Aw, the fight scene. I've got three of them and I just wrote them to get through it. Now I have to go back and make it right. So I looked it up on the internet, my one-stop shop, and came up with good advice from many different sources. You get conflicting advice, but this is what I took away from my quest:

  1. Use short sentences

  2. Put each action into it's own paragraph unless it's just a one liner (I got conflicting stories on this. It's up to the writer)

  3. Don't choreograph it, you tend to distance your character and leave the reader uninvolved.

  4. Use realistic, sequential, logical moves

  5. Use imaginative verbs(Of course)

  6. Experience the fight through a character's pov, preferably your MC. He's the one the reader identifies with.

  7. Follow an action with a reaction. Don't put the horse before the cart

  8. Get the pov character emotionally involved.

Now it's your turn. Add to the list. I can use a lot of suggestions in my rewrite.


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Comment by Mark Porter on February 11, 2011 at 1:12am

A fight scene from my first book, I hope it illustrates what I wastalking about. My books do feature comedy heavily but the violence is heartfelt! I have starred out the swear words, I know not everyone likes them. For some reason, this post has altered the final part into italics and won't let me alter it.


Two beers in and twenty minutes on the clock

and I spot Ramirez heading into the men’s room. I drain

my glass and all of the sh** from the last hundred hours or

so lands squarely on my doorstep. I have avoided scenes

like this my entire life and it is not going to happen again. I

say nothing to Loretta and Caleb who are deep in humorous

banter and cross the bar to the rest room door. I decide, not

for the first time, that rest room is a ridiculously misplaced

term for a place where we shit and wash our hands. He has

his back to me and is finishing up at the urinal. He turns

around and washes his hands, I am mildly surprised by this,

I don’t know why but I don’t expect it. It still doesn’t make

me respect him and I don’t want to bake cakes with him,


He avoids eye contact and moves to go around

me. I shoot my arm to the wall, palm flat against the plaster

work and block his path.

“What’s with you, asshole?”

That’s all of the encouragement I need. I bring

my head down hard into the middle of his nose. I am two or

three inches taller than him and the leverage is enough to

burst the thing open. Ramirez lets out a startled noise from

Comment by Mark Porter on February 11, 2011 at 1:01am
Ahh yes, genrally speaking, they are over with VERY quickly. Most street fights do not last long.
Comment by Mark Porter on February 11, 2011 at 1:00am

I used to box years ago. I have to admit that unrealistic fight scenes gnaw on me a little. Another tip is that although you DO feel pain during a fight, it is much more greatly enhanced after the fact.


Joe R. Lansdale is the best fight scene writer I have read. But then he is in the Martial Arts World Hall of Fame.

Comment by Jon Loomis on March 21, 2010 at 9:01am
These are all good, especially the one about sticking very close to your pov character's head during the action of the fight. The only thing I can think to add is this, which may be impractical for some of us: at some point in your life, get in an actual fight. Failing that, go places where fights are likely to break out, and when they do, observe carefully. What you'll find, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, is that it takes about twelve seconds before the whole thing devolves into an ugly little wrestling match in which two grown men are rolling around on the floor, trying to bite each other. Usually the dirtiest, meanest fighter wins. Cops pretty much always have to win, and in my experience of watching them get into and win fights (I grew up in a rambunctious college town, what can I say), they tend to be the dirtiest fighters of all.
Comment by I. J. Parker on March 21, 2010 at 7:10am
Get a book of someone who writes good fighting scenes.
Comment by E.A. McKenzie on March 20, 2010 at 7:01am
Stacy, Thank you, you have helped me a lot. I just finished writing a fight scene and even having written that list, I failed miserably. That's okay, though, I just wrote it to get through it so I can get to the then end of the book. I'm so close.

I'm going to rewrite it. I think I'll have the antagonist surprise my MC instead of the other way around. My MC is a business man, it's not in his nature to start something, but in this case it is a matter life and death.

I also like the suggestion about giving the MC a skill. This guy was an athlete with a tough father in high school. I'm guessing his dad taught him a thing or two.

Dialogue is a fabulous idea, because in my fight scene, there's another guy in another part of the yacht. The reader knows this and would worry the other guy would hear and come and investigate. He doesn't, but the reader doesn't know that.

Thanks for the helpful suggestions,

Comment by Stacy on March 20, 2010 at 3:46am
(This was the first post but I had to fix it up. I had a lot of typos, LOL!)

Great list and I can't say enough how "use short sentences" is one of the best things to do when writing suspense. I picked that up from Dean Koontz. He says it brings forth more thrills, and suspense to use short sentence. It also evokes emotion. I've started doing that in more scenes such as my crime scenes or when the victim's in trouble. It's like the shorter sentences pull you in.

Here is one I'll add to the list.


It's unrealistic to have people fighting (without words). Have them swear and curse every once in a while and that brings even more tension to the fight. I've read some fight scenes in books that evoked no emotion for me and I felt like "the outsider looking in", meaning I was never drawn into the action. Then I realized it was because the fight was boring and wooden. The author had pages of narrative and even did the worst thing possible, stopped the action by adding description! The writing was okay but he failed with his fight scene.

Also, I'd say make sure your fight scenes aren't cliche or a cheesy copy of something from television. For instance, no bar or alley fights. Have folks do things in unusual situations. For instance, if this is the bad guy and good guy fighting, the author can have them fight at a carnival, in the street, something different. I also think it should be written to where it doesn't feel staged, like the reader shouldn't assume they are gonna fight. LOL! Surprise the reader.

I like the type of fight scenes that starts when another person wants to leave and then when they try to, the other attacks them. This enhances tension and I like anything with the element of surprise.

I try to do my best and not to write any scenes where my reader can predict what's gonna happen next. Keeping them guessing adds tension and emotion. That's how I like it when I read. I don't want to be able to tell what's gonna happen.

But if I'm reading a book with two drunk guys cursing while leaving a bar, I know they're gonna fight. (Yawn).

But say a man stumbles into a bank just as the last employee is closing up and he starts cursing and raising hell? Then they begin fighting? Now that's not so predictable and would be the scene that captured the most attention than the other example I gave. Anytime you raise questions, that's a good thing.

With this second scenerio, the readers are gonna ask themselves:

1) Who is this guy and why did he come to the bank?
2) Why is he so irate?
3) Is he drunk, high or crazy
4) Are they gonna fight to the death?

Questions are the key and if your reader never has questions to what you're doing, it means they aren't fully into the story.

Great list!

I think you got the right idea. Another suggestion, don't let the fight scene go on forever. It doesn't have to be very long to be effective. I've read books where guys tossed fists over pages and it was very boring. Shortness always adds suspense. Regular scene length or whatever would work, but you know, don't go overboard, LOL. The fight shouldn't be three pages long, LOL!

Best Wishes!
Comment by Stacy on March 20, 2010 at 3:39am

Another thing, to really add tension and excitement, have them fight in a way the audience might not expect. Like for instance (and I don't know anything about your characters of course), maybe you could add that one of the folks fighting (if this would work), knows karate. See, that's interesting and would jolt the reader. It's also realistic because sometimes you can start fighting with someone and you have no idea what skills they have. You could just switch things up. Doesn't have to be karate but make sure the bad guy or the antagonist (if they're involved) is stronger than the MC because the MC's supposed to have the short end of the stick. The MC's gotta look like he's losing this battle because it draws in the reader as well as providing tension.

The MC is always supposed to struggle at one point you know? Let him get his butt beat or whatever but he can prevail in the end. Just don't make it easy. The MC's supposed to suffer so the audience suffers with him. It brings "us" into your story.

Sounds interesting and I am sure it will be great!

Best Wishes!

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