Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fight Scenes

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Nothing is more gratifying than reading a fast-pace fight scene, unless of course, you're the one who wrote it.  On the flip side, I can't think of anything more painful than to read a poorly written fight scene.

Having said this, I wasn’t surprised when one of my crit partners finished reading my manuscript and suggested I needed to strengthen the fight scene in chapter 47. It was a relatively new chapter written only after I decided to change the identity of the killer so I knew it needed additional work.

I’ve written fight scenes in my other novels and recall  how long it took to make them not seem ridiculous so I decided to search the Net, refresh my memory and see what common advice I could find on the subject. Not surprising, all agree fight scenes are one of the hardest things to write convincingly and thus require a lot of practice to get it right.
Here are a few things I picked up on developing the next fight scene:

  1.  Decide who your viewpoint character is. Involve the reader by making sure they see the action through the eyes of the viewpoint character. Make the reader ache and bleed every time your POV character gets hurt.
  2. Don’t tell the fight scene by just adding a collection of punches, stab wounds, gun shots, slaps, or kicks. Rather, show the scene through the viewpoint character’s internal conflict. A character may seem cool and collected on the outside, but what’s going on inside? Mentally/emotionally? Show the character’s internal language of fear, anger, suspicion, etc., to bring the reader into the POV character’s head.
  3. For every action there is a reaction. She slaps, he blocks it. He grabs her wrist, she pulls away. John threw a punch. Dave staggered back. Just remember to show the action first before showing the reaction.
  4. Fast reading pace is essential in fight scenes. Make your phrases and sentences short to speed the action. Long descriptive sentences will slow the pace.
  5. Use only one phrase or sentence per move, but also try to vary the length of your sentences. Grabbing the bronze statuette she hid behind the curtain. Heart pumping. Footsteps near the door. She waited. He was only a foot away—unaware of her presence. She slammed the statuette against his head and ran.
Well, you get the picture. Happy writing!

About the author:

Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery),
Personal site:  
Personal blog:  
Collective blog:  
Character Blog:


J D Webb said...

Pretty easy to write fight scenes - I just remember the times my wife and I have a humdinger. The fear and tension are immense. LOL

Terry W. Ervin II said...

There are a few things that are more painful to read than a poorly written fight scene, but not very many!

In addition to what you said, all good advice, I have a few of my favorite books marked with fight scenes that really worked well. If I'm stuck, they remind me what's necessary and what isn't in such a scene.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Some great suggestions for fight scenes.

Marta Stephens said...

Ah! Dave, so THAT's where the fear comes from! LOL

Terry, I mark up favorite sections of other authors' books too. They help spark the sluggish mind, don't they?

Thanks for stopping by, Cher. I just Googled "Writing Fight Scenes" and found several sites--some better than others, but most seem pretty consistent. :)

Hart Johnson said...

Great advice--I think these are definitely most manageable from deep in a single characters head because then confusion as to what is happening is also possible. It allows you to not QUITE make sense if you give a knock on the head or something that explains WHY to the MC it doesn't make sense. The emotion (and pain) of it too, help a bunch.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Excellent advice, Marta. I especially like to employ short, punchy (no pun intended! LOL!) sentences to make the scene move fast. Thank you, good food for thought here!