How to write a fight scene that grabs your readers and doesn’t let go (5 Easy Tricks)

How to write a fight scene that grabs your readers and doesn’t let go (5 Easy Tricks)

29 Remarkable Comments

Do you know how to write a great fight scene?

The kind of fight scene that makes your readers bite their fingernails down to their bases? That makes their toenails curl in all directions?

Okay… so two or more creatures are having a serious problem with each other. Fine. They are going after it with guns, swords, or claws. Awesome. A lot of wild movements and damage. Mandatory. Finally, we have a close winner. Ta-daaah!

So far, so  good.

BUT (and this is a big butt), even your most mesmerizing and thrilling fight scene will fall completely flat, if you can’t grab your readers with your dramatic style.

You are a writer, you need to get under your readers’ skin with your words.

Tell me: When you hear “action scene,” which story comes to your mind first?

You are probably thinking of a movie and not a book now. That’s because movies are just ideal to get action across: Striking camera movements, sudden cuts, daunting audio and thrilling close-ups.

And if your story contains a fast scene, you want it to play out in your reader’s head just like that: Like a movie. High speed, quick cuts, graphic images, and lots of tension!

You can write in a certain way that will give your readers a feeling of something fast-paced, gripping, shocking happening. And this post will tell you exactly how you can make that style work for your own stories. Below, discover the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the two polar opposites that make an action scene so effective?
  • Why is emotion so important in an action scene?
  • What are the tricks to make your readers think events happen “faster”?
  • Which quick cinematic technique heightens suspense?
  • What are the “action words” you should use?

This post will be of great use for any fast scene, not just for fights. You can use these techniques no matter which genre you are writing in, because almost any story will be spiced up nicely by a little action.

And once you have soaked up the theory of a great fight scene (or action scene), I have something really cool for you:

The How to Write a Fight Scene Template

Download this free template to give your fight scene the perfect choreography. It will guide you through your entire scene. Print it, fill it out, and have everything ready at one glance. It also contains short reminders on the most important points of this post:

5 Tips to Write a Smashing Fight Scene: Free Template


Here are some techniques to give your reader a fast, exciting, high-octane experience:

1. Motion vs. Emotion in a fight scene

Great action scenes consist of two elements that interlock like precisely designed gear wheels:

A. Motion

Motion is all the turmoil that happens physically; a punch that’s thrown, a knife that’s pulled, a jump that’s dared. It’s the breathtaking real-time stuff. We love it, because something is happening, and it’s happening fast. Motion is the tickling surface, like spices on a dish.

B. Emotion

In contrast, emotion is everything that’s going on inside of the characters; the bravery, the glee, the anger, the hesitation, the fear… Emotion is the reason why your characters do something, it’s the core of the matter. Without emotion, they wouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning (anxiousness about being late, anyone..?).

Emotion is also the real fuel for why your audience is interested in your story!

What really gets to us is who the characters are and what they feel. It’s the true underlying reason why action grabs us.

Just seeing anybody knocking a chair over anybody’s head might hold your interest for a second, but knowing Joe knocked a chair over Desmond’s head because Desmond tried to scam Joe’s mom – that makes you really feel the action in your gut and root for the characters.

You should tap into both; motion as well as emotion. The first one is to make your scene quick and tingling, and the second one is to get your audience involved in that action with all of their hearts.

How to write a smashing fight scene (5 tips with free template)

2. Create a seductive pace with motion vs. emotion

The trick is to make motion and emotion blend in well with each other. When they take turns, your readers will find their ebb and flow very pleasing. Variation keeps things interesting.

Motion should happen really fast to keep your reader at the edge of her seat. Emotion will take a bit longer to dive into.

So speed up your scene with the physical description of the fight, the blood, the explosions, or whatever fun you have going on. Then, when you describe emotions, use that part to slow the scene down.

When you slow down by getting into your character’s head and describing his thoughts and feelings, you reduce the speed of the scene for a moment. Plus, you also provide the “emotional fuel,” the emotion your reader needs to get involved in the scene – two birds killed with one stone.

Every scene has its very specific pace, and fast-fast-fast gets old soon. Fast-slow-fast is much more effective, because any characteristic stands out more strongly next to a completely contrary characteristic. A dark spot always looks much darker when placed next to a light spot.

Here is an example for a part of a scene that starts out slowly with emotion, then becomes fast with motion, and in the end slows down with emotion again:

Amy reached out for the gun on the table. She knew terrible things would happen if Richard could lay his hand on it first. Her mind couldn’t help but paint graphic images of blood and despair. (slow) Then her hand was on the gun, his hand on hers, a stinging pain as she gasped for air, the bone of her wrist cracking, the gun flying through the air. (fast) ‘It has landed in the corner,’ she could observe herself thinking. ‘It hurts so bad, but I have to be the first one there.’ (slow again)

Slow-fast-slow, as simple as that.

Don’t take this rule too strictly though. You can write your scene as you need to – just be aware of the rhythm you create!

3. Amp up the speed with language

But how exactly do you make your language and descriptions “quick”?

Glad you asked. A very effective way is to shorten your clauses and words as much as possible: Use brief and simple clauses, short words, a spurt of syllables. The quicker the reader can skim through a text, the quicker it will play in his mind.

Also, use as few periods as possible. Periods always make the reader experience “mini-stops” in his mind, thus slowing down the reading experience. Use commas instead.

The most effective way to pick up speed is just a staccato burst of short, graphic verbs and nouns. Compare these two passages:

He cut forward with his knife and saw its blade flashing in the bright sunlight. As he heard the guy screaming, he realized that he had cut through his shirt. Now he found himself staring into his face, which was showing his bare teeth. The guy attacked again.


His knife cut forward, blade flashing in the sunlight, the guy screamed, his shirt cut open, with bared teeth he attacked again.

Would you say the second one feels much quicker and more dynamic?

4. Use a sudden detail to slow down your fight scene

How to insert background info unobtrusivelyHere is another way to wind down pace. This time we will heighten suspense at the same time: Employ a sudden, graphic detail that symbolizes the tension in the air.

Pick a detail that demonstrates the risk, the power, the fear. For example, think of a bead of sweat on an eyelid that does (or doesn’t even) blink, or of a reflection in the blade of a knife. It can be as simple as describing the shiny, hard, red round of a boxing glove.

This is a very cinematic technique, and what you are writing is essentially a close-up. You are zooming in, freezing time for a second and concentrating on the thought or feeling the detail evokes in us.

If you use this trick very sparsely, it can be extremely effective. At the same time, you delay the outcome of the action. This heightens the suspense even more.


5 Tips to Write a Smashing Fight Scene (with free PDF)

5. Use action words for fight scene action

Certain types of words are more powerful and dynamic than others and will create more of an “action-experience.”

Think about it: It’s pretty obvious that verbs of movement are more energetic. Push, shove, run, grab, duck, blow, scratch, kick, paddle suggest a lot more action than stand, sit, think, look, be, wait. So when you want to speed up your scene, use as many words of active movement as possible. On the other hand, use static verbs when you want to slow down.

When it comes to nouns, things you can touch are very effective. Any palpable word suggests way more action than an abstract, theoretical one. After all, which phrase lets you feel the action more:

Vincent was afraid of the huge threat to his life.


Vincent was afraid the giant bumper would squash his head like a pea.

Take your pick…


5 Tricks to Write Smashing Fight Scene (with free PDF)

A cactus. Not much action.

How to Write a Fight Scene Template

Here is the free template again. It will give you the perfect framework for your thrilling action scene. Download it, fill it out, and you will have all the moving parts of the scene ready at one glance. It also contains short reminders for the most important points of this post:

Fight Scene Template Cover


Our Action-Loaded Fight Scene Prompt

Writing PromptAnd here is a prompt with which you can sharpen your senses for action scenes. Try it!

Alfredo is a celebrity cook who loves the good life. That’s why he owes the mafia money.

One day, two gentlemen shaped like bull dozers in suits pay him a visit. They quickly surround him, and with their brass knuckles and baseball bats send him friendly reminders to pay . But Alfredo is quick and flexible. He rams a cucumber into their ribs, then quickly jumps over the big counter in the middle of the kitchen.

The weapon of a cook is food… He throws some butter at their feet, so they slide and stumble, and scatters pepper into their eyes. Howling, disorientated and furious, they speed in opposite directions around the block. Alfredo quickly jumps onto the counter, and coming from opposite directions, they crash into each other like colliding trains and stay on the floor unconscious. Alfredo goes on to cook a celebratory cake.

Will the two suddenly wake up and go for Alfredo again? How will he get their heavy bodies out of there? Or is this won already? You decide!

You can also write just a part of this scene. Make sure to include emotion of the characters, as well as motion. Use commas instead of periods in the most action-packed sentences, and show an occasional, meaningful detail. Oh, and use action words!

This prompt is actually from the Ride the Pen Writing Prompts Page. Find 63 writing prompts for a variety of genres there, including several action writing prompts!

The Action-Oriented Goodbye

Your fight scene, your chase scene, or even your protagonist rushing to the post office before closing hour: Make sure to balance any action scene between motion and emotion. Motion is for the kick, and emotion for your reader to feel the action in her gut. Speed your scene up with commas and simple, short phrases, and also use action words. Sprinkle your scene with the occasional close-up for suspense.

If you do all of this, your action scenes will be like little whirlwinds, and your reader will virtually smell the tension coming off your pages. You have just created a thrilling high point in your story – and those are the moments we all read stories for!

Images: Man Fighting Robot: studiostoks/Fotolia; Stoic: jdoms/Fotolia; Wolf: carlacastagno/Fotolia

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29 Remarkable Comments. Join in!


  1. Nicole E Montgomery

    This is very helpful, thank you. I think I’ll use it to try to dissect which action scenes in favorite books work and which don’t… I have a very hard time writing them, because I tend to want to skip them when reading. Some just seem pointless, and to go on forever…

  2. Chris

    I’m not sure about fight scenes, but chases can work well if broken up… either by switching from the POV of the pursuer, to the quarry, or by interspersing with short ‘mini scenes’ elsewhere, like the place the hunted man is running to, for instance.

    In the first instance, you swap between the differing excitements of the fear of the quarry, and the anticipation or rage of the hunter, as you build tension during the chase. Eventually they either meet and conflict occurs, or the hunted character gets away from his pursuer to a wave of relief on one part and rage on the other.

    The following is how I handled it in my (awaiting publication) novel, ‘Disrespected’.

    * * *
    Rashid froze. Two cars ahead of him he could see what looked like a police car. He tried to convince himself that it might just be some kind of roadworks maintenance vehicle, or maybe something to do with the ambulance service, but a glint of sunlight on the structure on the car’s roof reflected as a flash of blue, which discounted one of these. Roadworks support vehicles usually had amber roof lights, not blue. 

    The car immediately in front of him turned right to clear his view, revealing the clearly legible word ‘police’ in large letters across the car’s tailgate. Without bothering to indicate, Rashid turned sharply left and accelerated away.

    After less than half a mile, he turned off onto a minor road, then turned off again after only a short distance. He wasn’t entirely sure where he was going but he wanted to be sure he wasn’t being followed.

    After several changes of direction, he became worried about a small grey looking car that kept appearing in his mirror. Silver and grey coloured cars are particularly common, he convinced himself. It could be simply a coincidence. 

    He was coming up to a small crossroads, where the road he was on had right of way. To his right, the lane disappeared across farmland; to the left, towards what looked like a housing estate. As he approached the junction, he indicated left. Slowing for the turning, he looked in his mirror to see that the following car was also indicating left. 

    He kept the Metro in close to the left verge, then seeing that nothing was approaching from ahead, at the very last moment he swung the car to the right. Now he knew for certain. The car behind was definitely tailing him, as it too had followed suit.

    Panicking, Rashid put his foot down hard, but the feeble engine in the old Metro seemed to take an age to respond. The car behind closed in, until in his mirror he could clearly see the chrome plated Peugeot lion emblem on the front. The lion disappeared below his rear window line as the following car drew even closer. It looked as if it was going to ram him. 

    Travelling quickly, with the Peugeot close on his tail, the road began to sweep gently round to the right. There were other vehicles approaching from ahead, preventing the silver car from pulling out to either pass him or, as he suspected was more likely, to force him off the road.

    Just ahead, he saw a narrow lane forking off to the left. Without warning, and travelling too fast, he took a chance and swerved into the turn off. The little Metro’s tyres protested, as the car slid, but by some miracle the car didn’t spin or roll over.

     In his mirror he could see the Peugeot overshoot the turning as it sped onwards. Rashid was under no illusions. He knew that its driver would be braking hard and looking to turn around. 
    * * *

    Blake cursed as his quarry turned off. He stamped on the brakes, but the car only slowed quickly and undramatically, rather than skidding to a halt as he’d expected. He was unaware that the pulsing he could feel through the pedal was due to the ABS fighting hard to stop the wheels locking up. He stood no chance of following the other car into the turning, instead carrying on along the main road as his car slowed. 

    Just ahead, he could see another turning. It appeared to cut across the field to the other road. He took a chance and made the left turn onto an arrow straight lane. As he accelerated the car, he saw give way signs some way ahead of him. A flash of blue crossed in front of him in the distance. 

    Turning right, to follow the blue car, the boy put his foot down hard again. Framed by the hedges on either side, his target grew larger in his windscreen as the little Peugeot’s superior performance allowed him to gain on it rapidly.
    * * *

    Glancing into his mirror, Rashid’s heart sank. The silver car was in view again and gaining on him fast. Somehow, its driver had managed to turn around and catch up with him. Within what only felt like seconds, his mirror was filled with the image of the chasing car.

    The lane began to widen a little. Ahead, Rashid could see another car coming towards him. Its headlights flashed. Rashid kept up his speed, but put two wheels on the grass, tucking in as close to the hedge on the left as he could, to allow the car to pass. Its driver’s face had a look of apprehension about it, but by slowing his car, and putting two of his own wheels into the dusty edge of the road, the two cars managed to pass each other without making contact. 

    Immediately, the Peugeot behind Rashid pulled out and drew alongside him. He recognised the face of the boy behind the wheel as it turned to look at him. The silver car then accelerated past before cutting across in front of him. His reflex reaction caused him to brake hard, but the two wheels that were still on the verge failed to grip. Without the modern benefits of ABS, the old Metro’s left side brakes locked and the tyres simply slid on the grass. 

    The car veered to the right, dragging the two locked wheels onto the tarmac where they found grip again, causing him to weave alarmingly. He was suddenly aware of a solid looking gatepost directly in front of him. He swung the wheel hard to avoid it, and spun the car into a gateway where it skidded sideways before digging in and rolling over several times.

    After what seemed like an age, but was really only a few seconds, the scene he’d watched spinning and gyrating through the now cracked and starred windscreen became still, and he was able to see an inverted view of a ploughed field. 

    The engine was screaming at full revs, as he hung there, upside down in his seatbelt. He tried to turn off the ignition, but his right arm refused to work. Its angle suggested to him that it had been broken, probably by the same impact that had caved in the side of the car to dislocate his knee against the steering column and trap his right foot between the kick panel and the pedal. He began to hurt all over.

    He attempted to use his left hand, but as he twisted, a sudden searing pain made him realise that he’d almost certainly broken his collar bone too. He couldn’t even reach the seatbelt buckle to release it, but thought that it probably wouldn’t free while under tension. 

    Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his phone lying on the roof lining, but it was just out of the range of his left hand’s limited reach. His only hope was that someone would see the car and come to his rescue.

    The engine’s screaming changed its note dramatically to become a staccato rattling noise, like a rapid firing machine gun, as the engine’s big end bearings no longer received any oil supply from the now inverted sump. 

    Within seconds the engine’s death rattle ended when there was a loud mechanical sounding bang and all went quiet. The only sounds that Rashid could now hear were from startled birds, and a strange whirring noise from one of the rear wheels as it spun freely.
    * * *

    Blake looked back, in his mirror, to see the blue Metro disappear into the gateway. He brought his car to a halt, then turned himself around in the seat, but could see no sign of the car. 

    He suddenly realised that he hadn’t at any point needed to reverse the Peugeot. He peered down at the embossed pattern on the gear lever to see which way to move it for reverse gear. 

    Eventually, after some experimentation with both lifting and pushing down on the knob, he managed to select reverse. The car’s transmission whined as it weaved backwards along the lane till it passed the gateway. Blake put the car into first and turned into the opening where he was confronted by the sight of the battered Metro resting on its roof in the middle of a field. 

    As Blake got out of the car, his nostrils were assaulted by the smells of hot oil and petrol fumes. Steam from the smashed radiator drifted up through the upturned car’s undercarriage as coolant ran out of the buckled bonnet. He could hear cries for help coming from within.

    Blake walked over to the car and squatted down to look into the broken driver’s side window. He smiled as Rashid hung upside down, suspended by his seatbelt. The Asian looked out at him with fear in his eyes.

    “Please… Help me… Get me out, I’m trapped… I can’t move.”

    Blake cocked his head to one side, then stroked his chin.

    “Really?” he said calmly, “You mean like your sister couldn’t move when she was roped to that chair?” His tone became harder edged, “And then fucking violated!” He paused, waiting for an answer, but none came, “Well… Do you?” he asked again.

    Rashid whimpered something inaudible, then sniffed at the air. He tilted his head back, to look towards the roof below him and realised that the cloth headlining was soaked in petrol that had poured from the ruptured fuel tank and was puddling in the upturned roof.

    “Please!… Please!” he screamed, “There’s petrol… In the headlining. Can’t you smell it?”

    Blake stood up, as if to walk away, then with his composure back, said calmly,  “Yes… Sure I can smell it.” He sniffed loudly in the virtual silence, now broken only by the birdsong. “Smells like unleaded, to me… Shell, maybe?… With possibly a hint of Esso?” He began to turn away.

    Rashid called out, “Wait… Don’t let me burn… Please… Help me out of here.”

    The boy glanced back and smiled at him, then walked calmly around to the passenger’s side of the upturned car, oblivious to the trapped man’s pleading. The angle that the buckled and bent Metro had ended up meant that the passenger side was higher. Blake stooped slightly to peer inside, 

    “That’s easier… I don’t have to squat down on this side… I can see you better from here.” Something caught his eye. He bent down and reached through the opening where a window had once been to pick up the mobile phone that was lying on the inside of the Metro’s roof.

    “Please,” begged Rashid, “Phone for help… Please.”

    Blake smiled, “Pardon?… I didn’t quite hear that… What did you say?”

    “Call for help… I’m begging you.”

    “Was your sister begging, too?… Or couldn’t you hear her through the gag you rammed into her mouth?” Blake’s eyes blazed, “Did she beg when she was raped?… Did she?”

    “That wasn’t me… I didn’t rape her… Believe me.”

    Blake interrupted Rashid’s whining, “No!… You fucking didn’t, did you?… But you let your two accomplices use her like a sex toy… Your own fucking sister… Reduced to simply something to empty their over active teenaged ball sacs into… just an interestingly shaped piece of meat for them to gawp at, and maul with their grubby little fingers.” He drew breath, then shouted at the trapped man, “So?… Where are they now?… Eh?… Tell me that!”

    “And you’ll set me free?”

    Blake looked up, gazing at the clear sky, then said, “OK… Yeah, I’ll set you free.”

    Rashid didn’t let him finish. He blurted out, “They’re long gone… they’ve run away… they’ve left the country.”

    “To where?” Blake shouted, “Where are they?… Tell me!”

    “Just get me out of here… Please… The petrol… Help me.”


    “Bosnia… Now please… Get me free.” His voice rose to a scream, “Please!”

    Blake shrugged, “I’ll just get something from the car… to free you.” He turned away, then walked casually back to the Peugeot, ignoring the plaintive cries for help coming from inside the stricken Metro. He was thinking to himself that he didn’t even know where Bosnia was. 

    He opened the Peugeot’s passenger door, popped open the glovebox, and took something from within. He put it in his pocket and began to turn away, then paused and reached back in to pick up Eddie’s newspaper from the passenger seat. Closing the door again, he strolled back to the wrecked car, and bent down to speak to Rashid.

    “Still here?… I thought you were in a hurry to get out.” Rashid stared at him. He at last realised that his pleas for help were unlikely to be acted on. He began to pray quietly.

    Blake stood back, then tore a page from the newspaper and rolled it loosely into a ball. He removed Eddie’s old Zippo from his pocket and held it up where Rashid could clearly see it. His eyes opened wide and he stopped praying. 

    Blake saw the look of sheer terror in Rashid’s eyes and smiled at him. Flipping open the lighter, Blake stepped back a few more paces, then spun the thumb wheel. Sparks danced and the wick flickered into life, brightening as the flame stabilised.

    Rashid shouted out to him, “No!… Please, no!”, but Blake simply smiled at him again, then lit the paper. He said two words.

    “For Nazreen.”  Then tossed the paper ball into the open window before jumping back from the conflagration that immediately engulfed the stricken Metro.

    A loud scream pierced the air, cutting through the roar of the blaze. 

    Blake shouted, as if answering Rashid’s scream, “You’re gonna be fucking free now, you bastard!… I hope you rot in hell!” 

    He turned away, and without looking back, he walked quickly back to his car with tears streaming down his face.

    Back at the Peugeot, he opened the door and casually tossed the remainder of the newspaper across onto the passenger seat before getting in. 

    He dried his eyes, started the engine, then turned the car around and drove back towards the city. In his mirror he could see the plume of black smoke rising into the clear blue sky. Without any sense of urgency, the boy headed back towards Bristol with a grim but satisfied smile on his face.
    .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

    (The right of Chris Graham to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.)

    1. Alex

      Another nice trick to heighten the tension of an action scene. Cutting back and forth between anything makes the scene more “action.” You suggest cutting back and forth between POVs, and I in the post mentioned cutting between “inner” and “outer” experience. Cheers, Chris!

  3. Ia

    Chris—Wow! What a wonderful, well-written scene. This makes me want to start at the beginning and keep turning pages. I have to wonder if you are the Chris Graham who wrote Election or the one who writes about raising chickens. Or, maybe, you are an entirely different talent. Whatever, please keep it up.

    1. Chris

      Thank you for the compliment, La, but no… I’m the Chris Graham who writes the ‘Lena’s Friends’ crime novels ( Available from bookshops for print editions, Amazon (Kindle and print), and various ‘e-book’ formats on 50% promotion discount on ‘Smashwords’ at present – The two short (e-book only) prequels to the series, ‘Recreation’, and ‘Payback’, are freebies on Smashwords. There’s two more books waiting in the wings, ‘Deadweight’, and ‘Disrespected’ (the one sampled above), and another still untitled one in its early stages. (I know nothing about chickens other than how they look, sound, and taste.)

  4. Widdershins

    Hmm … interesting about commas rather than periods. I tend to write action with short sentences, not much more than phrases sometimes. Sort of a staccato blend … will redo a couple with commas and see how it looks. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

    1. Alex

      With short sentences, my guess is you make each sentence sound more impactful. But you are also slowing the action down a bit. If short sentences work for you, then yes, why not?

  5. Anthony Metivier

    Along with emotion, it matters a great deal that you secretly want the bad guy to win because he or she is not-so-secretly actually better, cooler and more powerful than the good guy, while also being tied at the hip. Deshalb Star Wars.

    1. Alex

      Hey Anthony! As we all know, the bad guy is soooo much more interesting than that boring stickler of a good guy… I was always wondering how many people secretly want the bad guy to win. But on the other hand, the good guy winning lets you close the book or leave the theatre with a nice, clean feeling..

      1. Chris

        But letting the bad guys get away… at least with something… leaves golden opportunities for the series writer. Doesn’t every Holmes need a Moriarty?

        My first full length novel (Transactions) has one of the bad guys jailed at the end… but not for his worst crime. 
        The sequel (Coincidences) has him engineering his successful appeal, by nefarious means, but will his other past crimes catch up with him? (by giving one extremely minor character from the first book, a major role in the second.)

      2. Anthony Metivier

        Perhaps, sometimes … that or the good guy winning helps you remember to go home and be a good little citizen who obeys the status quo.

        But it’s an interesting point you raise about leaving with a squeaky, clean feeling. It only works in a truly profound way if the self-revelation used to defeat the villain genuinely resolves a truly interesting conflict between conscious desire and unconscious need.

        This is why even a messy tragedy can still have you feeling cleansed. So it’s not really about who wins (or when, to take about the other point in this discussion about Moriarty). It’s about the truth and integrity of the winning.

        1. Chris

          It’s fun to mess with roles, Anthony. Sometimes the ‘bad guy’ who the ‘good guys’ are after is not really bad… or not all bad anyway. Other times, the ‘victim’ is also a bad guy, yet the forces of law and order have to be working ‘on his side’. 
          Characters are rarely black and white (if I can use the term in these PC times), unless it’s a kids’ comic or one of those awful superhero movies that they’ve spawned, and which seem to be infesting everything at the moment.
          It can be very satisfying to write a character as having loads of likeable traits… someone the reader can aspire to… and someone the other characters warm to, before revealing him as the bad guy in the plot. The other side of the coin is to write a really lovely character who, as your own creation, you fall in love with and hope your readers will too. The kind of character that the reader will be convinced will be a ‘returner’ in subsequent books because they’re so attractive… but you kill them off horribly in the first book they appear in.

          In most of my novels, the police characters end up empty handed, yet justice of some kind is seen to be done. Maybe I just like the concept of just revenge.

          1. Alex

            I can see you have a tendency to “write against the grain,” Chris. I like it!

            Movies in which you know 10 minutes in how they will end bore me. Unfortunately, that’s most of the mainstream movies. Oh well, that’s just how it is…

  6. Lynnette Jalufka

    Thanks for the article. I liked the advice about using commas. And thinking back over action scenes I’ve read, commas were used in them, too.

  7. Maurine

    I haven’t read too many books with a good fight scene in them. Most of them either pass on the action–“all hell (if I can use that word) broke loose”–or have action details that don’t sound like they could realistically happen. The best fight scene I read was in a Ross McDonald book–The Name’s Archer. As I recall, he wrote the fast-slow-fast you mention in your post and maybe even the series of commas.

    I was always told to write short, snappy sentences to quicken the pace, but as I read your examples, the series of commas did read faster. If I tried it, I can see the grammar police jumping all over me for writing run-on sentences or the like. Lots to think about at any rate.

    1. Alex

      Hm, not to many books with good fight scenes, that’s an interesting observation. I have to say I don’t read many fights that really “hit me in the guts.” Not too many that can involve me emotionally.

      Grammar police… forget about them! It’s YOUR work, YOUR vision, so write like it feels right to you. You can do whatever you want…

  8. Jackie Buxton

    Hi Alex,
    Another wonderfully effective and informative blog, thank you! I don’t write many fight scenes myself (never say never…) but I do edit them, and this is what I’ve been trying to convey, except you do it much better. Keep up the great work 🙂

  9. Will Bontrager

    Alex, long time no talk 🙂

    Thanks for sending a reminder to this article. I have been struggling with several action scenes and this was very helpful.

    Louis L’Amore’s boxing scenes were very well done. I had noticed that there would be flurry of movement and then a focus on something happening outside the ring. Then back to the boxing. And outside again, but just for a short paragraph because the boxing was intense and just wouldn’t wait. Back and forth. And I thought what an excellent technique.

    But I forgot all that in struggling with my action scenes. Funny I get into struggling and tend not to remember the techniques I have read concerning that very subject unless I’ve already used them repeatedly. It’s like I try to force the scene to be what I want by using an inner energy instead of kicking back and thinking about technique.

    Happy Holidays to you!


    1. Alex

      Hey Will, I’m not familiar with Louis L’Amore, but that sounds like an enticing technique, producing “mini cliffhangars” within a scene.

      The brain needs repetition to remember something and to be able to apply it; it’s a good idea to take notes if you see a technique you truly love.

      Happy Holidays to you as well!

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