Let your readers hear the action.

Tom Cruise in a brutal fight scene with swords in The Last Samurai.
Tom Cruise in a brutal fight scene with swords in The Last Samurai.

Hearing, more than the other senses, creates excitement. You can stimulate the reader’s sense of hearing by describing sounds. This works especially well in a fight scene. Help the reader to hear as much in their imagination as possible.

Describe the noise of the weapons:

Swords clank, clang, tang and chink as they hit blades, shields and helmets, and if swung fast, they can hiss through the air.

Cannons thunder or roar. Bows twang, fletchings whisper, and arrows hiss and whoosh past. Loading a gun makes a clacking noise, and the cocking sounds like a chu-chunk.

Firing a gun, depending on calibre, may create a sound like a small pop or a deafening roar.

Flying bullets, depending on size and speed, may buzz, ping, or crack like a whip.

A blade pulled out of flesh can make a sucking sound.

Depending on the type of fight and the terrain, there may be chariot wheels creaking and screaming, boots squelching in mud, horses’ hooves thudding and clopping, vehicles crashing.

In unarmed combat, punches and kicks may thud against flesh. In wrestling, there may be panting breaths, and the sound of breaking bones which can sound like celery stalks snapping.

You can also mention screams and curses, as well as the groans, howls and gurgles of the injured, although this on how much gruesome reality you want to include in your scene.

Of the other senses, you’ll probably use the sense of seeing most in your fight scene. Describe only what the fighter sees during the action: this is probably his opponent’s face, his opponent’s fist, his opponent’s knife, and not much else.

The sense of taste plays no role in a fight scene, unless you want to mention the coppery taste of blood.

The sense of smell usually kicks in when the fighting is over: there may be strong smells of cordite, urine and loose bowels.

For the sense of touch, you can describe what the ground feels like underfoot, and don’t forget to mention pain, because fighting hurts.

Author/editor Rayne Hall has produced a series of books on the writing craft, including Writing Fight Scenes.

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