Interview with RaeAnn_Reid, Winner of the July Challenge: LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!


In June we challenged you to write a story which delved straight into the action. Forget setting the scene, building your character and developing a back story. We didn't want to know about any of that. 

What we wanted was hard-hitting action, and boy did you deliver! 

We were smashed about, shot, strung up and burned by your words. 

Bloody excellent job! 
(pun intended)

Despite the huge array of excellent entries, writing an action-scene is a hard task for any writer. It's been suggested by various authors, editors and agents, that readers tend to 'skip over' action scenes in preference for getting back to the actual story in hand. 
So what gives? 

Do readers actually enjoy reading action and fight scenes, or don't they? 

Well, the answer to that depends on a few things ('course it does). But it is all in how you structure your scenes. Here are a few variables that you may wish to consider the next time you sit down to pen your newest shoot-out, sword fight, or battle-scene:

1. Pace Is More Important Than Content
Too slow and you'll bore your reader, but too fast and you'll do the same. If you languish over the minute details of your fights, the reading experience will become too bogged down in description and the fight will loose its focus. Yet, if you skip over the important elements, swinging swiftly from one blow to the next without so much as a comma for pause, the reader won't believe in the moment. They'll likely skim the passage; knowing that its happened, but not really caring how it unfolded. 

Try to reach a middle ground between detail and punches. A good way to achieve this is to reveal important elements of your character, or the story, within the fights. This will keep the reader interested on the action, rather than the outcome. If you have a lot of fights in your story, you can use hooks from previous clashes to help maintain interest in subsequent ones. For example, you could use an injury sustained in a previous fight to slow your MC down later on.  

2. Don't Recycle: It's Damaging To Your Environment
One of the main reasons for a reader loosing interest in a fight, is due to repetition. If your protagonist is constantly poking people in the eye, taking a smack to the head, or 'falling to the ground like a stone', it's pretty darn tedious for the reader. You can utilize tools like 'Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers' (free on Google Books), or you could even take a back seat and let the reader fill in the gaps for themselves. There are so many routes to take, so don't be lazy, and definitely don't recycle!

3. Keep it short. Get to the point.
It's pretty tiring getting hit in the face or dangling someone over a ledge by their ponytail, so don't forget that your characters need to have believable limits (yes, even in fantasy narratives!). Don't dawdle over the details, readers are pretty good at filling in the blanks. 

No attacker is going to be philosophizing over a blood-orange sunset in the heat of battle, and no victim is going to notice the elegant swish of a murderer's cloak while their life is in peril.

4. Commas, distract. Too much description does the same.
Keep your sentences short. Because, the thing is, once you start dwelling, it gets, well, pretty boring. 

Think about the difference in intensity between a subject-verb-object sentence construction, and a dependent clause construct:

Subject-Verb-Object: 'Alex was felled by a blow to the head.' Dependent Clause: 'Felled by a blow to the head, Alex's fight was over.'

You should also be wary of using too much description. Take a look at this sentence: 

'Alex cocked his gleaming rifle as the age-old inscription on the warm barrel caught the dying evening sun, he thought of the powerful dark bullets trembling within and a sudden resolve steadied his shaking hand; he was ready for the final, powerful blow.'
It's long, it's too descriptive and to be honest, the reader probably lost interest when the barrel became a romanticized object and the bullets were personified. 

So, let's stylize it to prepare for action: 

'Alex cocked his gleaming rifle. The thought of the powerful bullets within helped steady his trembling hand. He was ready for the final blow.' 

You notice the difference in intensity between the two sentences immediately. A good editorial exercise for writers to employ when they're developing action scenes is to write in an unconstrained way, and then go back and apply these rules. 

Our June Challenge was all about hitting a bulls-eye on each of these points, and more. There were a huge range of fantastic entries to the Monthly Challenge.
But, as ever, there can only be one winner...

So congratulations to RaeAnn_Reid for her winning entry, Consequences!

The following entries were June's runners up:

Without further ado, here's our interview with June's WEbook Challenge Winner, RaeAnn_Reid:

WEbook: Your story is brutal, terrifying and sad. But it is also incredibly strong, especially in terms of your first person characterization. 
Although there is no definition of the MC's sex in the story, one automatically assumes that they are female. Firstly, are we right? And secondly, if we are, how did you approach writing a strong, female lead for your story?

RaeAnne_Reid: I’ve always loved writing about inner strength and the strength that comes from the powerful bond of family ties. I wanted to create a strong but vulnerable main character. Her vulnerability is forced to the surface by the protective nature of her relationship with her sister. And I find a lot of the time basing my writing off of my own personal experiences adds a depth that I can identify with to my readers; the desperation and unfailing loyalty to protect and shelter those we love.   

WB: Action scenes are evidently something that you excel at delivering in a convincing way to the reader. Have you had much experience writing in this style, or is it new territory to you? Any tips on how to write a good action scene?

RA: Action scenes are my forte. I love, love, love writing them. The blunt detail and fast paced environment that you have to step into brings a whole new aspect to the imagination. I find that once I start writing an action sequence, my fingers start flying across the keyboard trying to keep up with the scene that’s playing out in my mind’s eye.  

The one tip I would share with my fellow writers is this, read, read, and read some more. I love action novels and stories of war. Reading other stories and novels that have a lot of combat in them helped me pick apart and put together a good action scene. 

The amount of differing perspectives and writing styles of other authors helped me to develop my own style. I could pick something I really liked from one and put it together with another author’s flair, thus creating something unique.

WB: The confession of your MC in the story - that they did it, rather than the sister - culminates in the powerful final line, '"She didn't do it... I-I did." But it no longer mattered.' This line injects a sense of hopelessness into the story, which ultimately ties the piece together. 

When you were writing this scene, where did this line come in during the drafting process? Was it as important as it has become, or was it a happy final accident?

RAThis line was actually the first thing that I wrote and the story evolved from there. During the drafting process I tried inserting it in multiple places but it just didn’t seem to fit as well as it did if it was the last thought. And that’s that! 

WB: Writing such high-octane scenes can be challenging when there is no back-story to contextualize the characters or their motives. Yet in your piece you manage to do both successfully without compromising on any of the action. Did you conceptualize a back-story to help you with the scene, or is this part of an ongoing project?

RA: To be completely honest with you I just sat down at my computer and started typing away. I don’t even know what my main character’s little sister was framed for. But I’ve started brainstorming ideas for the backstory. I would love to make this scene into something more. We’ll see where it goes!

WB: Final questions now...

What are your 3 favorite books?

RA: I have so many favorite books it wouldn’t be fair to pick just three of them! Instead, if you don’t mind, I’ll tell you who my favorite writing role models are:

1. L.A. Meyer
2. Tamora Pierce
3. Melina Marchetta

They are phenomenal storytellers. These authors helped me fall in love with reading and writing. I have all of their books nestled in amongst others on my various shelves. 

WB:Who are your favorite WEbook writers?

RA: The WEbook writers I admire the most are vampiremaiden (who I’ve co-written a novel with), and Elizabeth_Odet. Both bring some amazing talent to the table and are my go to people for any writing blocks that I can’t seem to break through.

** Read RaeAnn_Reid's winning entry, Consequences **

Good luck and happy writing!

- The WEbook Team   

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  1. I loved the post. There are so many inputs to take from this post. I so agree with the 3rd point. Most people have a short attention span these days and a lengthy content is therefore not preferred so much.

  2. haha you nailed it, a perfect post to kick of the new week for me. really an intresting one nice work.


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