finger.

#10 Place your right thumb and index finger on the first loop you created, above the second, circular loop, on the side farthest from the end of your right shoelace.

#11 Use both thumbs and index fingers to pull your laces at the same time.

#12 Adjust as needed.

These directions are not entertaining or interesting, but they do accomplish the task that we were assigned, and that’s the important part. Because once I do get the technical part of writing action down, I can add to it and make it more interesting.

And the more I practice writing action scenes and sequences, the more I’ll improve, and the more confident I’ll become while writing them.

Now, instead of creating boring plots just so I can avoid writing any complex action sequences, I can let myself be creative!

Before You Go…

Do you enjoy writing action scenes/sequences?

Let me know down in the comments!

Want To Read A Free Short Story?

Enter your email and get my latest fantasy short story, Rule of Dance, sent straight to your inbox right now!

Your free short story is on its way to your inbox!