How to Write a Fight Scene

One of the most gripping aspects of a book or movie is when the fight happens. The adrenaline starts pumping, and people begin to get excited about what will happen next, which is a good reason to learn how to write a fight scene.

Writing fight scenes is daunting, 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 will help take some of that mystery out!

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

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 and still have enough room for character development.

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

What Should You Consider When Writing Fight Scenes?

Fight scenes are one type of scene in the storyline of your book that has an important role.

When deciding, you need to think about whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction and who your target audience will be. Different groups prefer more detail, while others do not care.

How To Write The Best Fight Scenes?

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

Define The Purpose

The entire fight scene needs a purpose; it is not just action. You have to define purpose before writing the scene and developing the story. Before writing a good fight scene, you must ensure the writing syncs 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. Even though some people may want direct conflict straight from the get-go, you must resist.

Aim For Realism

Most fight scenes that fail to grasp the readers’ attention contain unrealistic storylines. Granted that fight scenes in movies or books are not what happens in real life; however, even these must have some 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 not just their skills but also their circumstances.

Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the rival. Do any past situations lead 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 in an epic battle?

You need to answer multiple questions to avoid writing a sloppy fight scene. Imagine a scenario where the rival has a gun, and your main character does not. How will the protagonist win the fight? Do they have superhero powers? Or are they agile enough to dodge bullets at supersonic speed?

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 must understand who’s at fault for losing and help avoid gratuitous fight scenes.

And finally, decide on your tone – will 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?

Also, are you writing a fight scene for a novel or short story?

Identify Weapons

If you plan to include weapons in your scene, decide what weapon they use. This weapon can be anything from a knife to a rocket launcher or fiery magic. It can even be just their fists to bash each other.

First, you must establish the strengths and weaknesses of the characters involved. This helps decide which fighting style is appropriate in the scenario. A tactical approach might not work if there are no weapons involved!

Next, don’t forget to do your research. If you are not confident about the fighting style or weapons, 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.

Ensure 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?

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

You must also 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 if you don’t establish a choreography that explains every detail.

People are accustomed to movie-fighting scenes and know the details. 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 must concentrate on a few areas for a big fight scene:

  • 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

If you need to add more description to your scenes, Squibler’s AI tools, such as Describe, are great for filling out the missing points in a fight scene description.

Use Sensory Information

Using the five senses is essential to take the story forward. The five senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.

How does the fight smell? What sounds happen with every move? Best fight scenes engage all the senses.

Before starting a scene, set up a sense trigger. Do this for each character present at this particular moment.

Something as simple as “He could feel his breath on her neck” or “She tasted the blood dripping from her busted lip” makes a huge impact. This gives credibility and force to every punch.

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 what the character sees, 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 must be descriptive enough to understand.
  • Touch is another common one since you are writing about human interactions. 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 sweat and the stench of the fight area.

You can use Squibler AI writing tools to bring a fighting scene to life. Choose which senses you want to engage in the fight scene, and Squibler’s powerful AI will engage every smell and sound needed.

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?

People enjoy reading fight scenes because there’s usually less fighting in real life. This makes fight writing exciting.

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 different elements that you must be aware of. In hand-to-hand combat, when describing what is happening, don’t just use “he punched” or “she kicked.” Instead, break down the movements so they’re more interesting.

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 also have some injuries – this will create more tension! Describe the turning point by writing action so the reader understands the 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.

Squibler AI is great for wrapping up a fighting scene. If something is missing, ask Squibler to finish the scene with extra flare. Do you need a plot twist? Or maybe you don’t want it to be clear who won? Squibler is here to help.

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 showing different 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 uses his size as an advantage and knows when 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

Here are frequently asked questions about how to write a fight scene.

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 will make a good story.

Over one past event, the antagonist might unleash years of pent-up anger, frustration, guilt, etc.. 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, 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.

Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder and CEO of Squibler.