Screenplay: Action Scenes

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One question we get often is how to write an action scene. One thing you should remember is how a film crew is brought together. A stunt coordinator is always on staff to craft the action fight or action scene. As a writer, we only need to write what is vital to the scene.

If it is important to the story to have a knife in use verses a gun, then you should write that into your action. If it important that a character is held off a ledge, then you should add that to your action. The basic goal is to let those making your story know what is important and what you believe can’t be changed in order to tie your sequences together. We call this the “From To” objective.

From To Objective

All scenes have start state and an end state. In many cases, your characters will start in one location and end in another location. If this is important, then you need to call this out in your action. In an action sequence, you may have a character who is healthy at the beginning and suffering a bullet wound or dead by the end. These are your vital attributes to your scene.

As a writer, you need to be clear in how you setup your scene before any action starts. Let the reader know who is healthy, where they are, and if they’re armed, what are they armed with. Also remember that your characters can be defenseless at the beginning of a scene and acquire a weapon during the scene. You goal is to document a change in circumstances. For example: If a female character is defenseless in appearance, she may not only fight her way out of a situation using her hands, but also grab the villain’s gun in the process and either hold him at bay or decide to shoot him to remove the overall threat to herself.

Example of basic action:

Rocky opens the fight with a flurry of punches throwing Mr T off his game. After an amazing opening round, Mr T counters with three rounds pounding Rocky into submission. After Rocky visits his corner, he is re-energized and defeats Mr T with a massive uppercut sending him through the air in slow motion until his battered body hits the mat sending blood and sweat in all directions. An exhausted Rocky pans the crowd with a bruised swollen face and manages to raise his arm slowly in victory. The crowd erupts into applause.