The Secret to Writing Best Action Books
What Makes a Good Action Book?
While narratives that focus on action can come from many genres – from spy fiction to high fantasy – they are all also part of a single stylistic school. That is to say that no matter what type of action-orientated story you’re telling, you can benefit from approaching ‘action’ stories as a single genre. Continue reading the blog for some tips on writing your book, especially as a beginner.
Some of the points that make a good action book include:
- The barer, the better: It’s a nigh-immutable law that good action thrives on brevity. Action scenes should be short, both in the length of the scene and in the way it’s written – single clauses and even a basic vocabulary help to communicate the immediacy and pace of a situation. A curt style throughout an action narrative is to imbue your setting, rather than individual scenes, with the impetus of action. This clipped style creates a consistent world, and one in which action could happen at any time.
- Sentence length: If your action sequences are built with long-winded sentences full of verbs and descriptions, it will likely confuse and overwhelm your audience. Shorter sentences get to the point more simply, delivering the visual quickly and efficiently, cutting down on bulky filler words.
- Active voice: Keeping the narrative voice active keeps up the momentum of your story. Readers see how the main characters are actively working and reacting in their environment in what feels like real-time, packing more punch into the syntax and keeping the narrative lively.
- Character goals: Action should occur for a reason—characters’ actions should be based on their motivations, their points of view, and their previous choices. A character’s goals affect their character development, forcing them to change and evolve depending on the way events unfold in your story.
- Implement a philosophy: This idea of a central philosophy ties a great deal of whom a character is to the events of the story, and cuts down on the tangents necessary to explore them as individuals. Writers control how readers encounter their world, and so the key to a core philosophy is in redefining what readers should admire and dislike in characters, and in binding all characters to one or two shared standards.
- Taking action: The key to writing a great action story is all about effective communication. First, you have to understand the central goal of your story, then you have to focus on how the events, dialogue, and actions in your story affect that goal, then you have to communicate this relationship clearly and often to your readers.
How to Start an Action Story?
Here, you introduce the characters and setting of the story world. You set the plot in motion and create questions in the minds of the audience. You’ll begin by introducing the ordinary world where the protagonist is shown doing something they consider normal. Demonstrate their flaws and/or fear to establish empathy in readers. Demonstrate the protagonist’s want. Introduce supporting characters as rich and interesting. Use the description to evoke a sense of their broader culture or background. Don’t allow them to be a meaningless victim, flawless hero, or solely evil antagonist. Every character must have a clear and supporting role for your protagonist. Grab your audience’s attention with a life-threatening inciting incident (causal or coincidental) that launches the global story as soon as possible. Make the stakes clear. Stakes in action stories do not belong in subtext. What can the protagonist gain? What can they lose?
How to Create a Good Story Character?
Characters, like people, are imperfect. They don’t need to be likable, but they must be interesting. Here are some tips for effective character development:
- Develop characters who reflect your interests: The fiction rule “write what you want to know” applies to them as well. Don’t be afraid to invest your protagonist with familiar qualities, but prioritize your passions and make sure that your main characters emerge from the setting and topics you’ve developed so far.
- Reveal their physical world through detail: Different writers focus on different details to evoke character, whether deliberately or not. Whatever details you choose, it’s important for you to know your characters’ physical world intimately, and how they relate to it.
- Give them the right skills: Your characters should have skills that will allow them to function in your setting. If you’ve chosen to set your novel on the moon, then make sure your character has a spacesuit or learns how to use one.
- Create memorable characters: When creating important characters that the reader is going to meet more than once, be sure that they’re memorable in some way. Try to give each one a quirk or quality that can be used later to help readers recall who they are.
- Give the reader access to their inner conflict: One way to create intimacy with your reader—and to get them to care about your main character—is to use internal monologue. This means letting the reader see a character’s thoughts as they happen, which exposes that person’s inner conflict, motivations, opinions, and personality. Internal monologue not only reveals character: It’s a neat way to convey information about your setting, events, and other characters.
- Subvert your reader’s expectations: The most interesting characters will surprise your readers. Think about it: We don’t have to pay attention to stable things.
How to End an Action Book?
Here, you will include your climax (the resurrection, Hero’s Journey terminology) and the resolution of the global story. The protagonist confronts their fear or flaw, rises to the challenge, and either survives and succeeds against the villain, or fails and dies. The climax plunges the protagonist into a life and death battle. The protagonist outsmarts the antagonist, rather than using their inferior brawn, and lives (prescriptive tale). Or the protagonist fails to outsmart the antagonist and dies (a cautionary tale). Editor Tip for the Prescriptive Tale: Just as the protagonist is about to be killed by the antagonist, enable them to win. Give them sudden courage, ingenuity, a tool, or a revelation that you have subtly foreshadowed–i.e., set up–very early in the story. The ending payoff is where you ramp down the tension and action with scenes that answer the primary story questions. How have the characters changed? What have they learned? If you’re writing a series, the resolution can foreshadow new adventures.
How to Publish an Action Book?
The Process of Getting Traditionally Published
- Edit Your Works: The most important step as you begin is to become a ferocious self-editor. Even if you choose to self-publish, the quality of your writing is determined by this. Put your best foot forward by learning to aggressively self-edit until you’re happy with every word. If an agent decides to take you on and/or your manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, it will still go through editing there. But your goal is to make it the best your know-how, so it will get past those first readers—potential agents or acquisition editors.
- Find an agent: Landing an agent can be just as difficult as landing a publishing deal because they are every bit as discerning regarding a manuscript’s (or an author’s) potential. Agents know the business, the industry, the players—who’s publishing what and who might like what you’ve written.
- Write a query letter: A query (question) letter is designed to determine whether an agent or publisher might be interested in your manuscript. It’s your first impression—your initial sales call. Make it stimulating and intriguing.
- Write your proposal: This is the document agents want. For some, it’s the only document they require before asking to see your manuscript. Every word should pique an agent’s interest—your goal is an invitation to send your entire manuscript.
The Process of Getting Self-Published
The best way to set yourself apart, besides ferociously self-editing your book, is paying for a professional editor. The biggest mistake many self-published authors make is spending more on design and marketing than on professional editing and proofreading.
Writing quality sets, you apart in a saturated marketplace. Many companies offer all the services you need to self-publish, but some are more trustworthy than others. It takes a lot of success—and sales—to recoup the costs of such services. The more popular platforms to “publish” online include Amazon Createspace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and others.
Tips on Writing an Action Book
If you’re looking to write your own action story, the following writing tips may help:
- Show cause and effect: From the first time your character receives their call to action, follow-up activity with the consequences of their decision. Sometimes the character is causing the action to occur, and other times they’re reeling from the action that just occurred. Moments can also be built up so that the cause of certain effects or the effects themselves aren’t realized in their entirety until much later.
- Create visuals: Use an action in a concise, impactful manner to deliver strong images for the audience. The clearer your scenes are, the more easily the audience can understand and absorb them.
- Drive the story forward: In a great story, the moments in between where the action is happening should still feel alive and like the story is always progressing. Even if your hero isn’t facing off against the villain just yet, the scenes without action should still be driven by the character’s goals—readers or viewers may become disinterested by a sudden slump in energy and stagnancy to the writing. Use montage, flashbacks, or other story writing techniques to keep up the pace while delivering necessary narrative information.
- Keep action moments short: Action-adventure stories have many moments of high-intensity activity, and they should happen in short spurts so that the reader does not get exhausted with high-octane events.
- Use effective language: When you write a fight scene or a chase scene, the action is moving quickly, so your language should too. Short sentences packed with powerful images that move at a logical pace are useful in conveying strong action sequences that are easy to visualize. Specific diction can make all the difference in how the action of your story is perceived and how your story is experienced overall.
How Can We Help You Publish Your Book?
Hopefully, this blog gave you some insight into writing and publishing of action books.