I've always struggled with writing scenes like these. For example, imagine a situation where two characters, Steve and Alice, are walking down the road. Suddenly, somebody shoots Alice, and she dies immediately. There's absolutely no build-up or warning. There's nothing about the scene that would make the reader even suspect that Alice would die. Steve is devastated because Alice was everything to him.

How do I write scenes like these without making it sound ridiculously dramatic or corny? I feel like using "all of a sudden" is too stereotypical... Any suggestions?


3 Answers 3


My story right now starts out with two characters minding their own business, when a massive explosion erupts and it knocks them back and suddenly they are blind, deaf and completely disoriented for a few seconds before the smoke starts pouring in.

I tried to give it that feeling that you get in those two seconds you realize that a car just ran a red light and is about to T-bone your car. Those two seconds seem to last forever and everything is moving slow motion and feels almost like a dream or you're watching a movie about the experience instead of being right in the middle of it.

The very first second it happens , your brain sometimes gets confused and you might have thoughts that seem oddly calm for just a moment. My MC just noticed that it was suddenly daytime, but everything was the wrong color and the shadows looked wrong. She turned her head to say something to the person next to her, but her head was taking forever to turn in the right direction and the light kept getting brighter. And then there's a snap and suddenly everything starts happening all at once and there's confusion and chaos all around.

I've been in car accidents, some hurricanes and, few earthquakes and got mugged once. Each time there was this eerie twilight between normal and total insanity. I have no idea why it happens. But I've heard many other people tell me that they had the exact same experience when they were in the middle of an awful surprise event.


Just have it happen. Action verbs and body hits the ground. That's not the important part. You can have them just drop, or have a sound (bang, tires screech, flash of movement, etc) just before. It's a shock, unless you've built tension by showing the other side (e.g., the hitman) before this.

Now you have to really work. Make the reaction real. Did she trip? What's wrong? Not sure how bad the injury is (unless her head is splattered everywhere, she's unconscious and dying, not dead). Does he even notice a bullet hole? What are her chances? Denial - this isn't happening. Calling for help. Was this an accident? Where did it come from? Is he in danger? Then full-out freakout at being powerless and unsure of what to do.

Focus on the confusion, not the drama. Processing the loss will take time.

Also keep in mind the speed of things as you write: 1. Senses - feel, see, pain 2. Thought - figuring things out, internal dialog 3. Actions - ducking, walking 4. Speech

Good luck.


You could either do it in the beginning and wait to 'solve the mystery' at the end of the chapter to keep the reader in it. Or you can put an event in the beginning that gets the readers attention and leads to the event. and en the chapter with the devastating event at the end. Build up to it. Classically, you could also just throw it in the middle some where and use the rest of the chapter to explain how it effected the rest of the characters.

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