I’m just going to come out swinging here and talk right about the act of writing a fight scene. I’ve got some later in depth posts planned about specific aspects of combat, but I just wanted to get this out of the way.
So two characters, or more, need to settle some things. For whatever reason character A is about to go ninja all over characters C-F (B is just a bystander). And you want to wow your reader with a shocking fight scene that’ll leave them racked with excitement, cheering loud and gasping in the all right places?
Start off boring and simple.
Just lay it out there, in a clear manner. In this scene Annabelle, a fire fairy, is facing off against a group of zombies for no particular reason. Or illustrative purposes, I guess that sounds better.
Annabelle faced off against a semi-circle of animated corpses. Calling her nature, she flashed fire at the group. The corpses stumbled backward, she moved in slamming her fist into one.
The zombie crumpled, jaw mangled. Calling a wall of flame between her and the corpses, she took them on one at a time. Lighting one with her magic, she ducked another grasp. Grabbing the withered arm, she slammed her foot down into the weak ankle and tossed the creature at his burning kin.
Pulling the wall of flame down, she burned the legs from another and then finished it with a kick to the head. For the last two, she used pure fire. The dead burned to ash in moments.
First off, not everything needs to be prettied up in a fight scene. Clarity over charm here, writers. Probably not so much with the wordiness either, you started simple so stick to simple.
That being said:
Clarivoyance not needed – “Calling a wall of flame between her and the corpses,
she took them on one at a time.”
This is a habit I still struggle with, remember to stay in the moment when writing fight scenes. If a character is fighting, don’t predict the end or the order of events. If they shoot a bullet and the guy is hit, don’t say he’ll bleed out in moments or that he will die. Especially if your character can’t possibly know that it was a kill.
Clarify and Label – “The corpses stumbled backward,
she the fairy moved in slamming her fist into one a red shirted zombie. The zombie crumpled, jaw mangled The undead man crumbled to the ground, his jaw crushed and leaking dark blood.”
One, giving your character an extra label can help avoid repetition. Clear labeling of characters is essential though, you don’t want readers have go back and figure out who is who during critical moments. On a side note, now is probably a good time to start filling in a few more details. Clarify who is what, and remember cause and effect. Fighting should be kinetic, A did this and this happened is a core tenet of all fight scenes (remember what I said earlier about clairvoyance though).
And on detailing itself, don’t go too far. Use your best judgement but too much detail will distract the reader. Too little and you’re just stating bare facts. I wish I could offer some magical formula here–and if you can the comments are below, I’ll love you forever–so just keep writing fight scenes. Find a critique partner and focus on them for a bit. Put the work in and you’ll have readers on the edge of their seats in no time.
Crushing Repetition – I say pulled three or four times in that. I won’t label all the repetitive words but just go through and cut them. Also if your writing a piece with multiple fight scene, creating a second document and reading them one after the other will help identify repetition in the whole work. You want every fight to stand out so read them back to back to ensure that nothing sounds the same. Gun battles in particular fall to this foil, but really just a bit of effort and you’ll smooth it out.
Okay, now I’m going to apply my advice and see if we can’t get a thrill out of this scene yet.
Annabelle turned the corner, orb of fire hanging overhead. The light caught the edges of the group, five more of the tattered corpses. Downtown really was dangerous at night.
The fairy wasted no time, whistling loud to draw their attention. The ghouls stumbled forward, arms outstretched. Calling her nature, she flashed splitting the group. She moved fast, slamming her fist into the nearest zombie, a male with a red shirt. The undead man crumpled to the ground, jaw smashed and skull pouring dark blood.
Snapping her fingers Annabelle lit one ablaze, ducking another’s blind lunge. Grabbing a withered arm for leverage, the fairy broke the zombies ankle with a hard stomp. Annabelle swung the hobbled creature into her burning kin, ignoring the screech from the tangled corpses.
Dancing backward, the fairy burned the legs from another. He fell to smoking knees, she kicking him to the ground and crushed the head with her boot.
Tiring of her workout, she called heavy fire for the last two. A pure bright end for the dark corpses.
Okay I added a bit of humor at the beginning, the bit about downtown being dangerous. Don’t try to be funny during a fight, time and place guys, remember that. Beside the obvious, I also tried to end on a high note. Summing up the scene and finalizing it with something powerful. Also I elevated the violence throughout the fight, another good tip to remember. Start off with a tap, end with a haymaker.
That’s all I have for the basics of writing a fight scene. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve certainly got a bit more to say on the subject. Just wanted to keep it simple for the first one. If you’ve got requests or questions, I’d love to help out.
Oh and thanks for reading.
One more thing…
My writer buddy and ardent source of inspiration Faith Rivens released a novella. She’s a great writer so if you’re in the mood for some urban fantasy action purchase her novella here and for more information follow her blog here or on twitter here. Remember a little support for an indie author goes a long way. Thanks again and have a great day.