13 Mistakes to Avoid in Fight Scenes

Home  /  Featured Guest Blog  /  13 Mistakes to Avoid in Fight Scenes

13 Mistakes to Avoid in Fight Scenes

Rayne Hall is professional writer and editor. She has had over 30 books published under several pen names, in several genres(mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction), in several languages (mostly English, German, Polish and Chinese), by several publishers, under several pen names.

She is the editor of the Ten Tales series of themed short story anthologies, and she teaches online workshops for intermediate, advanced and professional level writers.

In her eBook, Writing Fight Scenes, Rayne Hall provides step-by-step information on how to create fictional fights, which leave the reader breathless with excitement.

The book gives you a six-part structure to use as blueprint for your scene. It reveals tricks how to combine fighting with dialogue, which senses to use when and how, how to create a sense of realism, and how to stir the reader’s emotions.

You’ll decide how much violence your scene needs, what’s the best location, how your heroine can get out of trouble with self-defence and how to adapt your writing style to the fast pace of the action. There are sections on female fighters, male fighters, animals and weres, psychological obstacles, battles, duels, brawls, riots and final showdowns.  For the requirements of your genre, there is even advice on how to build erotic tension in a fight scene, how magicians fight, how pirates capture ships and much more.  You will learn about different types of weapons, how to use them in fiction, and how to avoid embarrassing blunders. Note: The book uses British spellings.

Here is a brief overview of the thirteen most common mistakes that writers need to avoid:

 Nothing at stake … as if the characters put their lives at risk without purpose

 Absence of emotion … as if the fighter didn’t feel fear, fury or despair

 Generic setting … as if the fight took place in ‘white space’

 Making it easy for the hero by giving him a superior weapon, superior armour, superior strength and superior skills … as if he couldn’t rise to a genuine challenge

 Fighters holding a leisurely conversation with long, carefully articulated sentences … as if they had plenty of breath to spare during the swashbuckling

Implausible fight skills … as if the situation instantly granted the Regency damsel a black belt in karate

Inventing a fancy weapon for the hero … as if a gimmicky-shaped sword stood a chance against a blade of tried-and-tested standard design

Long sentences … as if fighting was a leisurely, slow-paced activity

Lots of adverbs … as if any sense of speed created by a verb must be squashed instantly

Weapons from the wrong period … as if an ancient Greek would use a medieval greatsword, or a Norman knight a nineteenth century cavalry sabre

Weapons performing tasks they can’t do … as if an epee sword could split skulls or a small pistol stop a running target at a thousand feet

The character thinks deep philosophical thoughts … as if fighting off deadly blows were so easy that he could concentrate on something else

The fighter observes what his mates are doing at the other side of the battlefield and the sun setting on the horizon … as if the immediate danger didn’t require all his attention




  • David L Atkinson

    Great blog Caleb and useful information.

    • Hi David, Are you writing a book? Does it have a fight scene?

  • Caleb Pirtle

    Wonderful information, Rayne. Your advice and your book will make a difference in the lives of many writers. We are grateful to you.

  • I have two comments I just have to share. The first is funny.

    My son and I love truly bad science fiction movies. There used to be a show where a man and two robots would comment on them as you watched. I believe the worst was a Japanese production, “Prince of Space” in which he commented over and over to his enemies, “Ha, your weapons are useless against me,” and they were. It was so stupid we couldn’t stop laughing.

    Secondly, I have never read anyone who could describe a fistfight better than Louis L’Amour. If anyone wants to learn how to do it, his are the books to read.

    • I like Louis L’Amour’s fist fights. He understands boxing, and this gives his fights authenticity. He also writes so well that the reader forgets it’s only a story. His writing techniques are worth studying. Have you written a fist fight scene yet? If yes, did you borrow any writing techniques from Louis L’Amour for it?

      • I wrote one fight scene in my novel Rebels on the Mountain and I suppose that I couldn’t help but be influenced by L’Amour’s writing technique. I read everything he ever wrote. And I was also influenced by my own fighting experience. My father was a professional boxer as a young man and he used his fists to provide his sons with an occasional “attitude adjustment.” However, in my battlefield scenes, there was no fighting. Combat is a poor place to stop and engage in fisticuffs.

        • Battles are fights, too, but of a very different kind. They need to be written very differently from fisticuffs. — I notice that Louis L’Amour has a lot of admirers among writers. I appreciate his writing, too – vivid and authentic. Maybe it’s time I re-read one of his books. Which do you think has the best fist fight scenes?

    • Maryann

      I agree that L’Amour was a master at fight scenes. I think Zane Grey did pretty good ones, too.

  • Christine Hardy

    This is why, as a sedentary female, I avoid fight and battle scenes as much as possible. With that said, I must say a little primary research has been very helpful. I was fortunate to stumble across some fantasy reenactors (can’t think what they call themselves right now) on a camping trip and get a free swordfighting lesson from their swordmaster.

    Still, writing fantasy does require some fights. I use magoc as much as possible but if they must get their knuckles dirty I try to choreograph each move in my house first and think about how much force it would take, what bones might protect what organs, whether it’s possible to hold someone a certain way while stabbing or hitting, etc. I think I just had to realize that adrenaline, strength, weight and skill determine the winner
    if weapons are matched.

    LARPers. That’s what they are. Live action role players.

    • Hi Christine, don’t be afraid of fight scenes. Writing them isn’t as dangerous as fighting. :-)

      There are certain techniques you can use to make your fight scene realistic and exciting, even if you are clueless about fighting matters.

      I’m a writer, not a warrior. A skilled fighter could beat the crap out of me. I could write a really good scene about it afterwards.

      I agree: reenactors are a wonderful research resource. They know their subject and have experienced many simulated fights using those weapons, so they know what works, what happens, and what it feels like. Their advice can give fight scenes wonderful authenticity. Here in the UK, we have historical reenactment groups who take their research very seriously.

      You were fortunate indeed to stumble across a group of reenactors and get free swordfighting lessons from their master. What a wonderful opportunity for a fantasy author!

  • er..trying to figure out how to get the book? writing fight scenes? is there a usable link?

    • ok, never mind, found it on amazon, but if you’re going to blog about your book, a linkypoo would be handy, eh? 😉

  • Caleb Pirtle

    John: You are right. I should have added the link when I posted Rayne’s fine blog. I apologize. Caleb Pirtle.