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How do I write a good battle scene?

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Tue Apr 06, 2021 5:34 pm
hannah0528 says...

have a lot of suffering and pain. I suggest that it isn't super fast, it is long and hard
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Sun Apr 18, 2021 6:12 pm
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winterwolf0100 says...

Heyyo! So I am by no means a full expert on this topic but here are a few things I’ve picked up from other writers:

—Everything needs to make sense. A reader will not want to stop reading to go back and reread. It will really take them out of the moment. So make things more simple or understandable. (AKA, don’t use this as a time to show off your fighting vocabulary. A few new words being explained is okay, but if the reader is constantly stopping to look up a word, then it’s not working.)

—It’s okay to use big vocabulary— but not too much. I’m not just talking weapons and fighting techniques. I’m talking everything. Fighting scenes are fast-paced, so the reader is going to read it faster. Too many big and “fancy” words takes away from the quickness, sharpness, and roughness of a fighting scene.

—Short sentences. They are your friend. For actions, avoid complex sentences with colons, semicolons, or dashes. “I slashed upward; then, I ran to the edge of the cliff and turned to face them again before blocking their strike.” Reads worse than “I slashed upward, then ran to the edge of the cliff. I turned to face them again and blocked their strike.” It just feels more quick, even if they’re relatively the same length, and in a battle scene, people want quick movements so they can imagine it in their head.

—Descriptions: these can either help or kill you. You need some description because you can’t only read short action sentences. But if you add too much, it’s going to turn from a battle scene to your character observing a battle scene. You’ll have to figure out how to balance it.

So those are just some of the main things I’ve discovered work for me. I’ll tag two people who are pretty experienced and knowledgeable on battle scenes and I’m sure they could give more advice if they’re interested, but I hope this helps!

(@AstralHunter, @TinkerTwaggy, feel free to weigh in if you guys have any differing ideas or opinions!)

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Tue May 18, 2021 8:42 pm
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mellifera says...

Hey Niki!

I've written a fair share of my own battle/action scenes, and they're definitely tricky to get used to! They feel clunkier than any other kind of scene— And that's ok!

First and foremost, the information you're giving your reader needs to be clear. Is what you're writing easy to understand for the reader? Does it flow well? Are you putting in information that you need for the scene or, to counter that, are you putting in information you don't need?

Action scenes read faster than other scenes. If your character is exploring a new place, say an abandoned cathedral, you can take the time to describe the setting because the pace is slower. In action scenes, this kills the pace. Fight scenes happen fast because they are faster than most scenes, and the way you write them/the rate of events that happen during them needs to reflect that. How you write, and what you choose to incorporate in any scene will affect how that scene is read/how fast the events are absorbed and therefore taken in by your reader (which is typically why you want to describe what happens during a pause in dialogue rather than just saying "they paused" or, similarly, follow an interruption in dialogue immediately with the interruption rather than telling the reader there's an interruption).

This isn't to say that every sentence should be really short and choppy, because that becomes mechanical and will kill the reader's interest in the scene. You still need to vary your sentence structure and length so it isn't "predictable". But you don't want to include sweeping description or use long or flashy vocabulary here, because that is going to make your reader pause or stumble through the scene, which if not what you want during an action scene. You can include description (of course you want to include description), but you have to think about what your character is going to be noticing. A character will probably notice, at least in the background, the noise of swords clanging together or sweat dripping into their eyes, but they aren't going to look and think about the watering can on a nearby table or some colourful graffiti on a nearby wall.

It's also worth thinking about injuries as well! The character might not notice pain if they're amped up on adrenaline, but maybe they're trying to run away from someone and they're leg is injured and they're getting tired. They probably do notice the pain there, because it might be an obstacle in their goal (to escape) and some creative measures might need to be taken to readjust how that escape happens.

Fight scenes take getting used to (I still sometimes feel awkward writing action or battle scenes even though I've done it for years, but I take into account the feedback I've gotten and it's way less tedious than it ever used to be). They almost always are going to be more clunky than other types of scenes, but that's just how they're structured. That doesn't mean they're bad at all. You just have to get a feel for them!
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