I love reading a good fight scene. I love writing a good fight scene even more and my novels are full of them. Writing an epic battle is a great deal of fun but it’s far from easy. Having a fight scene that is both gripping and easy to follow does present some challenges and it’s important to remember some key points.
Firstly, you need to have a specific goal in mind. While the good guys fight the bad guys and the good guys have a hard time but eventually win is an admirable and time tested way to go, it’s very general. Before I write a battle scene I ask myself, what is the point of this fight? Is it to capture an adversary to try to get information? Is it to obtain a new weapon from the enemy, or retrieve something that was stolen? Is it simply to survive? Having a specific goal will make it easier to direct the fight scenes, instead of just having a bunch of people slashing away at each other just for the sake of fighting.
The scene. Make it different and unique. Every one of my fight scenes is different from another. I’ve had fight scenes in places as simple as a large field, to as complicated as starting in a parking garage and ending up on top of a tall building. Changing it up gives you a chance to work with different aspects and will keep the reader interested. Obviously, a fight in a field would be easier than a brawl in a parking garage. It isn’t only the place you need to think about. Is it sunny out? Hot? Rain would make the ground slippery and deep snow would make it difficult to maneuver. Adding these elements will give your fight scene tension and added challenges for your characters.
No fight scene would be complete without some amazing weapons but choosing your weaponry takes some careful and thoughtful planning. A massive battle-ax sounds amazing and deadly but you can’t take a battle-ax and stick it in the hands of a fourteen-year-old girl; it would be too heavy. One of my characters, Finlay, yields a battle-ax and I make sure and mention his well-muscled arms and shoulders. Guns are great for distance but in a close-up battle you would risk shooting your companions. A katana is a timeless weapon. However, it is best for slashing, not stabbing. Do your research! I’ve spent countless hours researching weapons, how they work, stances, and moves. Knowing how to use the weapons in your writing will make it more realistic and interesting for the reader.
Speaking of realistic, keep facts in mind when writing a fight scene. A battle is tiring. If your character is still fit as a fiddle after an hour-long battle, something is wrong. You need to add details like burning muscles and sweat getting in your character's eyes to keep your fight real. While a person getting stabbed in the leg and continue to valiantly fight with the blade still embedded may add some great flair in a movie, it may not be quite realistic. How deep is the knife stabbing? Is it slicing through more muscle with each step, or wedging against a bone? Your character would be in a tremendous amount of pain, and likely wouldn’t be fighting for long.
My last bit of advice would be to keep the outcomes of your fight scenes balanced. If your protagonist is always losing, that’s discouraging to the reader, and your characters! On the other hand, if your protagonist is constantly coming out on top you lose the chance for your character to learn and grow. Writing both wins and losses for your characters will keep your readers wondering with each battle, what’s going to happen?