Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Things That Make You Go “Ugh!": Fight Scenes

Don’t get me wrong. Like any good anime watching, summer blockbuster movie-going, adventure/fantasy/sci-fi reading, ninja/superhero/vampire slayer loving gal, I love a great fight scene.

But writing them.


(Humor and violence: a winning combination.)

For me, they take more time and planning than any other type of scene. They have to be dynamically choreographed and fully visualized, and still have a beginning, middle and end. Then when I’ve done all that thorough thinking things through, I have to strip the language used to describe those sequences of action down to its clearest, most concise and most potent form so that the action flows and the scene reads quickly (because action scenes are not the place to wax poetic). It’s a lot of freakin’ work for a scene that in real time might only last a few minutes!

(One of the coolest Samurai Jack fight scenes EVER)

And the stuff I write almost always requires at least one fight scene, often more.

Oh, how I hem and haw and find so many other things to do (like writing a blog post) when I know I must sit down and think through a fight scene. I guess I’m still a little traumatized from the time I decided to write a fight scene spread across nine characters, five points of view, and multiple simultaneous points of conversion. That mess wore me out.

(If I were ever to make a list of favorite fight scenes, this one would definitely be somewhere near the top.)

Oh, but when it’s done! When the sequences within the scene escalate to an explosive climax! When you feel that he victor of the fight has really earned his or her bragging rights! Or, best of all, when someone tells you they couldn’t put those pages down…well, it kinda makes you want to write another fight scene.

What’s the one element of your stories that you hate writing but love having written?


  1. I actually feel the same way about fight scenes, particularly large-scale battle scenes. Since I'm a stickler for realism, they involve blood and mud and all sort of other unpleasantness. But once I'm done I'm usually quite pleased with the outcome.
    Oh, and sex scenes. Whenever I write one I feel like a creeper watching my characters get it on, so I generally don't.

  2. I suppose you could have them kiss and make up and not fight?

  3. Hi Cacy! I am the same about fight scenes. They are just so tricky! I prefer to get into one character's head and write from that point of view.

    SB, that's why I avoid large-scale battle scenes! Or, again, write them from one character's perspective. Also, it's funny you bring up sex scenes -- I feel exactly the same way about them. Way too much choreography!

  4. Yep I hear you. I guess on some level it's the fact that when you try and write one, you have to create a sense of urgency without it seeming fake or contrived. Not easy to do at all.

  5. SB - That's funny! I haven't written any full on sex scenes, but I can imagine that being a problem. lol.

    Cathy - Sure, but if they're Mr. and Mrs. Smith, they should still fight first, because it would be an epic fight.

    Jen- Yeah, staying inside one character's head is preferable, but sometimes I don't know what I've gotten myself into until after I've started going down a certain path, and then because I'm stubborn I have to see it out to the end.

    DU- You're right and its not easy, but SO worth it if you can pull it off.

  6. I haven't written any big fight scenes, but I do have a lot of action and small-level fight scenes - I actually love writing them... but then when I look back I realise they're not great. So I tinker and tinker... and when they're finally done, I'm really pleased. Language and flow and cadence is SO important for action scenes, it's worth trying to get it just right.

  7. Officially the longest comment response-time ever, but I agree, Girl Friday. The tinkering, it's what makes the WIP go round.