Density of ACTION!

2 years ago | Shaeor (Member)

So, I'm nearing the final arc of my fiction. The climax. I've been told by my editor that I should start increasing my story's pace and building up more. I've had that in the plans, of course, but I'm curious - what's the right amount?

Sure, the scale of action is fun to play with. Planets exploding, heroes dying, I've got it figured out. But it's a departure from my usual pace. I love writing dialogue, I love tactical battles, but they never last longer than a chapter, typically. Events come at the heroes one by one, usually with an overarching problem to be solved by the arc's end. Not so rapid fire and with a tight group of characters. I like to think Dirge progresses thoughtfully.

So, my question for you would be, what's the longest action sequence you've written? What was it like? Was it frenetic and epic? What were the stakes and what has been your experience, for those who've gotten as far, with the big conclusions of your stories?

Let me get your advice as I head into, what is for me, the most exciting part of the work so far.

CHOSEN SHACKLES The screen is running static. Face your shadow.
DIRGE The light is dying. Hold your breath and go gently.

Read responses...

Page: 12


  1. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Longest single battle? ~7k total words dedicated to the action itself, not covering buildup and aftermath. I prefer frenetic combat scenes to organized ones... if only because I've actually been in real fights, and I know that reality is chaotic, bloody and painful rather than logical and broken down scenes.

    But ultimately my preference- both writing and reading- is in the buildup and character development. Fight sequences never really change from one story to another- Protagonist wins, other guy loses, because if the good guys won they'd die and that kinda ruins the rest of the story... it's usually pretty boring.

    The meat of a good story is making the reader care about the characters, and that's almost never achieved in combat.

    Well, *real* combat scenes, at any rate. Now... done well, a violent (but nonlethal) sport can yield some beautiful sequences that make the battle itself into a real conflict that the hero is still to lose and come back for a rematch without it being some cheap deus ex machina moment.

    But *real* combat? No, it doesn't generally work that way, so it's best to make the buildup before the fight the important part, and use the fights as just there for resolution purposes.

    Then again, that's just my preference. The popularity of Dragon Ball Z suggests I don't speak for the majority.

    Author of Price.
  2. Scott Scherr (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Hello Shaeor.

    My biggest and longest climax point in my serial so far occurred in the last chapter of my second book. That chapter was 13 episodes long (the first 6 were the build-up, the next 6 was the chaos, and the final episode allowed the reader to catch their breath long enough for a cliffhanger conclusion). It was definitely epic for me once the pace started exploding on the pages. It was a challenging, awesome, and a very exhausting experience for me... but well worth it.

    For me, the climax chapters are where we get to reap from all the patient story seeding and build-up for those everything-hitting-the-fan moments that merge for a powerful conclusion. I love the "divide and conquer" approach, meaning, I like to light several story plot fires at once and jump around among them in the climax to keep readers engaged on several fronts. There's a lot of critical planning that goes into these chapters for me. You should see the nightmare plot boards I have going on during a climax chapter... it's frightening, and a little overwhelming... lol.

    In my experiences, a great climax chapter can combine fast-paced action scenes with dramatic dialogue scenes (along with a twist or two), as long as the pace remains consistent throughout. it's the part of the story that should peak... and then avalanche to conclusion without losing momentum.

    Just sharing a little bit of what the process feels like for me ;)

    Author of the apocalyptic series, Don't Feed The Dark.
  3. Shaeor (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Thanks, TanaNari, Scott.

    Seven thousand seems a pretty long fight sequence to me! Sounds about right, though. That's what my next one should about add up to.

    I do like the idea of setting up multiple plot threads to end at the same point, Scott. I haven't really done side-stories, though, except for maybe one. But it's tying in! I've really structured the entire book, up to this point, to foreshadow the one fight. So it's definitely all pulling together. This next Interlude I've had written now for over a year. It's the original idea.

    But, plot boards are scary. I prefer to keep it mostly up top.

    @TanaNari - I agree, everybody expects the main characters to win. You've really got to infuse it with meaning. Making your protagonists suffer is a quick-trick of getting that done, in my experience. I am trying something a little different, however. Not that people aren't suffering. That's a must! But I've really tried to toss things up, in the end, regarding who's expected to win and survive.

    Action aside, I'm really hoping my twists turn out good. I could be inclined to bite off more than I can chew. Maybe not.

    Merry Christmas, happy holidays, everyone! Good luck with writing.

    CHOSEN SHACKLES The screen is running static. Face your shadow.
    DIRGE The light is dying. Hold your breath and go gently.
  4. Dary (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    The idea that "action scene" equals "fights and explosions" causes me to start scratching at my arms in irritation.

  5. mathtans (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Longest action sequence? Hum. That's a tough one. Seeing as the majority of my serials don't have action sequences per se, let alone at the climax. I can't really deal with physical stuff, I tend to go for the emotional or the mystical solution.

    I suppose the closest I've got is the two later parts of "Wish Fulfilment" and "Full Scale Invasion", with the placement of the vision crystals and the magic carpet ride respectively. Oh, though there was the time personified mathematics generated an infinite improbability field to deal with an explosion, that was action-ish; all less than 4000 words, granted, but the stakes were pretty high in all cases, and I'm pleased with how everything came together. Those reading "Time & Tied", eventually Carrie and Carrie will fight Carrie, that one will last for a few parts.

    All the best with your twisting, Shaeor! Merry Christmas all!

    Writing a Time Travel serial:
    Writer of the personification of math serial:
  6. gloomybear86 (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Shae, my current serial isn't exactly an "action" piece, so take my reply with that in mind.

    In "For Riches," I think the longest straight-up fist fight I've written was about 3k words, but most of that was narrated by someone who wasn't actually in the fight. In my Western, I wrote a set piece that was about...oh, I don't know, 15k words, but that was explicitly not all wall-to-wall fighting. There was a mid-action patch up, the stakes were escalated, the fight changed locations and goals, etc.

    I think it's super important, if you're going for something bombastic, to include the breaks so that the weight of the conflict isn't drowned in all the sound and thunder, etc.

    For Riches or More: You can't always steal what you want.
  7. Shaeor (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    I completely agree. I couldn't imagine writing thousands of words worth of descriptive destruction. It's just a major change of pace. I've had it noted most of my chapters feature no more than four to five named characters. Which is pretty encapsulated. This next arc will include all of them, and sometimes all on screen at the same time. That's the prime distinction, I think.

    Thanks, everyone! Thanks, Mathtans. I hope everyone had a good Christmas and December.

    CHOSEN SHACKLES The screen is running static. Face your shadow.
    DIRGE The light is dying. Hold your breath and go gently.
  8. SovereignofAshes (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Yay! Dirge-y Climax of Ultimate Doooooom!

    I'm really looking forward to getting caught up on Dirge again, to see all of this wonderful destruction going on.
    So far (what I'm caught up to), you have been more focused on interpersonal character progression and showing off more of the setting, piece-by-piece. Are you planning on this being semi-restrained, or all-out destruction?

    I feel like the black sheep here when it comes to climaxes and action scenes. When it comes to answering the above question, I tend to write a lot longer climax/action/violence scenes than others. I also try to keep things situational when it comes to the type of action. One scene that has necessary action will be chaotic, another will have a very tactical approach (although nine times out of ten the tactics always fall apart, as such things go when bullets fly or fists get thrown).

    Oddly enough, the story I'm still working on here, the Vorrgistadt Saga, isn't actually as violent or action-heavy as I first anticipated. It's focusing more on interpersonal situations, a little bit of politics, and a whole lot of world-building. It's an interesting mix given that the main character of the first arc is a young woman itching for adventure, violence, and action. Instead she's forced into the politics, intrigues, and complicated world that she really doesn't care too much about. She won't even get to cut her teeth until 3/4 of the first arc is finished.

    What I'm working on with the whole thing is the sense of frustration, repression, and dissatisfaction of a young and impetuous warrior thrust into an intrigue-heavy world where the real power isn't held in a sword-arm, but hidden away with sorcerous arts and quills scribbling across parchments. Where a whispered word can destroy an empire faster than an army marching forward on the horizon. A world that is violent, is chaotic, is falling apart at the seams... So those who have power do their best to hold on by their fingernails using covert tactics rather than all-out warfare. When it is time for violence to revive itself across the dying realms it needs to be true madness and barbarity. Nothing glorious. The worst of human depravity bubbling forth with the wickedest of human impulses.

    The problem I have, now, is keeping the dogs of war on the leash until at least the third arc when I can let them slip, finally. I have a few climaxes already in the works. The end of the first episode features a personal climax. A later one features a siege on a city. Then smaller climaxes are peppered throughout the story until the final run-away, chaotic mess of a climax rips through the end of the first arc, turning everything upside-down.

    I have to do what I can to 'tone down' the climax elements. The first one is easy enough as I turn the outward action, inward. The violence and savagery of a woman turning into a monster as a cost to save the family, the land, and the world she loves. Which, in turn, she destroys. The second is meant to be a climax battle with a dissatisfying feeling about it. A lot is happening, but something just doesn't feel right. Any good that can come from it feels tainted and washed away. There is no glory in that battle. No one gets saved. This is to drive a few of the main characters forward to try something reckless and ill-advised. To seek glory beyond their grasp. To seek dark powers to save their people and restore their future, despite the obvious cost. The smaller climaxes are the ramifications of that choice rippling throughout the societies of the world. The final climax of the arc is the price all mortals must pay for trying to rip away the secrets of elder entities and would-be gods.

    ...And then we start the second arc. Where things get even more messed up. ^_^

    What I do with the climax(es) of a story is frame it to music. I know a few people who prefer techno music or dubstep for their inspiration with plot-lines. That is entirely their choice. I worry they blow out the flame too fast, however. For me, I go by the tempo of big and loud classical music. For a more modern context, at least with the Vorrgistadt project, I go for long, drawn-out death/doom/folk metal or epic-core music. The slow build with light sprinkles of chaos thrown in for measure. It builds up and builds up, teasing you more and more, ideally making you go crazy wanting to get to the action and the climax of the given story or arc. Then things start to unravel, slowly at first, but the pitch grows. You can feel it in your bones as you see the dark clouds on the horizon, the sand whipping up in a frenzy, the beat of war-drums shattering and reverberating through the earth. When the swords clash and the howls tear through the air, no mattered how chaotic and violent it becomes, you knew this would happen. Like all choices that lead to war and strife. You had your chance to turn back, but you followed the path of blood. Here you are. Embrace your fate. Fight for what you believe in. Tomorrow will never come.

    Or... In other stories I write. Just the occasional fire-fight or subtle hint of violence in horror and then move along. Heh. I rather deal with interpersonal conflict or situational conflict rather than the 300-style violence. At least with everything else other than Vorrgistadt. You know, like Spira. ^_^

    I think, with Dirge, given your inspirations and where you're going. You need that solid build up into your climax. That glimpse of destruction, and then that last minute turn-away before the destruction creeps up on you and forces you to see it. As Dante wanted to turn away from the horrors he saw in the Inferno, only to have Virgil grab his chin, force him back, and say, "No, you must witness this. Behold the fate that waits for all of us should we falter."

    I have stuff on here too! The Vorrgistadt Saga.
  9. Shaeor (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    With the Vorrgistadt Saga, I was hoping you'd get to war and destruction. Because even though I liked your emotional beats, your descriptive style lends itself, I think, to mass conflict. The character appeal was strong.

    As with Dirge, and thank you - I think the second arc had almost an anti-climax, entirely meant to set up for the third's. I've tried to roll them into each other, steadily outdoing the last. The first arc had a minor exception to that rule, but overall, the focus of Dirge, I would agree, has been character building. And that's been intentional. I try to write stories where the main character's arc actually has an impact on what the end is. Not where they simply find the strength to overcome the baddy. In Dirge, you'll see, the end is entirely caused by a character's arc.

    Overall, just on the thread's subject, I do think my takeaways are positive. It's been good advice. I'll remember to give breaks in-between, but I'll also remember that as a writer, my patience is shorter than the reader, who can genuinely enjoy long sequences of action. I know I have. - The buildup is good. Should end out being good. Thanks.

    I invite anyone that still wants to discuss their story's climaxes to do so.

    CHOSEN SHACKLES The screen is running static. Face your shadow.
    DIRGE The light is dying. Hold your breath and go gently.
  10. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Fighting and high action scenes is lacking in anything I write to date.

    Hy'Ruh-Ha has two maybe three fight/high action scenes in the entire novel. The longest of all the fights is I think the first one is less than 1000 words long. The rest of them don't span that much over it. None of them I would consider the climax of the story. The last fight might be a mini-climax where the the sub-plot between the main character and his father is dealt with. I don't really know if I could even label that an high action scene just because the fight is observed through a character's POV who knows very little about combat. I write it as such.

    The story is a non-action/non-adventure fantasy story. It's like the red-headed adopted step-child with a tail of fantasy novels. Also, it seems like an oxymoron when I read other writer's opinion on what is and isn't a fantasy novel.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  11. Dary (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    Who can forget those high-octane battle sequences from A Midsummer Night's Dream!

  12. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    @Dary, You know, during the most recent debate to memory, someone mentioned A Midsummer Night's Dream in the whole what is and isn't fantasy. And I was like, yes, thank you! Then there was that one person who had a counter-argument against it. I think because it wasn't modern fantasy. I don't remember. I was kind of stunned by a lot of answers other fantasy writers were given. I don't know if they've yet to try and step out of the box when it comes to fantasy fiction or they are like cats and want to continue playing inside the same old box.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  13. CorpseMoney (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    There is a fine line for me personally, when most stories hit the point that there just has to be combat after combat I get bored. Cause it is never really interesting, or unreasonably drawn out. Time after time they try to build up suspense or whatever by letting the main character run out of stamina, or energy. Then emotions set in, and the character just won't quit. Its old the formula is tired, and I'm sick of it. If a section is to heavy with combat and the combat is the usual I skim hard.

    My web serial is titled, 'The Remnants'. I wrote five chapters and decided I needed to restart.
    so bear with me.
  14. Dary (Member)

    Posted 2 years ago

    @LadyAnder Anyone who thinks fantasy requires fight scenes - hell, anyone who can't conceive of an action scene that doesn't involve fighting - needs to get out (read) more.

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