Wondering how to write an effective fight scene? Never fear, editor Rayne Hall has some handy tips on how to make your scenes taut and exciting.
Creating a good fight scene is one of the most challenging aspects of the writer’s craft. Here are techniques on how to give your readers the thrill they expect from a fight:
1. Give each fighter a compelling purpose and raise the stakes as high as possible. A heroine fighting for her life is more exciting than a heroine fighting for her purse, and a heroine fighting for her children’s lives is more exciting still. If she fights for her purse, raise the stakes by making that purse important: it contains not only money, but the jackpot-winning lottery ticket, only photo of her abducted baby daughter, or evidence that her husband is innocent of the murder of which he stands accused. For her opponent, a street urchin, the stakes are also high: the money in the purse will buy food for his starving baby sister, or gang members are assessing his performance to decide whether to accept him.
2. Stack the odds against your protagonist: the more difficult the fight is for him, the more exciting it is for the reader. Give the opponent better weapons, greater strength, and other advantages.
3. Use a location which is either unusual (a wine cellar, a cow shed, an artist’s studio) or dangerous (a rope bridge across a ravine, a sinking ship).
4. Use deep point of view: let the reader experience the fight the way the PoV character experiences it. Keep to the PoV’s vision (only what’s immediately before him) and convey his emotions (fury, fear, hope, triumph).
5. Hearing, more than the other senses, creates excitement, so describe noises, especially the sounds of weapons (pinging bullets, hissing arrows, clanking swords).
6. Create fast pace by using short paragraphs, short sentences and short words.
7. Verbs, more than other words, convey excitement: hack, slash, pierce, stab, race, jump, leap, drive, spin, punch, kick. Choose vivid verbs, and build your sentences around them.
8. Avoid blow-by-blow accounts: these soon get boring. Instead, show only the first few moves, as well as the decisive final ones, and for everything in between, focus on the direction of the fight (‘Fired with new courage, she kicked and punched.’ ‘He drove her closer and closer to the cliff’).
9. In a long fight scene, let something unexpected happen (the hero loses his weapon and is forced to fight on with his bare hands, the hero’s girlfriend comes to his aid, the villain’s henchmen join the fight, the bridge collapses, building bursts into flames). This event should change the fight, but it should not decide it.
10. If your protagonist has a special skill – e.g. she’s good at acrobatics, at oil painting or at basketball – let her use this skill in a surprising way in the fight.
11. Create a ‘black moment’ when all seems lost. Then the protagonist recalls his purpose, rallies his courage, and fights on to win.
12. If the protagonist wins the fight, it must be from his own efforts, not because of a stroke of luck, divine intervention or outside interference. Other people may help, but they must not decide the outcome.
If you have questions, would like to share other ideas about how to make fight scenes exciting, or if you want advice for a fight scene, leave a comment. I’ll be around for a week and will respond.
WRITING FIGHT SCENES – THE EBOOK
Learn step-by-step how to create fictional fights which leave the reader breathless with excitement.
The book gives you a six-part structure to use as blueprint for your scene. It reveals tricks how to combine fighting with dialogue, which senses to use when and how, how to create a sense of realism, and how to stir the reader’s emotions.
You’ll decide how much violence your scene needs, what’s the best location, how your heroine can get out of trouble with self-defense and how to adapt your writing style to the fast pace of the action. There are sections on female fighters, male fighters, animals and weres, psychological obstacles, battles, duels, brawls, riots and final showdowns. For the requirements of your genre, there is even advice on how to build erotic tension in a fight scene, how magicians fight, how pirates capture ships and much more. You will learn about different types of weapons, how to use them in fiction, and how to avoid embarrassing blunders. Note: The book uses British spellings.
ABOUT RAYNE HALL
Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing about Villains and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.
Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.