Tackling Action Scenes with Jennifer Rush

Writing an action scene can be surprisingly difficult. You have to get the descriptions, dialogue and characters just right in order to make the scene leap off the page and be as vivid as an episode of Arrow or as riveting as the latest Liam Neeson film. Today, Jennifer Rush shares a high-octane scene from Reborn, the third in her Altered series, and then gives us a behind-the-scenes look at writing it. Aspiring authors, take note!

Raymond’s face turned from ruddy to crimson right before he reached over and grabbed my wrist. He pulled my arm toward him, as if he meant to twist it behind my back.

I had already slid off the stool three seconds earlier, ready for this five seconds before that.

I kicked with my right foot, catching his knee. He howled and let go of my wrist, so I threw a backhanded fist, catching him across the temple. His friend, the one carrying the pistol, came at me.

I grabbed my empty shot glass and chucked it at him. It collided with his forehead with a resounding crack. His flesh split open, spewing blood down the bridge of his nose.

The third friend caught me off guard with a jab to my side, then a quick punch to the face. There wasn’t much power behind it though, and ignoring the pain was easy. I hit him across the jaw. He staggered back and rocked the table behind him, spilling drinks all over the place.

Someone shouted to call the cops.

Raymond recovered and barreled toward me, catching me in the wide span of his arms. He slammed me into the wall with his weight, and all the air left my lungs.

He punched with meaty knuckles, cracking my nose. Blood ran down the back of my throat with a hot, coppery tang.

I slid down the wall fast, hitting the floor in a second. Raymond brought his booted foot up when I grabbed the leg of the nearest chair, hauling it over top of me, using the seat as a shield.

The chair smashed into pieces, leaving me with nothing but a leg still in my hands.

I rocked forward onto a knee and whacked Raymond in the chin with the leg, and cracked him in the knee on the comeback. I rose to my feet, hitting him once, then twice in the head.

Raymond hit the floor with a satisfying thud.

The pistol-carrying friend made a grab for his gun when I rounded on him, the chair leg hanging loosely by my side.

“Don’t,” I said.

The entire bar was silent save for Raymond groaning at my feet and the click-scratch of the old jukebox switching records behind me.

I could hear the pounding of my heart in my head and finally I felt alive.

I pulled Raymond’s wallet from the inside pocket of my coat and tossed it toward him. It landed with a slap on his chest. His girlfriend just stared at me.

Everyone was staring at me. A toxic rush of power ran through my veins.

Sirens blared in the distance, so I hurried toward the back door, the chair leg still in my hand.

* * *

This is one of the first action sequences in Reborn, taking place in the first chapter. I wanted to open the book this way, because I felt it said a lot about Nick’s current state of mind. He’s lost, lashing out for no other reason than to feel something other than lost. You can clearly tell (and Nick alludes to this earlier in the scene) that he’s stolen this man’s wallet in order to start a fight. Nick doesn’t know how to express himself, or his emotions, other than with his fists.

He’s learned how to be a little more controlled in his fighting technique, thanks mostly to Sam. Otherwise, this scene could have gone in an entirely different direction! Nick doesn’t kill anyone here, which says a lot about who he is. He’s capable of murder — he has the fighting knowledge to kill a man quickly, but he doesn’t. Nick isn’t a terrible person, he just doesn’t know how to live in his own skin.

As for the action itself, I wanted to show how capable Nick was when it came to fighting. He has no weapons on his person, so he uses what’s available to him, which is something all of the Altered boys have learned from the Branch. In this scene, Nick uses a shot glass and a chair as weapons, which serve him well! One of my favorite things about writing these scenes, and about the Altered boys, is that they use whatever they have available — it’s not just guns and knives, which can get boring pretty quickly.

I closed the scene out with a hint of emotion, because that’s really what’s behind Nick’s fighting in the first place. “I could hear the pounding of my heart in my head and finally I felt alive.” This line in particular gives this scene purpose, and roots us inside Nick’s head. There is a reason he’s doing what he’s doing, though it isn’t immediately apparent to Nick, and especially Anna in the scene that follows!

You’ll have to grab a copy of Reborn to see what happens next!

Catch up on the Altered series today and pick up a copy of Reborn from your favorite retailer. For more YA authors, writing tips and books, head on over to the Everything Young Adult page.

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