We discuss the three main strategies to use when you need to write a fight scene.
Adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, horror . . . while all these genres are different, you can expect to find fight scenes in them. Scenes where characters are pitted against other characters, against creatures, or against monsters and fighting for their survival. It could involve weapons, magic, or hand-to-hand combat. Even genres such as drama or romance might have more action-oriented scenes involving escapes, chases, or trying to hide from danger.
As writers, our job is to convey the tension of these fight scenes to the readers. But that is often easier said than done. I am one of those writers that struggle with fight scenes. I take a very long time writing them, and they often go through way more revisions than any other aspect of my work.
In this post I’ll talk about the three main strategies I use to craft a good fight scene in hopes they will help you, as well!
Vary Your Sentence Lengths
When you write fight scenes in your book, readers must be drawn into the intensity of the moment. A good way to do this is to write short, focused sentences. For example:
“She lunged forward. She turned into a kick. Her foot slammed into his spine.”
These are great to keep up an action pace, but no one wants to read an entire fight scene written like that. A good rule is to keep a balance of your sentence lengths. Work in multiple short, action-focused sentences with longer, more descriptive ones. This will give your reader a time to pause and visualize the fight before drawing them back into the quick action. For example, a follow-up might be:
“The force of her kick knocked him from his feet. He was sent sliding across the dirt and the mud, staining his jeans.”
Study Wrestling Fights
Remember that all good fights need to be character-driven. What the character wants should be clear. Someone who wants to escape won’t spend a lot of time going toe-to-toe with their opponents. And with each move your character makes, it’s an opportunity to show their personality.
I recommend studying the way wrestling fights are conducted, such as the ones on WWE or AEW. These fights are structured in such a way that they tell a story. Every character as their own unique move set and unique purpose to be in the fight.
There is also a good give-and-take in the way wrestling fights are staged. Especially for big paid live shows. They will work in shock and awe moments, there will be times when you think the hero character is being defeated only for them to mount a comeback. In short, they push the narrative forward. Watch these for inspiration on structuring your fight scenes.
Use a Randomizer
When I write fight scenes, I will know my high points. But how do I connect them? How do I fill in this space to transition from one big moment to another?
Sometimes, I use what I refer to as my “randomizer”. I use a self-created spreadsheet filled with various fight moves or actions. These can include parry, trip, punch to the face, lose balance, overhead strike, etc. I will then roll either with a dice or with an online roller. The number it lands on is the next move in the fight. Of course, I must then translate it narratively. But that turns it into a fun challenge.
For example, let’s say I’m in the middle of my fight with two characters facing off. They are fighting on a roof. I roll and get a 5. I look at my spreadsheet. The 5 slot says “lose balance”. So I write:
“He swung wild and hard, aiming his sword for her throat. She quickly spun out of the way and his attack went wide. Losing his balance, he tumbled toward the edge of the roof.”
Now I roll again. I get a 13. The 13 slot says “parry“. I write:
“As he struggled to regain his footing, he made a quick strike at her. Hoping to land a blow as he passed. But she deftly parried, remaining unharmed.”
Are there any tricks you use when writing a fight? Let us know below!