How to write fighting scenes
6 things you can do to make that fighting-writing awesome!
Sooo, this was the only acceptable picture that came across my screen today. Yes, I know she's holding up a gun... but that aiming wink and those goggles though...
To my utter surprise, people think my fighting scenes are good. Now,before I go off and dazzle ya'll with my knowledge and lack thereof, let me tell you a thing or two.
I am no seasoned writer. I have told stories for as long as I can remember but doing that and writing books are two very different things. So far, I have published one book, and it's the first part in an urban fantasy series. Before you go scrambling to the hills, I'll put an excerpt of my fighting-writing up and you can judge accordingly to either stay or beat feet. Please keep in mind that I write one-on-one fights, no guns allowed.
Breathing out in a rush she swiped down her blade, using her entire body to put force behind the blow. Her sword connected with another and was swatted away with ease. She used the momentum to roll out of reach of the riposte and sprang to her feet. Without missing a beat, she attacked again.
Sweat ran down her body and her heart seemed to pulse behind her ears. With gritted teeth and straining, burning muscles, she refused to relent.
Just one hit. She only needed one. Her hands sweaty, she gripped the hilt of the huge sword tighter. Lunging forward she twirled in a circle, blocking a blow and rounded her opponent. Just when she thought she had it, her opponent feigned to the right and dove to the left, the broad side of her friend’s sword slapped her butt.
“Dead,” Kate yelled, her eyes brimming with mischief.
The above is a training fight and the opener of my second book. Now, without further ado, let's get into it!
Picture the scene
Close your eyes and envision the scene you want to write. Go through every swipe, kick and lunge. What happens? Who is the narrator? What does that narrator see, feel, do? It helps to know what happens when and how. Go through it, until you have memorized it all.
Know where everyone is, but don't write down every detail
Now this is a tricky one. Too much detail can make an action scene stutter and takes the oomph right out of it. Especially when you have more than two fighters. Make sure you know what happens, who fights against who and how the fight, or the dynamic of it moves. Of course you know, because you have pictured all of it in step one :) But not unlike building your character, a fighting scene can have a lot of things going on that you don't need to write down. We don't need to know that our character 'put her left foot down and lunged forward, jabbing out the sword with her right hand.' It's too long and...meh. Instead, try something a little different.
'She pushed forward, launching the blade at her opponent with lightning speed.'
See how that flows?
Be consistent and realistic
When one of the characters fall, or is wounded, make sure to incorporate that. The fallen one has to get back up, the wounded one is now limping, or set back in another way. Maybe the opponent pounces on that weakness. Know what the weapons used look like, know how they function. Someone dual-wielding two swords might look and sound cool, but is not too realistic. If you'd want to have a character doing that make sure he/she has trained how to do so for a really, really long time. If said character just picks up an additional sword and starts using two...
So know your weapons and know how they are used.
Make sure to include feelings, smells and noises
If the whole scene is nothing but jabs, kicks, punches and whatnot, it can get a bit clinical. There will be no depth. So add things that don't necessarily belong to the immediate fight. We'll do an example of the sentence we started above.
'She pushed forward, launching the blade at her opponent with lightning speed. Not fast enough, as her sword was blocked with an ear-splintering clang, she felt a jarring sensation all the way up her arm and into the bones of her shoulder.'
We could have written:
'Her attack was blocked.'
But then we wouldn't get sucked into the moment. We hear the 'clang' and feel the painful sensation when the blow is being blocked. We get the reader into the fight, which is what we want!
If your character is using a two-handed sword, what will happen if one arm is injured? He/she won't be able to fight off attackers, but has to change tactics. The character now has to find a way to end the fight quickly. Our character will go by XXX for the example.
'Her left arm dangled at her side, limp and useless. Agony radiated up her shoulder, pounding through the whole limb with each heartbeat. She stood very still and gripped her sword tighter as her enemy rounded her, his quick eyes zeroing in on her wound. Making sure she had a good stance, she brought the tip of her sword down, stuck it into the ground and placed one foot behind it. A cry ripped from her attacker's throat and he lunged. XXX ducked and kicked up her sword, with the last bit of energy her body had to offer, she drove her blade up and out. It sliced through skin and muscle until warmth flooded her hand. The shocked face of her foe was only inches from her own as a shaky breath left him, accompanied by a trickle of blood.'
Pull the reader into the scene
This is the most important thing to learn. You do this by using the five steps above. By knowing how your scene unfolds, by leaving some things to the imagination, by being consistent, by adding sensory detail, and by being creative. Use a combination of short and average-length sentences. Don't repeat words too often. Make clear who is doing what. Bring yourself into the scene, hear smell and feel the scene--then write it.
That's all I have for you today. This is my first time doing a blogpost like this. An educational one. I hope I was helpful. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. And if you'd like to read past that first scene from above, click HERE.
The Soul Reaver Alloy will be out at the 21. of November and available on Amazon in both e-book and paperback format.
Have fun writing and let me know what you thought of this post below.