Fight Scenes for Dummies (or Wimps)

When I was a kid, maybe about five or six, I got whipped within an inch of my life for throwing spitballs in church. (So, okay, it takes more than a generation to breed redneck out of a girl. I also am addicted to “Ice Road Truckers.”) Then, as a high school junior, I got a swat for either talking in class or not knowing the capital of North Dakota―I don’t remember which. My roommate got mugged in front of our house once. A bank robber ran through my yard, chased by the men in blue, wielding guns, while the same roommate hid behind a garbage can.

There, unless you count having bullets dug out of my roof in New Orleans and learning to easily distinguish gunshots from firecrackers, is pretty much my experience with violence. The men in my family don’t even go hunting.

Point being, I find it really, really hard to write fight scenes. And you can’t have a good urban fantasy without some knock-down, drag-outs, and few actually involving humans. How does one prepare for this?

Field trip. I could go out and get in a bar brawl to see what being punched in the face feels like, but really, I live in a small college town and, besides that, I really don’t want to be punched. AND I could probably take a drunken frat boy, if it came down to it.

Learn to shoot. I have my eye on a local class―the county deputies host a quarterly course on basic shooting plus the care and feeding of firearms. The waiting list is ridiculous. Which in itself is kinda scary.

TV/Movies. Sadly, this is probably how most of us learn to write fight scenes. We watch fake fight scenes on a little box and try to learn how it’s done, at least in the eyes of Hollywood stunt guys.

Other writers. I try to read outside my genre. See how others do it. What works and rings true, what doesn’t.

Workshops. There are some online courses taught by former FBI agents and cops and military folks, which strikes me as a good opportunity to have someone knowledgeable read one of my fight scenes and tell me how stupid it is.

Any other ideas for fighting the good fight against the written fight scene?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

5 thoughts on “Fight Scenes for Dummies (or Wimps)

  1. What about going to a dojo and talking to the sensei? Maybe they could have some of their students go through some moves so you can see what it looks like or walk you through them so you can get a feel for them?

  2. LOL. They don’t let people like that live in Auburn, Alabama–somebody would think sensei was a cuss word and shoot ’em! No, actually, that’s a really, really good idea. I need to check and see what’s around here (and I’m only two hours from Atlanta).

  3. Hi Suzanne!
    I LOVE Ice Road Truckers. I have no idea why! I also love Deadliest Catch and Say Yes to the Dress. Weird…I know.

    I’d much rather write a hot love scene than a fight scene….so if you ever have questions in this area contact me!!!

  4. Wendy–funny you should say that–LOL. Got a few final revision requests on my in-process manuscript today. My editor wants me to “heat up” my character’s relationships (with cousins, no less)… and do a little more work on my final fight scene. Yikes. Double trouble!

  5. Suz,
    You could always play one of the many role playing games on the Internet. Problem with that is that you would end up spening too much time playing and not writing.