How to Write a Fight Scene

From the blog of fiction writer September C. Fawkes.

September C. Fawkes, Writing for
7-minute read
Episode #489

how to write a fight scene

I came to the realization last year that I didn't really know much about writing action or fight scenes. I knew some basic things like how you should keep your sentences short and use words with few syllables (because that gives the scene a fast pace), how you need to make sure your action sequence is realistic, and how you shouldn't give a blow-by-blow description because that gets boring.

But I wanted to know more. I wanted to dig deeper. 

I wondered, what really makes an action scene great? What makes one better than another? What makes one bad? Not in the writing style, but in the content itself.  Are there cliche action scenes? Is it bad to use one? And how do you improve an action scene?

I didn't know.

I asked people for references, blog posts, books, anything, about writing great actions scenes. And then I decided to start studying action scenes instead of just reading or watching them.

And I quickly ran into my first problem.

Zoning Out

I've learned I have the tendency to zone out during most action scenes. Yes, I'm weird. While everyone is on the edge of their seats watching Iron Man flying around fighting villains, I start to slip into day-dreaming mode after a few minutes. I'm kind of watching, but very passively, not actively. I think my subconscious realized that it didn't need to get the details of the action, that my brain only needed to be completely engaged when a character was seriously injured or a dangerous object was stolen by the bad guys. All the jumping and swords swinging wasn't that important to me.

I've also realized whether or not I zone out depends on how long the action sequence is and how much I care about the characters. If I don't really care about the characters, I don't pay much attention to them.

I had to retrain my mind to pay attention, to watch and read action scenes actively and not passively. I had to learn how to focus.

And you know what I'm finding?

Yes, yes, action scenes do have cliches! Yes, there are cookie-cutter fight scenes! And yes, there are ways to make your action scenes better!