Today I’m sharing some of the tips I learned from Angela Knight’s “Writing Fight Scenes” workshop.
I’ll admit it. I’m weak at writing fight scenes. I’d much rather have my characters making love than fighting. But a good story (at least the kind of story I write) needs both, and Ms. Knight is quick to point out that fight scenes and love scenes have a lot in common. Both are scenes that require strong, clear emotion.
What are some tips for writing great fight scenes?
- Your villain should appear to have overwhelming odds of beating your hero. He shouldn’t be a weakling. Make him a dark mirror of your hero.
- Plan fights for about every 100 pages (so a 400 page manuscript will have at least 4). Plan when, where and why they will occur, and what the consequences will be. Even if you are a pantser, you can try doing this to prevent the dreaded sagging middle.
- Save your biggest fights for last. Seems like common sense, but you need to make sure your fights escalate in what’s at risk. Take hostages, if necessary.
- Take your surroundings into account. What is your hero/heroine feeling while he or she is fighting? If you can make things harder for your hero, do it. Fog, sun, and smoke are all good ways of making things harder for your hero.
- Serious injuries or innocent bystanders automatically add tension to a fight.
- Evil minions are a writer’s (and the villain’s) best friend. Use them often, and have the hero kill them to show his strength. This is especially important if you have a fight scene between the hero and the villain earlier in the story where the villain beats the hero.
Mechanics of a fight scene
- If someone throws a punch or strikes, they must either hit or miss. Make sure you include the result of each strike.
- Vary the hits or weapons. Rarely in real life would someone attack in the same way over and over again. So why would your characters do it?
- Don’t forget to include sensory details such as the hero’s fear and exhaustion. Draw your readers into your world by making them experience the scene.
- Narrow the hero’s focus is on the person he is fighting, just like it would be in real life. Use short sentences and fragments to amp up the urgency.
- Remember that people generally don’t talk while fighting for their life.
So what do you think? Do you know an author who is exceptionally good at writing fight scenes? What is it that makes those fight scenes so memorable?