One of Lisa's many writing talents is squeezing lots of heart-pumping action into her stories, even if they're small. She's kind enough to share her secrets with us.
Take it away, Lisa!
How do you pack a lot of action into a small word count? You’ll have to pardon the pun, but you have to make every word count. Short stories are an art unto themselves. Not only do you need a clear-cut goal, motivation, and character arc, you also need to entertain, which in some cases means action.
Fight scenes are physical. It can be difficult to put down on paper the details you see in your mind. Myrecommendation is to use the highlights. Look at The Date by Ty Wilson:
See how the artist lets you fill in the blanks? That’s what we have to do only with words. Did you know that in
Hitchcock’s Psycho, you never actually see the victim get stabbed in the shower scene?
But what DO you put in? Here are the steps to a good action sequence:
- Set the stage: We have to have a good idea what the space is we’re working with. In IDENTITY CRISIS I use the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. I mention the sights and sounds, the smells even, but I don’t have to say too much because we all have a general idea what a Ferris wheel is like. The description I do use reflects my character’s feelings and the tension of the moment.
- Make ‘em wring their hands with anticipation: Good horror movies withhold the monster until the last minute. Tension is the key. If you’re writing a western, and the whole thing culminates in a shootout, you better build up to it properly. I want to feel the nerves of the MC as the clock in the town square chimes twelve.
- Show the audience the big moves: Does the MC get a punch in the gut when he fails to move out of the way? What does the force feel like? How does his body react? If it’s a big moment, slow it down. Show us a bit of internal dialogue. The MC’s reaction if it’s more than “Ow.”
- Keep your sentences clear and concise: If it’s action, too many words can slow it down. Watch your sentence structure. Use strong verbs and clear actions so we know what’s happening.