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Chase Scene Checklist
By Joyce Faulkner
December, 2007, 10:05

Add excitement and risk to your stories with a well-crafted chase scene.
The following list of tips was created by Joyce Faulkner to summarize points made in her article Planning The Chase Scene. We've added it to our Tool Kit with the intention that you find it a valuable reference. Print it, photo copy it, and use it in good health and good writing.

To create an effective chase scene, follow these seven tips on things to consider while choreographing a chase:
1. Understand the purpose of the scene in the overall plot of your book.

2. Understand what your characters can and cannot do. Little old ladies in corsets are not likely to out run an accelerating bus. Tourists don’t expect terrorists in their midst, so their immediate reactions might be slow.

3. Understand the limitations of the setting you have selected. How does one drive a bus? Will a novice be able to make the tight turns in Gettysburg? What kind of accident will happen if the villain misses a turn?

4. Adjust language to increase or slow the speed of read. Use shorter words and sentences to speed things up. Use longer words and sentences to slow things down.

5. Use famous real places to minimize the need for excessive description. For example, if you use Mount Rushmore in the background, everyone knows what it looks like. There is no need to describe it in detail. This will speed the scene and add excitement and recognition.

6. Prepare your audience for the chase scene in earlier chapters by describing key features in the setting. For example, if you want the bus to barely miss a toddler eating ice cream on the sidewalk, you might have characters in an earlier scene get ice cream at the same place and mention in dialogue how close it is to the street – or maybe have someone step off the curb and nearly get run down.

7. Understand what you are doing to your readers and give them emotional breaks and intellectual clues:

Humour gives the audience a chance to laugh at their own involvement in your story – as well as to blow off some of the built-up anxiety. However, don’t overdo it.

A change of pace relaxes the tension and redirects attention to a different aspect. For example, perhaps the villain stops to chat with a good-looking woman before he sees General Meade appear in the rear-view mirror and takes off again.

A reversal of fortune keeps the chase interesting. Perhaps the bus goes around the block and ends up chasing the chaser for a while -- or General Meade gets a flat tire in his vehicle and the bad guy waves as he drives past.

Drop in facts that mean nothing at the time but prepare the reader for some future event. Perhaps as the bus races through town, it nearly plows into a group of tourists crossing the street. Maybe one of those tourists is a cop on holiday who uses his cell phone to call in the villain’s license plate, which ultimately causes the number of those pursuing him to increase exponentially.

Drop in facts that explain the purpose of earlier scenes. Perhaps you have the bus turn the corner, jump the curb, and just miss the little boy eating his strawberry swirl.

Drop in a fact that has no meaning in the story except to mislead the reader. Perhaps you have the villain pump the brakes; we begin to fear that they will go out causing him to crash into one of the monuments…but they never do.

End the scene leaving the reader wondering what is going to happen next. Perhaps the villain loses his pursuers as he clears Gettysburg and heads toward Washington D.C.

Alternatively, create a huge ending that is emotionally satisfying. You have to let that bus blow up somewhere.

Read Joyce Faulkner's INside article Planning The Chase Scene.
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Joyce Faulkner is the author of Losing Patience (Red Engine Press, 2004) and In the Shadow of Suribachi (Red Engine Press, 2005), winner of the Military Writers Society of America Gold Medal award for historical fiction for 2006.

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