Battle Scenes for the Non-Combative Writer

Writerly Rant #71

By M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.

Catfight by Dimzin2k6 - Deviantart

Catfight by Dimzin2k6 – Deviantart

I find myself in the midst of writing another battle scene for a novel not aimed at the military aspect of war – and yet I wonder if that’s a contradiction in itself. You see, I love reading a good battle sequence full of tension and suspense but I’m not a lover of military writing or books that only use the guise of fiction to glorify war.

Now, I’ve read books (YA/NA/A) that contain battle sequences but I find that many fall flat on two fronts:

1) The length

2) The depth

For me, it’s all about balance. The fight or battle can’t go on for so long that I’ll lose interest in yet another bloody hand or exploding body – the slow-motion book version of movie stunts only makes sense if it’s an incredibly relevant moment and should not be repeated in the same battle.

And yet, I’ve read plenty of books that gloss over important locative, emotional, and reactive factors that add suspense and tension to what’s happening. They’ve sacrificed a quality moment for expedience and I’m left blinking and wondering what I missed. This not only takes me out of my reading head-space but often once I’ve re-read the offending passage things aren’t any clearer.

Does that make me an expert on non-military fighting sequences?

Hell no.

I’m trying to figure out that balance all the time. Right now I’m stumbling over how much external interference detail is needed, combined with emotion, drive and action so that I don’t do to my readers what’s been done to me.

Advice regarding this runs the gambit:

Don’t write about what you don’t know.

Read lots of battle/action sequences to get a feel for how others do it.

Read ‘how to’ books on the topic

Wing it

The unfortunate reality is that I don’t have the time to do research on this, my personal reading time has been whittled down to practically nothing so that I have time to write – so reading more and gleaning wisdom doesn’t always coincide with what’s next on my ‘to read’ shelf and I hate spending money on something I feel I should already know… even though I’ve just confessed that I don’t know it.

So that leaves me with winging it just like every other author whose book I’ve been torn from because they’ve made a mess of the fight scene…

Perhaps the real battle is finding the balance in my own writing life to be able to improve what I’m trying to make a living at.


I know – I’ll go to that workshop at the next writers conference… to bad it doesn’t happen until mid-way through the production editing of this book.

Bright side…

My next battle scene will really knock your socks off 😉

Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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