Fight Scenes: Considerations

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Many people have 2-cents about writing fight scenes. Some come with an experienced background, others–Who knows? My background is varied. First, combat training, second, police training, and third as a Kodokan Judo instructor (First degree Black Belt) with three state champions (2 boys and 1 girl). I taught free gratis for a city recreation program because I enjoy working with young people and for the love of the sport. That doesn’t mean I am an authority, therefore continually research to expand my understanding. This is an attempt to consolidate what others have written. Their material has been accessed through Pinterest if you want to go see it for yourself. (Search: writing fight scenes)

From “8 Things Writers Forget When Writing Fight Scenes,” by Lisa Voisin:

  • Technical details – If you are not familiar with the technical details of a particular form of fighting either 1) research it thoroughly, 2) be very general and avoid jargon, or 3) find an alternative approach, or 4) forget it

  • The body and injuries – From fists/feet to weapons, each inflicts a certain kind of damage to different parts of the body. The individual’s reaction is different, too, depending on levels of adrenaline and/or drugs. Whether giving or receiving.

  • Lack of visceral detail – In short, fighting and the results are visually disgusting and often has a psychological impact.

  • Conversation during a fight – Maybe, if taking a breather, but during the actual moment, no. Miss Voisin references the sword fight scene in Princes Bride, a classic. Other examples found on YouTube may be helpful guidance. (Just remember that the visual is very different from written. A bit more on that below.)

  • People are not naturally good fighters – The skills do not occur overnight. Those are acquired after long hours of training. In Karate Kid those skills realistically came with such learning, condensed for obvious reasons.

  • Failure to take the psychological impact into consideration – First the actual fight event from perspective of the character–Can they? Will they? And then, there is dealing with the aftermath reactions of participants on both sides.

  • Adrenaline is not the fighter’s friend – It burns fast and tires a person out, affecting efficiency. That’s why real fights are not typically drawn out.

  • Lacking knowledge of weapons – Their construction, operation, use, and effect, not to mention the physical effect on the person using it and the recipient.

From “Fight Scenes 101: Writing the Fight” by Mark Kamibaya:

  • Connect the reader to the character – Get the reader to step into the character’s shoes to personally experience the situation.

  • Use the reader’s imagination – 1) Use short descriptions and allow the reader to fill in the blanks, 2) use words that visualize the senses. Sound, smell, feel, sight, etc. (Some helps below)

  • Dialogue – External speech during the actual fight does not exist (see Voisin above), but an internal monologue certainly takes place which can be put to good use, but like external descriptions, keep the thoughts short.

  • Pacing – Use short sentences with vivid, short-syllable words, avoiding adverbs. Use fragmented sentences. Paragraphs should not exceed five sentences. (Maybe)

From “How to Write a Fight Scene” by September Fawkes:

  • Don’t rely on movies to describe fight scenes – Movies are solely visual and often use cookie-cutter scenes. (As referenced above, writers have a much more powerful mode in which to engage the reader on a personal level.)

  • What comes to the fight? – The character’s abilities, motives, emotions, what is at stake, and the setting.

  • Avoid cliche fighting tactics – Be unique. Bring something fresh to the scene.

  • What skill sets does a character bring to the fight?

  • What does a setting bring to the scene?

  • What can change/influence a scene? – such as weather, terrain, location.

From “From Darkness to Light” by N.M. Thomas:

  • A chart of helpful words.

helpful-action-words
From Amanda Patterson:

  • Action verbs for fight scenes.

    more-words

A Personal View

  • Foreshadow the event – Somewhere earlier in the story set the stage and hint that a conflict is going to happen.

  • Pacing – This is an action scene. Such events take place at a quick pace. Mirror that by using short, hard-hitting sentences, (See earlier comment) with a description of physical and emotional effects.

  • Something to lose – Obviously, the combatants have something at stake. Something is going to happen if they win or lose.

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Another writer, J. Young-Ju Harris, says much the same thing, but adds: “Consider writing the aftermath of the scene instead of the fight itself.”

WRAP UP

This is a compilation of several posts. There are more views on creating a good fight scene than ants on my desk (I work on the patio), so do the research. A good place to start is Pinterest where you will find many discussions on description, weapons, and effects. (Search: Writing Fight Scenes)

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