To be believable, you have to be comfortable with the genre. Read fight scenes – adapt and retread your favourites

Read famous examples:

  • Sword fight in Scaramouche
  • Bullfights in The Sun Also Rises
  • Intense Violence in Naked Lunch
  • Anything by Lee Child – Jack Reacher (The Affair, Lee Child, p. 250)
  • Start with the leader. Don’t be afraid to fight dirty – fist to the throat, break a knee.
  • Action has to be plot-relevant
  • Make weapons match setting and theme

Example – the detective discovers his friend is a murderer

  • The friend shoots to kill, but the reluctant detective fights with his fist
  • You can get closer to someone when you’re smiling, even if you are saying threatening comments

Set the Pace/Create Conflict

  • Quick or descriptive
  • Drop the word ‘and’
  • Blow-by-blow or general feel
  • Pure action
  • Build tension with dialogue (short and choppy, yelling)
  • Limited feeling or thinking aside from anger or pain reaction

Crisis Point

  • Few things happen. Lots of sharp action. Build emotion.

Up the Stakes

  • You have to say no to your protagonist a lot (frustrate their goals)
  • What happens if each person wins
  • Does victory come at a cost
  • Does the fighter have to make a choice

Example – the detective must decide whether to kill his friend or let the criminal escape


  • Talk to fight class instructor (it’s up close and personal)
  • Read books on the subject
  • Add tension with someone trying to escape
  • Techniques might be correct but they could be applied incorrectly

Example – research the bullet capacity and sounds of 1940 firearms

Sketch out the details

  • Chose characters and plot reasons
  • Friendly or deadly
  • Dirty or honourable

Example – cop and criminal meet at the climax of the novel, with death or imprisonment on the line

Match Actions to Character

  • Is the fighter skilled
  • Ruthless
  • Angry
  • Show this with direct action sequences

Crisis points

Interior Thoughts

  • Reveal character mindset
  • Pace out the action