So over the last few days, interviews have appeared with a couple of my favorite authors (specifically R.A. Salvatore and Paul S. Kemp) about writing fight scenes, and I just can’t fail to express a few thoughts of my own. Which is not to dissuade you from reading them. If you haven’t, do so. I’ll just chill for a few minutes.
. . .
Battle battle battle . . .
. . .
Before I share the secret, I’ll ask you to close your eyes (not literally, of course, since then you can’t read this post!) and think back to the best samurai movie you’ve seen. One warrior faces another across a rain-shattered landscape and slowly–so slowly–draws steel, eye contact never breaking. They fight with their will more than their weapons, as though the entire battle is unfolding as they stare at each other. The actual exchange of hostilities might be as brief as a few seconds, but the battle lasts hours in their minds. They have been fighting this battle as far back as frame one, even if neither has been aware of it.
That’s the trick to fight scenes: making them inclusive within the narrative.
I think that the most important thing to remember when writing a fight scene is that almost all of your fight scene takes place before and after the scene. The “during” is just the boiling-over process of all that build-up you’ve done before. The fight is an expression of how much two rivals hate each other, how tightly they cling to their conflicting goals, and how important it is for them each to win. Your hero has to have a reason to fight other than to beat the bad guy, and vice versa for the villain.
The long and short of this is that if you haven’t established your characters (good and bad) such that you’ve made your readers LONG for them to fight, you’re doing it wrong.
Random battles are just that–random. It’s easy to gloss over the sudden goblin attack, or the unexpected green slime ambush. The battle you really want to read is between the hero and the villain (or the villain’s lackeys, if they’re cool). You want passion–you want to feel every blow, and wish in your heart that the real battle begins.
So that’s where you should go: Make every battle serve your story. Tie them all into the ongoing conflict, and you invest them not just with the power of your fight, however skillfully you do it, but everything you’ve written in the book until that point, as well as after.