Typing Faster

February 3, 2011

So You Want To Write An Action Movie?

Filed under: Features — petertypingfaster @ 9:58 am

Then you need to head over and read this article on Scriptshadow , which breaks down one of the greatest action movies of all time: Die Hard.

The article’s chock full of good action writing advice. A few specific points I’d like to pull out:

ONE-LINERS
Ahhh, the snappy action one-liner. An 80s film staple. But no film has ever approached Die Hard in this category. In fact, 95% of one-liners you hear in action movies these days are groan-worthy. So how does Die Hard still hold up? Simple. McClane’s one-liners stem from his situation, NOT from a writer wanting to add a funny line. When you watch Die Hard and hear McClane say, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker,” you genuinely get the sense that he’s trying to add levity to the situation. He’s using humor to deflect the seriousness of his predicament. In other words, he’s not a mouthpiece for a clever line thought up by a writer, which is what every single one of these one-liners has been since Die Hard came out (please see The Expendables for numerous examples).

ONE OF THE BEST SCENES YOU CAN WRITE
One might argue that the most memorable scene in Die Hard is when Hans pretends to be a hostage. Part of the reason we love this scene so much is because it’s such a clever move by our villain. But this is actually a setup for a scene that works almost every time you use it in a screenplay: We the audience know something that our main character doesn’t – that he’s in danger – and there’s nothing we can do to help him. The tension this creates in a scene – the helplessness we feel – works on an audience almost every time, so if you have the opportunity to use it, do so. Just make sure we like your hero. Obviously, if we don’t, we won’t be too worried when he’s seconds away from getting a bullet in the chest.

THINGS GET WORSE FOR OUR HERO AS THE SCRIPT GOES ON
In every action script, you want it to get tougher on your hero the closer he gets to the finish line. McClane’s feet are heavily cut, making it difficult for him to walk. Hans figures out that Lucy is John’s wife and takes her hostage, making it more difficult to save her. In the final confrontation, McClane’s only got two bullets left, making his escape unlikely. Keep stacking the odds against your hero as he gets closer to achieving his goal.

There’s plenty more great advice in the rest of the article that’s well worth checking out if you have an interest in writing action.

Coming up tomorrow is my interview with Vivian Lin, director of Pretty in Geek.

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1 Comment »

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    Comment by Star wars planets — January 14, 2012 @ 11:26 am


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