Maybe your story has swashbuckling pirates. Maybe it has aliens invading from outer space. Maybe it only has a boy, a girl, and their families set in rural Connecticut. Whatever your plot or characters, you’re going to need tension. An easy way to do that is to put someone’s safety in danger. How? Through some sort of fight. It might be with words, or it might be with blades. Either way, here are some things to keep in mind.
1.) Know how big the fight is.
- Is this a massive battle? If so, you need to pick who you’re going to focus on. Jumping around from character to character can slow things down if not done correctly. Your character can glance to see how someone else is holding up, but too much of this takes away from the fight they’re in, making it seem not as difficult since they can keep glancing away from their opponent. If you have multiple main characters, it might be worth it to have separate chapters if you need to jump around between characters.
- Are only two people involved? If this is the case, you need to make use of good descriptions to make the action leap off the page. This also works for verbal battles (see below).
2.) Be detailed.
- What kind of weapon are they fighting with? How is their attacker dressed? Is it dark out? Can you see the attacker’s face? All of these can help build up the fight and make it more real.
3.) Avoid only having action.
- Having a scene with constant “I swung my blade. He sidestepped. I pressed the attack. He scattered backwards” are boring. Mix up the sentence structures. Make sure you’re not always starting with I/He/She.
- Also, weave in other details, like those mentioned above- type of blade, internal dialogue, etc.
Example: He pulled out a long blade with a jewel-encrusted hilt, and right smack dab in the middle of all those glittering golden baubles was the Ruby of Radiance. I was so busy staring at it, I narrowly got my sword up in time to stop his advance. Stumbling back into the hallway, I spotted guards rushing toward us.
4.) If the fight is verbal, include setting and what’s going on around them.
- Say the fight takes place in the kitchen. Maybe a pot is boiling over on the stove and the microwave is going off. These can add tension to an already tense situation. It’s going to be more dynamic if the characters are in the middle of doing something (like the dishes or making dinner) rather than just standing around.
5.) If you want there to be tension, make sure your character is fighting a challenging opponent.
- If the opponent is weak, it doesn’t make you character look strong.
- On the flip side, let’s say they’re fighting a henchman/solider. If they struggle to defeat this henchman, they can’t then sometime later magically have the ability to defeat the boss/captain of the guards unless they’ve learned new skills/abilities.
6.) Learn to write action scenes by watching them on TV.
- If you find you can’t figure out how to choreograph a fight, watch them in movies and TV shows. Mimic the actions blow by blow, but then remember to go back in and add internal dialogue and details.
What’s your favorite fight scene you’ve ever seen/read? Let me know in the comments!