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How to Write Fight Scenes

Updated: Apr 15, 2019

So, you want to know how to write fight scenes in your novel? A quick disclaimer, I'm no expert on martial arts, but I'm attempting to combine what I learned from a friend, with writing, into this blog post. The internet is filled with people who say one style is better than another, or another style is useless. However, this fighting style was developed in China, and China has been using martial arts for thousands of years so I think we got it covered.

If you want to write an engaging fight scene, in my opinion, it should be detailed. You'll hear some people say that fight scenes should not be too detailed, and I agree, but hear me out. What I mean is that fight scenes should be straight to the point. You want to describe what's actually happen without glossing over the details, unless you know absolutely nothing about fighting or fighting techniques. Another disclaimer: knowing or researching fighting techniques and styles does not guarantee success in real life, so take fantasy/sci-fi writing with a grain of (magical/space) salt. When you come across different styles and situations you will need to adapt, so don't try this in real life and expect success.

What do I mean about describing details? The most frustrating thing about reading a book and coming to a fight scene, is when the author describes everything like it's in slow motion, and I start reading about the character's innermost thoughts between punches, dodges, and slow lulls in fighting. That's not what I mean by describing details. That's not to say you can't do that, but fights often happen very fast (except for wars and space battles, but that's a different story), and you don't have time to think. Don't take readers out of their immersion by including too much unnecessary material when writing your fight scenes.

You want to include relevant details. Consider: "I punched, and the enemy fell." If you vary it a little, like "I swung my right fist. It cracked into his jaw, and he fell without a sound." In the second sentence, you gain two benefits. The first is that the reader can easily tell what's happening. You're setting the scene. If you were to punch in rapid succession it wouldn't be as realistic, and you might confuse yourself and the reader, if you aren't making it clear exactly what's happening. And number two, you up your word count.

One last thing. Vary your sentences and be visceral. Okay, maybe that's two things... While you want to use short sentences to show the urgency of fight scenes, when you are straight to the point and describe, in very vivid detail, what happened, then readers will get it right away. I'm not writing young adult fiction for this reason. I want to be detailed and it's hard to gloss over that with a younger audience.

Remember not to try out what you read in fight scenes because sometimes, even if there's a grain of truth in them, they're often embellished for the sake of the reader. There's no such thing as genetically engineered superhumans (yet), and authors often have to write about subjects they know very little or nothing about, and come up with something believable that won't cause thousands of people to call them out on it.

Have fun writing and look up YouTube videos on martial arts tips for more. I got some advice from some experts on there.

*Image is from wix, not from anybody or anywhere I know in real life*

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