Rayne Hall’s 10 Tricks For Realistic Fight Scenes
Ten tricks to make your fight scene realistic
by Rayne Hall
Do you want your fight scene to be realistic? Before you say yes, consider what your readers want. In most genres, readers want entertaining fight scenes, brimming with excitement, where heroes and villains display amazing skills. Real fights are nasty, brutal and quick.
As a writer, you may need to create a compromise: a fight scene that entertains but feels realistic. I suggest you create an illusion of reality. Here are ten techniques how to achieve this.
1. Spatial restrictions – Your scene will gain realism if you show how the available space limits the fighting: Perhaps the ceiling is too low to swing the sword overhead, or the cop heroine can’t risk shooting at the bad guy because he’s standing in front of the wall, which could lead to bullet ricochet and kill innocent bystanders.
2. The ground underfoot – Inject a realistic flavour with a single sentence: simply mention what the ground feels like underfoot. What’s the ground like: Persian rugs? Concrete? Lawn? Uneven planks of splintered wood? Hard, firm, soft, squishy, muddy, wet, slippery, wobbling, cluttered, sloping? The ground may even affect the fighting: the heroine may slip on the rain-slicked asphalt or stumble across the edge of a rug.
3. Close-up vision – During the fight, the point-of-view character sees only what’s immediately before him: his opponent’s face, his opponent’s hands, his opponent’s weapon. If he takes his attention off what’s immediately before him, he’ll be dead. Therefore, don’t show the distant sunset and an overview of how the fighting progresses at the other end of the battlefield.
4. Little Or No Dialogue – Avoid dialogue during the fight. The fighters need to concentrate their attention on staying alive, and can’t spare a thought for conversation. Panting with effort, they don’t have breath to spare for verbal banter. Any talking should happen before the fighting starts. If you really need dialogue during the fight, use very short and incomplete sentences, because these convey the breathlessness and sound real.
5. No time for thinking – Your PoV doesn’t think while he fights. His mind is totally focused on the action. He can’t think about anything else: not about about his loved ones back home, not about the futility of war, not even about fighting strategy. Any thinking would be a distraction that costs his life. Share his thoughts about strategy before the fighting starts, and his profound insights once the fight is over.
6. Believable skills – The fighters can use only skills they possess. A heroine without martial arts training can’t defeat her opponent with an uppercut and a roundhouse kick. Unarmed combat and fighting with weapons requires practice. Establish beforehand what fighting skills the protagonist has, for example by showing her in an earlier scene dusting her shelf of karate trophies.
7. Sounds – Mention the noises of the fight: the pinging of bullets, the clanking of swords, the sharp snap of breaking bone, the screams and gurgles of the dying. Sounds create realism as well as excitement.
8. Real weapons – Make sure your fighters use weapons which existed in that period, and that they use those weapons in plausible ways. Not every sword can split a skull, not every gun allows accurate shooting at a distance. If you invent a weapon, model it on real weapons, and keep it simple.
9. – Fighting hurts. Your PoV character must feel the pain of the blows and cuts. During the fight, the rush of adrenaline may dull the pain, and the real pain kicks in when the action is over. Real fighting also leads to injuries, and your hero needs to sustain some cuts and bruises, at least.
10. Aftermath – Once the fight is over, add a paragraph describing the aftermath: the survivors assess the carnage, mourn their friends, bandage their wounds, repair their weapons. The adrenaline has worn off and the pain kicks in. The air is filled with strong smells, including cordite in case of a gun fight, and urine and faeces because bladders and bowels give way in death.
When deciding how realistic to make your fight scene, consider your genre. In a hard-boiled thriller, you can use a lot of realism, including brutal violence and gore, but in a gentle romance, it’s better to play down the gory aspects and create just enough realism to suspend disbelief. From these ten tips, select the ones that suit your reader and your story.
More Fight Scene Tips
- Read thirteen mistakes to avoid when writing fight scenes, by Rayne Hall.
- Check out Rayne’s craft book, Writing Fight Scenes – Amazon | Smashwords.
- Read my review of Writing Fight Scenes.
About Rayne Hall
Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror Stories, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes, The World-Loss Diet, Writing about Villains and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).
She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.
Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.
Female Pirate with Sword, Illustration by Paul Davies. Copyright Rayne Hall.
Author portrait by Fawnheart. Copyright Rayne Hall.