Writing a Fantastic Fight Scene

Writing a Fantastic Fight Scene

Fight scenes in films are awesome, dynamic, and breathtaking. They're some of the most memorable parts of the movie. The fight scenes in books, however, are often not as good. That's kind of okay, because books are more focused on things like character development. But when a fight shows up in your novel, you need to be prepared to write something epic and dynamite.

How can you do that, though? How can you translate that amazing choreography with the perfect soundtrack from your head to the page? That's what this post is all about. I'll be giving you some tips to write a fight scene that will leave people reading it like a movie in their head, not a vaguely confused image. (That's the idea, anyway.)

Tip 1: K.I.S.S.

But wait, isn't this a post about fighting, not romance? you're thinking. I hear you. In this case K.I.S.S. stands for "Keep it simple, stupid" (or silly, if you must). It's a reminder to not over-complicate the fight whether through what's going on or through the way you tell it.

The biggest problem I notice with fight scenes is that they over complicate things. They use too much description or talk about too much action and then I get lost. I don't know about you, but I probably skim more than I should. Thus, you need to be concise with your writing during a battle.

Another benefit of keeping things simpler, besides having non-confused readers, is that when you use shorter sentences, it makes if feel more tense. Rapid fire. Keep you on the edge of your seat. See what I mean? (Not that you should go with only short sentences. Moderation, remember.)

Tip 2: Have a plan

If your characters can't go into battle without a plan, neither can you. Even a simple fist fight needs to be thought out, if briefly. Without figuring out how the fight will go, what injuries characters will sustain, and who wins, you'll end up having a scene that goes all over the place, with is against tip one.

One on one fights are easy to figure out and require little thought. But major battles involving armies and generals and horses need much more pre-planning. I've been known to write out battle plans before outlining how all the groups will move and what will happen. I've also seen people use things like Lego figures to act it out if they're more visual. Whatever works for you.

Tip 3: Know (something) of what you're talking about

You don't have to be a black belt in karate or a horseback riding master, but it's always good to have enough knowledge to describe what's going on during the fight. Unless your character is an elf, they probably won't be able to jump on their enemy's head and shoot arrows into their brain before dramatically flipping off. People will be knocked out of their suspension of disbelief if too many unrealistic things happen.

My top suggestion for making something that's more believable (if it's a fantastical fight, throw all this out the window) is to research. Take a few minutes to read about horse fighting tactics. Watch a few hand to hand combat scenes from movies on YouTube. Study the fighting style your character is supposed to be adept at.

Tip 4: One thing at a time

This goes along with tip one. Big picture is great, but when it comes down to battles and fights, humans tend to be more small picture. We focus on the little things, like the opponent in front of us, instead of what everyone else around us is doing.

So thus, you should try to avoid describing the whole battle at once. From time to time, give your protagonist some breathing room so they can take things in and tell us. Most of the time, though, stick to what's going on at the moment. The only exception for jumping around a lot is if you have an omniscient POV. This will also keep everyone from being overwhelmed with details and what everyone's doing.

Tip 5: Remember the stakes

The most important part of any battle or fight is what the protagonist has to gain or lose in it. It could be a simple thing like dignity, or it could be something bigger, like a loved one or entire country.

Pick something that's relative for the size of the fight. Fisticuffs won't normally end in losing the throne, and most people won't gear up the army to make someone pay for something they said. The stakes should also have a personal connection to the protagonist, or else why are they even risking themselves in a fight?

Stakes are what make a fight really exciting. We need to know if he wins and gains the thing he wants. Or makes it to the bad guy. And what happens if he loses? The higher the stakes, the more tension in the fight. (But again, moderation.)

Have you ever written fight scenes? What's your favorite part? Do you have any tips for making them work? Tell me in the comments.

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  1. Yes, love fight scenes. I always have to have some fight scenes in my books. I agree with what you said. Sometimes there is too much complicating stuff in a fight. It should be kept simple. Yet be full of action. Every sentence should be short and to the point it makes the fight smooth.


    1. Great points. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)


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