Things I Learned from Action Movies

I’m an action girl. I love guns, intrigue, explosions, super-cool gadgetry and life-or-death situations. Don’t get me wrong – I also love Beatrix Potter and Winnie-the-Pooh and Jane Austen and all that adorable-hopelessly-romantic stuff that appeals to the girlie half of me. But I love pulse-pounding, heart-racing, high-tech stories and the amazing agents/double agents/triple agents that come with them. They’re also quite helpful in teaching you how to deal with the pesky life-or-death situations we run up against so often. For instance, they’ve taught me that –

1. Cool guys don’t look at explosions. They walk away from them in slo-mo. O yeah.

2. You can lift your head up and look around during gunfire as many times as you please, and you’ll be fine.

3. You can fall from a forty-foot-drop and survive with minor injuries (such as a broken rib or bad bruising).

4. A silencer completely muffles any and all guns, making them dead silent, even if you’re firing from 100 yards away.

5. No matter where you stab them, your knife will always embed up to the hilt in your enemy and kill them instantly. This is very handy.

6. The biggest, toughest guy who won’t even wince at being riddled with gunfire will whine like a baby when being tended to by a girl.

7. You can hack into any database in the world (or alien spaceship)  in under thirty seconds using only your handy-dandy everyday laptop computer.

8. When running with the person you’re crushing on, don’t worry about getting to know them better. Every time you fall, you’ll fall on top of each other so you can stare dramatically into their eyes for about two minutes. Note: This is perfectly safe. The bad guys chasing you will leave you alone until you get up and start running again.

You’ve probably guessed by now that these are pretty sarcastic points (and if you haven’t, you might not want to read my blog just because. I really apologize) and yeah, I’m poking fun at action movies – but I’m quite serious when I say I really do love action and action movies. Sure, they stretch limits and people survive way more than they would in real life, but that’s okay because we’d be pretty bummed if our favorite main characters died the first time they got shot.

Some of my favorite movies – Live Free or Die Hard, RED, Eagle Eye, Knight and Day, Ghost Protocol (note: we have ClearPlay, which edits language, which action movies tend to favor. You have been warned) – are chock-full of bullets and fire and the snappy lines I love so much. And they’ve taught me a thing or two about writing an action novel, for which I am eternally grateful.

I learned how to craft and create action-hero characters who people will like – or who I tend to fall in love with, at least. I learned that the hero goes up in awesome points if he is

1. Wounded sympathetically (shot on the job, etc.)

2. Wounded heroically (saving someone else, for example)

3. Has no one to help him take care of his wounds (poor baby)

4. Has morals. I don’t like main character ‘heroes’ who are just ‘punch and shoot and blow stuff up yaaaaaay! Kill all da peoples!’ – I love it when they have standards. They don’t just randomly shoot people, they kill only when they have to, they don’t hurt women unless absolutely necessary, etc. These really make me sympathize with the character and love them even more.

However, if you’re writing an action novel, look out – you want it to be realistic. You can’t knock a guy across the room with a pistol bullet (sorry, Dekker, thank you, Max) and a silencer does NOT totally kill any and all sound from a gun. (They muffle and suppress the ‘flash,’ and work much better at close range than long distance). Roundhouse kicks aren’t generally a good idea, even if they pack more of a punch. You can’t actually survive a fifty-foot drop off a building, and driving a flashy sports car isn’t a good idea if you’re spying on someone. You don’t actually hit somebody every time you fire, even if you’re the main character. And hanging onto the roof of a moving car is really rather tricky.

Know Thy Reality, and don’t push the boundaries too much. (That’s why fantasy is so much easier than realistic… aish… I used to only write fantasy and I could push any boundaries I liked! Now with UNIT and Target Acquired and Enemy in Sight, things are a lot harder. But they’re also quite fun. I love writing about agent-assassin-people, in case you can’t tell). So – go for it! Are you writing an action novel? Take Sherlock’s advice and do your research – but have FUN! And don’t believe everything you see in movies.

Even if it looks awesome.

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31 thoughts on “Things I Learned from Action Movies

  1. Actually, you CAN survive a 50 foot fall from a building IF there are awnings to slow the rate of descent ala Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Mythbusters proved it on one of their Movie Myth episodes. O:)

  2. *phew* I thought I was the only one who questions why Jason Bourne is still alive even though he -insert situation here- and should have died (even though he’s Jason Bourne and I get that his awesomeness keeps him alive).

    As for me, when faced with explosions, I like to run away as fast as I can, looking back every second to be sure that I’m far enough away so that I don’t die. (not that I’ve been faced with explosions recently *cough* hairspray-can-in-fire *cough*)

    I do agree research is best. Mythbusters has actually helped me with a lot of stuff believe it or not. That’s were I get a lot of my knowledge on weapons and stuff from (like how to make them). haha

    -Emily

    • EXPLOSIONS! YES! Have you noticed that when someone is being cool and walking away from an explosion (WALKING) they’re always fine. If they’re actually running, they always get thrown around, knocked out, and singed. 😄

  3. Those points were great! Yeah, I love action movies too-although I’m somewhat finicky about which ones I watch. But yes, realism in an action book is an under-used tool. The truth is stranger than fiction, so I don’t believe realism inhibits a story at all 🙂 Keep on writing!

  4. RE: #4 – the reason you like them not to shoot everyone is because then you have crossed over the very very all important line between right and murder. Sometimes a hard to find line, in which case, NO shooting should take place….. just sayin’…♥

  5. You’re looking for a man with a history of military service, nerves of steel, strong moral principle…

    You know what, forget all of that. It’s just the shock talking.

  6. This made me laugh, especially the beginning. 😛

    I tend to lean toward fantasy, but I’ve always wanted to write a spy/secret agent/etc. novel. I don’t watch a ton of action movies, but I have watched the occasional one, here and there. They can be really fun. I’ve been trying to write a spy/secret agent kind of novel for a long time, but every time I start, I just can’t get into it. *sigh* Maybe I just need to try again, or find a plot line that I really love.

  7. Very nice, very nice. 😀 Some of these are quite amusing.
    I thought Knight & Day was pretty cheesy – maybe the fact that it was more of an action/comedy film than a serious action movie is one reason, but so is RED (right?) and I think I might like that one.

    I’m not an expert on suppressors by any means, but I don’t get what you said about them being more effective at close range than at a distance…

    • Apparently, the silencer has a lot to do with distance. I hadn’t known that before, but was researching it earlier today. =D Knight and Day is a comedy, and so is RED – but RED is the more realistic comedy. It blends comedy and action perfectly. ^.^

      • Some of those observations are hilarious, by the way. 🙂
        I think sometimes unrealistic action scenes are ok – as long as they look cool! For instance, the “walking away from an explosion slowly for dramatic effect” thing, Preston being able to shoot fully-automatic pistols accurately while dual-wielding them and even shooting behind his head – and not getting shot once even though a hall full of enemies is sending bullets at him in Equilibrium, huge explosions caused by a small amount of explosives, and many more.

        I wasn’t aware about the distance thing with suppressors…I need to do some more research, especially because I’ll be able to buy a handgun and a suppressor next year…but at the rate things are going, I won’t have enough money for even the former. 😛 Do you want to get either after you turn 21, and if so, which ones? Of course you don’t need buying suggestions yet, but I’m just curious.

  8. 4. Has morals.

    YES. I will become a regular moviegoer as soon as Hollywood figures out doing the right thing is much harder, much more humbling and heroic, than doing the wrong thing.

  9. 5, 7, and 8 were amazingly beautiful. 😄
    I, too, like action. My favorite show (Besides Doctor Who and Sherlock;) ) is 24. It’s insanely stressful but packed with explosions, violence, and stolen bombs. 😀 I’m the only 13 year old girl I know who likes it. haha…
    I don’t know if I would have the patience to research all the things required for an adventure novel of that level. Which is why I like westerns: you can get action in without having so much research. Naturally, I do have to look up facts to make it authentic but it’s not as in depth about researching centox nerve gas…

  10. Nice post! Winnie the pooh isn’t girlie. 😛
    Good points, I have so much trouble knowing whether something’s realistic or not…and have a hard time researching it too. >:[
    Hahaha hilarious! I love sarcasm…in this case anyway. 😄

  11. I’ve also noticed that the guy will take forever to kill, and the good guy can NEVER die, and the random people in battle or whatever the situation take a single bullet or a slight slash of a sword, and they’re gone. The science there is sort of unreliable… 😉

  12. Oh, I LOVED this post!!!
    Totally an action films girl myself=) So nice to know I’m not alone in loving both Jane Austen and action;)
    Your list of ‘Things I Learned from Action Movies’ had me laughing until I couldn’t breath. Awesome;)

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