How to write fight Scenes in books

Thanks for visiting the blog – In this set I’m going to be sharing my take on how how to write fight scenes and make them stand out.

As readers we love them but as authors our fight scenes can really make or break our books. For me, I love a fight that is well thought out with fast, gritty action. Nobody wants to get to the end of a book and for the climactic final battle to end up as a wet fish!

No matter what genre you write, even romance, there is a chance some form of confrontation will appear. In romance novels two competing rival’s often end up duelling over a lover.  Literally, any genre has the potential for the threat of violence.  This said, it is about getting the right build up, then matching the moment with tight delivery!

In this set of blog posts I am going to give you some of the points I consider when writing a fight scene.

This is really just my take, but they are based on something helpful -experience. I have 25+ years’ martial arts training, good study of ancient combat systems and I’ve done re-enactments, taught stage fighting the list goes on. Above all this I have a good selection of weapons and even endured the odd bout in the ring and yes I have had to defend myself in real situations as well.

Step 1 – Consider who is involved

This is actually one of the biggest points. With a good base of readers people will comment on your work, so, if your bank clerk suddenly turns into an M16 wielding Special Forces operative there should be a good reason for it OR you’ve over cooked it!

  • Consider what state of mind the participants are in at the time? – anger, drunk etc as this has a big impact on performance.
  • Are they injured or physically fatigued?
  • Are they alone or would they worry/protect others with them?
  • Can people with the character or near to them help and would they?
  • How scared are they going to be?  Most untrained people (and most trained ones) will feel fear in a situation, it’s normal?
  • How good are they when the chips are down? – professional or highly trained fighters think and feel differently, suffering less from fear.  You only have to look at society today and most people walk on by and don’t want to get involved.
  • What weapons do they have on them or near?
  • Referring to your plot or storyboard, what shape does your character need to come out of this fight in.  If he ended up with a collapsed lung and broken leg yet he is getting married in the next scene, three days later consider what effects he will suffer from.  Either lessen the damage or extend the wedding date if you want to keep some realism in it.
  • Could they find a way to avoid this fight?
  • Something I like is this – less is often more. Truly tough people don’t shout about it but they get the job done when it matters.

How to write fight scenes is something I think that comes out of research.  When you look at Hollywood movies we know they don’t show you what really happens so a little bit of an internet research can really help.  A car door isn’t bulletproof, it gives a bit of cover but it will rarely stop a bullet.

Step 2 – The Environment

Ok, so they’re fighting in a tropical rainforest. It will be hot as hell so grappling one another could be tough due to sweat and fatigue.  Walking in that terrain could take it out of you as it’s hard going to the untrained.

If your fighters are not likely to be wearing a ton of body armor either in a fantasy setting that has a big impact.

Punching underwater doesn’t do a lot to people, so in this instance grappling works best.

Variety helps to create memorable scenes, when using something like a mace you can still choke someone with it, it isn’t only a bashing implement. A shield also makes an excellent weapon when used right.  Also, when armed with a weapon, remember, your fists and feet still work as well.

Dialogue also plays a good part in fight, the odd word or sentence in between blows can add some real bite to a scene, building on one character’s hatred for one another is also good. Where possible avoid too much heavy narration though, be sharp and to the point for a truly brutal scene. Instead of feeling the pain in their leg, have them cry out, it’s what people honestly do.

Some readers love gore and guts but its the same as nudity and sex, some are just turned off by it so be selective. Don’t go overboard unless that is the total feel you want and it fits with the book.

In real fights the environment plays a big part, people hit the floor and walls all the time.  They get snagged on stuff like bushes as well, actually moving through difficult terrain is a pain in the backside, ankles turn easier than you think, especially with the wrong footwear. People slip on wet floors, trip over a curb (happened to me) or can hide behind things using them as a shield. Let the characters interact with the environment around them. Walking past a pool of water is great but when your characters find themselves in it, fighting and spluttering for air.  Interacting with it is much, much better!

Then equipment comes into it, remember plate armor doesn’t float. Above all else though, it must be fun.

Thank you for reading and if you want the second part of my blog on how to write fight scenes click here.

Also please remember if you like what you see share it.  Also your thoughts, as always are welcome.