I wrote about writing action or fight scenes in deep point of view a while ago, but I got a reader question asking for more specific advice. To deliver the best punch possible, be specific!
Let’s dive a little deeper at the techniques and stylistic choices you can make to add a punch to your action scenes in deep point of view. How much internal dialogue you use will be determined by your POVC’s (point of view character’s) personality, but also the genre you’re writing in. Sword and sorcery novels will be expected to have less internal dialogue in action scenes than paranormal romance for instance.
All things being equal, what are some of the stylistic choices you can make when writing an action scene?
Use Short Quick Words
Hit, punch, jerk, stab, strike, slice — these are all words that sound fast. Compare that with words like push, gouge, impale, run-through, pummel — these are all well-used words in action scenes too, but they don’t sound fast. It’s the hard consonant sound that can get onomatopoeia working for you. That’s not to say don’t use words with longer soft consonant sounds, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Instead of having your POVC strike an opponent in the face, have them crack an eye socket. You don’t have to be graphic or gory, but if you’re able to describe with more precision what’s happening it’s easier for readers to picture what’s happening.
She swung wildly with her knife.
She swung for his eyes with her knife.
One makes you wince and the other doesn’t quite engage you the same way, right. Also, keep in mind the relative fighting experience of your POVC. Someone who’s a trained killer will know precisely what organs, joints, or bones they’re aiming for, what damage they’re aiming to create, and how debilitating that injury will be. The housewife assaulted as she’s getting into her van in a parking garage will be fighting for her life. She might not be able to use the same specificity as the trained assassin.
Keep It Short
Most action scenes are short. You can’t maintain that breakneck pace without readers checking out just to breathe. If you’re writing a prolongued battle scene (whether it’s with fists, swords, or words) remember to give the reader a chance to breathe. Move the fight to a new location – the argument moves to another room, another player enters the scene, you get the idea. This also gives you a chance to change or ratchet up the emotional tension in the scene.
Keep Skills Realistic
If your POVC is female fighting a male, make sure to explain the difference in size, weight, height, wingspan, etc. Your female character can’t be equal to men in EVERY circumstance. There are physiological differences you’ll need to either explain away or compensate for.
A fight to the death should be dirty. Too many fight scenes employ these half-hearted, polite swings and head butts. If your life is on the line, you’re going to draw blood, break bones, there won’t be any holds barred.
A writing teacher rightly criticized one of my fight scenes between two trained soldiers (one more experienced, heavier, and taller than the other) as being too tame. The one who was overpowered in my story at some point stops relying on fancy moves and is simply trying to survive. Would you hesitate to gouge out someone’s eyes if that was the only way you could think to survive an encounter?
Not every genre will require the gory details, but keep it as authentic as possible. Remember, you are not telling this fight scene, your POVC is. How would they see this fight? What won’t they do? What would be their instinct at first? How far would they go to survive? The fallout of these scenes can be very powerful, but the outcome feels fake if the battle to get there wasn’t bloody.
In your current WIP, how much experience does your POVC have with fighting? How would they handle a physical encounter with someone bigger and stronger than them? How would they rationalize a physical encounter with someone they overpower?
I am doing a free 5 Day Deep Point Of View Challenge on Facebook starting October 22. It’ll be in a closed Facebook group. You can sign up for the waiting list here so you don’t miss out when I have all the details put together.