7 Tips to Writing Realistic Fight Scenes in Your Novel


There are many ways to tell a good story, such as movies, books, plays, operas, songs, ballet, etc. 

My favorites are films and novels. You can learn a lot about storytelling by watching movies. 

For instance, I've seen ATOMIC BLONDE twice, and I'm blown away by the fight scenes. But, ahem *clears throat* while watching it, I realized my own fight scenes are not very realistic. At all. Not even close.

Some of the fight scenes in my urban fantasy novel (featured above) have the heroine hardly out of breath or injured. Or she is perfectly fine after a knock-down-drag-out with some baddies following the very next scene. Ugh. In real life, this would not be the case. Okay, sure she does have a few "superpowers" but she's mostly human (sort of.) But having a "perfect" hero who never gets hurt or wounded is boring and unrealistic.

Okay, people, I'm about to say something that might shock some of you...

I was a troubled youth. There I admitted it. Whew. And I have been in a few real-life fights when I was a teenager. Yup, I had a mouth on me that didn't know when to shut up. And I did a lotta stupid crap that I'm not proud of, and I might've deserved an ass-kicking...or two on occasion. 

But back to the film, ATOMIC BLONDE...when the heroine (the very kickass Charlize Theron) and bad guys are fighting, they are breathing heavily, sweating, staggering on their feet from exhaustion, bruised, bloody, and also very resourceful. (They use the objects around them to hurt their opponent, like jabbing the end of a key into their eye. Gross, yet effective.)

Today, I'm doing some research on "real fighting" and reactions to give my own scenes more realism. 

Quote from the very wise, bestselling author, Chuck Wendig, ..."Write What You Know. And what you don’t know, you can always learn. And what you can’t learn, you can always steal from other authors by hitting them with rocks and opening their heads like coconuts. Each writer’s brain is like a fruit containing many seeds, the seeds of knowledge. Kill authors and eat their brains..." You can read the entire post on "A Very Good List Of Vital Writing Advice" (but beware of swears, if you are sensitive to bad words. Also, I think he has a waffle on his head and not a tinfoil hat...)

This advise just means doing your writer homework. Yeah, it's a thing

I have been a writer for over ten years and I am still learning the craft and improving my skills. Don't let that big, giant, oversized writer ego of yours let you ever stop studying the craft and honing your skills. Because then you'll die as a writer. Maybe not actually die, die, but your skills will fade away.

To keep from fading, I am going to read several novels that I have with good fight scenes in them to study how the author crafted the brawls, and watch a few more TV shows and movies to get ideas on improving my current WIP.

*So deep breathe in...now out...

I’ll be honest here, I do not always follow the Three-Act plot structure that the majority of writers use. I don’t like doing plot outlines because I feel they kill my creativity, and not all of my characters have a life-changing personality ARC.

However, I do like to study, research, and learn new tricks to keep in my writer's toolbox. That will never, ever...ever stop. Because I desire to be the best damn writer I can be, and also be somewhat of a storytelling rule-breaker. I will wrap tinfoil around my head and summon my creative muse. 

What? *gasp!* You didn't know about this awesomeness? Tinfoil hats are usually worn by conspiracy theorists, but also it is the secret that all bestselling authors use to attract their muses. They wear these hats and write incredible stories and never tell anyone. Go ahead and make one. I'll wait... 

(Now that the secret to writing a bestselling novel is out, I may have to go into hiding. Change my identity. Or let my wish-granting black cat protect me from those witches that scare Chuck.)


But before I get derailed, (because I'm not wearing my cool, awesome, tinfoil bestselling writer hat) here are tips on writing real-life fight scenes in your fiction manuscript, along with 7 links to some helpful posts on drafting a combat / brawl / punching / kicking scene.

By the way, I did check Amazon for craft books on writing fight scenes, but I didn't find a single one worth the money. One guide was $5 and it was only 54 pages long. Seriously?

Okay so, whatever. Lots of free advice to be found online..for free. Did I mention that? To save you time, so you can get back to making that tinfoil hat and start writing the next great American novel (no offense UK-ers!), I have included in this post links to to a few awesome articles with advice on writing Fight Club, I mean a scene much with the fighting.

Quote from author, Marc Davies, Make It Hurt: "When you get down to it, fights are nasty business. No one likes to see their favorite heroine killed off, but if she gets away scot-free every time, your fights will quickly lose the element of danger that makes them interesting. The same goes for characters that are essentially invincible. Actions have consequences. Make your characters pay for their mistakes, and make them fight hard for their victories..." You can read the rest of his advise on fights here Writing Fight Scenes

More links!

The Four Most Important Factors in Realistic Fight Scenes

The Kung Fu Panda Guide to Writing Action Scenes 

Creating Realistic Fight Scenes - Part 2

Plotting a Fight Scene

How to Write an Authentic Martial Arts Scene

Realistic Fight Scenes (Part One)

Now go and revise those fight scenes in your own WIP. Don't forget your tinfoil hat...


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