Writing a Fight Scene

It’s been a long journey, but I’ve finally reached the last section of my novel, Cradlesnatch, and what I need to do now is write a fabulous ending. In an adventure story that usually means writing a kick-ass fight scene.

However, I’ve been having a bit of difficulty getting it on paper, so I decided to step back and ponder how best to go about things.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.


Storytelling is, in part, the art of painting a picture in someone else’s head. To do that you need to have a firm idea of what that picture is. Spending as much time at my desk with my eyes shut as I do with them open seems be becoming a norm with me. Acting out each dagger thrust, listening to each line of dialogue, watching the expressions on my characters’ faces. If I can see it, then that gives the reader a much better chance of seeing it too.


It goes further. A good story involves the reader in the emotions of its characters, and to do that a writer needs to dig deep. Simply viewing a scene visually isn’t enough, we need to know what our characters are feeling. An analogy would be the difference between sitting in a cinema watching a film, and being the actor performing in it.

Physical Presence

An actor performs using the whole of their body. In a similar way, a written character feels more three dimensional when a sense of their physical presence is created on the page. If a character is slapped, shaken, or hit in the face, how does his body react? Does his cheek sting? Can he feel his opponent’s fingers dig into his shoulder? Does the ache in his jawbone throb? Using a character’s five senses helps bring them to life in the reader’s mind.

Make the Reader Worry

Having drawn the reader in, it’s time to get them shouting from the side lines. Two men fighting is okay, but if they’re fighting inside a burning building which may collapse at any moment it’s a lot more exciting. An imagined danger can hold more thrill than one we see directly. Let the reader know all the horrible things which may happen. Show them the danger.


Have you ever finished a story and got the feeling the writer wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible? It can feel like you’ve been short changed. But maybe in the excitement of writing their final scenes they simply forgot to pace things out.

A good piece of advice I read many years ago is to make sure dramatic scenes include lines of action, description, dialogue, and thought. One after the other, or mixed up a little, but ensure they are fairly proportioned. All action and dialogue and the scene will run too fast. All description and thought and the scene won’t have the impetus it needs.

Action and dialogue are great for translating the way you visualise a scene, and thought and description are a good place to explore all that emotional depth and physical presence.

If you have enjoyed this post – you might like to see how I put my methods into practice in my other work by reading SNAP by Lizzie Hexter, available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.au, iTunes and Kobo.

4 thoughts on “Writing a Fight Scene

  1. russellbittner says:


    Good analysis!

    What you say here about a fight scene, by the way, is every bit as true about a love-making scene. The action may be more subtle, but the thoughts and emotions resulting from the act of coitus — whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory — may be just as riveting (and, for the reader, just as — or even more — exhausting).


    • Hey up, we’re getting very ’50 Shades of Grey’. You don’t tend to get many sex scenes in children’s books (which is what I write), so I shall take your word for it and say no more.

  2. Jared McVay says:

    The way I see it and write it is: Just let things happen as they will and write down what you see in your head making whatever happens be true to the characters involved. Use the KISS system. Don’t over think your story or characters. Let them be real and react to the situation as is real to their nature… That’s it…..
    Jared McVay, actor, writer, storyteller

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