Writing Action and Adventure Novels

 If romantic fiction is largely aimed at women, action and adventure novels are the most “macho” of the fiction genres. The action and adventure genre is escapist, undemanding and fantasy-fulfilling entertainment. (Think Clive Cussler’s or James Rollins’ novels).

Unlike many of its counter-genres, in Action and Adventure novels deep characterization isn’t necessary. These plot driven novels are fast-paced, full of physical action and violence.

What time period will your story be in? That’s strictly up to the author. It could be a wartime story, or a futuristic space adventure (a genre know as Space Opera). The sky’s the limit.

Settings: are jungles, deserts, tropical islands, or other exotic places. Pick locations where you can create some conflict between the protagonist and the environment if you are short on other scenes of jeopardy such as extreme heat in the deserts, attacks by wild jungle beasts, slithering reptiles, head-hunters, monstrous aliens. You get the idea.


  • Introduce a protagonist that is realistic and likeable, as well as realistically likeable. For example, a dapper, debonair hero who escapes peril through clever strategizing can be an admirable character in a story. However, to say that this character is a clichéd one is an understatement. (Think: Indiana Jones)
  • Create a character with flaws and a few interesting traits. This makes the protagonist one that is more human and less fiction. (Think: Dirk Pitt in Clive Cussler’s “Sahara”)
  • How about throwing in a villain or two?

Give your villain(s) some humane reason for being evil. This will work on several levels of conflict: the reader’s perception of the character and the protagonist’s perception of the character.

Where does the romance happen in this particular genre? Consider this:

  • Love is tenuous between the H/H whether due to class, culture, religion, or social conventions, the love sought is considered forbidden.
  • The lovers live in a world in crisis where global forces can test the will and conviction of the H/H and their pursuit of love.


  • The Lovers need to accomplish the goals together. Their motivations may differ somewhat, but should be relatable, and while they may experience different conflicts, they shouldn’t be spread far apart. For example, if the heroine gets kidnapped, the hero’s conflict is how to rescue her.
  • Their romance will be tested throughout, and so will the roles of hero and heroine when placed in a heroic adventure. The hero will try to push the heroine back and out of harm’s way, and she will show her strength, patience and ingenuity to step up to the challenge. By journey’s end, the H/H have to work together.
  • Wouldn’t it be interesting to match Lara Croft with Indiana Jones?


  • Start with a bang. An introduction that takes the reader straight into an action scene will create the buzz of anticipation for the rest of the story.
  • Sure, the hero can opt to safely run down the fire exit instead of risking being shot at by jumping off the roof of one building to another, but where’s the fun in that? This genre is defined by adrenaline-rushes, risks and physical danger. Remember the MacGyver series (developed by Lee David Zlotoff)? My favorite was when MacGyver is racing down the beach on an Arabian horse, the bad guys are hot on his heels. Mac and the horse are airlifted to safety by a cable attached to a helicopter. See what I mean about building danger and adrenaline-rushes?
  • What is your main character doing, again? Don’t lose track of the main plot. Sub-plots are like diversions for the readers, but don’t let them distract you as a writer.
  • The protagonist in this kind of adventure usually has a trusty posse helping him achieve the quest. Typically, one of the trusted group betrays the others.

Like any other genre, the key to writing attention-getting adventure thrillers is to read…read…read the genre.

Nothing speaks to the heart of a reader like a good tale of adventure. So, go ahead, jump into the world of high adventure…give it a try.

Happy Writing!


Loretta C. Rogers
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Loretta C. Rogers

Founding President at SSRA
Loretta C. Rogers, is a national/international best-selling author of fifteen novels. She conducts writing workshops nationally, and is a co-founder and past president of Sunshine State Romance Authors, Inc. and a member of Romance Writers of America®. A fourth generation Floridian, Loretta resides in Citrus County. She enjoys hearing from readers and invites them to visit her at LorettaCRogersBooks.com
Loretta C. Rogers
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