How do you write a fight scene?

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Mira
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How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Mira » May 22nd, 2011, 3:56 pm

So, in the sex scene thread (where I think we wandered off into not How to write sex scene, but Whether to write a sex scene) we also talked about the dynamics of writing fight scenes.

I admit, this is one of the things I scratch my head over. I think that may partly be because I don't like violence. But it's possible to write a non-violent fight scene, right?

But the mechanics of it ellude me. What do you do? Do you just say "he did this" and then "the other guy did that". Is it just back and forth?

Not a strength of mine!

Any thoughts?

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Quill » May 22nd, 2011, 4:06 pm

Mira wrote:So, in the sex scene thread (where I think we wandered off into not How to write sex scene, but Whether to write a sex scene) we also talked about the dynamics of writing fight scenes.

I admit, this is one of the things I scratch my head over. I think that may partly be because I don't like violence. But it's possible to write a non-violent fight scene, right?

But the mechanics of it ellude me. What do you do? Do you just say "he did this" and then "the other guy did that". Is it just back and forth?

Not a strength of mine!

Any thoughts?
Fade to black eye?

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Guardian » May 22nd, 2011, 4:13 pm

Fight scenes used to be one of the strongest parts of my works, so here is how I used to do. I always imagine a choreography. I always know and tell what the characters see, hear and feel. If you can describe these elements, you must connect them properly to give dynamism to it and... and that's all. :) So simply write it as any other scene.
But it's possible to write a non-violent fight scene, right?
Yes, it's possible. Apply the very same. The diffrence between violent and non-violent fight scene is one point, where the characters are interacting with each other. Every fight scene is working on the following way (Just as in the reality).

A - What you see
B - What you hear
C - What you feel (Intuition included)
D - How you and / or the other person is acting for the first time. Who acts first (First reactions).
E - Counter-reaction from your part or from the part of the other person (This can be violent and non-violent.).

So the only difference between violent and non-violent fight scene is the E point. Of course you can change these points anytime, switch them or leave some of them.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by polymath » May 22nd, 2011, 5:02 pm

Define the purpose of the fight scene related to the plot, whether it's an outcome or a complication. If a complication, then it's a cause of further problems and therefore effects. If it's an outcome, than it's a last cause and final effect of a main dramatic complication.

Also define who the reporter of the scene is. A bystander or a participant in the moment of the fight or a narrator reporting from some remove in time and place.

The standard writing modes come into play: action, sensation, conversation, introspection, and emotion. Also, cause precedes effect. Define the first cause of the fight in those terms. Why are they fighting? Ask and answer all the W questions. Who, what, when, where, why, and how.

A sketch of a fight scene I witnessed.

Two guys talking congenially in a back alley bar. They discuss who's the local title holder for street kick boxing. The building is brick inside and out, two-story, used to be a bakery fifty-some years before. There's a dying fire in the hearth in one corner. Weeknight, the bartender/owner biker chick closes the bar earlier than state mandated cutoff time. It's a slow night. The patrons spill out into the parking lot. Some wander off to other bars, home, wherever. Some stand around to watch the guys decide who's the title holder.

They pogo jump in the back alley, ropa-doping, pump their fists at waist height. They practice punches jabbing at the air, practice swing and sweep kicks. "First blood?" the guy I know says. "First man down," the other says. They agree, and by tacit consent it's no blows barred, gentlemanly taken as given the genitals are off limits.

Mick, the guy I know, pogos toward Dave. Dave sweep kicks. Mick dodges the kick aimed at his head. "Oh ho," Mick says, "nice reach." Mick backpedals.

Dave's turn to close, give away a piece of strategy. He steps in and turn kicks. Mick sidesteps the blow aimed at his ribs. He lands a jab on Dave's jaw. Both men backpedal. Dave spits blood, shakes his head, "Good one."

They close and feint, backpedal, pogo, jab and kick. Back and forth. A few blows land. Both men's mouths bleed. Mick has a cut over his brow. Dave's chin drips blood.

They spar for as long as it takes a busybody neighbor to call the police. Sirens wail. Everyone scurries, roaches surprised out on the middle of a kitchen floor.

I follow Mick to another bar with later service hours. A spectator follows us. He runs up behind Mick and claps him on the back of the head. Glass shatters and sparkles under a street lamp. Mick drops dead to the street. The asswipe runs off chuckling. Mick is breathing, moaning, out cold, an ugly dent in his head. I go into the waterfront bar we were headed to. Call an ambulance. The police come. Mick sustained a concusion. He was back at work the next day salvaging and rescuing stranded pleasure boaters. Mick paid a disturbing the peace fine. No one else got caught up. The title was undecided.
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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by dios4vida » May 22nd, 2011, 8:31 pm

I definitely stick in my POV character's head for a fight scene. I don't give an overview of what happened, I tell it all from what they experience. In order to ramp up tension I give all of their fears and emotions. Adrenaline highs can be a great way to drag the reader into the action. I find that the further I can get into their mental/emotional state, the better the scenes read. And it eliminates a lot of the need for "he did this, he did that" because it turns to "He barely ducked under the swing of the blade, and his heart raced at the sound of it passing so close to his ear. A desperate parry kept his arm attached to his body. Adrenaline was pumping so fast that he didn't think. He just reacted." (Course, this is just off the top of my head so I know it needs some refinement. You get the idea.)
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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Mike R » May 22nd, 2011, 9:55 pm

dios4vida wrote:I definitely stick in my POV character's head for a fight scene. I don't give an overview of what happened, I tell it all from what they experience. In order to ramp up tension I give all of their fears and emotions. Adrenaline highs can be a great way to drag the reader into the action. I find that the further I can get into their mental/emotional state, the better the scenes read. And it eliminates a lot of the need for "he did this, he did that" because it turns to "He barely ducked under the swing of the blade, and his heart raced at the sound of it passing so close to his ear. A desperate parry kept his arm attached to his body. Adrenaline was pumping so fast that he didn't think. He just reacted." (Course, this is just off the top of my head so I know it needs some refinement. You get the idea.)

That. Exactly that!

Stay in the pov character. Switch pov characters in the middle if you need to but stay in a character's head. Give us the ick, the fear, the rush. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by SingingFlames » May 23rd, 2011, 2:18 pm

My writing changes depending on the character who's narrating the scene. One character of mine is an experienced fighter and purposely provotes fights (yeah, he's a charmer). From his POV, he notices details like the other person's stance, how he/she swings and he reacts to those details. Another character has no self defense training. She misses details and sometimes doesn't see strikes coming or can't react to them in time. Most of her sentences are more clipped than his to show more tension. He has some short sentences too, but not near as many as she does. He is usually in more control of the situation, even when he's outmatched. It all comes down to the characters' experiences and how they react.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Emily J » May 23rd, 2011, 10:05 pm

One of the oldest pieces of advice batted around is the old "write what you know."

I'm not sure how many of us have actually been in a fight but all I can imagine now is a Fight Club scenario in which an author seeks out brawls to better understand the source material. lol.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by medussa74 » May 23rd, 2011, 11:43 pm

In addition to the excellent suggestions already given, I'd say pay attention to the tempo of your writing too. Watch any given action movie, and most of the movement is going to be quick, with a few choice spots slowed down to accentuate.

Personally, I'd rather write a thousand fight scenes than one sex scene, lol.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Sommer Leigh » May 24th, 2011, 8:58 am

I hate writing fight scenes. I think if you're not careful they can have too much *stuff* going on in them that slows everything down and it feels like someone narrating what's happening, like a boxing match MC, rather than an actual fight. I think reall good fight scenes pay closer attention to the tempo and pace than anything else and they make sure tha the momentum of the very physical scene is constantly propelled forward.
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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Watcher55 » May 24th, 2011, 10:06 am

Random thoughts on fights

A fight is just another kind of intercourse (duh-huh – he said…). I start by approaching it as a dialogue; indeed a fight without dialogue bores me.

Batman type sound effects are like spices, the wrong one is disastrous and even a little too much is too much. They should bring out the taste and smell of blood and sweat (“BAM” – as Emeril would say).

I suspect I’m like everyone else when it comes to choreography. It’s the toughest part. I just remind myself that a fight is not a boxing match and I’m not Howard Cosell. A fight is (at least at some level) raw nastiness. Nasty doesn’t need a blow by blow account. It just needs center stage. Why (even if the question is left to the reader) a character is pounding someone’s face has to harmonize with the how of it. More often than not, I think, the how should take a back seat to the why.

Most importantly in my mind, is that when I’m writing a fight scene, I’m killing my characters (even if just a little). "Victory" comes with a price that can seldom be paid in full.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Cookie » May 24th, 2011, 10:32 am

I agree with Sommer and Watcher. If I'm reading a fight scene that is a blow by blow account--he did this then he did this and she did this--my eyes start to glaze over.

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Margo » May 24th, 2011, 12:43 pm

Cookie wrote:I agree with Sommer and Watcher. If I'm reading a fight scene that is a blow by blow account--he did this then he did this and she did this--my eyes start to glaze over.
Yep, very similar to sex scenes. The mechanics of sex or violence don't make a scene all by themselves. The POV gives it context and sensory texture, but it should be context and detail and emotion only that POV can provide, in the tone of that particular character, intimately attached to who that character is and what his/her conflicts are.
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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Mira » May 25th, 2011, 11:53 am

These are really great! Very helpful - I appreciate the input.

Thanks much, guys!

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Re: How do you write a fight scene?

Post by Chantelle.S. » June 4th, 2011, 5:59 pm

It's been said before but I thought I'd elaborate on it a little bit: a fight scene is just like every other scene you'll write.
You put your props in place, you create the ambience of the scene, you dress up your characters, and you outline the scene.
Then you add the choreography. He punches, she ducks, she kicks, he staggers.
Then you throw in the elements that bring a scene to life: taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, temperature. Put yourself in your character's shoes and be IN the fight yourself. Even if you've never actually been in one, all writers have imagination, and now would be a good time to use it.

I might be a bit biased about it, though. I'm a major MMA fan. :S
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