Writing thrilling fight scenes in novels


When crafting a compelling novel, fight scenes play a pivotal role in adding excitement and suspense to your story. However, writing them effectively can be challenging. In this article, I will share some invaluable tips for perfecting your fight scenes, ensuring they captivate readers and keep them on the edge of their seats.

Establish setting and atmosphere

Before diving into the action, set the stage for your fight scene. By doing so, you’ll help readers visualise the environment and immerse themselves in the moment. Consider the opening paragraph of Tablet 24 in Son of Babylon:

Dust filled the air, kicked up by the pairs of duelling fighters all around us. Everywhere in the practice yard, curved wooden swords beat at hide shaped wicker shields and open-faced copper helmets. Some pairs were grown men, guardsmen and soldiers, while others were the sons of lords, learning to fight. Their teachers watched over them, calling out advice and encouragement.

Choosing the right perspective

To engage your readers fully, decide on the most effective perspective. Consider writing from the character’s viewpoint involved in the fight to convey their emotions and thoughts. Alternatively, use a third-person perspective to offer a broader view of the conflict.

Focus on character emotions

During a fight scene, it’s crucial to convey the emotions your characters are experiencing. This will help readers connect with them on a deeper level. This extract from Tablet 36 in Son of Babylon is a good example:

I was fighting for my life, struggling to match his frantic speed despite my long years of training. For a terrifying heartbeat, the thought of never seeing Alittum again crossed my mind, but an arrow from one of Enusat’s rooftop bowmen thumped into his armour at the crucial moment.

Maintain clarity with action verbs

To ensure clarity in your fight scenes, employ strong action verbs. Rather than writing “He punched him,” try “He delivered a swift, bone-crushing punch.”

Incorporate sensory details

To make your fight scenes more vivid, engage the reader’s senses. Include descriptions of sounds, smells, and tactile sensations. For instance, “The sound of fists connecting echoed through the alley.”

Vary sentence length and structure

To create a sense of urgency and tension, vary your sentence length and structure. Use short, punchy sentences for fast-paced moments, and longer, descriptive sentences for pauses in the action.

Build suspense and anticipation

Craft a sense of anticipation by foreshadowing the fight or hinting at the conflict to come. For example, “As they locked eyes, John knew that this confrontation was inevitable.”

Show, don’t tell

Incorporate the “show, don’t tell” principle to reveal character traits and motives through actions and dialogue. Instead of telling readers that a character is courageous, show them by depicting their fearless actions in the fight.

Minimise dialogue

While dialogue can add depth to your fight scene, use it sparingly to maintain the pace. For instance, a brief exchange of taunts or threats can convey character personalities and motivations.

Conclude with consequences

After the dust settles, don’t forget to address the consequences of the fight. This adds realism to your story and keeps readers engaged. For instance, “Bruised and battered, John limped away, knowing that the battle had changed him.”

Avoid blow-by-blow


In conclusion, crafting engaging fight scenes in your novel requires attention to detail, emotion, and pacing. By following these tips and incorporating them into your writing, you can ensure that your fight scenes become memorable moments that propel your story forward and leave readers craving for more. So, get your characters ready, set the stage, and let the battles begin!

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