Writing Powerful Fight Scenes

Hello Fellow Writers,

 Welcome back to Fiction 101. 

 Today's post covers something that I think every writer comes up against as some point or other. Whether you're writing; fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, or even comedy, there is likely to be a fight of some sort in your story. 


 From a small argument to a full out brawl, the fight scene is the accumulation of a lot of hard work. You put a lot of time and energy into pulling your reader to a point of heightened emotions along with your characters. Without proper care all of that hard work will fall flat along with the fight itself.

 So, what can you as a writer do to make your fight scenes powerful?


 The first step is to take a hard look at whichever character or characters are going to participate in the fight. What are they like? Do they enjoy fighting or is it something they avoid? Are they quick tempered or quick to forgive?

 This is important not only to make sure your characters are consistent and come across to your readers well, but also because this is how you will learn what it takes to get your characters fighting in the first place. 

 A usually easy going person isn't going to do a 180 and start an all out brawl in a bar. Likewise a quick tempered character isn't going to put off a fight for long. The setup necessary to get character one in a fight is going to differ hugely from what it takes to get character 2 in a fight.

 In order to make sure your fight scenes are genuine (and not just a product of plot necessity) you have to understand where, when and why your characters are willing to fight for what they want.

  The next step then is to figure out how those same characters will react once the fight has begun. How will they be affected by fear and the adrenaline that fear produces?


 Ah, adrenaline.

 It's a heck of a drug.

 Someone under its influence can reset their own broken bones, run even when their bodies are at their absolute limit, and do other amazing things in order to protect themselves and the ones they love.

 It can also have the opposite effect. Making you less coordinated, jumpier, and think less clearly. It can even force a person into a complete mental shutdown. (Which are never good things in a life or death struggle.)

 It is up to you to decide how your characters are going to react once this drug is released into their systems. Keep in mind, this reaction isn't exactly set in stone either. 

 You see, adrenaline is released as part of our bodies "flight of fight" survival instinct. It takes years of training to overcome the less advantages aspects of this drug, and even that sometimes fails to help people when it comes time to face the real deal. On the other hand, there are cases where untrained civilians manage just fine under it's influence, though even they wonder how they did it when all is said and done.

 Meaning a hardened veteran with years of battle experience could freeze up, if it were his own family in danger. Likewise a gentile southern bell who usually faints at the sight of blood could snap and kill someone in the heat of the moment.

 A lot of the time, their core personality will dictate how they do in a fight. Someone who is a fraud of conflict will lose/give up easily. Someone who is a jerk will lose and then act like he didn't lose. (Refuse to walk away.) This ties back into point one. What are they willing to fight for? Where is their breaking point? 

 Sometimes though, when adrenaline enters the picture, all bets are off.


 Your characters skill level also needs to be determined before the fight ever starts. 

 Someone with a great amount of skill will make quick work of someone without any. So long as it is a fair fight. However, a person with little or no skill could get the drop on a skilled fighter and win. 

 Again this ties back into point one. You can have a character with little skill that has no qualms with a surprise attack. Or that same character could be honest to a fault and insist on challenging his opponent openly. Keep in mind which type your character is. 


How long do you want your fight scene to last? 

As you ask yourself this question, keep in mind how quickly fights usually start and end.

 Most experts on the topic will assure you that a street fight (and really any fight for that matter) tends to be over quickly. You don't have to take my word for it though. Just go on youtube and watch some MMA fights or street fights. (Be warned they are very graphic.) 

 How long a fight will last will depend on how serious the fighters are (two people can stand yelling "bring it on" for hours without ever coming to blows), how confident they are that they will win (a person could challenge someone to a fight and bolt as soon as it starts looking hairy), and the skill level of the two fighters.  

 Two fighters with high level of skill who are very cautious can go for hours throwing punches, kicks and trying to submit their opponent.

 However, most often, a fighter will get in a lucky punch and the fight will end in seconds.

 The types of techniques your characters rely on will be determined by how long you want your fight scene to last. 


 As you can see, a great fight scene isn't just the action that takes place inside the scene itself. It is also every part of the set up that leads to that scene. So take your time. Imagine your characters in the fight and what it will take to get them there.

 Okay, fellow pen freaks. Do you have any thoughts on writing great fight scenes? Or any blog posts you'd recommend I read on the topic?

 As always I'd love to hear from you.

 God Bless,