Battle scenes can be just as intense on the page as they are on the screen. Many classic novels, such as The Lord of the Rings and The Last of the Mohicans, contain vivid, well-written battle scenes that are essential to the plot.
Even if you do not have faith in your ability to create one of these scenes, the inevitable conflict present in every tale may eventually leave you with no choice. Once you learn how to properly write a battle scene, you will never again be stuck with a war or fight that you are unable to properly describe.
Plan Out the Action
Plan out major events in the battle, and the battle’s eventual outcome, before you ever begin writing. Do not “wing it”. Doing so may leave you with a battle scene that rages out of your control. Know ahead of time who gets wounded, who dies, who wins, and what precedes each of these occurrences. It may even help for you to sketch out an outline to help guide yourself as you write the actual war scene.
Take Inspiration From Other Sources
Watch movies that contain the type of large-scale fighting that you wish to emulate. Practice your skills by writing about each battle as you watch it. Attempt to capture every element of what you see while also incorporating the characters’ thoughts and feelings into the action.
Other authors can also provide a source of inspiration. Read battle scenes contained in other books. Note how each author describes the action and moves the battle along to a satisfactory conclusion. It is perfectly acceptable to copy another author’s writing style and build upon it to create your own. Keep in mind that you must not copy the scene itself, only the style in which it was written.
Make a Map
Draw a map of the terrain. Depending on where your characters are located, they may be fighting around a castle, mountains, hills, or streams. Knowing where each landmark is located and where each of your characters will be throughout the battle will help you move the scene along without it appearing disjointed to the reader. For example, if your main character begins the scene in the mountains surrounding a castle but arrives at the castle drawbridge within two paragraphs, you know you have extra work to do.
Identify With the Characters
Put yourself in your main character’s shoes. What does he see, hear, feel, and even smell? You can use these aspects of his experience to add important details to the action. If you plan on having your battle scene shift between different characters with different points of view, remember that each individual will view the battle differently. Take this into consideration when writing the scene.
Add Plenty of Detail
Always give your reader the gory details. You do not have to turn your battle scene into pure carnage, but part of being a good writer is the ability to note details that create a scene for your main character to participate in. War is violent and fierce – embrace that fact in your writing. Even if you prefer to be conservative about the violence contained in your fiction, your readers may not be able to visualize the intensity of the battle itself unless you describe, in detail, some of the injuries or deaths that occur on the battlefield.
Keep it Realistic
Unless your character has superhuman abilities, it is unlikely that he is still going strong after several hours of fighting or does not feel any fear. Readers want to identify with the characters that you create, but you may make that difficult if you give them unexplained abilities that your readers do not possess. For example, if your main character’s army slices through the opposing army with no casualties and no difficulty, you strip your story of intensity and lose your reader’s interest. The possibility of defeat should always be present for your main character and his allies.
After you have written your battle scene, put it away for several days before taking it out and looking at it again. You will inevitably see aspects of the scene you wish to change that you may not have noticed if you’d incorporated the scene into your finished product right away. Consider seeking criticism for your writing online or from friends and family members with an objective point of view. The more constructive criticism you receive, the more you will be able to tweak your battle scene to appeal to a broader audience of readers.
About the Author:
Ciele Edwards holds a B.A. in English.