Writing Cool Fighting Scenes

For fighting in books, you don’t need to be a hormone-fueled maniac obsessed with killing and blood. Remember: for a book to be good, there must be well-written conflict. Without it, you have a bleh story. However, for those of you who want to put a little action in your novel (action is fine, but action in lieu of good storytelling is not) this is the article for you.

First, I will confide in you a little secret: fighting scenes do not need to be graphic! Just as well, more blood doesn’t make the situation more “fightier”. If someone gets stabbed or shot, make your reader know this without pouring more blood onto the scene. There’s no better way to get monotonous than use a thousand synonyms for “blood” to tell your readers about the fight.

The golden rule for fighting scenes is this: always be practical. If there are three guys with firearms trained at the hero/heroine’s backside, don’t pretend that he/she can whip around and kill them with a knife. You may think you can cloak this detail in enigmatic words, but the judicious reader will notice.

If I had to pick another golden rule, (the sliver rule, heh heh) it would be to imagine in you were in the fighting situation. Put yourself in Alex’s situation and think: if there were three guys with guys on your back ten feet away and you had a knife in your pocket, what would you do?

Well, for starters, you might feign surrender until they were close enough, and then stab one, use the body as a shield and propel it into another one of the hitmen, grab the fallen man’s weapon and blast the last remaining guy. This would happen in more words, and maybe with a slight variation, but you get the idea. What would you do if you were in the character’s situation?

Inevitably, there’s the problem of redundancy. “Slash” is a nice word when talking about swordfighting, but it quickly becomes obsolete and boring when used more than twice in a single battle. Use “lash”, “scored” “cut” or one of the many other words as acronyms. Use your head and your thesaurus.

One way to solve most of your problems pertaining to battle scenes is to keep them brief, or to not mention them at all. Sometimes, describing what the main character did to get past the guards can be described as “a scuffle” or “a brief struggle”. However, these “two word fights” can become monotonous in turn and so should be used sparingly. But still, keep your fights on the brief side.

But what to do as far as content is concerned? Well, picture yourself in the situation, First, describe your surroundings. What’s the mood like? Dark or light? Peaceful or chaotic? Then, the combatants: who are they, and what are their moods? Introduce the players before you fight.

Then, when the fight begins, picture everything in images. Something like, “Evan had had enough. Coming in for a pre-emptive strike, he aimed a furiously wild right hook to the face of his tormentor”. Picture (and dictate accordingly) the fight in slices, like different pictures. The fight will unfold much slower than it would in a movie, so feel free to take your time when editing and reediting. Keep it relatively short, though.

Lastly, be sure to use expressive language and refer more to the character’s expressions just as much as you refer to their actions. Remember, it’s not a character fighting a sword; it’s a character fighting another character. Refer every now and again to the characters: are they tired, active, furious, calm, or what?

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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