Tag Archives: action scenes

W-H-I-P is a Four-Letter Word: Action Verbs for Fiction Writers

After my brother-in-law read the first draft of Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, he remarked, “She is doing an awful lot of whipping.” And sure enough, Cassidy was: whipping her head around, her body, leg, a tight fist. I hadn’t realized my enormous love for this particular action verb until I’d re-read my fight scenes. Usage was downright flagrant and utterly cringe-worthy. It was humiliating! Okay, humiliating might be a wee-bit dramatic, but to this day, I swear I have an aversion to the word “whip,” and even wince when I see it in other written works. I can barely tolerate saying it!

“Whip” is my four-letter word and a reminder to not get lazy in my writing and push myself. (Note: I still use W-H-I-P in my writing, but selectively, and with grave reservations.)

If you find that your reservoir of action verbs runs on the dry side (or you forego verbs altogether and talk like this: “I home.”), help is on the way! More action verbs than you’ll ever know what to do with, though I challenge you to select five from the following lists each day and slip them into conversation, especially you “Verbophobics.” Good heavens! There is such a thing! I kid you not! Consult Wiktionary, if you don’t believe me. 😉

Fighting Words: http://linestorm.tumblr.com/post/98608734568/fighting-words-active-verbs-to-use-in-a-fight

Writing Tips: Choose Active, Precise Verbs: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~cainproj/writingtips/preciseverbs.html

1,000 Words To Write By: http://dragonwritingprompts.blogspot.com/2009/02/1000-verbs-to-write-by.html

Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, Cassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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Writing Fight Scenes: Fast and Furious

I admit it. I’m a skimmer. Show me a bloated chunk of descriptive text and my eyes glaze over. I don’t care about every detail in a room, or each step that must be performed in making a sandwich. I have a decent enough imagination. Fling what’s relevant at me and I’ll sketch out the rest. If you bog me down, I swear I’ll skim! Might even leapfrog to the good stuff (Ahhhhh, dialogue…). My request especially applies to fight scenes. Have mercy. Please be brief.

Tips for writing an exciting fight scene from an author who has the attention span of a gnat (My next blog post: Cliches: Are they really so evil?):

1. Don’t Overload

Most readers aren’t using a piece of fiction as a step-by-step guide for learning kickass Kung fu moves (They’ve got Youtube for that). So don’t be tedious. Provide the skeleton for the scene and allow the reader to fill in the meat. They won’t visualize the blow-by-blow the way you do anyway. They’ll see it the way James Cameron does. 😉

2.   “KA-POW” And Move On

Have you ever thrown a punch? A fist comes at you fast. There’s little time to compute before impact, if you even see the blow coming. This is the feel you want to create in your writing. Pulses will race, if you keep your sentences succinct. Write them like a wallop. Fast and furious. Choose powerful verbs and leave frilly adverbs be. They’ll only drag the action down.

3.  It’s More Than A Fight

Battles need to amount to more than busted noses and kicked in teeth. The fight should reveal the inner workings of your characters— the good, the bad, and the ugly. For example, in the Cassidy Jones Adventure series, violence brings out “the beast” in my teenage mutant, Cassidy Jones. As she is pummeling her opponent, she is also fighting her feral side, trying not to cross the line. Sometimes she wins, sometimes the beast does, and sometimes Cassidy capitulates. Her “partner-in-crime,” Emery Phillips, displays no moral conflict in the midst of combat. A means-to-an-end sort of fella, he does what has to be done, calmly and efficiently. There are times I suspect ice runs through that boy’s veins. I want the reader to feel the same uncertainty.

4. Get Visceral

The whole smell-sound-taste-touch thing— yeah, do that. It doesn’t take much to awaken the senses. Cartilage snapping, knuckles cracking, blood rushing, heart pounding, sweat flying, the smell of BO, the taste of vomit— all good sensory stuff. First and foremost, make your readers care. Insert the reader into your character’s skin, or else they won’t give a hoot what you do to the poor bloke. So get visceral. Make your readers feel what your characters feel.

5. Learn From The Experts (And The Self-Proclaimed Ones)

If you aren’t an accomplished black belt like I am (in the art of donkey dust), Youtube can prove to be an invaluable resource. Watch fight matches, lots of them, and take notes. I even watch instructional videos so I can somewhat understand how to perform and counteract specific moves. I won’t bore readers with foot placement and whatnot, but it helps me to know execution in order to choreograph a “realistic” fight scene. Then I run my realistic fight scene by my sister who is an accomplished black belt. If I get a thumbs-up that the scene is plausible (in the implausible world of superheroes), then it’s a wrap.

I hope this has been helpful. It has been for me. The entire time writing this post I’ve been dying to read over the fight scene I finished last night. I suspect there’s an adverb or two that needs to be demolished. There always is!

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Elise.Stokes1.crop5x7.0045Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate girls to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence. The stories in Cassidy Jones Adventures are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds. Cassidy Jones and the Secret FormulaCassidy Jones and Vulcan’s GiftCassidy Jones and the Seventh Attendant, and Cassidy Jones and the Luminous are the first four books in the series.

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