Getting the Fight Right

I flew down to Sydney on Saturday for Genrecon, a weekend-long celebration of all things writerly, no matter the genre.

Of particular interest to me was Simon Higgins’ Writing Effective Fight Scenes class. As an action thriller writer, it’s important to me that I capture the essence of a fight scene without the reader thinking ‘that would never happen!’ unless the scene has been set up properly, and as I’m currently writing some scenes for the sequel to White Gold, this class was rather timely.

After providing the group with a brief précis of his background (a police career until the mid-90s and continual martial arts training), Simon gave us a brief run-down of what to watch out for when writing fight scenes. What follows is my interpretation of those points.

Be realistic. A punch to the jaw often kills – in real life, a person doesn’t get punched in the face and shake it off easily!

Choreograph it – even if that means grabbing a friend (be nice!) and going through the motions slowly to see if it’d work. Look at how fight scenes are choreographed for films – the
actors learn the moves, start slowly and gradually build up speed once they know them by heart;

Research the medicals – find out what each strike to the opponent will do, e.g. lasting damage, ability to ‘bounce back’;

Less is more. Involve accurate detail in your reader’s head, but don’t forget the internal emotions (see below);

Don’t separate emotions from action – if your character gets punched, he’s going to feel it!

You can read all about Simon on his website here: Just don’t pick a fight with him.

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