Planning a Fight Scene


I have run into a situation in my current work in progress, where I want a multi-chapter running fight scene between dozens of characters.

Yes! I have forced myself into a difficult position. It’s as if I am playing a game of 3-dimensional Clue. Is Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick, or is Miss Scarlett in the Conservatory with a dagger? I struggle to keep track of who is where, with what weapons, and standing beside what other people?

I have been reduced to drawing maps, with the building and where each character is at in each scene. Next are the details of writing about fighting. At least some of the factors to be accounted for are, building tension for the action scenes, showing character motivation, bringing the action to life, and fully building the visual detail for the reader.

Before an action scene can mean anything for the reader, it needs to become interesting in terms of characters and the plot. So the dozens or hundreds of pages leading up to the fight has to build the characters and story as solid and believable. Protagonists with whom we can relate, villains who  have believable motives. This is work that needs to be done first.

Characters before the action and during the action need to have strong motivation, intent, and desires to act. JB Lacaden said “Take time to make readers care for your characters.” A major part of the story that is being told is why the characters are doing what they are doing. Why are they risking their life and limbs in the fight.


An action scene is a dance that we build with choreography. Chuck Sambuchin said “Make your fights into a conversation spoken with actions in which the real conflict is happening in the hearts of the characters.” JB Lacaden said, “Visualize how each moment of the scenes will take place.” The better that we can see the action as we are writing it, the better experience it should be for the reader.

Finally, the mechanics of writing action scenes are always important. Marc Davies said, “Changing the shape and length of your sentences can allow you to occasionally surprise the reader and keep them interested.” I want readers to feel that they are right there with the characters in the scene. I agree with Robert Wood, who said, “The key is to thrust the reader into the thick of the action…”

Well, there were some thoughts and quotes about writing an action scene. Keep writing!

Quote Sources:

JB Lacaden

Marc Davies

Robert Wood

Chuck Sambuchino

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