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Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

The Dreaded Fight Scenes

Cats playing or fightingAKA Why can’t we all just get along?

I admit it. I hate writing fight scenes. Dread them, even. I don’t like reading them, either. My mind sort of glazes over, waiting to get back to the “good stuff,” also known as the part where they aren’t fighting any more. But I write action and adventure and super heroes, and these genres NEED fight scenes. So I’ve had to buckle down and write them, whether I want to or not.

I’m still not sure that I’m very good at fight scenes. I tend to try to keep them very short–no long, drawn out battles for me. And since most of my characters are working from a moral center that says killing is wrong, they tend to be combats that simply subdue the opposing force. But that can be tricky in and of itself, since you want to have the characters use enough force to stop the bad guys, but not too much force. So it’s a balancing act.

I have figured out a couple of tricks, though, that might help others who are struggling with writing combat scenes.

  1. Play it out with action figures! If you’re having trouble getting the blocking of a scene right, grab a handful of action figures (or miniatures, or whatever you have available) and move them through the fight. This can especially help when you have a lot of combatants that you need to account for.
  2. Sketch it out like stage directions first! This is actually a recommendation from my friend Amanda, who has a lot of theater background, including script work. She writes out her combat scenes as though she were writing stage directions, and then goes back to fill in the actual narrative scene later.
  3. Just write it, and fix it later! This is not too far off from Amanda’s suggestion, but this is often my approach. I just get the basics of what needs to happen on paper, and then flesh it out more on a second pass. I find that a sort of pre-writing of the combat can help me get what needs to be there structured in a way that makes it easier for me to write on a second pass through.

If you’ve got more suggestions on how to make writing fight scenes easier, I’d love to hear them!

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