Goals – Action Stories

I took some time last night and in the wee hours of this morning to think about action stories and how I want to approach this second block of the Creativity Workshop. Part of me wasn’t sure that I’d still be around by this point, and while my energy levels aren’t high, I am feeling incredibly driven to pursue this block right now, and hopefully that will stick around for the next few weeks.

So, without further ado…

What makes up an action story?

On doing some research these things appear to be important: danger, movement, fighting, chases, clear differences between the good guys and the bad guys. Other things that aren’t so cool for me are characters that aren’t very deep, and storylines that aren’t that deep either. So there are certainly aspects that appeal, and some that don’t. I don’t believe that all action subscribes to these things, but it seems to be the general consensus.

What aspects of this do I want to explore?

I think for me, the most important things are high stakes and intensity of emotion. I want to write action where the characters are focused on getting through a situation because of their needs and wants, rather than because they are the good guys/bad guys, and have been told they should be doing things one way or another. It doesn’t necessarily have to be life and death situations, but where the outcome is going to have a major impact on the characters involved, and the personal cost is very high.


Initially I was going to go with an idea I had for a serial back when Tama was suggesting I give one a go, but on analysis it doesn’t excite me a whole lot right now. It would be action, but the stakes wouldn’t be high enough for me, and the emotion not deep enough.

Something that HAS been interesting me lately is the world in which there are zombie babies. There is a heap I could draw from there, and I am going to tie these stories together by that location. I need to develop some characters though, and some stories. I have an idea for one which I can use for my first, and hopefully the others will develop as the week progresses.

These might not be ‘action’ in a classic sense, but they are what I consider action – there will be danger, tension and suspense as my characters fight for the things that are most important to them.

After reading Merrilee’s post on integral setting this morning I feel even more excited. The setting is definitely going to play a major role in this set of stories – there is no way that they could exist outside of this setting, and it will certainly dictate the behaviour and actions of many of the characters.

Other things:

One of my bad habits as a writer is to start a story too early. I have written thousands of words and scrapped them because they weren’t necessary to the story. Part of the reason this happens is because I think there is vital information in those words – and often there is – but none that couldn’t be slipped into the story at a later point. For this block I want to make sure I start writing when the action happens, and write only so far as I need to conclude the story in a satisfying manner. No excess.

I’ve never written stories based on a setting before. I mean, all my stories have a setting, but typically I have a character or a story idea first, and then build the setting up around that. In this case, I have a setting, no characters set in stone, and one story idea. That’s going to be interesting…

Anyway, I also managed to finish writing the last story from block four this morning. I’ve been awake all night for no apparent reason and made the decision to quit resting and get up and do some work – thankfully, Lauren has stayed sleeping for a change and it was actually a success! It seems to me that this last story could actually be the beginning of the novel, and I’ve had some new things crop up in the story which suggest to me that something a little more sinister and unpleasant is going on than I initially suspected. It will be very cool to explore that when I get the chance.

Well, I know I’m looking forward to this second block, I hope the other participants are too!


10 thoughts on “Goals – Action Stories”

  1. Such an interesting post. I think of action as something where the characters are physically doing something and usually this physical action is mimicked by the intensity of the story. Good luck!

    I’m going to have to define Light, Fun & Comedic for myself this week. Ha ha?

    1. You can do it!

      I’m looking forward to writing some chase scenes and fight scenes and other fun stuff. As you say, the physical action does seem to mimic the intensity, so it will be interesting trying to build the two together to create something satisfying.

  2. Sorry to hear about the sleep, but great work on the story 🙂 I’ve never tried action stories either! Good luck, let us know what you discover!

  3. The action story sounds fun – not something I think I could do with any success though, so good luck to you. And hoorah for zombie babies – those kids of yours are going to grow up delightfully warped.

    1. haha they will, won’t they? My kids never had a chance of being normal anyways 😉

      It’s going to be a challenge for me to keep the action/adrenaline/movement going in these stories, as it’s so far from what I normally write. But trying to find a happy medium, where I can still bring some emotional impact to the scene.

  4. Even though action is defined in the majority by plot+plot+plot, there isn’t such a clear case for the heroes to be heroic as would first appear. Sure, the majority of action-led stories have a clear boundary between the protagonist and the antagonist, yet there as many – if not more – stories where the nominal “hero” is as flawed (if not as damaged) as the villain. In pulp stories especially, with Doc Savage and The Shadow being prime examples, there is a strong undercurrent of suppressed (and not-so-suppressed) violent urges on the part of the “heroes.” P.J. Farmer pointed out the hidden darkness of action characters a few times, and various authors have made clear the way “heroes” behave is as much to do with their own enjoyment of violence as any do-gooding.

    Try to find some time to yourself, and recharge your energy levels. Good luck with the writing.

    1. Thank you! I’m trying to rest, but gee, my brain just won’t switch off long enough!

      You know, you kind of reminded me of The Watchmen when you wrote that – does that count as action? I’m not sure my characters are heroic as such, or that I’m writing typical action, but then I found it hard getting a solid grasp on what exactly made up action so am mostly running with what appeals to me from that area of things.

  5. I’ve never tried an action story, either. I bet you are going to have fun with this challenge, J.C.!

    I must say that I, too, write tons of words for a rough draft that are not necessary for the final piece, and I do so habitually. Sometimes I’m convinced that those words are a sort of warm up for my creative self, and sometimes I think that I need them as a sort of preparatory backstory to the work that actually ends up being in the final draft. Do you know what I mean? I know another writer who does this, too. It may just be personal style, not something to worry about. 🙂

    1. You might be right Meredith, about it being a personal style, but I find more and more that it annoys me when I get a few thousand words in and then realize it’s the wrong start to a story.

      I definitely think it can help flesh things out, but perhaps its the lack of time that makes me irritated with it? I only get an hour or so to write a day, that I seem to spend a lot of that writing things that won’t make it into a final draft can be a little frustrating. Ah well… lol I will either learn to find the right starts sooner, or I’ll learn to love my process.

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