Chase Scenes: the Physical Element

There is so much out there on the physical element of chase scenes. No discussion of chase scenes is complete without it – maybe because it is the most obvious defining element of this type of scene.


  • World: Remember that the chase scene takes place in the character’s point of view – with a few exceptions. If you want to show parts of the setting that the view-point character cannot see, consider using multiple points of view, starting the scene with a broad scope that quickly narrows down (a narrow view-point is frequently more immediate to the reader), or introduce the invisible details in an earlier scene. You might want to consider creating a map of the chase scene, complete with obstacles an potential escape routes.

  • Limits: Even Superman has physical limits but boy did they have to work hard to create them. Hopefully you will be more generous with your character’s physical (and maybe supernatural) limits. Limits make the chase more exciting, cut down on your character’s choices and chances, and can place your character at a disadvantage (raising the tension and suspense). Some tlimits have a built-in timer (which further ramps up suspense) like stamina, the time your character can hold her breath, the distance she can jump. Other limits are stable, like no depth perception, lack of strength. An injury can be stable or worsen as a result of the character’s choices, further limiting their choices.

  • Obstacles: Physical obstacles are limits imposed by the outside that must be avoided or overcome. Consider turning one into the other. Introduce an obstacle to be avoided at all costs and change the flow of action so it must be overcome. Introduce an obstacles that appears that it can be overcome bt turns into a dead end – possible causing harm to the protagonist or allowing the antagonist to catch up (or almost catch up) with the protagonist. In the pursuit scene, the antagonist may introduce obstacles (such as traps) to slow or block the progress of the protagonist.

  • Action: Readers really get excited by close calls. The trick is to find a way to bring the two forces face-to-face (or in close range) without allowing an all-out confrontation. If the view-point character receives a handicap at this point (a wound, for instance) that makes further escape/ pursuit more difficult, so much the better. If this is a BIG chase scene, consider adding a stunt. These are times of high stakes, high emotion, and (if done right) highly memorable for the reader.



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