In this month’s writing article, we will be taking a look at two very popular genres: Action and Adventure! Though they are separate categories, one is rarely seen without the other, so I felt they were similar enough to be covered in the same article.
To be honest, I love action in stories. I’m a big fan of fast car chases, big explosions and intense fight scenes. In fact, unless there is a good intrigue, I will most likely lose interest in a story if there is not enough action going on. Action and Adventure is not only a very common genre in literature, but it works well as a sub-genre for fiction, pairing nicely with other categories such as fantasy, horror or mystery.
The basics of a story is a plotline which follows the exploits of the main characters as they attempt to resolve a conflict while making their way to their intended goal. So how exactly does Action and Adventure differ from other genres? In action movies, the events usually unfold at a much quicker pace in order to create tension, leaving less room for details or character development. The results are similar in action novels, meaning information given during action sequences is minimized to the absolute necessary (for more information see my post Showing and Telling).
Story events must occur in order for the plot to enfold. However, using the proper form of action adequately is important, as it can make or break a storyline. Here are good examples of different types of actions that can be found in a narrative:
Inciting incident: This action occurs at the beginning of the story, and should have a negative impact on the setting and/or the main character(s). The Inciting Incident should be significant enough to cause some sort of imbalance in the setting/characters existence, encouraging those affected to act towards rectifying the situation. Also referred to as the trigger or catalyst,this action marks the beginning of the Adventure.
Major Events: Actions that progresses the story farther along the plotline, or steer it into new directions. There can be several Major Events within a storyline, and they are separate from the Inciting Incident, but are often the result of the same conflict or antagonist. The main character will be forced to react to this event, thus moving the story forward.
Common Events: These everyday actions are performed by the characters, and carry the story from one scene to the next. Common actions, such as habits, nervous tics and so on, serve to better ground the characters into the fiction by adding depth and personality to their background.
Rising Action: The Rising Action is a term used to describe the first half of a plotline, and is composed of several events, building up in intensity. This series of events serve to create tension in the storyline as it approaches to the Climax. The source of the crisis is known, and though the characters may take actions against, they will not succeed in resolving the issue until later.
Climax: The most memorable event in a piece of fiction. The climax occurs after the characters have dealt with several preceding events. It is the final confrontation between the protagonist and the source of the crisis. The climax should be more intense, the obstacles greater and the chances of success smaller than any other event prior to it.
Falling Action: The moments following the solving of the crisis is known as the Falling Action. In this part of the story, actions which were fueled by the crisis or antagonist come to a halt, and begin to resolve as a result of the actions taken by the characters.
Resolution: Resolution is the part of the plotline where actions are taken to tie up loose ends. Characters resolved any unsettled personal problems, the setting returns back to normal and clarifications are given for any unexplained events.
Now that we have seen different forms action can take in a narrative, it will be easier for us to understand how to communicate them through our writing. Typically, an Adventure story has a protagonist placed in a desperate situation, facing seemingly insurmountable odds. While this may sound stale or predictable, a writer's goal is to thrill the readers in order to keep them interested.
By alternating between Major and Common Events, either physical or psychological in nature, we change the speed and intensity of the actions taking place. Switching between a feeling of tension and one of safety helps to keep the audience off balance, thus creating anticipation. This variety is important as it adds credibility to the storyline.
When writing an Adventure story, the action scenes must feel like they are moving at a quick pace. Avoid including any details that add nothing to the plotline or that don’t reveal something important about the characters, setting or conflict. To do so, keep descriptions to a minimum, choose your verbs carefully and try using shorter sentences. The same logic applies to dialogue; keep it short, don't engage in lengthy discussions during action scenes and drop the action beats when possible.
In closing, the most important thing I learned about writing action scenes, is is to watch your pacing and do your research. Reading Adventures stories or watching action movies makes for great research, and is a good way to make your stories more compelling.
Until next time!
**All images in this post are considered public domain under the Creative Commons law (CC0)**