How To Write Battle Scenes – If epic battle scenes are such thrilling climaxes, a whole book full of them would sound like the most exciting story ever, right?! … Right?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve skimmed pages of pointless fighting to get back to the story.
How To Write Battle Scenes
Writing a book about war is probably exciting, but as with any aspect of writing, you need to be writing epic battle scenes to see them at their full potential. Let’s look at five essential guidelines for writing epic battle scenes.
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For a battle to be interesting, you need more than fast-paced mountaineering. Action sequences must advance the character’s journey. Do this by establishing clear long-term, short-term and medium-term goals.
The long-term goal is the overall story goal of your main character. Why is he fighting in the first place? Motives make a moving story. Total war must be rooted in a primary cause: life, hunger, sex.
The medium-term goal is the goal of the battle. Escape from prison. The commander of that ship. Kill the spiky mechanical-armed snail thing (seriously can someone explain Grievers to me? Like they’re just goopy slugs with robot arms?) Note: this goal must be unique. If your main character’s goal in this battle is the same as the last battle, there is a good chance that this battle is redundant.
Short-term goals mean that every sentence conveys a clear intention. Crawl over to the fallen mace so she can club the enemy. Build the tower so she can enter the castle. Escape the deadly robot grip of the spiky slug … hand … thing. (What seriously?)
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Every battle is a scene, so follow the rules of scene writing to ensure that every battle achieves its purpose.
, Bkake Snyder suggests that every scene needs polarity. What state is the world in when the battle begins? When the battle ends? Something about that state needs to be flipped: freedom to imprisonment, revenge to regret, doubt to certainty.
In addition, the battle must depend on the events that came before and what will follow. Can your battle be placed anywhere in the story? If possible, it doesn’t advance the story properly.
Scenes must include a goal, conflict and disaster, followed by a sequence of scenes. The breath-and-think time offered by a sequence, however brief, is vital when a book is filled to the gills with action.
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Care about the characters who are walloping each other. This is why opening with a long-winded battle often doesn’t work: we still don’t care enough about the characters to care about the end of the battle.
Use battles to show character. Show how they act and react, especially compared to other people fighting the same war. Does your character act on his intentions? Does it unleash the enemy in its heart, or does its Ghost make you hesitate to pull the trigger?
Each battle must advance the main character’s arc. How do the events of this battle affect his internal and external conflicts? In the midst of the killing, show the main character’s changing thoughts and relationships. Combine the blood and guts with other subplots. How great is the opening of Kill Bill, when the girls stop the violence to greet their daughter Vernita? “Hey baby! How was school?”
It’s a basic rule, but it’s important. Action scenes require shorter sentences and paragraphs. Write quickly to convey urgency.
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Keep your word choices simple so they are quick to read. Don’t make readers pause for that split second to read “he brought around the razor-sharp blade” when you could say “he brought the blade.” A battlefield is not the time to display your poetic talent.
Because of their visual nature, battle scenes tend to work better in movies than in books. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t write a great battle. Just borrow some techniques from screenwriters.
Get as visual as possible. You may want to act out what you are describing or draw it on paper to make sure everything makes physical sense.
Understand this tip well. Give your characters amazing things to stab with, jump on, swing from, throw at the enemy, or wrap around the enemy’s neck.
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When writing epic battle scenes, you must carefully shape them from the top down — from their overall location in the story to the decision to use the word “bleed” instead of “phlebotomize.” Get it right, and you’ll have a book that readers won’t be able to put down.
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Check out Tiana Warner’s novel Ice Massacre for the kind of fast-paced outfit you won’t be able to put down. Tiana was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. She enjoys riding her horse Bailey and collecting teacups. Find her on Twitter: @tianawarner.This article was co-authored by staff writer Hunter Rising. Hunter Rising is a Staff Writer based in Los Angeles. He has more than three years of experience writing for and working with. Hunter holds a BFA in Entertainment Design from the University of Wisconsin – Stout and a Minor in English Writing.
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A memorable battle scene can add a lot of action and tension to your story, but it can be intimidating to write because there are so many elements to keep track of. No matter what genre you are writing, your battle should be exciting and keep the plot of your story moving forward to keep your readers engaged. Although it may take time to plan and work on multiple scene revisions, you can easily include epic battles in your writing!
This article was co-authored by staff writer Hunter Rising. Hunter Rising is a Staff Writer based in Los Angeles. He has more than three years of experience writing for and working with. Hunter holds a BFA in Entertainment Design from the University of Wisconsin – Stout and a Minor in English Writing. This article has been seen 11,714 times. We have full reader support. This article may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Whether it’s a muddy siege of a Medieval castle, rugged cowboys shooting pistols from horseback, or shooting a laser beam in another galaxy, a great battle scene is a staple of action stories. High stakes, high body count, and – if
We’ve written about the basics of a good fight scene before, so let’s expand on those ideas into the ingredients of an epic battle scene. One battle scene is great, twelve is too many
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Bigger. I prefer, for one, a ‘bigger’ cake, for example. But when it comes to battle scenes, this age old saying is true. Why? Because they will start like the
What an action scene can be: pointless and, by extension, dull. It might be tempting to fill your story with wall-to-wall adrenaline-pumping battles in the spirit of ‘giving the people what they want’, but this level of drama is hard to maintain.
You should also not underestimate the power of breathing room between periods of activity. The best romance novels harness this power – scaring readers and slowly building tension in short bursts of excitement, leading to one or two, um, ‘payoffs’. This technique is applicable to novels with all types of action; it’s only in a battle scene, it’s more beneficial to remove someone from his head.
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We’ve established that you should have plenty of breathing room between big battles, but what should you use that breathing room for? It may be obvious, but a battle scene has to have a point. Establishing your character’s goals will help you define why your battle scene is happening in the first place. What is your character’s motivation to fight? What is the desired end result of the battle? Are they going to win or lose? What does the outcome of the battle mean to them? What does the outcome mean for the story?
The key to an epic battle scene is remembering the goal each side is fighting for. Click To Tweet
For example, a short-term goal for Bilbo is answering Gollum’s riddles correctly or avoiding Smaug long enough to steal the Arkenstone. A medium term goal is for men, dwarves and elves to unite and defeat the orcs and wargs in the Battle of the Five Armies on the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo’s long-term goal is… Well, just to get home as soon as possible and put his hairy legs up. Each of these goals builds character for Bilbo, as he truly – albeit begrudgingly – goes above and beyond his role as a ‘thief’ in Thorin’s company, and as a result, changes the course of history in the Middle Earth. Each of these conflicts also advances the story. They serve a purpose beyond mere spectacle.
As always, building empathy for your character will inspire yours
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