How to Write a Great Fight Scene

Updated on June 3rd, 2021
How to Write a Great Fight Scene

One of the most gripping aspects of a book or movie is when the fight scene begins. The adrenaline starts pumping, and people begin to get excited about what will happen next.

Writing fight scenes can be a daunting task, but it's also one of the most exciting parts of any story. Whether you are writing a fiction or non-fiction story, there are many things to consider before you get down to writing. This guide should help take some of that mystery out!

As a part of your storyline, it's important to consider how long you the fight scene to be and what the part of the plot point this would serve.

For instance, if there is only one major fight scene in a book, it may not need more than two pages. However, many are spread out over time throughout the novel (maybe every few chapters). Then you can afford to spend more time on each one and still have enough room for character development.

The length also depends on whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction. It completely depends on who your target audience will be.

What Should You Consider When Writing Fight Scenes?

Fight scenes are just one type of scene in the storyline of your book that has an important role to play. So, it's worth considering what length you want them to be and how many pages or chapters there should be.

You need to think about whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction and who your target audience will be when deciding on fight scenes' lengths. This is because different groups might prefer more detail while others may not care at all.

The most common fighting styles seen in books are boxing and wrestling. This is done with typical weapons being guns and knives depending on genre preferences (e.g., contemporary, sci-fi).

How To Write The Best Fight Scenes?

Below are eight tips that could help you write thrilling fight scenes:

Define The Purpose

A good fight scene needs to have a purpose; it is not just action. You have to define purpose before you start writing the scene and develop the story. Before you begin with the action scenes, you need to ensure that the writing will sync with the narrative's rest.

When you write a great fight scene, you need to make it powerful so that the scene can keep the readers engaged. Your fight dialogue can be well-written, but it will not work as desired if it doesn't have a purpose, and you might lose your audience in the process.

Don't start with action scenes directly from the beginning; create a background for the story first. The atmosphere should build up before anyone starts fighting. So that, when they do, people will feel satisfied with what's happening on their screens or pages.

This is important because, without such buildup, drama cannot reach its full potential because there are no stakes involved yet at this point. Even though some people may want direct conflict straight off from the get-go, you need to resist them as writers.

Aim For Realism

Most fight scenes that fail to grasp the attention of the readers contain unrealistic storylines. Granted that fight scenes in movies or books are not generally what happens in real-life; however, it is necessary that even these have some amount of realism.

Let's face it; your inexperienced main character cannot defeat the villain with a single punch. Before you start the story, you need to establish the circumstances and skills of all the characters.

Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the rival. Do they have any past situations that are leading them to act the way they are? Are they using any weapons during the fight? Is your main character capable of fighting off the rival alone?

There are multiple questions that you need to answer to make the fighting scene realistic. Imagine a scenario where the rival has a gun, and your main character does not have a weapon. This would not be a realistic situation since even the most seasoned fighter cannot survive if they get gravely injured from a bullet wound.

You must also identify the fighting style. What is it? Is there an explanation of how they fight? For example, if a character has been trained in karate since childhood and faces someone with more street fighting experience - their fighting styles will differ.

Does one person have a better reach than the other, or can one move faster than the other (in this scenario, you could go into detail about what makes them excel)? These details matter because readers need to understand who's at fault for losing!

And finally, decide on your tone - should you write from a third-person perspective so that no opinion influences what happens next? Or do you want to give the first-person insight into why the characters are doing certain actions within their fight scene?

Identify Your Weapons

If you plan to include weapons in your scene, decide what type of weapon they are using. This chosen weapon could be anything from a knife to a gun. It could even be just their fists to bash each other. You can also choose for them to fight without weapons and focus on martial arts moves instead.

First of all, you need the rival's strengths and weaknesses established as well as your main character's skill set. This will help with deciding which fighting style is appropriate in the scenario. A tactical approach might not work if there are no weapons involved!

Just because you wish to write about weapons does not mean you have expertise in the area. Research is essential to make your fight scene credible. If you are not confident about the fighting style or weapons, take a look at examples online and read up on weapon styles in general.

Once you have chosen how they will fight, study both opponents' moves - their strengths and weaknesses. Decide what type of attack strategy is most appropriate for each one.

Make sure that all other characters know enough to stay out of the way when someone starts swinging! They should be able to avoid being hurt too badly if need be.

Establish The Characters' High-Stakes

Who will be fighting? Decide if they are friends, enemies, or just strangers. What is the purpose of their fight? What is the character's motivation? Is it a life-or-death battle to save someone's life, an argument turned physical when one person hits another, and the other retaliates in anger - or something else entirely?

If you cannot answer these questions, then your fight scene does not have enough context for readers to understand what is happening (and why) so try again! You need to establish where characters are coming from before anything can happen.

Along with that, you need to identify what the characters may lose if they fail to win against their opponent. This goes for both the good guy and the bad guy.

In most cases, the scene tends to attract readers if it has an emotional context. This means the character might lose something or someone they love.

Paint the Scenes, Don’t Choreograph Them

When a reader reads a fight scene, the idea is to imagine the scene in front of their eyes. The imagination falls short of you establish a choreography that explains every detail.

Though this may be required in some scenes, you do not need to do the same for an action scene. Avoiding the choreography will make it easier for your readers to picture what is happening.

People are accustomed to fighting scenes happening in movies and know enough details to create their picture. If this is your first time writing or creating a battle scene or any kind of fight scene, you need to learn the "show, don't tell" technique.

You will just need to concentrate on a few areas -

  • Identify the crucial moments of your fight
  • Use evocative language to bring the showdown to life without divulging many details
  • Create a sense of pacing but do not fill the scene with too many metaphors

Use Sensory Information

Using the five senses is essential to take the story forward. The five senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. It's best to use all five senses in fight scenes because they are among the most exciting parts of writing them.

Before starting your scene, the first thing you need to do is set up a sense trigger. Do this for each character present at this particular moment in time so readers can get lost in the story.

Something as simple as "She could feel his breath on her neck" or "He tasted blood from his cut lip" could make a huge impact. This technique helps give credibility and force behind every punch thrown!

Determine how you can use the five senses to impress the scene on the reader.

  • Sight is the most common and obvious sense. Here you will write exactly what the character is seeing, which the readers will see.
  • Hearing becomes a little tricky since you cannot write "hearing." Here you need to introduce the concept of onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is repeating a word to represent sound. For example, "slam" creates the same sense of violence as seeing someone slam their fist into something like a wall or desk.
  • Taste is an easy way for writers because we already use words and phrases with taste descriptors. Even when you explain taste in terms of emotions, it needs to be descriptive enough to understand.
  • Touch is another common one since you are writing about human interactions, after all. But it needs to be integrated well with your fight scene description. This way, the reader has enough information without being given too much detail and overwhelmed by sensory overload.
  • Smell is a very uncommon sense that is included in a fight scene. However, it can be included in many different ways, like the smell of swear and the stench of the fight area.

Take Note Of The Writing Style

Before you start writing fight scenes, you need to figure out what style you are going for. Is it a thriller? A comedy? If so, then your tone and description will differ from, say, an action movie or book with violence in them.

That being said, people can be surprised by how much they enjoy reading fight scenes because there's usually not as much fighting in real life. This makes these moments more exciting for readers when they finally come to one through their favorite books or movies!

Be very cautious of the words you choose while writing the scenes. Avoid using loose and everyday vocabulary; instead, go for weighty language. This does not mean you fill your book with pompous words but instead make the fighting sound dangerous and scary. Using short sentences for the written fight scene, whether you are writing a short story or a novel, makes you a better writer.

When it comes to fighting scenes, there are several different elements that you should be aware of before writing one. For example, when describing what is happening in them, don't just use "he punched" or "she kicked." Instead, break down the movements, so they're more interesting for readers.

Do Not Avoid Consequences

Do not forget to write the aftermath of a fight. Did your character win or lose? What was the long-term outcome for their life? These questions are important. They should be included to make readers understand how they can walk away from a fight scene feeling satisfied with what happened.

It is also good practice to include consequences on both sides. If it's just one person fighting, he should have some injuries as well - this will create more tension! Describe the turning point using writing action so that the reader understands the action sequences.

Making your reader feel emotion through writing is always satisfying. Don't skimp out on details when you're writing about fight scenes. Be sure that there are consequences for both parties involved in the fight. Without these pieces, any story feels incomplete or unfulfilled.

The Bottom Line

Remember that even after following this process, what can complete your story is revision and editing. Don't stop there!

Include famous examples from movies and books that show different types of fighting styles. Some good examples are (spoiler alert)-

Kung Fu Panda – The series itself is about learning to fight. Po who happens to be a lazy panda is shown as a compromised hero until the end when he turns things around like a dark horse. He not only uses his size as an advantage, but also knows when he needs to use other tactics, like his vegetable cutting skills and speed against Tai Lung, who is more interested in brute force than strategy.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling - Hermione Granger is known for bookish knowledge, while Harry Potter excels in using spells for defense. Ron Weasley excels in physical combat too (albeit less skillfully), making the three perfect together. Ron and Hermione complement each other in the fight scenes at the end, as do Hermione and Harry. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman - Inigo Montoya is a master swordsman with unmatched skill and technique. His opponent, The Man in Black, relies on brute strength to fight, making him no match for the smaller but wiser man in a sword fight.

Ultimately what will make your story come alive are not just the flashy fight scenes themselves. Your writing about how it felt to be an outsider fighting against her people will have a major impact. Even showing that strategy can win over brute force when you're outnumbered is effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Write a Good Fist Fight?

When writing about a fistfight, you need to be sure you're not just writing a fight scene for the sake of it. The fighting should have some purpose and meaning behind it that will affect the story as a whole.

The protagonist needs to feel outmatched by their opponent or want revenge on them. Give your character a reason since that is what will make a good story.

The antagonist might unleash years’ worth of pent-up anger, frustration, guilt, etc., over one past event. He might lash out at those closest to them instead of turning inward, which is ultimately more destructive than helpful (fighting against oneself).

If your character isn't invested in what's happening, then there won't be much emotional investment from the reader either - which can make for an uninteresting read.

What are Some Things That You Should Include in a Fight Scene?

  • A protagonist should have a fight goal (defending themselves from an attacking opponent).
  • An antagonist might be fighting to obtain something or protect it.

The protagonist and antagonist are at odds with one another. However, they may not know why until near the end of the scene. They could also know their reasons for fighting beforehand, adding more depth to both characters.