Action Sequences As Seen By T.J.

Please welcome our guest blogger for this week, speculative fiction writer and Queen of the Huggy Jackets, T.J.

T.J. is a knowledgeable writer who generally writes in the paranormal genre, and can be found blogging at Queen of the Padded Room. Com. Check out her wit, humor and general words of wisdom there every time you get a chance.

So without further adieu… Here’s T.J.


Action sequences.  As writers in Speculative Fiction this is almost a given to be in the book. Small ones, big ones, over-the-top-melees keeping our readers on the edge of their seats wondering what is going to happen next.

The issues I’ve found in many action scenes is the unbelievability.

Most writers, not all of them, have never worked in a profession requiring this type of real life.  A few have some seriously kick ass ability in a dojo and frankly, I wouldn’t want to meet them in a back alley.  Many did have a few school yard dust ups.

Very, very few have ever had their life on the line.  Yet their imaginations run rampant with wonderful ideas and scenes, the emotions possibly involved and they write those action scenes beautifully as inner TV screens play it for them.

When I read this type of scene, I can automatically tell if the writer has been in situations with their life on the line and those which are following the Hollywood style – choreographed action.

There is nothing wrong with a well-choreographed scene.  This type is the lifeblood of many a book. One of my favorite authors uses this type and does a bloody good job of it.  What is getting tiresome is reading the same type of scene over and over and…well…over.  As a reader I am disappointed because I am able to tell you the outcome with relative ease after the first sentence of the sequence.

I’ve heard through various outlets, and friends after reading, in which many are looking for a more realistic action sequence.  Meaning, instead of the practiced moves, falls and fly overs, something they can identify with.  Tripping, losing the weapon, a true “Oh, shit” moment.

I’ll be an example.  I worked as a CO3 in a Men’s Max Unit for four years.  One hundred seventy nine, uh, physical disagreements.  Most of which my arse was handed to me on a silver platter.  The size of the inmate rarely mattered.  Big, small, average, every size and shape.  Weapons involved in more than a few.  The reason I survived can be attributed to biology, a good amount of luck and just plain how things really happen.

If you put two equally trained combatants in a ring, think UFC, in an all out fight, it rarely lasts more than five minutes.  I’ve watched on occasion, and the winner is usually decided because the opponent missed, tripped, slipped, misjudged distance, underestimated his opponent, didn’t look for the winner’s weak spot.

One rotation early in my CO career I’d been assigned administrative segregation.  These males were dangerous, manipulative and couldn’t pretend to work well with others.  They required high amount of security. An inmate decided to target me.  His hatred of women ran fairly deep and fully resented when a female was in charge.  I didn’t notice he’d blocked the locking mechanism of his full steel door.  I turned after shutting it, didn’t wait for the “clunk” of the lock and walked away.  The door slammed open and a burning pain started in my side, spreading through every nerve.  I turned, grabbed his groin, twisted and pulled.  He screamed, falling to his knees with a strangled sound and I grabbed the radio off my belt and hit him in the side of the head, shattering his cheekbone.  I, on the other hand, landed in the hospital for four days because of the two inch shank in my left side.

I didn’t win because of superior fighting skills, training, or moves thought about ahead of time.  I won because he underestimated me and my need to go home to the kids.  Truly expected me to fight using the Queen’s Rules of Pugilism.

Of course, two months later I lost in a fist fight that landed me in the hospital yet again with a broken nose, broken jaw and a broken arm. Not because the little guy had better fighting skills, but because I’d underestimated him, slipped on  recently mopped concrete flooring and fell flat on my face.

It wasn’t the last time. I’ve misjudged distances, didn’t get my arm up in time to ward off a blow, couldn’t get up after landing on a table or sliding into a concrete wall.

And my Lieutenant, with his black belts and constant training, lost to a little street fighter because of misjudged distances.

When writing action sequences, think first. What is in the area? No floor is perfectly clean. Nobody truly thinks of where they are going to put an arm, a leg, land a weapon.  Instincts, when in a fire fight, rule the day. Nobody is infallible.

Tight clothing hinders reach and breathing. Weather plays a large part. The very air a combatant breathes plays a part. Other characters in the scene always play part – good or bad.  Nobody can twist into a pretzel wearing clubbing outfits or move perfectly on stilettos.

Make the scenes real.  By thinking of the little things, the reader will be hooked, holding their breath because they can’t predict moves and outcomes. Use the unpredictable and imperfections of your world.

The reader will thank you for it.


About SpecFic

We are a dedicated group of writers who live, breathe, and work in the speculative fiction genre. We range from newbies to seasoned pros, both published, self-published, and unpublished,(so far). Our blog will include articles on writing, personal opinions on the industry, and, of course, stories by our various posters. All related to the SF market, and its numerous sub-genres. We hope you'll make our blog a regular stop during your web browsing, and thank you for stopping by.

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