Thursday, 2 August 2012

Raise the Stakes - guest post by Rayne Hall

Please welcome the fabulous Rayne Hall to my blog, with some great tips on writing fight scenes.

Twelve Tricks to Make a Fight Scene Exciting

by Rayne Hall

Creating a good fight scene is one of the most challenging aspects of the writer's craft. Here are techniques on how to give your readers the thrill they expect from a fight:

1.  Give each fighter a compelling purpose and raise the stakes as high as possible. A heroine fighting for her life is more exciting than a heroine fighting for her purse, and a heroine fighting for her children's lives is more exciting still. If she fights for her purse, raise the stakes by making that purse important: it contains not only money, but the jackpot-winning lottery ticket, only photo of her abducted baby daughter, or evidence that her husband is innocent of the murder of which he stands accused. For her opponent, a street urchin, the stakes are also high:  the money in the purse will buy food for his starving baby sister, or gang members are assessing his performance to decide whether to accept him.

2.  Stack the odds against your protagonist: the more difficult the fight is for him, the more exciting it is for the reader. Give the opponent better weapons, greater strength, and other advantages.

3.  Use a location which is either unusual (a wine cellar, a cow shed, an artist's studio) or dangerous (a rope bridge across a ravine, a sinking ship)..

4.  Use deep point of view: let the reader experience the fight the way the PoV character experiences it. Keep to the PoV's vision (only what's immediately before him) and convey his emotions (fury, fear, hope, triumph).

5. Hearing, more than the other senses, creates excitement, so describe noises, especially the sounds of weapons (pinging bullets, hissing arrows, clanking swords).

6. Create fast pace by using short paragraphs, short sentences and short words.

7.  Verbs, more than other words, convey excitement: hack, slash, pierce, stab, race, jump, leap, drive, spin, punch, kick. Choose vivid verbs, and build your sentences around them.

8. Avoid blow-by-blow accounts: these soon get boring. Instead, show only the first few moves, as well as the decisive final ones, and for everything in between, focus on the direction of the fight ('Fired with new courage, she kicked and punched.' 'He drove her closer and closer to the cliff').

9.  In a long fight scene, let something unexpected happen (the hero loses his weapon and is forced to fight on with his bare hands, the hero's girlfriend comes to his aid,  the villain's henchmen join the fight, the bridge collapses, building bursts into flames). This event should change the fight, but it should not decide it.

10.  If your protagonist has a special skill - e.g. she's good at acrobatics, at oil painting or at basketball -  let her use this skill in a surprising way in the fight.

11. Create a 'black moment' when all seems lost. Then the protagonist recalls his purpose, rallies his courage, and fights on to win.

12  If the protagonist wins the fight, it must be from his own efforts, not because of a stroke of luck, divine intervention or outside interference.  Other people may help, but they must not decide the outcome.

If you have questions or further tips, or if you want advice for a fight scene, leave a comment. I'll be around for a week and will respond.

Rayne, thanks for stopping by. BTW, I've personally read, and can recommend her book on writing fight scenes. You can check out my review for it here.


Learn step-by-step how to create fictional fights which leave the reader breathless with excitement.
The book gives you a six-part structure to use as blueprint for your scene. It reveals tricks how to combine fighting with dialogue, which senses to use when and how, how to create a sense of realism, and how to stir the reader's emotions.
You'll decide how much violence your scene needs, what's the best location, how your heroine can get out of trouble with self-defence and how to adapt your writing style to the fast pace of the action. There are sections on female fighters, male fighters, animals and weres, psychological obstacles, battles, duels, brawls, riots and final showdowns.  For the requirements of your genre, there is even advice on how to build erotic tension in a fight scene, how magicians fight, how pirates capture ships and much more.  You will learn about different types of weapons, how to use them in fiction, and how to avoid embarrassing blunders. Note: The book uses British spellings.

and other online booksellers.

Rayne Hall is professional writer and editor. She has had over 30 books published under several pen names, in several genres(mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction), in several languages (mostly English, German, Polish and Chinese), by several publishers, under several pen names.
For a list of currently published fiction under the Rayne Hall pen name, go to
She is the editor of the Ten Tales series of themed short story anthologies.
She teaches online workshops for intermediate, advanced and professional level writers.
For a list of her currently scheduled workshops, see


  1. Great tips. I know exactly how I can put them to use in my current book. I have a chase/fight scene that I need to expand. this will help me do that with impact. Thanks so much!

  2. That's great, Charlee. Which of the twelve tips are the best fit for your chase/fight scene?

  3. I can use several, but I definitely want to use more hearing. I also think I need to find a way to work in 9 & 10. Thanks!

  4. Hi Charlee, I posted a reply earlier, but I must have done something wrong because it doesn't show. Since you're planning to expand the scene, 9 is perfect. For 10, does the character have a specialist skill - perhaps a hobby or a sport?

  5. Her hobby is painting. Doubt that will help. Lol. She is a mechanic. I'm thinking she must have a wrench hidden somewhere. Or, since it is set in space, a sonic screwdriver!

    Thanks again for a great post.

  6. Mechanical tools are easier to use in a fight than painting tools. On the other hand, she can stab the end of a paint brush in his eye (or other soft body part), toss turpentine in his face or slam the easel over his head.
    Better still, think of skills. What movements does she carry out in painting, or as a mechanic, that can be adapted to fighting? Or perhaps her understanding of mechanics allow her to manipulate something about the setting in her favour. In what kind of environment does the fight take place? Is there something a mechanic could use as a lever or set in motion or ...?

  7. Thanks for the great post! I'll be revisiting the fight scene in my MS. Plus I added WRITING FIGHT SCENES to my 'to buy' list.


I always love to hear your thoughts.