In the final showdown, who’s the last one to fall?

In this movie scene, the odds are definitely stacked against Jack Reacher, played by Tom Cruise.
In this movie scene, the odds are definitely stacked against Jack Reacher, played by Tom Cruise.

Does your novel climax with a big showdown between the hero (or heroine) and the villain?

Here are techniques to make this fight powerful and memorable.

* The fight scene during the novel’s climax is longer than the other fight scenes in the book. It is also the more violent, and the more emotionally rousing.

* Raise the stakes as high as you can. The climactic fight is almost always to the death. In addition to the hero’s life, something big is at stake, something he’s prepared to die for: the freedom of the slaves, the lives of the innocent, the future of Earth. This big cause is probably what the hero has been pursuing throughout the novel.

* State the purpose of the fight, that big cause for which the hero is fighting. Spell it out, and keep it in the reader’s mind. The more you emphasise the purpose, the more the readers will root for the hero.

* Use an unusual location for the fight, preferably a dangerous place, such as burning house or a sinking ship.

* Stack the odds against your hero (who can, of course, be a heroine): Give the villain the better weapons, better armour, better preparation. Make your hero vulnerable: he’s unarmed or poorly armed, without protective armour, maybe even injured or exhausted. The more you stack the odds, the more the readers will root for the hero.

* If several people are involved in the fight, arrange it so there are more bad guys than good guys, because readers always root for the minority.

* If the villain is supported by several henchmen, let your hero defeat them one by one. The villain has to be the last one to fall, in order to keep the tension high.

* Show violence. Even if you’ve skirted around violence in the earlier parts of the novel, this scene will benefit from injury and pain.

* Create a ‘black moment’ when all seems lost. Then the hero recalls his purpose, rallies his last drop of strength and courage, and fights on until victory.

* If your hero has a special skill, find a way to use it in the fight scene, preferably in a surprising way.

* If your hero has a weakness, phobia or fear, force him to face it during the climactic fight. For example, if he fears heights, the fight takes place on the roof of a skyscraper. If he has a phobia of snakes, the villain uses snakes against him. If he’s terrified of spiders, he must fight in a spider-infested cave.

Rayne Hall is the author of Writing Fight Scenes.

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