Screenwriting: How To Write an Action Film

Screenwriting for an action film contains much more than just action. Seamlessly melding action so that it has a purpose for the story is what sets the great action films apart from the ones that are simply blowing things up. The characters and story are just as important as the action. All action films tend to have some basic components that can make them slightly easier to start writing than other film genres.

Step 1: Concept

The most fundamental part of the action film is the concept. The conflict, desire and characters all should exist within the action concepts. Most action concepts will have a lot of interplay between what is good and what is evil with very high stakes. The interplay occurs in action scenes that will contain violence or some type of physical force.  Many times certain movies themselves encompass a concept, such as the Die Hard concept or Speed concept.

Step 2: Strong Characters

For a truly great action film, the characters on both the good and evil side need to be strong. These characters should also contain some conflicting values. So, the hero will save the day but have to wrestle with his own character flaws. Most of the time, the hero is a flawed individual that must overcome these flaws to save the day. Do not make the goal too lofty for the character. It does need to be believable that this individual can accomplish the goal and become the hero.

Step 3: Script Structure

There are 6 points of script structure, and you will need to follow these. 

  1. Normally, for action films there is the set up in the first stage and the start of the conflict.
  2. Stage 2 consists of an entirely new situation that will introduce other characters or a secondary plot line.
  3. In stage 3, some progress has been made toward the situation, but normally a change of plans is needed.
  4. In stage 4, the stakes go up and complications occur which makes it more difficult for the hero to succeed.
  5. In Stage 5, the final push comes and the hero succeeds saving everyone.
  6. The aftermath is stage 6 and shows the outcome of reaching the goal. The bad guy is punished and something happy will occur for the hero.

Watch a few action scenes, and you will notice that they all follow these stages.

Step 4: Dialogue

The best dialogue for action films are those that are witty, sharp and peppered with humor. It will not only enhance the plot, but uncover emotion, vulnerability and humor in the characters. Try to come up with some lines that are perfect to be quoted. Simply providing exposition is not good enough, as it is important to create interesting dialogue to hold the audience's attention.

Step 5: Advice

When you have a workable draft, have someone read it and get some advice. An individual that has written an action screenplay in the past is best. Do not be offended when they provide advice, but look at it constructively to try and make the screenplay better. Most writers will go through many drafts before a finished draft. Many times, even once the movie has started, shooting the script will change.