Actions in Stories

Small actions in Loves a Blonde

Small actions in Loves a Blonde



IN HIS BOOK, Screenwriting, Professor Richard Walter of UCLA, writes: “(1) any action is better than no action, and (2) appropriate imaginative, integrated action, action complementing a scene’s other elements and overall purpose, is best of all.”

Telling actions need not only be about Godzilla crushing cities underfoot, or King Kong swatting helicopters from the sky. They can also arise in the most seemingly mundane or non-threatening scenes.

Small actions, large impact

In the Czechoslovakian film, Loves a Blonde, two groups of labourers, one male, one female, working on a project in a remote area of the Carpathian foothills end up eating in a dining hall. Both the men and women are equally nervous about meeting each other. The scene isolates one man in particular who fidgets absentmindedly with his wedding ring.

Is the fidgeting an attempt to hide his marital status from the women? We suspect so.

Suddenly, the ring slips from his finger, clutters loudly to the floor, and begins rolling away. The man drops to his hands and knees and scrambles after the ring.

So engrossed is he in his pursuit of the tale-tale object that he fails to notice that the knees he is shuffling past are no longer those of men but of women! By the time he finally captures the elusive object and pops up from under the table, triumphantly holding the ring up in his hand, he finds himself amongst the very group of women from whom he was he was trying to hide the ring in the first place!

The action itself is small in scale, but its emotional impact is huge, making for a scene that is fresh and inventive. It satisfies Professor Walter’s second observation of integrated action and exploits that age old maxim of “show don’t tell”. This is writing at its simplest and best.


Drama is action. Static scenes make for boring stories. While there is nothing wrong with large action in stories, there should be a liberal sprinkling of smaller, well-observed action too.

One thought on “Actions in Stories

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Good post. Stories consist of small little moments . Without action their are no moments that create subtext. It can be a small action like Captain Miller’s shaking hand in Saving Private Ryan or John Rambo shooting an entire room of computer equipment in First Blood Part 2. Actions come from great inner emotions – it’s a physical reaction based on a inner feeling commonly sparked by conflict . ( Fear leads to hate leads to anger leads to suffering)

    In short : Action must be driven by emotions. The actions committed by your hero must be a reflection of his soul.


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