Authors often ask me how specific they should be when describing fight scenes.
My advice is to avoid getting too technical or the fight scene will read like a training manual. Too many details can slow down the pacing. Fights are fast and you want your action to read quickly so you can elicit an emotional response in the reader. You want readers to feel the excitement of the fight, not confusion over the words used to describe it. The terms you use will also depend on your audience. If you don’t write books filled with action-packed fight sequences, then it may be best to keep to more general fighting terms.
What if you want to showcase a particular awesome move or technique in the climax, but it’s too technical to explain at that moment? Describing in detail what’s happening in a fast-paced action scene will slow down the excitement. My advice is to explain it or refer to it earlier in the story, perhaps during a training session.
For example, in the original Karate Kid movie, we saw Mr. Miyagi practicing a technique on a piling at the beach. When Daniel-san asked about it, we learned that it’s called the crane technique and, “If do right, no can defend.” Daniel practiced it on his own, and when he settled into the crane stance in the final scene, the audience knew this awesome move would make him a winner. If the technique wasn’t explained until used in the story, the pacing would’ve slowed and the significance would’ve been lost.
I employed this idea a few times in Renegade (Survival Race book #3) as my hero and heroine were training for the Survival Race, a deadly blood sport where the last man (or woman) alive wins. Here is an excerpt from a scene in a training facility where one of the gladiators confronts the heroine, Katana, for knocking out the alpha female. Since the male gladiators don’t want to train with a female gladiator, she tries to pick fights to get some practice.
A very built, very grumpy looking warrior strode toward Katana in a tight, ratty tank top. Tattoos covered his shaved head and ran down his neck across his shoulders, chest, and both arms. If she had to guess, they probably covered the rest of his body, too.
“I hear you smacked around the alpha female.”
Well, that didn’t take long. Her second sparring session was about to begin. Good. She needed more hand-to-hand combat training. Lately, fist fights ended too soon and not in her favor. She fared better at a distance with swords, throwing knives, or arrows. “You mean the former alpha female? What’s it to you?”
“By who?” Whom Griff’s voice floated into her mind. Quiet, Griff. I’m trying to start a fight.
“And you are?”
“Well Crowley, you did a crappy job protecting her seeing as how I knocked her out with one punch.”
“You little bitch.”
And here we go.
She ducked Crowley’s punch and slipped to the outside angle. He followed up with another. She blocked and countered, making contact but not with enough force to cause pain. The guy was big. But she was quick. Unfortunately, speed didn’t matter in the end. The ground rose up and slammed into her back, and her elbow nearly snapped from his arm bar. “Keep your hands off Becky.”
Becky? What alpha female was named Becky?
He threw her arm down and started to leave.
“Wait. What was that last move you did?”
He turned back. “What?”
“That last move. Your takedown came from nowhere. What did you do?”
Seemingly confused, he shrugged. “A kata guruma from the knee.”
“Like this?” She mimicked the movements on an imaginary opponent.
“No, no. You enter on one knee, like this.” He knelt and grabbed her right leg with his right arm. “Lift your opponent up onto your shoulders from underneath. Stretch them out. Then throw ‘em over your head or over the shoulder. I like over the shoulder.”
The world spun and she kiai-ed on impact to help break her fall. “That’s fantastic.”
“Drop them on their head in competition. It’ll break their neck.”
“Can I try this on you?”
“What? No. Get away from me. I’m not training with no girlie gladiator.” Crowley strode off, shaking his head in disgust.
You will see this move again later in the book, and when you read that Katana performed a kata guruma from the knee, you’ll know just how she threw her opponent.
Now available in paperback
A Survival Race Championship victory will award scientist Griffin the spaceship he needs to deliver his people to freedom. But when raiders attack his refuge and capture his appointed champion, Griffin’s last hope is to recruit the tough yet tempting female warrior they left for dead.
Injured and abandoned, genetically engineered superhealer Katana is rescued by a gallant scientist with an enticing proposition and an entry into the gladiator race of her dreams. A victory would free her from destitution. But how can loner Katana win an elite world championship when she’s never competed at the professional level?
As brain and brawn team-up in the arena, desires ignite and passions soar…and a game-changing secret is revealed. But the race masters demand a single champion in this blood sport, and the rivals-turned-lovers must choose between winning their freedom and losing each other.
Stay safe out there!