Writing fights scenes can be as thrilling as they are challenging.
Creating intense action sequences, engaging characters, and vivid settings requires meticulous planning and execution.
Here are my best tips for writing fight scenes:
Write fight scenes by starting with a dramatic hook and establishing stakes. Balance fast action with detailed moments. For realism, do thorough research and consider emotional aspects. In fantasy or superhero settings, define power limitations and emphasize emotional stakes.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to describe fight scenes in writing.
35 Best Tips for Writing Fight Scenes (That Readers Love)
Whether you’re penning a historical war or an epic fantasy, the following 35 tips will help elevate your fight scenes to unforgettable experiences.
Get ready to unleash the warrior in your words.
1. Clash of Titans: The Importance of Scale
Sometimes, size does matter.
Understanding the scale of your fight is vital for delivering an engaging experience.
If it’s a skirmish between two rival gang leaders, the intimacy and grit will be the focus.
On the other hand, an epic clash between galactic empires will have monumental stakes and grandiose displays of power.
Example: In Lord of the Rings, the Battle of Helm’s Deep feels incredibly intense because of the scale.
A small number of defenders are trying to hold off an overwhelming force, making every moment suspenseful. It’s not just about clashing swords but the survival of a way of life.
2. Architects of War: Build the Battlefield
Your battlefield (or fight zone) is more than just a backdrop – it’s a character in its own right.
Whether it’s the muddy fields of medieval Europe or an asteroid in outer space, the setting affects tactics, emotions, and outcomes.
Don’t just mention it—describe it in a way that adds another layer to your fight scenes.
Example: In George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, the Battle of the Bastards takes place in an open field but it’s the mud, the trenches, and the wall of bodies that make it memorable and affect the combat.
These features become tactical elements that characters use to gain an advantage or suffer setbacks.
3. The Echo Chamber: Sensory Storytelling
Fight scenes are a sensory overload.
The smell of gunpowder or the clang of steel, the touch of rain or the sight of blood – these details pull readers into the action.
Incorporate as many senses as you can to provide a full, immersive experience.
Example: In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the arena is described not just visually but through the smells, the feeling of the ground underfoot, and the ambient sounds around.
When arrows fly or traps are sprung, all senses are engaged, making readers feel like they’re right there in the battle.
4. Quicksilver Moments: Pacing
Pacing is the heartbeat of your fight scene.
Too slow, and it becomes a slog. Too fast, and you lose emotional impact.
Break up long, descriptive passages with short, punchy sentences to maintain a rhythmic flow.
Use cliffhangers at the end of chapters to keep your reader turning pages.
Example: In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the Battle of Hogwarts varies in pacing.
It has breathless moments where spells are flying quickly but slows down for emotional depth when characters we love are in peril or make sacrifices.
5. Choreographed Chaos: Balancing Actions
Balancing the action means knowing when to detail a sword swing and when to pull back for a panoramic view.
You don’t need to describe every parry and thrust, but focusing on key actions can accentuate the drama and tension.
Alternate between zooming in for small but significant actions and zooming out to give a broader picture of the battlefield.
Example: In the film adaptation of The Matrix, Neo’s showdown with Agent Smith is a perfect blend of detailed close-ups and wide shots that capture both the intricacy of their fight and the scale of the destruction around them.
6. Masters of Deception: Misdirection and Strategy
Good battle scenes aren’t just a showcase of brute strength.
They involve strategy, deception, and sometimes even a bit of luck.
Plant seeds for surprises or turns of events that will shock the reader and heighten the stakes. When a battle looks like it’s going in one direction, a clever tactical move can flip it on its head.
Think of the fight scenes in the John Wick, Bourne Identity, or Fast and the Furious franchises.
Example: In Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Ender wins a simulated battle by doing the unexpected—attacking the planet directly instead of its surrounding forces.
It’s a shocking move that surprises both the characters and the readers.
7. Dive into the POV: Perspective and Focus
The point of view (POV) you choose can greatly affect the reader’s emotional engagement.
Close third-person or first-person perspectives can offer intimate, ground-level experiences, while an omniscient POV can provide a grand, sweeping overview of the fight.
You can even switch between multiple POVs to show different facets of the conflict.
Example: Bernard Cornwell often uses a tight third-person perspective in his historical novels, making you feel every sword clash and see every drop of sweat, grounding you in the intense emotions and physicality of the characters involved.
8. Orchestra of War: Crafting a Soundscape
Fight scenes are noisy affairs, filled with shouts, clangs, and roars.
But what sounds dominate your particular scene? The cadence of marching boots? The pop-pop-pop of gunfire? The rustling of arrows?
Identifying and incorporating a specific “soundtrack” into your scene can deeply influence the reader’s experience.
Example: In Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan uses the ticking of a watch and a gradually intensifying soundtrack to create a sense of urgency and tension.
Similarly, you can use the sounds in your battle to heighten the emotional stakes and keep readers on the edge of their seat.
9. The Dance of Death: Choreographing Duels
Individual fights or duels are often highlights in a story.
These moments need to be choreographed carefully.
Every move, block, and strike should reveal something about the characters involved, whether it’s their skill level, emotional state, or underlying motivations.
Example: In Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, the duels aren’t just fights – they are conversations in combat, revealing character traits, alliances, and enmities.
Each clash of swords is a statement, each parry a counter-argument.
10. Bravery and Blunders: Showcasing Character Flaws
Nobody is perfect, and fight scenes are the perfect place to let those imperfections shine.
Maybe your hero misjudges a swing or the villain gets overconfident.
These mistakes make the characters relatable and the outcome unpredictable.
Example: In the Star Wars saga, Anakin Skywalker’s overconfidence becomes his downfall in his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
His flaw doesn’t just make for an exciting fight. It also serves as a pivotal character moment.
11. The Fog of War: Creating Confusion and Uncertainty
In real battles, confusion and lack of information are often as dangerous as the enemy.
Apply the “fog of war” to your scenes by obscuring certain facts or presenting misleading information, creating suspense and uncertainty for both the characters and the readers.
Example: In Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, the protagonist, Robert Jordan, has to make decisions based on incomplete or conflicting information, adding a layer of tension and uncertainty to the already chaotic battlefield.
12. Emotional Highs and Lows: The Rollercoaster Ride
Battle scenes can be physically exhausting to read if they’re not broken up by changes in emotional intensity.
Moments of hope, despair, love, and loss can provide much-needed respite and deepen the reader’s emotional investment in the outcome.
Example: In the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings, the emotional low point occurs when all hope seems lost.
But then Gandalf arrives with reinforcements, providing an emotional high that changes the tide of battle.
13. Art of the Underdog: Flip the Odds
Everyone loves a good underdog story.
There’s something inherently satisfying about a small or ill-equipped group overcoming overwhelming odds
If you’re writing such a scenario, focus on resourcefulness, bravery, and a bit of good luck to make the victory believable.
Example: In 300 by Frank Miller, a small force of Spartans fights against overwhelming Persian forces.
Despite their eventual defeat, their bravery and tactics inspire future generations, turning the battle itself into a legend.
14. Fleeting Moments: Capture Small Victories and Defeats
In any fight scene, there are minor victories and setbacks that occur before the final outcome.
These give depth to your fight scene and keep your readers engaged by creating a dynamic ebb and flow of action.
Example: In Saving Private Ryan, each secured building or cleared trench gives the soldiers a momentary win, but each casualty they take is a minor defeat.
These ups and downs keep the audience invested in the unfolding battle.
15. Cosmic Consequences: The Bigger Picture
Sometimes a fight is about more than just the combatants involved.
It has broader implications for a community, a nation, or even a world.
Remind your readers what’s at stake on a grand scale to elevate the emotional intensity.
Example: In Avengers: Endgame, the final battle is about the fate of the entire universe.
This broadens the scope and stakes of the conflict, making every punch and kick feel significant.
16. Stakes and Sacrifices: What’s to Lose and Gain
Physical conflict is only part of the fight.
Internal conflict can also ratchet up the tension.
Make it clear what your characters stand to gain or lose emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically, adding another layer to the physical stakes.
Example: In Les Misérables, the barricade scenes become a crucible for the characters’ beliefs, hopes, and relationships.
This adds emotional weight to the physical conflict.
17. The Aftermath: Consequences of Battle
A fight changes a landscape, both physically and emotionally.
Don’t cut away as soon as the action stops. Show the aftermath.
Whether it’s the jubilant victors, the wounded, or the dead, the way you describe what remains can be as impactful as the fight itself.
Example: In War and Peace, Tolstoy doesn’t shy away from detailing the grim aftermath of battle, describing the wounded, the dead, and the psychological toll on the survivors.
This adds a poignant, humanizing touch to the grand tapestry of war he describes.
18. Rhythm of the Fight: Sentence Structure Matters
The way you construct your sentences can directly affect the reader’s experience of the battle.
Short, choppy sentences can increase the tempo and create a sense of urgency.
Meanwhile, longer, more complex sentences can be used to describe grand strategies or intricate maneuvers.
Example: In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, the violence is often rendered in short, brutal sentences that mimic the abrupt nature of combat.
This contrasts sharply with longer, more poetic descriptions that capture the setting or the characters’ internal thoughts.
19. Gods of War: The Role of Divine Intervention
In certain settings, especially those influenced by mythology or fantasy elements, divine intervention can play a crucial role.
Perhaps a god favors one of the warriors, or an ancient prophecy is being fulfilled on the battlefield.
These elements can add another layer of complexity to your scenes.
Example: In Homer’s Iliad, the gods not only watch the battle but actively participate, supporting their chosen champions and even rescuing them from mortal danger.
This injects an entirely different set of tactics and considerations to the human conflict below.
20. Nature’s Wrath: Environmental Challenges
Don’t forget that Mother Nature can be as much a part of a fight as any soldier or weapon.
Elements like rain, snow, and fog can add complications that make your fight scenes richer and more unpredictable.
Example: In the Battle of Agincourt as described in Shakespeare’s Henry V, the muddy field plays a significant role in hampering the French knights, giving the English longbowmen an advantage.
The weather becomes as much an enemy as the opposing army.
21. Tragic Turns: Unexpected Casualties
Sometimes, a well-loved character’s death can serve as a dramatic turning point in the fight.
Unexpected casualties can shock the reader and characters alike, raising the stakes and adding emotional depth to the conflict.
Example: In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Sirius Black’s sudden death in the middle of battle comes as a shock, fundamentally changing Harry’s experience and emotional state for the remainder of the fight.
22. Micro-Moments: Zooming into Emotional Beats
Even in the midst of chaos, small, intimate moments can be impactful.
A soldier’s reaction to an order, a shared glance between comrades, or even a quick flashback can offer a reprieve from the action and add emotional richness.
Example: In Band of Brothers, during the intense battles, there are moments where the camera zooms in on individual soldiers reacting to events around them.
Fear, a quick decision, or a moment of relief – these micro-moments make the larger battle more personal.
23. Symbols and Metaphors: Layered Meanings
Symbols, such as flags, sacred relics, or significant locations, can add deeper meaning to your fight scenes.
They can serve as rallying points, sources of inspiration, or even elements of division and conflict within your ranks.
Example: In The Lord of the Rings, the banner of the White Tree serves as a powerful symbol for Gondor’s fighters.
Its appearance on the battlefield lifts the spirits of the allies and provides a focus that transcends the immediate physical conflict.
24. The Fog Clears: Moments of Clarity
In the midst of chaos, a moment of clarity for your characters can be a powerful narrative device.
This can be a sudden realization of love, the clarity of their cause, or even a flash of brilliant strategy that could turn the tide of battle.
Example: In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo reaches a moment of clarity during his final battle with Agent Smith.
His realization about the interconnectedness of their existences allows him to make a crucial decision that ultimately ends the war.
25. Words as Weapons: The Power of Dialogue
Even in fight scenes, dialogue is crucial.
From rallying cries to verbal sparring between enemies, the words your characters choose can be as impactful as any physical weapon.
Example: In Braveheart, William Wallace’s pre-battle speech does more than just rally his troops.
It serves to crystallize the stakes of the battle and provides a focal point for the reader, establishing the emotional weight of what’s to come.
26. Unlikely Heroes: Spotlight on Minor Characters
Sometimes, minor characters can steal the spotlight in a fight.
They might save the day, make the ultimate sacrifice, or simply provide comic relief.
Giving minor characters moments to shine can add unexpected twists and emotional richness to your action scenes.
Example: In Game of Thrones, Podrick Payne, a minor character, has his moments of bravery and competence in battle.
Such moments provide depth to the larger conflict and contrast to the more established warriors.
27. Women Warriors and Mighty Maidens: Diversity in Combat Roles
Representation matters, even on the battlefield.
Including a diverse array of fighters—be it gender, ethnicity, or even species in fantasy settings—can make your battle scenes more inclusive and relatable to a wider audience.
Example: In Mulan, the titular character disguises herself as a man to fight for China.
Her presence on the battlefield challenges traditional gender roles, and her eventual triumph comes from leveraging her unique skills, rather than conforming to expected norms.
This attaches social commentary to the action.
28. The Morale Mechanism: Group Dynamics and Psychology
In a fight, the emotional and psychological state of a group can be as crucial as their physical prowess.
Describing shifts in morale, moments of collective doubt, or a sudden surge of courage can layer complexity on your scene.
Example: In Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series, the British soldiers often sing or use humor to boost morale.
The mood among the troops can shift rapidly depending on their situation, adding another element of tension and potential for reversal in the story.
29. Musical Mayhem: Incorporate Songs and Chants
In many cultures, music, chants, or hymns play a role in warfare.
From war drums to bugle calls to soldiers singing together, these can be powerful tools for setting the mood and deepening cultural context.
Example: In the historical film Zulu, British soldiers sing “Men of Harlech” to boost morale during the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.
This use of music blends cultural depth and an emotional layer to the already intense situation.
30. Tipping Point: The Moment Everything Changes
Every fight has a “tipping point”—a moment when the outcome swings clearly in one direction.
Identifying and amplifying this moment can provide a satisfying climax to the action.
Example: In the Battle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the moment Harry reveals he’s alive is a significant tipping point.
It reignites the will to fight among his allies, making the ultimate victory possible.
31. Unseen Hands: The Role of Non-Combatants
Not everyone on the battlefield is a warrior.
From medics to messengers to spectators, non-combatants can play important roles in your fight scenes, providing new perspectives and opportunities for heroism or tragedy.
Example: In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara is not a soldier.
But her experiences during the Battle of Atlanta provide a different, harrowing view of the conflict.
Her actions and observations add depth to our understanding of the battle’s impact.
32. A Spoonful of Humor: Light Moments in Dark Times
Even in the direst circumstances, a bit of humor can provide relief and humanize your characters.
A sarcastic quip, a ridiculous mishap, or just a moment of irony, humor can make your fight scenes more engaging and relatable.
Example: In Marvel’s The Avengers, Tony Stark’s quips during intense fight scenes serve to lighten the mood and endear his character to the audience.
His humor doesn’t downplay the stakes.
Instead, it adds another dimension to the action.
33. The David Strategy: Use of Ingenious Tactics
Sometimes, the underdog wins by using unconventional or surprising tactics.
Describing such ingenious strategies can not only make the battle more interesting but also showcase the cleverness of your characters.
Example: In Ender’s Game, Ender uses unconventional tactics to win battles in the Battle Room and, ultimately, against the alien Formics.
His innovative strategies make each confrontation intriguing and intellectually satisfying.
34. Echoes of History: Reference Real Battles
Drawing parallels to real historical battles can lend authenticity and depth to your fictional confrontations.
You can recreate a specific historical battle or just borrow elements from one.
Example: George R.R. Martin has stated that the Red Wedding in A Song of Ice and Fire was inspired by real events like the Black Dinner and the Massacre of Glencoe in Scottish history.
These historical echoes bring a chilling layer of realism to the shocking turn of events.
35. The Final Blow: Ending with a Bang (or a Whimper)
How your fight ends can be just as important as how it unfolds.
Will it end with a dramatic final showdown or an anti-climactic whimper?
The conclusion should serve the broader narrative and character arcs.
Example: In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the battle ends with Aslan’s dramatic return and victory over the White Witch, serving both the plot and the underlying allegorical elements of the story.
Here is a great video about how to write fight scenes:
How Do You Write a Superpower Fight Scene?
Fights between superheroes, spellcasters, or other supernatural entities require special care and consideration.
The Spectacle: Making the Impossible Possible
Superpower fights are where you can really let your imagination run wild.
Whether it’s magic, advanced technology, or otherworldly abilities, the sky’s the limit.
However, remember that every power should have limitations or a cost to keep the fight tense and engaging.
Example: In a superhero script, you might describe a character flying at supersonic speed to intercept a falling satellite, but then struggling with the immense heat and pressure.
- Create visually stunning moves or tactics.
- Define limitations or costs for each superpower.
Emotional Underpinning: More than Just a Showdown
Even a fight with the most dazzling superpowers can fall flat without an emotional core.
Why are these characters fighting? Is it just to save the day, or is there a deeper, personal reason?
By grounding the spectacle in emotion, you give your audience more reasons to care about the outcome.
Example: In Marvel’s Civil War, the fight between Captain America and Iron Man is impactful not just because of their superpowers but because of their fractured friendship.
- Insert emotional stakes or backstory to the fight.
- Use dialogue or flashbacks to add emotional depth.
By paying attention to these factors, from the initial setup to the emotional undertones, you can create battle scenes that are not just thrilling, but also emotionally resonant and memorable.
The key lies in balancing spectacle with substance.
30 Best Words for Describing a Battle Scene
30 Best Phrases for Describing a Battle Scene
- “A cacophony of clashing steel.”
- “Thundering hooves and battle cries.”
- “A dance of death and valor.”
- “Waves of arrows darkening the sky.”
- “Swords drawn and spirits unyielding.”
- “Grim faces set in determination.”
- “A torrent of blood and sorrow.”
- “A symphony of chaos and courage.”
- “Where valor meets its ultimate test.”
- “The ground slick with the blood of the fallen.”
- “Cannons roar, shaking heaven and earth.”
- “A storm of lead and fire.”
- “A whirlwind of slashes and parries.”
- “In a hailstorm of bullets.”
- “The sky ablaze with falling embers.”
- “Deafening blasts and piercing screams.”
- “The battlefield strewn with the fallen.”
- “A solemn dance on the edge of oblivion.”
- “The air thick with smoke and dread.”
- “A merciless rain of fire and fury.”
- “Eyes ablaze with unquenchable resolve.”
- “Soldiers advancing like a relentless tide.”
- “The thunderous clash of war drums.”
- “A wall of shields, unbreakable and resolute.”
- “The final charge, do or die.”
- “A desperate struggle, tooth and nail.”
- “Each strike fueled by adrenaline and fear.”
- “The silence before the storm of violence.”
- “Cutting through enemy lines like a hot knife through butter.”
- “The solemn tolling of the death knell.”
Final Thoughts: Tips for Writing Fight Scenes
Sometimes fight scenes explode into all out war or battle scenes.
Other times, they end with death, loss, and funerals. Whereover your story takes you, we have a guide to help you write it.
Check out some of our other articles below.