How to improve fight scenes?
I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.
Here are some quick recommendations:
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover. It has some of the best fight scenes I've read in a novel, described with beauty and emotion in every line. Even if you aren't a big Star Wars fan you can enjoy it.
Read screenplays of fight scenes! Screenplays for published movies are often very well written and describe the action in a terse, emotional, blow-by-blow way that is far easier to understand than some prose fight scenes. Here is one example https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/write-fight-scene-screenplay-script/
First, you need to decide the pov. Is it a battle as seen from above, from the throne of an all knowing God, or is it lived through the eyes of your characters?
Let's pretend we are in the heat of the battle, right in the middle of a fight.
What I do in this cases is use short sentences, lots of periods. But I also try not to break the flow of the narration. Let me try to write an example. (Disclaimer: this was all made up right now, so feel free to use it as you like)
David was standing on top of the tower, when his eyes met with André's. He squinted.
This is the setup, write it just as you like.
He jumped down, landing on the cold concrete with a thud. Cracks spread out from where his feet impacted with the hard ground, and a small plume of dust rose from the coarse dirt of the nearby park. André was still unmoving, studying his opponent carefully.
We're still in the setup, see? Subordinate sentences are fine here, they build tension. But let's get to the action.
He charged. His first was extended, and it hit André with the force of a train. He didn't flinch. He met the next punch with his open hand, and deflected it. He grabbed David's arm. He pulled, and twisted.
Here the action slows down for a moment.
David grunted in pain, knowing that he was in a vice grip that he could not get out of.
He kicked the ground. His jump was high, and André stumbled for a moment. It was enough time for David. He backflipped in the air. And then kicked with his full power. The kick connected. Sparks flew everywhere as the spiritual energies were agitated. Andre was flying back. When he landed, he was no longer moving. He was dead.
Or so David thought. He got up in a lightning movement, and rushed at him. He tried to defend himself, but he did not expect an attack.
See? When the heat is high, short sentences that keep the flow going. When there is a moment of pause, go back to more descriptive structures and stretch the moments as much as you want.
The insectoid lumbered forward, faster than Ophelia expected. Its chitinous shell glistened as it ran, its dozen segmented eyes fixed upon her with a burning ferocity. She glanced backward. The stone wall loomed, an impassible barrier. Her mind burned, considering, plotting even as she set her blade between them.
With a burst of uncanny speed, it was there. She dove, barely, beneath the creature's claw. Stone and sparks rained down on her, but Ophelia was already moving. Tucking into a somersault, she came up behind the beast and stabbed her blade into its unprotected armpit.
Her sword stopped, millimeters from it's vulnerable flesh. A blue glow held it immobile.
"Has you, I do," crooned the creature.
That's just a slice of an action/fight encounter, but it's my general style.
The punch, the oomph tends to depend on what you want to accomplish with the scene. Generally speaking, each scene should establish or reaffirm something about one or more characters. Do you want to show how strong your protagonist is? Then have their actions described quickly, efficiently perhaps, and even show them surprising their enemy. Show how they have a long way to go? Make those sentences longer, add more struggle.
In the above example, Ophelia is competent but clearly outmatched in some ways by the insectoid creature. She has a quick mind, puts her weapon between her and the enemy, dodges a powerful attack, and even counterattacks after that dodge. All good. But the insectoid is clearly fast, strong, covered in armor, and apparently has some sort of magic ability.
This brings up another topic, which is tension. A lot of things create tension in a story, but in a fight sequence its typically how skilled/powerful the characters seem. Sometimes you don't want a lot of tension, showing the power of a character by having them mow down hundreds of enemies quickly and easily. Other times you add that blow-by-blow with wounds and barely made evasions. And still other times you add in bystanders, people getting hurt by a third party's actions. Tension is about stakes. If a fight doesn't have any, it probably won't have the oomph you are looking for.
Ariana Wrote: Check these discussions:
I second this, those are some good discussions to read up on as far as fight scenes go.
I would add to focus on how visceral and gritty you want the fight to feel. Do you want it to feel like a knock-down-drag-out fight where it's not sure who will win? Or something like a floaty, hand wavy xianxia/cultivation fight where moves are named and spectacular? Or do you want it to feel cold and distant like the reader is watching a boxing match?
Most of my advice is in that first linked discussion and there are more viewpoints in both threads that add some very good info to keep in mind.
You can write a blow to blow fight scene with many complicated moves and stuff, but not only would that not be interesting to read after a while, it'd start feeling tedious. That's why, it's somewhat important to include the characters into the fight scenes, their emotions, their physical and mental state and all that good stuff. Another good thing is the stakes. Why is the fight happening? What happens to the loser? What does the winner get? Is it just a small fight or is it part of a bigger battle? If it is part of a battle, how does the battle affect the fight? how does the fight affect the battle???
So many complicated questions and it is a headache to make sense of all of them, but as writers, that's our job, right???
Here are some good resources you can check out, well two actually from the same guy, but they are all I can remember right now and I'm kinda too lazy to put any effort into searching for more, but they are pretty good so I'm sure you can work with them...
Oh! Forgot to put my signature in...
Other than that; mood. People often feel very intensely, or they feel intensely numb, while they fight, so glossing over emotions is a mistake, and one I see a lot because many authors are (understandably) focusing on the action alone. Compare:
Quote:Elliot raised his sword in a diagonal guard and the blade of the bandit bounced off with a sharp metallic CLANG, a shower of sparks, and a recoil that sent them both a step backwards as force met force. The bandit pressed on and Elliot slowly moved back as the blades exchanged blow after blow.
Quote:Elliot stared fearfully with eyes wide open and raised his sword in a diagonal guard just in time to meet the bandits blade. The two weapons bounced off each other with a sharp metallic CLANG and a shower of sparks and Elliot was forced back a step as force met overwhelming force. The bandit pressed on before Elliot could muster up the power in his exhausted arms and he was forced back as the swords exchanged blow after deadly blow, each one sending shockwaves through his body that promised him death, his arms threatening to fail with each one.
Quote:Elliot smiled a wide, demented grin and raised his sword in a diagonal guard to meet the bandits blade. The weapons bounced off each other in a metallic CLANG and a shower of sparks, and enough power to force elliot back. His skin and muscles burned and seared with adrenaline and bloodlust and yet it wasn't enough to muster up the speed he needed. The bandit raised his sword faster and he fell back, step after step, blow after blow, each one sending that sweet, stinging shockwave through his arms, his bone, singing to him.
Fight-wise, the same thing is occurring in all three of these. But the first one is plain and boring in my book. That could be what you're going for but make it an intentional choice would be my fight scene advice. Too much spice is a bad thing but at least a bit of this is a good thing.
I like how Luca put it. I'm not an expert but when reading I prefer a fight scene that's not too fast and puts emphasis on the combatants. So many fight scenes read like the writer's adrenaline was pumping while writing it so it's over in a single paragraph.
“Rose, cover!” Baron ordered as Rose stopped on a dime which sent mud flying up in the direction he had been running. The BDF weapons team had finished setting up the tripod for their repeater. Just as the BDF soldiers started to open fire Rose gave them the same torrent of sparks. He didn’t need a tripod and the heavy weapon was integrated into his visor, giving him uncanny accuracy. The rain caused steam to rise from his weapon as it heated at an astonishing rate. Rose held the heavy cannon down at his side and adjusted it back and forth to paint the field in red fire.
^ I personally think gun battles are easier than sword fights. You can mix melee with gunfire/magic rather than JUST melee which to me sounds super hard to write effectively. Having multiple weapon paths to choose from increases the variety and keeps my attention longer. Just IMO