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Action Adventure stories

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How To Write Action Adventure Stories
by Maria Z/GD.

Adventure and action fiction is one of the earliest literary genres that is still popular today.

This genre finds its roots in Greek and Medieval literature, becoming the basis of other genres like romance and mystery.

Characters in an adventure and action story must face some sort of risk, like imprisonment or mortal danger. Charles Dickens, Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson all wrote famous adventure stories.

Writing adventure and action is a great way to express your imagination and creativity, especially if paired with another genre like fantasy or mystery. It is also a great form of writing exercise and can be a good basis for other subgenres of fiction-writing. Many classic childrens’ stories are adventures.


• Robinsonades

This name is derived from the famous novel ‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe. It is often characterised as a story of survival.

• Picaresque

This subgenre has its roots in medieval Spanish literature and is often seen as more of a literary technique than a subgenre.

Adventure is a milder form than action, and can be just ‘life’s adventures’ as the protagonist meets people on the way, without necessarily killing them all as in Action.

It tells the stories of an antihero (or antiheroine) who goes through life as a member of the lower social caste. These stories are usually told in a lighter, more humorous tone than other, more serious subgenres of adventure writing. The novel ‘The Good Companions’ by J.B. Priestly is written in a picaresque style.

Nowadays most middle class people aspire to be in a lower social caste (e.g. working class fashion model, rock star, actor, sports hero, reality TV star etc.) so a picaresque novel can be written about almost anyone (class blur, or democracy). Nick Hornby specializes in Sad Picaresque; Tony Parsons in Family Picaresque.

• War and combat

This is a vast genre of its own, both non-fiction and fiction, in print, TV and films, as well as computer games. Interleaves with many other genres like Spy, Horror, SF, Westerns, Historical etc.

• Character-based – James Bond

Ian Fleming’s James Bond series combine a number of genres including action, travel, spy, crime, romance, conspiracy also war (post war spy) and science fiction. Even character development, usually over the course of each book, where Bond has to overcome internal as well as external demons.

That is why they have such a large audience, a long term appeal, and make very good films.

This can be applied to any action story by foregrounding the lead character, rather than making him a cog in the plot.


• What time period will your story be in?

It could be a wartime story, a futuristic space adventure (a genre know as Space Opera), etc.

• Where will your story be set?

The Arabian desert, the Bermuda Triangle, a string of Polynesian islands and so on so forth. Pick places where you can create some conflict between the protagonist and the environment if you are short on other scenes of jeopardy. Extreme heat in the deserts, attacks by wild jungle beasts, monstrous aliens etc.


• Introduce a protagonist that is realistic and likeable, as well as realistically likeable.

A dapper, debonair hero who escapes peril through clever strategising can be an admirable character in a story. However, to say that this character is a clichéd one is an understatement. Create a character with flaws and a few interesting traits. This makes the protagonist one that is more human and less fiction.

• How about throwing in a villain or two?

Not all villains are like The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland or Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde – malicious without a cause. Give your villain(s) some humane reason for being evil. This will work on several levels of conflict: the reader’s perception of the character and the protagonist’s perception of the character.


• Start with a bang.
An introduction that takes the reader straight into an action scene will create the buzz of anticipation for the rest of the story.

• “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sure, the hero can opt to safely run down the fire exit instead of risking being shot at by jumping off the roof of one building to another, but where’s the fun in that? This genre is defined by adrenaline-rushes, risks and physical danger.

• What is your main character doing, again?
Don’t lose track of the main plot. Sub-plots are like diversions for the readers, but don’t let them distract you as a writer.

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