by J.C. Martin
A writer can learn lots about writing action
from watching a classic chopsocky.
1. Keep the action flowingThe choreography for some chopsocky is
pretty impressive. When writing action, your sentences should flow as smoothly
as the on-screen moves.
Action scenes are fast-paced, so don’t slow them
down with flowery words. Simple and short sentences reflect urgency. Use active
verbs, e.g. “Bruce punches Jackie,” rather than passive sentences like “Jackie
is punched by Bruce.” (Bonus question: in which film did this happen?)
2. Spare the intricaciesThe chopsocky hero is capable of amazing (and
dubious) feats, but viewers are so engrossed in the action, they barely notice
the physical implausibility of one kick knocking three people down.
in a life-or-death situation has adrenaline surging through their veins. The
result: increased heart rate, dry mouth, tunnel vision. They won’t notice the
colour of the carpet. Their sole focus is survival, so leave out unnecessary
details. They only slow the action down.
3. Cut small talkChopsocky is often guilty of this: the hero and
villain engaged in a civil conversation in between bashing each other’s brains
in. This doesn’t happen in real life. Use dialogue only in the preamble. Once
the fight is on, dialogue should be restricted to shouts and grunts—and no, we
don’t need the hero reciting a running commentary of every move he makes!
4. Avoid one-sided fightsAnother sin of chopsocky: the hero takes
down twenty goons without a scratch, then struggles against the big boss. Your
hero isn’t invincible, and your baddies aren’t shambling idiots. To up the
tension, ebb and flow is key.
5. Use layman’s termsJust because you’ve done your research, or have
first-hand martial arts knowledge, doesn’t mean you should bog your scene down
with unfamiliar terms. Telling readers your heroine executes a well-timed Monkey
Steals the Peach will likely receive blank stares—and yes, it’s a real Ninjitsu
By all means, give a rough description of the moves, but trust your readers to
fill in the scene with their rich imagination.