Fight scenes can be tricky to write. How do you keep it exciting while not giving a laundry list of blow by blows? How do we keep it clear? And what do we do if we know nothing about fighting? Let’s take a look.
Match your writing style to the rest of the novel. Yes, you want to use short, punchy sentences to speed up the action, but you don’t want your fight scenes to be discordant with the rest of your writing. If you have a more lyrical style of writing, match your descriptions of the fight scene to the rest of the story. You don’t want to drown your reader in descriptions, you just don’t notice that much in the middle of a fight regarding your surroundings. Think of the dueling scene in the Princess Bride. It’s full of dialogue, which there typically isn’t time for, and descriptions of the techniques they are employing. It works perfectly for that story, even if it’s not the typical fight scene. There isn’t a one size fits all fight scene.
Keep track of the players and where they are during the fight. Help your reader follow along with each action, each attack and block. But don’t devolve into a laundry list of blows.
Each fighter should fight differently and according to their training and personality. Maybe one character always goes on the offensive before the opponent has time to react. While another prefers to fight defensively so they can analyze their opponent before going on the attack. Stay true to character.
Unless this is the Princess Bride, fight scenes are not the place for dialogue. You are fighting after all. You’re going to be winded, or at least saving your breath, and you’re not going to want to give your opponent a chance to hit you while you’re talking. So no drawn out speeches.
Don’t get stuck on technical details or jargon. This isn’t the place to show off your research skills and you want to make it easy for the lay person to follow along. Especially avoid this if you’re not a fighting expert. You don’t want to give a hit by hit commentary on the fight. That’s boring and tedious. Be clear about what’s happening. If you don’t know much about fighting, give less details and go for a more lyrical description of the event. For instance, his sword danced between his two opponents as they hacked and sliced.
Keep in mind how much training your character has had. Don’t make them a natural. This leads to Mary Sue characters who are weak writing. If she just started training to fight, don’t be afraid to let her lose or get hurt to a more experienced fighter. It’s much more realistic.
Speaking of being realistic, don’t write like Hollywood. Don’t have someone get knocked out by one punch. Don’t have your character receive a grievous wound and keep fighting like nothing happened. Injuries matter and affect how your character keeps fighting, if they can even fight at all.
Real fighting is ugly. There’s blood, sweat, swelling bruises, and broken bones. Sometimes there’s worse things too. Include these concrete details to bring your scene to life.
So there are some tips on how to write fight scenes. Keep it realistic and clear. And keep it exciting. Build tension as the fight builds. What are your best tips for writing fight scenes? Share below and happy writing!