for writers and readers….
…generally, one doesn’t encounter a lot of fight scenes in literary fiction. I find this absence puzzling, as most people I know have been in some sort of physical altercation, at the very least with siblings. Maybe it’s because, like sex scenes, no matter how much experience you have, they can be weirdly difficult to write.
Few things annoy me more than a fight scene that’s simply a blow-by-blow account. He threw a right jab, which she parried and countered with a left knee, which he dodged by rolling out of the way. But to what end? The beauty of literature is it’s not a movie. Certainly, one should help readers visualize movements, but good prose can do so much more.
At a minimum, fight scenes should advance plot and character. Moments of extreme stress like a fight can be revelatory in terms of character. Is this someone who can adapt to the environment, using tools at their disposal? Someone who insists on fighting honorably or who throws sand in their opponent’s face?…Plus, fights have consequences, and those consequences advance plot.
Read her article on how to write a fight scene in full on Literary Hub
I had a complaint from one of my readers. “Yes, the romance is good, the dialogue is amusing, but we haven’t had a really nice swordfight for three books.”
I got a nice accolade, however; “It’s easy to tell if your protagonists are using something like a foil, a broadsword, or a Polish sabre by the tactics.’
obviously, it has to be more than blow by blow; what goes on in the mind of the main protagonist, the gasp from any spectator as a sword nicks one of those involved, the need of a pugilist to keep on his feet for a required number of rounds, and fighting not to be taken out too soon [I had a hero who took to pugilism with bets laid on the side to recoup a family fortune].
A good fight scene can do a lot to build or release tension around the other relationships within a story. Is the girl who declared indifference less indifferent when there are epées at dawn? does the jaded hero decide that he has more to live for than he realised when his life is threatened?
You have very discerning readers (and I don’t think I’ve even described as much as a slapped face in anything I’ve written). I’m interested does your knowledge of sword fighting come from research or do you fence yourself?