Oh, I've read a lot of boring action scenes lately. Worse, I've written a few myself.
How can that be? I mean, it's all about raising the stakes isn't it? Here's sweet Jenny. Quirky, yet kick-ass, with those goggles and that steam-powered gun. And now, she's just been invited to the school dance by a bare chested, sensitive bad boy. Does he shave that chest? Oh, yeah.
And then, on her way to the prom, she leaves the gun behind, and Mr. BigTooth McVampire glides down from a darkening sky... Why am I not afraid? She could DIE! Sweet Jenny, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Not really, though, right? We're only halfway through book two. Without George R. R. Martin at the helm, Jenny is in no danger. I know she gets through this scrape and indeed the one that comes after too. If you want me biting my nails, dear writer, then your action scene will need to threaten somebody or something else.
Say, for example, the assault on Jenny is only needed to distract her from the attempted, and possibly successful murder of her mum. The reader is aware of this and frets as the clock ticks down.
Or, the fighting is meant to destroy Jenny's dress so that she will not be allowed into the school dance.
Or, her attacker, BigTooth McVampire, might be the desperate one, the one with something vital to protect. What is it? Tell me!
You see, it doesn't matter how high the stakes are for the character, there has to be something in it for me too.
The Power of Curiosity
I recently read a book where the central mystery was about a monster. Where did it come from? What were its strange powers? Did it have a plan?
The creature attacks characters I was supposed to care about, although I have to say I did not. But the attack *was* interesting because every move and counter-move of the fight allowed me (and the characters) to learn more about the beast that wanted them dead.
They managed to drive it off, but as often happens in a good action scene, this was only a prelude to a new emergency... Sadly, the secondary fracas, just as frenetic as the first, sent me to sleep. There was nothing in it for me. I knew the characters would get out of it and that, absent the monster, the interest just wasn't there.
To Err is Human
So, I don't feel too bad for writing not so excellent scenes, but I promise my readers that I'm learning all the time. The next book I write won't just have hight stakes for the characters -- the reader will have something to bet on too.