James Rollins threw out a quote I've never heard before - A war is only as far as your sword can reach. What a good concept for writers. Start small and keep it intimate as you ratchet up the tension. His example was perfect. A surprise is when the characters are chatting and eating at a restaurant, then suddenly, their table explodes. Suspense happens when they're chatting, etc., and the omniscient eye shows a ticking bomb under the table. His take is that the core of action is not physical, it's emotional in its context. Is the protagonist a coward, and it's hard for him to wade into battle? Or does he have a moral objection to battle, like the Gary Cooper character in one of my favorite movies, Friendly Persuasion. Or John Wayne in The Quiet Man - a boxer who killed his opponent in the ring doesn't want to fight, not ever again, but ultimately has to. Again with Gary Cooper in High Noon - he will lose his Quaker bride if he stays to fight the bad guys, but if he doesn't, they'll come after him until he's dead.
Gonna work on this one.