Are You A Screenwriter Looking For Action?
Action is the most profitable genre for movies because it travels so well overseas. It isn’t as subject to cultural vagaries of other genres.
It can be dictated by both exotic locales and high octane action which movie goers love. And so does the box office.
Action movies can be pure action such as the “Mission Impossible” or “James Bond” series or hybrids such as action comedy or action thriller. Avoid adding a third genre to your screenplay or you risk diluting the action out of it.
Don’t always pull back on the spectacle of your action sequences in your movie script. Producers are always looking for new and innovative ways to make things explode, fly and entertain. You can always rewrite certain action scenes when the budgetary constraints kick in.
Make your opening action sequences kick ass. The first 10 or 20 pages should really blow your reader’s mind and should set the scene for a terrific action script.
Characters In Action Scripts
Ultimately, a good action movie is all about character rather than mindless action. Strong action films are about main characters with mindful action.
Obviously, there need to be substantial action sequences to satisfy the genre, but writers must give the characters dimension. Give the good guy some negative traits (flaws) and the bad guy some good ones.
Build character oppositions, contradictions and interactions. Give both protagonists and antagonists a weakness and vulnerability to humanize them.
Also, give them steadfast goals. Both the hero and villain must absolutely believe in the purpose of their actions.
Make your villains empathetic. They cannot entirely the evil force of destruction, but rather the obstacle that prevents the main character from achieving their goal. Make your audience think, “I’d to the same thing if I were them”.
Writing Better Action Sequences
Use the “trailer moment” action sequences to reveal plot points. Essential exposition and backstory is better delivered by an explosive action sequence than by talking heads.
Write these action sequences self contained with their own three act structure. These wind up in your movie trailer.
Elevate action sequences plot reversals, obstructions or set backs for the main characters. Shift the balance of power between the heroes and villains to add tension to your scenes. If the hero always wins and the bad guys always get beaten to a pulp, you won’t keep your audience watching for too long.
Raise the stakes. Elevate the danger for your main characters. Add additional villains and hurdles so the heroes are battling on multiple fronts.
Avoid linear, episodic scenes so audiences don’t tune out. Add additional subplots to complicate the action.
When writing action sequences, write just enough detail for the reader to experience the scene. Don’t bog them down with too much detail. A reader won’t be impressed by your superior knowledge of technical terms.
Personally, I underwrite major action scenes. White space is my friend. A few choice words describe the action such as “knock out punch” or ” screeching tires” get the point across.
Allow the main character to make discoveries along the way. Although action movies are mostly about movement, give your characters time out to think and process. Let them discover things that change the path and outcome of the story. Such as the hero finding out the villain was really trying to help them, or their ally was really a traitor.
Action movies rely on new and innovative ways to put your hero in constant danger. Avoid repetition. Back to back car chase scenes won’t excite your audience. Nor will an escape scene in a car followed by a helicopter chase, if the plot isn’t advanced.
And finally, remember to have softer conclusion. It will pave the way for a potential sequel.