Screenwriting : Writing action by Leah Waller

Leah Waller

Writing action

Hi all! I've been working on this script for a few months, I really love the characters and their story, but it's an action script and well, action isn't my forte. It's set in the middle ages so all the battles are with sword and shield or bow and arrow. Does anyone have any tips on how to construct an exciting battle scene? Also, how much action/detail do you spell out and how much do you leave for the fight coordinator to deal with? I hope you are all had a wonderful and productive 2014!

Richard "RB" Botto

Hey Leah. When it comes to action, everyone has a different style. Some writers choose to be description heavy, others choose a more staccato style. What I would suggest is heading over to and downloading a few action oriented scripts. Might spur some ideas.

Richard Toscan

Leah, try reading the scripts of these sorts of films to see how that sort of action is managed. Here's a link to THE LORD OF THE RINGS script, believed to be the final draft of the screenplay: Also, a link to THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Unfortunately, it's a transcript of the film, not the screenplay.

Simon Wilkinson

Watch some great films that have medieval battle scenes. Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V, Kingdom of Heaven and Braveheart would be good. There are also some TV documentaries who show how medieval weapons and tactics worked that you can find on YouTube. Personally, as a writer and former soldier, the worst thing you could do would be to write these type of action scenes without really detailed research. Avoid "that could never happen" moments as these can ruin what you are trying to achieve. If you are not confident keep your scenes short and sweet. If the script goes into production you can bet that there will be fight co-ordinators to take care of the actual combat and historical advisers to make sure weapons and tactics are true to the period.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Good advice on this thread! And maybe you already know the obvious, Leah -- which is the audience does not care about the battle as much as they care about the protagonist / heroes / villains involved. What are the stakes? A land quest? The battle to correct an injustice? Make sure we care about the characters going into the battle: their aspirations, how the outcome will affect the warrior. Ex: Will he lose the girl? Will he kill his cousin and ascend to the throne? So many real life stories are available from the court of Edward III, who had many children but favored The Black Prince --- who was more involved with fighting the Spanish Armada than getting married and producing an heir. The Black Prince married Joan the Fair Maid of Kent -- they had a son. We all know how that turned out. Study the real life historical conflicts and take your inspiration from the subtext. Side note: my suspense drama "A Worthie Woman All Hir Live" will be a short film this year.

G. Leo Maselli

Identify films set during medieval period and study the scripts. Each page will deliver an 'aha' moment.

Eoin O'Sullivan

Whatever style you choose to write a period piece of action in, it should have the correct action verbs to paint a picture for anyone reading it and have a ring of truth about it. How the action happens and other visual details, are down to the director and choreographer. Research is part and parcel of writing a period script!

Dash Riprock

Lisa's right. The one I found most useful was Martell's "The Secrets of Action Screenwriting".

William Martell

Thank you, Tom!

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