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Action Scenes

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on July 8, 2011

How do you write an action scene when you’re an armchair adventurer? As writers, we use the same technique as we do for other unfamiliar experiences: we research them. Here are four books in my home library that can help with these scenes.

US Army Survival Manual, Dorset Press, New York, 1992.

What will I use from this book in my WIP? There’s a chapter on Desert Survival, and my hero and heroine are about to be chased from Las Vegas by the bad guys. They end up at a safe house in the desert, but not before surviving some difficulties along the way. The book includes chapters on survival in different types of terrain, how to find food and water, poisonous plants, shelters, building a fire, and water crossings, among other subjects.


The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1999.


This book teaches all kinds of cool things. I used its How to Land a Plane for book two in my paranormal series. Advice ranges from how to escape from quicksand to survival when adrift at sea. Need to jump from a moving car? Find out how here. Oh hey, I may not be able to use the how-to on what to do if your parachute doesn’t open, but my characters can profit from surviving in the desert and maybe escaping from a mountain lion.

The Action Hero’s Handbook by David Borgenicht and Joe Borgenicht, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2002.

action hero

Similar to the info offered above, this book tells you how to drive a bus at high speed, save someone hanging off a cliff, fend off a ghost, crawl through a ventilation shaft, crash through a window, negotiate a hostage crisis, even how to do a Vulcan nerve pinch.

Fight For Your Life by Dr. Ted Gambordella, Barricade Books, New Jersey, 1982.

This is great for street fighting scenes when you need to know the moves your guys can make to defend themselves. It includes escapes and counters, women’s defense moves, and guarding against knife attacks.


Unfortunately, I didn’t find the immediate information I need, which is how to jump from building to building.


I suppose I’ll have to give my hero some sort of tensile line that he can shoot at the opposite surface, and then hook on a harness of sorts. He doesn’t have his bag of tricks with him so the line has to be secured on his person. In his belt, perhaps? Any suggestions, people, other than watching spy shows on TV?


2 Responses to “Action Scenes”

  1. Great list of resources and what fun! I think I might hunt down a copy of The Action Hero’s Handbook. I’ve always wondered about the Vulcan nerve pinch, lol!

  2. My Facebook fans also recommend:

    The Fighting Sword by Dwight McLemore
    Sword Fighting: A Manual For Actors & Directors by Ducklin & Waller. It gives step-by-step instructions for a fight
    The Way of the Warrior

    Also check out my latest tweet for another cool link on tv tropes:

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