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Tips to Help Write Realistic Fight Scenes

Short Tips and Tricks to Help Write Realistic Fight Scenes

Fight scenes, in my opinion, are one of the most important parts to any book. It doesn’t have to be flashy or over the top, but it does have to be well written. Why? Because shoddy writing ruins the flow and excitement of it. Here are a few things to remember when writing a fight scene.

Don’t make it so random where readers are questioning how they went from walking down a street to swords, dragons, and that one guy running around cluelessly. A bit of tension or foreshadowing is helpful but context is usually key. That doesn’t mean not to add in a surprise battle or two—it just means not to go crazy with them.

A bit of planning goes a long way. Some people document and outline, while others are more spur of the moment. Planning a battle or two is always a good idea even if they turn out drastically different from what you imagined. Are there more than two people? Verbal or physical or even both? Once that’s decided, then you can add or subtract details from there until you’re happy with the outcome.

Draw out the important parts but don’t slow it down. Readers typically don’t need or want to know how amazing the protagonist looks or four paragraphs about the weather. If it is important to the plot then give it a brief mention, emphasis on brief. If the protagonist is injured, mention it; the rain making the weapon difficult to hold, mention that too. Just remember not to clutter it up so the fight feels forced.

Give every character their own reactions. Having two or three characters react in a similar way is one thing but giving every single one the same reaction isn’t. People react differently, even in the same situation. Calm, hotheaded, scared, sad? Give your characters more depth with various emotions and reactions. A calm character may be scared or sad or even angry. Don’t just lump them all together. Even the antagonists have different reactions to situations.

Chose the appropriate weapons for the fight. It’s like that saying, "Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight." Some weapons make more sense than others depending on what genre you’re doing. Also, take into account who’s wielding them and where. Guns may not work as well underwater as they would above ground and heavy knives would be difficult in outer space.

Make the injuries believable to the fight. Even a skilled fighter will have an injury or two, and it’s expected an amateur will certainly have some. Even if no blood is shed, sore muscles, joints, and fatigue are expected. Ripped clothes, singed hair, burns, or even broken objects are wonderful details to add as well.

Use the area to give the fight more depth. Burnt grass, broken branches, Mother’s one of a kind vase that nobody likes shattered on the expensive rug. All those things paired up can show that something happened without even going into an actual fight. If the protagonist just stumbled upon leftover ashes and scuff marks, they might look around for other out-of-place objects before making a decision. A kidnapping? Someone doing something they shouldn’t have? Attempted murder? Describing the area can set many options beyond just a fight! 

Verbal fights are just as important as actual, physical battles. There might not be dragons, swords, or even fists, but it is still a fight. People say things they don’t mean or will regret later; they get emotional or simply shut down. One person may cry because they’re so angry while another is calm and cold. The key to this easy: think of your last argument and go from there. Was it recent? Did it last long? How did you feel before, during, and afterward?

Fight scenes have never come easily to me and these are just the things I try to remember and use. But these aren’t the be all, end all. Your style is your own and you’ll discover tips and tricks of your own, if you haven’t already. They might seem silly but sometimes the silliest of things are the ones we think of the least. I hope these help in your next project, whether it’s a 400-page monster or a short poem. Nobody can have enough advice!

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