In my book, the boys (Jeff and Ben) go from point A to point B and fight soldiers and the bad guy and escape a nuclear bomb and all sorts of good stuff. Thrilling, right?
In order for any action sequence to really mean something, there has to be a reason at the end of it that drives the hero forward. In screenwriting they call this a TICKING CLOCK. Dan Brown does this well for adult fiction, and I didn't in mine.
A ticking clock can be one of several things (as examples):
- Exactly that - a ticking clock. The hero has 24 hours to figure everything out, explode the bomb in a safe location, and return home to her dying puppy in time to watch CSI.
- A chase - although having a chase with a point is even stronger. This kinda falls into the "Will they make it" type of suspense, and includes races, saving people before they die, that kinda thing.
- The "Reader knows something the hero doesn't". Alfred Hitchcock once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that if you show a man walking into a room and a bomb goes off the audience gets a few seconds of shock, but nothing more. If you SHOW the bomb to the audience BEFORE the man walks in, and then show the fish-wire on the door knob that he's slowly turning and someone is running to stop him from entering before he goes in because the someone knows there's a bomb inside-....you're waiting to hear how it turns out, right?
Page turners. It's not enough to throw action at middle graders - they have to know what's at stake, and be reminded of it constantly so that they feel they're in the thick of it, holding their breath right along with the hero.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ratchet up the suspense in my book, like four or five times.