Writing Action Scenes, Part 2, by Harry Wegley.

Welcome back, Harry. I’m so excited about the post below, I’m not going to say much. Let’s get to it. 🙂

Writing Action Scenes: Part 2 – Putting It All 
Harry (H. L.) Wegley
You might want to review the list of guidelines we accumulated in Part 1 of this post.
As your scene unfolds, I suggest iterating through the guidelines asking, “How can I…” You will come up with a lot of ideas. Choose those that best fit into a logical sequence of events.
Let’s take a look at some examples extracted from a chase scene in my novel, Hide and Seek. As this scene begins, the protagonists, Lee and Jennifer, have uncovered a sinister cyber-espionage plot. They’re leaving a defense contractor’s compound to explain their findings to the head of Computing Security. We begin in the parking lot in Lee’s point-of-view:
The area lit up like mid-day. A deafening boom sounded behind him. The shock wave blindsided him with the force of an NFL linebacker, knocking him forward to the concrete. He stuck out his arm to protect his face. His body rode on his right forearm for several feet, while the rough concrete rasped off his coat sleeve and much of the skin underneath it.
He lay sprawled out on the parking lot pavement.
His mind struggled to comprehend what had happened.
When he picked himself up, he shook his head to remove the cobwebs. There were too many of them. Blood ran down his right forearm. Pain brushed some of the cobwebs away.
His arm burning and his ears ringing, he stood and looked for the source of the blast. It came from what had been his car—from what was now only a blackened shell. The sense of loss hit him in his gut. He might never be able to replace that car. He brushed away a few more cobwebs. The clearing of his mind brought a bigger worry. Better a bombed car than a bombed body. But the bombing attempt had failed, so…
He emptied the air from his lungs and drew a deep breath. His pulse quickened. The realization hit him like a stinging slap on the face. They were in big trouble, but the incoming flak wouldn’t be the kind that got you fired. It would be the kind that got fired at you—bullets from people who killed to keep secrets.
Despite their delicate search on the infected computer, their foray must’ve triggered attention, and it wasn’t all coming from some hacker halfway around the world.
Jennifer stood motionless by her car, staring across the parking lot at the blackened remains of Lee’s Mustang.
He sprinted toward her. “Jennifer, start your car, now!”
She jumped toward her car door, eyes wide with fear.
A staccato stream of gunshots sounded from near the gate shack as Lee slid into her sedan.
A large, black SUV turned from the street. It sped past the gate shack and into the parking lot. The headlights swung in an arc, the light beams stopping on Jennifer’s car. The SUV rolled down the lot toward them.
He fought to control his racing thoughts. “Go, go, go! Turn left into the next lot, and floor it straight through to the street.”
“Are you sure it’s us they’re after?” Her voice shook.
“Shall we stop and ask them, Jenn?”
Jennifer jerked toward him, mouth open and frowning.
What did I say?
This wasn’t the time to analyze her response. “Jenn, we’ve got to make it to the police station.”
Her head jerked around again.
Why was she looking at him? “Watch where you’re going, Jenn. They’re coming, that black SUV.” Lee rolled down his fogged window. “They shot at Randy, and they weren’t using a single-shot .22.”
Jennifer and Lee’s goal changed immediately from disclosing their findings to staying alive. I want to keep them on the run for the next 100 pages. To accomplish that, they must lose their ability to communicate.
In a road race, her small sedan would be no match for the powerful SUV.
She said nothing, hands gripping the steering wheel as she focused on driving.
“Just do whatever you have to do to keep them from closing on us. I’m calling 911, now.” Lee reached for his cell phone.
“What’s the best way to the police station?” Her voice was stronger, as if she’d come to grips with what was happening,
Gutsy woman. Good. Because their survival depended on her.
“Turn right onto North Park. Keep going south. You’ll come to it.”
He stuck his head out the window and looked at the headlights behind them.
The SUV angled straight across the parking lot. Its driver ignored the rows, sidewalks, everything. The gunmen would overtake them in a few seconds. The bright headlights vibrated as the vehicle bounced over all of the concrete curbs and parking space dividers in its path. Their pursuer’s two-fold intent became clear.
Keep them from heading south toward the police, and get within easy firing range.
If they turned south, their pursuers might cut behind the building, cut them off on Park, then cut them down with their weapons. “Turn left. Get behind that building. Then left on North Park.”
She flashed him a glance and another frown. “What? Away from the police station?”
“If you wanna stay alive, do it.”
Jennifer now becomes the plausible path of escape. She’s smart, gutsy, and can handle a car. But we stack the deck against her and Lee by giving the bad guys assault rifles and Jennifer a small car.
Jennifer yanked the wheel to the left.
Lee’s body slammed against the side of the car.
Their pursuers whipped around, accelerating to intercept them before Jennifer could put the building between them. Two guns jutted through the windows of the SUV and swung toward them.
“They’re gonna shoot! Get around the building.”
Jennifer responded quickly despite her panic, accelerating across the next parking lot, pressing Lee back in the seat.
But the headlights behind them loomed too close.
Gripping the arm rest, he thumbed his cell phone open. “Go Jenn! Get—”
Bullets sprayed from an automatic weapon, shattering the top of the sedan’s rear window.
Like buckshot, fragments of glass pelted Lee’s head and left hand. His cell flew from his fingers. Blood trickled down the back of his neck and his left hand, while his cell phone danced on top of the dash.
His left hand throbbed. He swept his right hand across the dashboard, attempting a backhand catch.
Jennifer clipped a curb. The sharp bump launched the cell phone up into the air.
When he tried to catch it in midair, it bounced off the heel of his hand. His hopes of reaching a 911 operator flew out the window with his cell.
We finally got rid of that cell phone. The chase continues onto streets, through an alleyway (which I’ve omitted). Now it’s time for a short breather.
He blew the air from his lungs then tried to take a calming breath. “I don’t see any headlights.”
Jennifer replicated his breathing exercise. “Maybe we lost them.” She glanced his way. “You’re bleeding.”
“It’s nothing. Just cuts from the glass.”
“There’s a pack of tissues in the glove box.”
“Thanks, but I’d rather have a cell phone. Do you have one with you?”
“No. I left my phone and…well, some other things at the computer lab before I drove over to National Aerospace. Didn’t know what I could take through your security. And, Lee…I’ll bet you don’t play shortstop, do you?”
Lee studied her face. Sarcastic or…he couldn’t tell. “No, I pitch.”
“Sorry about the bad hop I gave you—you know, just before it went out the window. Do think we lost them?”
“Maybe, but I’d recommend you just keep it floored as much as possible. We’ve got to make sure they can’t find us.”
“We’re on city streets. I’ll do my best. But what about the police station?”
He looked down the street. “Let’s get further west before we turn south and work our way back. Make sure you avoid the freeway. They could run us down easily there. No place to hide.”
That’s enough air. It’s time for more action and more danger. Since this post is growing a bit too long, here’s a brief summary of the action that follows.
I gave Jennifer a Corolla so she and Lee wouldn’t stand a chance on the freeway, then I forced her onto the interstate. There I provided another plausible path of escape, 3 sixteen-wheelers driving as a convoy in lane 2 of 4 lanes. Jennifer forces her car between the trucks twice to avoid automatic weapon fire.
During the remainder of the chase, they two are chased away from the city into a mountainous region, Lee’s childhood stomping grounds. Their only weapon for the next 75 pages is Lee’s knowledge of the area. This is where I wanted them – two geniuses pitted against three armed goons in a war between wits and weapons, a game of Hide and Seek.

Wow, a big thank you to Harry Wegley (H.L. Wegley) for giving us a sneak peak into how to effectively write actions scenes. I might have to add a few to my romances. 🙂

What do you think? Would a car chase work in 17th century Scotland? Yeah, probably not. I could always make it a horse chase.  LOL 

What ideas does this give you for your own personal writing? If you’re not a writer, but a reader…do you like to read scenes like the above? What do you like about it?



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