Writing a Fight Scene: What You’re Doing Wrong

So. It’s time. You’re at the point now, when a good tussle is all you need to drive your plot forward. You’ve got the players. The circumstances. And yet…something is off! You just can’t figure out what it is. What are you doing wrong??

Read On….



First of all, before anyone starts punching anything you need to ask yourself a few questions.

1.) Why are you adding a fight scene?

What does it accomplish? If your answer is anywhere near…you just need a shot of drama. You’re going all about it the wrong way. A fight scene is meant to propel your story forward. A coming to a head of the building conflict and providing the much needed excitement and satisfaction. For additional ideas of how to fix a sagging middle, check out my article here.

2.) How realistic will your fight be?

Will you be doing a mental battle? A battle of wits? Swordplay or magic? You must first determine the means of how this fight will take place. You cannot write a successful fight/battle/scene/book without a plan. Consider this very carefully or run the risk of producing something bordering on blasé.

3.) Research!!!


Especially when writing any type of physical scene, this is imperative; realistic battles, require realistic stylistic techniques. If your character is supposed to be an expert, this even more so! How can you have an expert martial artist as your MC and they don’t even know the difference between a jab, hook and uppercut? Its nonsensical. YOU MUST DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Even fantasy, magical elements are not immune to this. I love Avatar: Last Air Bender martial arts. For this example, lets focus on Water Benders. These people manipulate the element of water. Yet, the do so by following the principles of Tai Chi. Their element is very fluid and thus their martial arts must reflect that. If the author of the series did not research this style, how could they have made it applicable to the world or the characters?

Writing a Fight Scene

Same thing goes for swordsmanship, archery, martial arts etc. You must know the technicalities, the faux pas and the no no’s of your discipline. If your expert swordsman doesn’t know how to correctly hold their blade, what use are they? Consider everything.


Save purple prose for another time. This is not the time, nor the place for long drawn out passages. Nothing ruins a good fight more than too much detail. When writing a fight scene, keep these thing is in mind.

1.) Keep it short

Faced paced writing requires shorter sentences. Build tension. Save drama for pre/post fight. This is all about the action. Make it fast. Make it hard. Sentences may take too long. Consider phrases. Your reader should be panting by the end.

2.) POV Character has something to lose

No one enters a fight simply for the sake of entering a fight. Combat is tiring, it causes damage, at times irreparable. There MUST be something on the line. The stakes need to be high for your character. Are they defending their honor, their family name, their dignity? What? It needs to be something major.

If your character is fighting because someone stole their blue marble, you’ve better make sure that marble has some sort of underlying value. Was it a family heirloom? Did the love of their life give it to them as some sort of memento? Assign value to even the most mundane object if need be to justify your character fighting over it.

PRO TIP: The best stories feature great character development. If you are able to make both sides of the fight equally sympathetic, you’ve mastered your craft. Find ways to make your reader not know who to root for. For example: Game of Thrones.

How to Write Battle Scene

Season 7 battle between Daenerys Targaryen and Drogon vs. Jaime Lannister and Bronn will go down in television history. When Dany came in on her dragon, we all screamed our heads off rooting for her; but we all felt the same sense of panic when Jaime was attacked by Drogon and almost died. Try to evoke the same sense of internal conflict in your reader and you will have them reeling.

3.) Fatigue

Unless your characters are bionic, there is bound to be fatigued. Combat is meant to be quick. Not drawn out. In fact, most physical fights are all of 30 seconds at the absolute most. It requires tremendous exertion and force; far beyond what the average person outputs at any other time in their life. So, short bursts of such extreme force is bound to take its toll. DO NOT neglect your character’s fatigue. Highlight and showcase how they sweat and shake from the exertion.

How to Write Battle Scene: Battle Fatigue



4.) Aftermath

DO NOT neglect the aftermath of your battle. This is perhaps the most important part. Fights have real consequences. Physical, psychological, emotional, even spiritual consequences. No one just fights and forgets it happened. NO! They chew over the detail days even years after. They lose friendships, relationships, respect, social positions, their faith, etc. Be sure to humanize your character and make sure you describe what happened after.

PRO TIP: In an epic battle scene, you may not need to describe the fight at all. Sometimes the aftermath is more poignant than any physical altercation could emote. For example:

The burning chariot pumped pillows of dark gray smoke into the sky. Wati’s jaw clenched as he knelt. The little doll was half turned to cinders; the outline of its char eaten face, still burned bright orange embers. Lifeless little fingers, trapped beneath the chariot, were still stretched out, searching. He rested the little doll in them and forced the stiff fingers closed. The smoke burned his eyes and he turned away. Smoke always caused tears.


Well, that is all I have for you today! Can you think of anything else? Need some tips on how to get the battle started? Click here for my posts on tension!

Until Next time….GENSYS OUT!!!




October 16, 2017