Monday, September 23, 2019
Are Your Fight Scenes Boring the Reader?
After many years, I’m finally approaching the climax of my urban fantasy. It’s been a long time coming, but as I struggle with the final chapters, I realize the journey isn’t quite yet over. My heroine is breaking into the antagonist’s hideout, ready to take him on, and based on the obstacles I’ve set up, it’s going to take a bit of thought to get everything to work out the way I want.
I’ve gone back and searched through my collection of urban fantasies and space operas for inspiration on fight scenes. This has been useful, but along the way, I’ve been reminded of things NOT to do in fight scenes. Here’s a partial list:
1. The author sets up a scenario that appears pretty much impossible for the MC to win, at least based on the author’s description, then promptly has the hero successfully fight their way through all the obstacles doing the same standard stuff they’ve done throughout the book. What the heck happened? Did the opposition go on break? And no, having the hero take some minor damage in the process doesn’t make up for this.
2. The author tosses in a battle scene simply because there hasn’t been any conflict in a while, or because it’s the only way the author can meet their word count. This is an especially common problem for writers who pump out a lot of books per year. Generic fight scenes don’t amp up the tension. Readers skim through them. At least I do.
3. The fight scenes scattered throughout the story are so generic most of them could switch places and readers wouldn’t notice. Don’t be lazy, folks. Spend time crafting each battle until it’s unique. Use the setting to set up interesting problems for the MC to solve, or that allow the MC to find novel ways to defeat the bad guys. Add some factor that neutralizes the methods that worked for the MC in previous fights. Let knowledge gained by the MC over the course of the story be used to develop new tactics.
Several examples of entertaining fight scenes can be found in Allow of Law by Brandon Sanderson. They’re fun to read and almost always do double duty by delivering important story information along the way. No one is skimming over them.
Have you ever come across fight scenes/battle sequences that leave you yawning?