Monthly Archives: July 2014

Writing Those Ripsnorter Action Scenes

Be A Novelist Scenes that are Difficult to Write

Where will you find the wildest actions scenes in fiction genre? Usually in the plot-driven stories. At least, action in the sense with which we’re most familiar: bombs going off; fists flying; people wiping out the bad guys; danger lurking at every turn; and so on. The ripsnorters.

But for a novelist, action is very much present in the character-driven story line as well. Perhaps they’re not quite as dramatic and earth-shattering, but they’re there. Many beginning novelists will confess that they believe actions scenes to be the more difficult ones to write. Because this is true, it’s important for all fiction authors to:

  1. Recognize actions scenes
  2. Use action scenes in a deliberate, purposeful manner
  3. Place action scenes in strategic positions
  4. Know how to pace actions scenes

1. Recognize Actions Scenes

The first step in writing believable, effective action scenes is to recognize them. Be aware of the difference between the action scenes and the narrative, or scene sequels, which are the aftermaths and forerunners of specific action. Each is handled differently

2. Use Action Scenes in a Deliberate, Purposeful MannerBe A Novelist

 What is the purpose of action scenes? Action is generally used to channel built-up tension. Or possibly to release tension. As the plot builds, the pressure builds until there is an explosion of sorts. Readers expect such scenes to lead to something – something that will advance the plot. This is why awareness is crucial when plotting. You don’t want to disappoint the reader by setting up an action scene that fizzles out and goes nowhere.

3.Place Action Scenes in Strategic Positions

 Never forget that nothing in plot construction is random. (See the previous blog post that discusses this: Creating Patterns as a Novelist Part II) As the plot architect, the plot builder, the plot designer, you are the one who decides where each action scene best fits. You decide where they will affect the most favorable reader response.

Some novels open with the ripsnorting, slam-bang scene. That technique is certainly a good hook, but it’s advisable to try two or three different openings to make sure the action scene is the best choice.

Not every scene will call for action or the whole plot will border on overkill. This is why pacing is important.

4. Know How To Pace Actions Scenes

There is a sense of immediacy in an action scene. These will be sections where lean and spare will be the rule. Cut out clutter and unnecessary repetition. Strong action verbs work well here.

This is where show don’t tell comes to the forefront. It’s so much easier to say that Constance hauled off and slapped Reginald across the face Be A Novelist than to describe the play-by-play. But stop and ask: what will the reader prefer?

Picture the entire scene in your mind’s eye first. See it happening in your vivid imagination. No need to weave in character’s inner thoughts or emotions at this point. There’s no room for prolonged thoughts. It’s not the time for Constance to think how great it felt to give Reginald a shiner. Save that for later. If a swiftly-moving scene breaks for inner dialogue, it can prove to be a frustration for your reader who wants the action to keep moving.

Once you play the scene over in your mind, now quickly write it out, describing what you saw.

Summing Up

As with any other facet of novel writing, creating believable actions scenes will get easier with practice. We novelists are on a continual journey to hone and perfect our craft — to enhance our story-writing skills. Learning how to write strategic action scenes is part of that skill level. Never stop learning.


Be A Novelist

Photo Credits: © |

Be A Novelist

Coming Soon

The first two titles in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection will be available in print form.

Flower in the Hills and Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood will soon be in bound copies.

Watch for upcoming announcements. 

Be A NovelistBe A Novelist

Norma Jean Lutz

Be A Novelist





Plot in a Nutshell — Writing the Book Blurb

Scary Thought

Be A Novelist In my previous blog post entitled Plot in a Nutshell — Writing the Novel Synopsis, I related a few tips on why it’s necessary to be able to reduce the entire plot of your novel into a few short paragraphs. Now we’ll turn our attention to the book blurb where the text becomes even shorter than the synopsis.

As indie authors we are afforded the privilege, and the responsibility, of crafting that compelling blurb. Scary thought, right?

Remember the old adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover? Time to forget that nonsense. The fact is many buyers do just that – make a purchase decision based on the blurb that appears on the back cover of the book. How will yours rate? What can you do to make it even better?

If you have taken that huge step to write the synopsis as directed in the previous post, you’re halfway there. Now it’s time to pare things down even more.

Study Blurbs

Most novelists are avid readers. Does that describe you? If so, take note of the blurbs that appear on the back cover of your favorite novels.

  • Does it compel you to want to read the novel?
  • If so, why?  If not, why?
  • Do you see strong verbs that denote emotion or action? How many? Few? Many?
  • Are the characters named?
  • Is the main character’s conflict hinted at?
  • In the blurbs that you like the best, are compelling questions used?

Now that you’ve done your research begin working on the blurb for your book.

Additional TipsBe A Novelist

A shout line is a short headline above the blurb – yet another sales tool to grab reader attention. You may not always use this, or even feel you need it, but be aware. Look at other books to see how they are used to the author’s advantage

Use short, punchy sentences. Remember your reader is browsing at this point. Keep the text light, not heavy.

Because of the economy of words, don’t waste space by adding empty hype. No one wants to read that this is the steamiest romance, or the most thrilling thriller, or the most compelling mystery. If the main character’s conflict is presented briefly but powerfully, it will resonate with your potential book buyer.

Quotes from the Novel Text

Refer to the opening lines of your novel. If those lines are strong grabbers, they just might work for the opening lines for your blurb.

I used that strategy for the first book in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection, Flower in the Hills.

Latina Harmen knew she was going to hate Missouri. “There’s nothing in Missouri!” she had told her father when he announced they were to spend the summer there. And now she knew she had been one hundred and ten percent right.

Latina had taken for granted that she would be spending another happy summer vacation with her friends at Periwinkle Cove on the East Coast. After all, her family had spent summers there as long as she could remember.

Now, in the summer before her senior year, she would be stuck in a hick town with no one around but her boring parents and bratty younger brother.

How could she have guessed the beauty that lay waiting for her in those brooding hills? How was she to know she would meet fascinating people, and that she would learn more about herself than she’d ever known?

How was she to know she would meet a special someone whose friendship and support would change her life forever?

 Also notice how the closing offers questions which work to draw the reader in and raise questions in their minds.

As was mentioned in the post on writing synopses, the key here is to practice, practice, and practice. Also continue to tweak what you’ve Be A Novelistwritten. One of the marvels of digital books (and POD – print-on-demand), is the ease of tweaking in weeks and months to come. Not like in past years when thousands of copies were printed and the chance to edit cover copy was possibly years down the road – if ever. Writing snappy, catchy book blurbs is a crucial element of becoming a successful indie author. It’s not something you can leave to chance.


Photo Credits:  ID 16125665 © |

Be A Novelist

Coming Soon

The first two titles in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection will be available in print form.

Flower in the Hills and Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood will soon be in bound copies.

Watch for upcoming announcements. 

Be A NovelistBe A Novelist

Norma Jean Lutz

Be A Novelist