Writing An Action Adventure for Reluctant Readers

I love writing fast-paced adventure stories, possibly because I’ve always enjoyed reading them. I adore it when you can’t put a book down because you’re desperate to find out what happens next.  I’m absolutely thrilled to hear that my books are popular with reluctant readers. I’ve been told that once they open the book, they’re hooked and want to read on. And so I thought I would share some of my tips on how to write an action adventure.

Ideas that pull you in

I think the most important tip is to have a great story idea – something that will grab children and pull them in. With my latest book, Jungle Curse, children are excited by the idea of a fourteen-year- old boy becoming a stunt double. Not only is he daring and adventurous, he’s getting to work in the movie industry.

Characters you care about

In order for the story to really work, the reader has to care whether your hero succeeds in their mission or not. You could have the most exciting adventure, but if the reader doesn’t care, then the story falls flat.  This means you need the character to be sympathetic in some way. They can still be brave and headstrong, but they need faults. All the best characters have flaws because no one is perfect. Finn, my main character in Jungle Curse, is loyal, brave and thoughtful, but he also suffers from jealousy and self doubt. This makes him human and relatable.  Another character in my story called Blake can be vain, arrogant, annoying, and yet at his core he’s loyal and caring.

Another way to help your readers connect to your main character is by letting them not only share in the adventures, but share in the emotions as well. Therefore, I show how my character is feeling. If Finn is suffering with nerves, his hands might be clammy or his heart racing. If he’s scared, his blood might turn to ice or his stomach drops. If he’s feeling jealous, then his gut could twist like snakes in a pit. Having these emotions makes Finn accessible. Most likely the readers will not have had to jump through glass from a two-storey building, but they will know what it’s like to feel fear.

Short sentences

I try to write in relatively short sentences, so that my story is punchy and dramatic. I use powerful verbs to give a sense of urgency. Finn doesn’t often run. He races, hurtles and dives. I don’t include too much description. I like to give just enough details to create an atmosphere and a clear picture, without disturbing the pace of the adventure. And as it’s written in first person, I focus on the elements of the world that Finn would notice.  For example he’d spot the strange foods found in Thailand and the tuk –tuks, the three-wheeler open sided taxis pulled by mopeds.

Short Chapters with killer last lines

I like to keep my chapters short so that it’s a manageable chunk to read in one go.  Plus a shorter chapter helps make the scenes more dramatic and hard-hitting.  To create an emotional impact with the reader, I sometimes end a chapter with a heart stopping line. Normally however, I end chapters with cliffhangers or teasing questions so that the reader is desperate to turn over the page to find out what happens next or to see if the answers lie there.

Twists, turns and clues

I like to include twists and turns, so that the reader is surprised, and starts to question what is happening.  I want them to keep guessing who the baddies are.  I want them to question what they are reading. Dropping clues throughout the story encourages readers to try to work out the answers themselves.

I use all of these techniques in the hope of connecting with readers and enticing them into an exciting story. Being a gateway to a reluctant reader is a writer’s dream. Books open up brand new worlds, introduce new friends and take you on great adventures.  If I can help just one child do this, then I feel like I’ve succeeded.

This is a guest post by author Tamsin Cooke and the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG. Tamsin’s thrilling middle grade books, Cat Burglar (winner of the Stockton Children’s Book Award) and Mission Gone Wild (The Scarlet Files) are published by Oxford Children’s Books, as are the brilliant Stunt Double and its new sequel Jungle Curse. Find out more at Tamsincooke.co.uk


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