Writing a Novel – Action Scene Samples

A few weeks ago I wrote you about how to handle action scenes in novels, in terms of length, details and overall pace and flow. At the end of the article, and as always, I mentioned I’d be providing samples for it, an example of a short scene and a long one, to show the points I made and concepts I introduced.

The following are those scenes. The first one is a short duel between two swordsmen, set in the fantasy universe I developed during the first issues of the guide. The second is a longer scene, a shootout between a private detective and criminals.

Note: I am writing these scenes only to describe the action. As such, there are no monologues, insights or conversations. Less talking more action!

Short Scene: Can include more detailed description of every attack.

The two Praetors faced each other, swords held with both hands and raised in front of their faces, a salute before they fought. The crowds of the arena shouted with excitement and even the King was at the edge of his seat. These were the finals of his yearly Praetor tournament.

It was Marius’ first time in the competition and though not the strongest of fighters, his sharp instincts, senses and cunning tactics got him to the final bout, where he now faced Praetor Commander Stalls’ glare. There was disgust in his eyes, a deep-rooted hatred for everything Marius stood for.

The bell rang and Stalls launched himself on his opponent with an overhead strike so strong it forced Marius to his knees. Stalls followed with a knee to the face, sending him sprawling. The commander then launched himself on top of the young Praetor, but he rolled out-of-the-way and to his feet, sword at the ready but already panting heavily.

Marius wiped the blood from his nose and launched his own attack, a short flurry of strikes, aiming for the head and arms, a series of short strokes and thrusts. Stalls avoided the first of the strikes and swung his sword with both hands, once more forcing Marius to block a heavy strike that took him off his feet.

His bones rattled and ached, but Marius forced himself to stand up just in time to parry Stalls’s thrust, using all his strength to deflect the blow but leaving himself open to the commander’s follow-up, a kick to the chest that sent him flying against the far wall.


Long Scene: Big picture view of events, only describe the attacks with consequence to your character and the environment.

Jacob dove behind the bar’s counter, nodding at the bartender as the bullets flew over their heads and tore the liquor selection apart, making it rain on them. Taught never to waste, Jacob took a glass and caught samples of the different spirits, drinking them down in one gulp and nodding his appreciation to the surly proprietor.

When the firing stopped, Jacob listened for the telltale sound of reloading and peeked out from the under counter. There were six gunmen, two with pistols, two with Uzis and two with automatic rifles. While they reloaded, Jacob took shots at them, forcing them to dodge for cover. He got one in the arm, but couldn’t make it a lethal shot. That’s when fire erupted form the other side of the room and Jacob barely had enough time to duck again before more bullets flew past him, a few burning and cutting his scalp. He tilted his head backwards so the blood wouldn’t get in his eyes, raised his gun hand over the counter and fired off a clip where he’d seen the first set of gunner hide. The bullets cleanly hit the tables around him but as far as he could tell, none had found their marks.

Another hail crashed into the reinforced bar, with some rounds piercing through. One of them grazed his leg, another his arm and the other tore a hole in the bartender’s head. Jacob’s limbs and head burned from the gunshots but he forced himself to continue. He slid over the alcohol-wet floor to the leftmost edge of the bar, away from the gunfire, carefully sliding another clip in his weapon. Kneeling and ready to return fire, Jacob waited until the spray lessened, as they were now taking turns, making it harder for him to get an opening but making it easier to pinpoint their location. With disregard for his wellbeing, he rose and unloaded his magazine on the general direction of the gunfire, taking out the two gunmen firing at him before dropping down to his knees again and scrambling to the other side of the bar. This time around every movement hurt and his throat and lungs burnt and only on reaching his next spot did he realise he’d been shot in the stomach, shoulder and chest. Reaching painfully over his shoulder he found two of the bullets had made it through but the gut-shot was still there.

With time, he could’ve used the available liquor and some knives to dig the bullet out, but with the incoming fire, he had no choice but take the thugs out first. Hugging the right side of the bar, he saw them fire at the left hand side and, to his horror, they swept the length of the counter. The tearing bullet trail made its way to him and he had no choice but to leap out of his cover. There were four three gunmen left and he realised his blind shots had found their mark. Allowing himself a satisfied smile, he unloaded on the thugs and took two out but the last one ripped into him with his own pistol, each shot making his body convulse. He could no longer hold the gun. The only thing he could do was focus on breathing.

Jacob’s vision was almost gone, but he heard the crunch of glass under the assassin’s feet, as he approached the wounded Detective. He felt him kneeling by him and laugh while pressing his gun against Jacob’s forehead. For theatrics, he cocked the hammer on the automatic pistol, confident in his victory. But it was just the distraction Jacob needed. With a flick of his wrist, his concealed sleeve pistol popped into his hand and he raised and fired it into the thug’s head. The gunman fell heavily on Jacob, who could only lie there and wait for the inevitable but hoping someone would have called the city constables.


Next time I’m taking a look at the different narrative points of view, their risks and benefits. I might even mention the rare and elusive Second Person perspective!

Now a question for you, which of these stories I’ve written would you like to see made into a full-fledged novel? Is it Melving Backbreaker? Praetor Marius? Or Jacob the Private Detective? Let me know in the comments! More importantly, do you wish to know how the duel between Marius and Stalls ends?

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I love everything readable, writeable, playable and of course, edible! I search for happiness, or Pizza, because it's pretty much the same thing! I write and ramble on The Mental Attic and broadcast on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek

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