Whack! and Other Fighting Words


Well, okay, when writing a fight scene in a story or novel, you wouldn’t add sound-effect words like they did in the old Batman TV series, but you get my point.

The fact remains that writing about fighting is a whole different exercise in word usage than describing the inner turmoil of your character’s mind and soul.

Or is it?

One thing you don’t want to do in a fight scene is render a blow-by-blow account of the action.  Otherwise the description comes across more like a technical manual (otherwise known as bedtime reading).

The goal is to keep readers up because they’re totally engrossed in discovering the outcome (now if you’re into horror, the goal is to keep readers too scared to turn off the lights, but that’s another matter).  So writers need to put themselves (and therefore the readers) into the fight.

That doesn’t mean you need to go insult a crank and take notes on the sensory experience that follows (I’ve been locked in the trunk of a car in the name of research, but even I draw a line somewhere).  You can recall the effects of pain everybody can identify with (finger slammed in door, foreign object in the eye, stunned by a phaser … wait, not that last one?).

Research can get you acquainted with the particulars.  Read books about fighting techniques.  Watch fights on TV and the internet.  If you’re really gung-ho, take classes (it will help pry you away from the keyboard).

But the key is to make the fight as personal to the reader as it is to the character.  What motivated him to get in a scrapple (subdue the villain, or just get out alive)?  What are the conditions where the ruckus is taking place (city street or murky swamp)?  How skilled are the combatants (dependent on size and strength, or ninjas fear her)?

Of course your character will need to suffer at least one injury, even if he wins.  Otherwise readers won’t worry about him.  And the turmoil on his body will have an effect on his mind and soul.  Think about how he gets hurt, and work back from there.  Think about the repercussions of the tangle, and move forward.

And if it adds color, you might even want to throw in a good Whack! or even a Pow!….

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