How to Write a Fight Scene If You Aren’t a Fighter

Fight Scene Example 2
Fight scenes are great if you know what you are doing.  If you don’t they come off as fake and those who know will notice it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


So you are writing an action story or a novel requiring a fight scene or two but if someone were to raise their fists in your direction you would flinch and probably run away.

What to do?

The answer to this is more simple than you might think.  I’m not asking (by any means) that you go pick a fight with someone and see what might happen, or I suppose you could drudge up a painful memory of when you were beaten at recess on a middle school play yard…but why do that?

In my last novel This Broken Earth, I had to write about a fight between a seasoned veteran special forces soldier and a very experienced, hard edged survivalist who had spent several years living in an apocalyptic landscape.  I can tell you that I am neither, but I wanted the fight to seem real to a reader, so I consulted an expert.  A friend is a former Navy SEAL who set me straight about how the fight would go down, and in the process I learned something about hand-to-hand combat: get it over quickly.

Here are a few suggestions you can try in order to make your fight scenes more realistic:

1.  Consult an Expert – I’m sure there is a recruiting office nearby or you know a soldier or there is a martial arts studio that might yield an ample fighter to interview.  Usually U.S. Navy recruiting offices have a SEAL scout handy who would love to talk to you about it. Tell the expert what you are trying to accomplish with your fight scene and the assumed fighting abilities of the two (or more) combatants.  They will be able to give you some blow by blow descriptions that you can translate into awesome fist-to-cuffs.

2.  MMA – Maybe your two fighters are pretty good in your narrative and you just need a good old fashioned street fight.  All you have to do is pop on over to YouTube and search for “MMA Fights” and you will find a host of some of the most gritty (and very real) throw-downs in history.  Slow them down and watch each move, transcribing them into your novel.

3.  Action Movies – I’m an action movie geek.  I have tons of these from the Die Hard films to The Expendables to the awesomely hard-core KSE Method used in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  I love to slow some of my favorite fights down and then do what I can to capture that in print.

Some things to remember when writing fight scenes:

1.  Don’t describe them blow for blow.  Give the reader time to rest between each punch and kick and eye gouge.  If you go too heavy with the description of the fight it ruins the art of writing about it.

2.  Temper your fight with descriptions of the emotions of the fighters.  How do they feel as they are getting outmatched or when they find an opponent’s weakness?  This must exist in the text or it is nothing but a play by play.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

One thought on “How to Write a Fight Scene If You Aren’t a Fighter

  1. This is an interesting topic I don’t see much in the writing blogs. Good suggestions. My last fight was in 8th grade, and that was longer ago than I care to admit.

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