Fight scenes are tricky to write. Not only are they difficult to choreograph, to make believable, and to finish without accidentally making them funny, but it can also be difficult to simply find the words to make a fight scene strong. There are so many things that go into writing a good fight scene.
Today, though, I’ll be focusing on one.
I’ll be using The Princess Bride as an example. It’s okay if you’ve never read the book, or if you’ve only seen the movie, because it’s the setting in the featured image that I’m focusing on. In fact, have a clip:
The Princess Bride is full of memorable scenes, but for me, the most memorable is this fight scene between Wesley and Inigo. Aside from the banter between the two, it’s got something amazing going for it: its setting
Take a look at the clip and image above. The environment that the two characters are fighting in adds a whole new dynamic fight. There are walls to hide behind, higher and lower ground, aged bricks which may come loose—oh, and there’s that cliff. We know without having to be told that whoever is closest to that cliff face is at a disadvantage. The fight is made instantly more exciting by the environment.
What’s also of note here is that this isn’t our first scene in this environment. Inigo and his fellows spent some time there as Wesley pursued, after which Inigo and Wesley had an exchange sitting on the aged bricks.
When writing a fight scene, keep all of this in mind.
You won’t have time to describe the environment during the fight itself. In fact, trying to do so will really bog down the scene and distract from the action that your reader wants you to get to. So, instead, think with great care beforehand about the environment in which the fight takes place. Is it a ruin? A jungle? A grimy bathroom? The location will change the dynamic of the fight, as well as the tools that your characters have at their disposal.
Before you get to the actual fight, make sure that you have described the environment in enough detail. Make sure that your reader knows it enough detail. It’s amazing how much work the imagination will do. If your reader already knows where the characters are, once you’ve moved on to the quick paced fighting they won’t need a detailed description of the environment. They’ll know whether your characters are going to be tripping over roots, or smacking their head against a dirty sink as they fall down.
A memorable environment might only be the first step to a memorable fight scene, but it really is an important one.