Writing action scenes. Ummm, or not.

The Inspector Ramirez books have been described as thrillers, but I think what people mean by that is that there’s something in each chapter that makes them want to keep reading. They are not action novels, and Ramirez is no Jack Reacher, far from it.

But for Book Four, Umbrella Man, where I foray into espionage territory, there is a Russian spetsnaz  (i.e. a Special Forces officer, like Delta Force or SAS) visiting Havana and that seemed to compel writing a scene where he could show off some of his commando training.

What I’ve learned from this little exercise is  that I really suck at writing the kinds of scenes that someone like Lee Child seems to do so effortlessly.

I tried winging it and that sure didn’t work. Half way through the chapter, I realized that I’d created a crossfire where in real life, everyone, including any hostages, would be dead. Not surprising, actually, how often that happens in real life now that I know how easy it is to mess up in fiction, where you have the luxury of re-writes.

Getting the players positioned in a shoot-out isn’t easy. You have choreograph the whole bloody thing as carefully if you were putting together an episode of So You Think You Can Dance.

You also need to know what kind of guns or machine guns they will use and what range they’re effective at, and how many bullets they have in them, and so on. I’m sure that CSIS and NSA will be monitoring me now : all my Google searches for the past week have been on MP5s and submachine guns and how to make home-made bombs. (The searches before that were about military submarine secrets and the sex trade. Sigh.)

I tried drawing a picture of where the shoot-outs and fights take place; by the time I was done, it looked like one of those football diagrams , with arrows and circles and lines for how to move the ball.  Better, but I never did play football. So I’m not there yet.

I’m thinking I need to find a kid with some action figures and play GI Joe for a few hours. Which at my age would be a definite first.  Ideas anyone?

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3 Responses to Writing action scenes. Ummm, or not.

  1. Hey Peggy, I hear paint ball is a lot of fun. Maybe you can join a team, get some exercise, make new friends (among the young?) and find the expert you are adept at manifesting in your life when you need that bump.


  2. Jo-Anne Ward says:

    Hi Peggy! So interesting to read about the difficulty of writing “action” scenes! Not being a writer (only a voracious reader!), the best I can do is relate what Ian Rankin told us at that Writers’ Festival luncheon when asked about the success of his writing: keep it as simple as possible & leave the details to the imagination of the reader… Keep up the great work!! Jo-Anne


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