How NOT to Write a Fight Scene

The warrior panted as he lifted his crimson-bathed blade of infinite destruction, the steel housing the power to topple mountains and cities alike, and eyed his opponent with utter disdain. “How did you find me?” he asked, poised and ready to strike.

“I searched from village to village, scouring the lands by horseback, until at last I discovered your hideout.” His opponent had but a simple blade, a flimsy-looking thing that would shatter under too many blows.

“You were lucky to find me. I did not leave clues to my whereabouts.” The warrior charged at the enemy and lashed out with a fluid strike.

“But alas, you left so many!” disagreed the other man, parrying the attack. “If not for your visit to that tavern in the last place you visited, I would not have found your identity. The barkeep was only too eager to reveal your face to the world after you left without paying!”

“Blast!” The warrior swore under his breath and swung out his sword once more. “I knew I forgot something!”

Notice how these two characters can keep up a fluid conversation while also trying to kill each other? Welcome to “how not to write a fight scene”. In many cartoons, animes, and books, fight scenes are treated like any other normal-paced scene. Unless there’s a specific reason to why characters pause to speak, they shouldn’t be composing sonnets to each other while exchanging life-threatening blows. They’re going to be out of breath, frightened, angry, or generally upset. There’s no time to be chitchatting! Rereading an old WIP of mine reminded me of how many mistakes I made in the past concerning fights.

Here are some examples of how not to write a fight scene:

  • Throwing in too many adverbs. It slows down the pace of the action. Everything should be fast and fluid
  • Discussing character backstories while sword fighting. Who really has time for that?
  • Having a character too wrapped up in their own thoughts. If they’re fighting for their life, they don’t really have much time to be pondering about breakfast or what they’ll be wearing to the next ball.
  • Giving a character a crazy, all powerful weapon that has zero chance of losing in a fight. Because we like to read about the challenge the character faced and how they deserved to win.
  • Straying the character’s attention from the fight. Hmm, I wonder what so-and-so is doing right now across yonder way? Is that a butterfly I see dancing along the horizon? Nope.
  • Insane fighting abilities that weren’t present all along. I’ve never been in a fight before, but hey, look at all these crazy magical spells I can cast! Cool, right? Not really.

What kind of stuff do you find irritating or eye-roll inducing while reading a book?


One thought on “How NOT to Write a Fight Scene

  1. Pingback: Weaponry in Fantasy Writing | Sandra's Stories

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