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Writing a Battle Scene


Whenever I write a battle sequence it never seems to come out as I see it, for example, if I focus on the actual strategy of the battle I over look the human side of the battle, the death and gore etc... If I focus on the human side of the battle I forget the strategy.
Whats more I always seem to go into depth about the actual hand to hand fighting and forget that battle mages are a major part of the battle.

If anyone could help me it would be most appreciated.


One thing I would suggest is try not to go into too much detail at all times. Choreographing an entire fight scene and writing it down, you may think you did a good job but more than likely it will be impossible for the reader to decipher what the heck is going on.

In my experience, shorter descriptions with more vivid language can convey a lot of imagery in a battle scene. Break things up with dialogue or a character's perspective if you can because action sequences that go on too long in books are not very fun to read (for me anyway). It becomes such a muddled mess that you just want to skip ahead to the ending.


In my opinion, the human side of writing combat scenes does not involve blood & gore. It's the perception & emotions of characters that make a battle interesting and real.

Focusing on how the battle affects a character, instead of the moves or spells involved, will work to draw the reader into the scene & make the fight seem realistic.
Look at the scene from your point of view character or, if using an omniscient narration, from the point of the main focus of the scene. A flaming wall of doom a half mile away is meaningless; an explosion within a hundred feet will draw attention. The characters may notice things going on near them or around them, but it is a good idea to imagine the battle, draw it out, then think of the range of senses of focal characters within the battle. There's not usually a lot of instant distant communication in combat... That's why this approach may be more helpful.


You could try writing it from multiple POVs, means you can show the battle from various locations throughout the landscape, and you won't be neglecting much then, say if you have the POV of a General, a Mage, a Soldier, even possibly an enemy. Could bring an entirely new perspective to it.


I usually focus on the confusion in a battle. If you're a normal soldier, you'd only focus on the events around you, not the strategy. Hence why it it usually better to focus on senses (sound, smell...) , physical feelings (eg. pain or exhaustion) and emotions (fear, anger...)

Some of my battle scenes, however are from a leader's perspective, so tactics are important. Before I write, I draw some maps and diagrams detailing the battle. I can use this as much or as little as needed to help choreograph the battle. In terms of actually writing, I do one of three things:

- General's perspective as he watches from a vantage point
- General fighting and trying to command at same time (confusion)
- General + advisers planning battle before. During the battle the attention of focused purely on the character as he fights


The best thing to do is to read and study battle scenes written by authors you enjoy reading. See how they paced it. What they focused on. The POV and descriptions, how they related the strategy and tactics from a personal/squad level up to the grand overall tactics and effort on the army scale.

See what worked for you and why, then apply what you learned to your on project and battles, modified by your writing style and storyline/characters/world setting.


Battle scenes are tricky at times. A good way to express them clearly is through short sentences. Steven Harper uses a great example in his "Writing the Paranormal Novel" here it is (quick note, before you write the scene do research with a doctor. If you have your character thrown through a wall to get back up like nothing happened then the reader won't believe it unless you state previously that he's thick-skinned or something.) Anyway:
"Fight scenes are usually best done with shorter sentences as well as short words. The quick sentence structure indicates quick action. Longer sentences, even if a lot happens, feel like they take up more time. Look at the difference:
"Ben's fist sank into the werewolf's gut, and the air whooshed out of the creature, flooding Ben's nostrils with the stench of foul, long-dead meat. The werewolf recovered quickly, leaping at Ben with bloody claws extended and slashing at the air, barely giving Ben time to duck out of the way. A growl of frustration rumbled through the werewolf's chest as Ben desperately searched the ground for the gun and the precious silver bullets he'd dropped moments ago." An okay fight scene but it suffers from abundance of long clunky sentences. Now try this version:
"Ben punched the werewolf in the gut. Air whooshed out of the creature, and Ben smelled rotten meat. The werewolf recovered and leaped. It slashed the air-once, twice. Ben ducked beneath the bloody claws. A frustrated growl rumbled in the werewolf's chest as Ben desperately scanned the ground. Where the he** was the gun?"
The shorter words and sentences move the fight along much better."

Hope this helped.


I try to imagine my battles scenes as if I were viewing them in the cinema. I know this may sound a little strange but stay with me. I try to imagine the visual images of the battle in my mind, then write down what I see. What stands out, what I hear, this really helps to give your scenes a cinematic scope.

This may be a tad vague but I hope it helps.
I think your battle should be from the same perspective as the rest of your stories. I guess there is this desire to "pan out" and show the entirety of it, but this can be jarring to someone that has been following along with your POV-character. Stay with that character (or characters) and describe the battle as they approach it.

I guess this assumes that you have POV characters. If not, then focus however you have been with the other bits of the story...


Keep it brief. Stick to the character's point of view.
The battle of fiver armies in 'The Hobbit' was the climax of the book, it was a large scale battle with goblins, elves, humans, dwarves and wargs. Yet Tolkein wrote it very well, in my opinion, he wrote the entire battle in a little over five pages. I too find battles are a nightmare to write but there are always tricks to counter writing the battle scene- don't write them.
I can understand this may sound slightly stupid, but if you find them hard to write like I do, skip the battle. Perhaps your main character who is involved in the battle takes a head wound before it begins, and wakes up three hours later after it has ended? Perhaps the main character wasn't even in the battle, perhaps he/she was miles away when it took place or arrived after it finished? Be creative, stick to your characters and hope it works out for you.
For me writing battles which involve many combatants isn't that hard. Whats hard for me is writing fights between two to four characters. I tend to get to involved with the details and the thoughts of the fight to the point where a simple fist fight might extend to seven pages before the bout is resolved.
Sounds like a lot of the trouble, starting from the OP, is juggling-- so many characters, resources to consider, twists, and so on.

I guess on the one hand it means knowing your material: how do battles work, what factors can get involved, and so getting a sequence in mind that doesn't leave anything out. On the other hand it's deciding which of the thousand things to show or emphasize: gore, glory, this character or that, big picture or confusion in the dust... and just how wide a perspective to follow for how long. Every fight scene --in fact, every scene-- ought to keep in mind the Hobbit trick that just maybe the dramatic arc is better if the hero sees only so much before being hit on the head. :)


Article Team
Battle scenes are hard for me. But here's the way I look at them. Stories usually have two things going on, the external story and the internal story. The external story is something like the protagonist has to save the princess and destroy the Deathstar. The internal story is something like the protagonist has to overcome their fears of leaving home and begin their journey to becoming a jedi like their father.

Knowing these two things, look at your battle scene. There's two ways to view it, the General on the hilltop, strategic troop movements view and the up close and personal, soldier in the trenches view. The former is what gives the battle plot context. The latter is what gives the battle emotional context and emotional stakes. Both are needed to make the battle scene work, but one generally takes the forefront. (But depending on other factors like POV etc. You can zoom in and out.)

Now ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with this scene. What do you need to progress plotwise and what do you need to progress emotionally with the characters? Which one matters more in this scene? If there's more plot being moved in the scene, focus on the big picture, General's eye view. If it's more emotional, focus on the emotional in the trenches parts.

Once you understand which view is most important, set up the scene and the events in it so it moves plot and emotion along, with one being at the forefront and one taking a back seat, but still being present and heard.


New Member
You need to determine what you are trying to convey to your reader. Do you want the scene to smell, sound and feel like a battle? Do you want the reader to be standing next to the main character covering his back? I am presently editing two works of fiction - each has at least one major "battle scene." One author writes it from the main character's POV (keeps the reader on the edge of his seat). The other writer has a detailed (3D ) battle scene - the reader is intrigued and learns from the main character's movement. One hits at the senses the other at the cerebral cortex