Weekly Writing Prompt: Fight Scenes and Action Sequences

Fledge stuck her head around a boulder, but was spotted and fired upon before she could squeeze off a round. Bullets slammed the side of the rock near her eyes, spattering her face with stone chips. She jerked back into cover and tried to decide what to do.

Meters away across the dusty floor lay a grenade, dropped by the one of the dead guards before the pin could be pulled. With a grenade, she could flush the sniper from cover.

Coiling herself, Fledge readied herself to spring at the grenade, but her plans were cut short. Something thumped the dust beside her and rolled to within a few dozen centimeters of her feet. Fledge had just enough time to recognize it and shout before the flashbang went off. The world turned a brilliant white, the sounds of the fight replaced by an incessant ringing in her ears. Blinded and stunned, she reeled and staggered, stumbling out from behind her boulder and into the open.

This week’s writing prompt is a little bit different from our other prompts. Think of it as an experiment. What is the key to writing gripping gun battles, furious fights, and appealing action scenes? I have no idea! So let’s see if we can unlock the secrets of writing fight scenes together.

Of all the challenges involved in writing, action sequences and fights may be among the most difficult puzzles that fiction poses. Do it right, and you can captivate your readers, putting them on the edge of their seats. Get it wrong, however, and what was supposed to be your most provocative scene can leave your readers bored and dissatisfied.

The Prompt

1) Write a fight scene, a gun battle, or an action sequence!

2) Read over what you’ve written and consider these questions:

  • Does it grab your attention?
  • Is it immersive or does the writing distract from the action?
  • Does it seem to flow, or is it choppy?
  • What did you do well? What could you do better?
  • If you could give other writers three pieces of advice based upon what you learned from answering those questions, what would they be?

3) Write another fight scene, gun battle, or action sequence using what you learned from writing the first one.

4) Read it over and answer the questions again.

5) Send us your fight scenes and your answers to the questions in step 2 and step 4.

6) What advice would you give other writers based on what you learned? Tell us in the comments below!

Any medium is welcomed! However, for our prose writers, setting a goal between five hundred and 1500 words for each scene would probably be about right.

So why do fight scenes pose such a problem? I suspect that the answer lies in the fact that action sequences are both detailed and fast, which is a difficult combination to write. While it certainly can be done, achieving the proper balance between description and pace can be a tall order. Too much detail robs the scene of the sort of thrill that gets a reader’s heart pounding. Sacrificing detail in favor of pace, though, can create a confusing scene with action that is difficult to follow and so not very entertaining.

I don’t mind admitting that I struggle to write fighting and action sequences. They are a challenge and they require no small amount of practice. So let’s try this out together and trade notes! I can’t wait to see what advice you all come up with.

Tips for Writing Fight Scenes

Here are a few tidbits of advice that I have come up with from writing action sequences in the past.:

1) Description should only be used as necessary. Let the action be the center of attention, rather than the setting, which should only be described when it is important to the action.

2) The pace of the scene can be increased or decreased by controlling the length and complexity of the sentences used to describe it. Fast sentences make for a fast pace. Longer, more complex sentences slow the action.

3) The emotions and perceptions of the characters involved can add an extra edge of excitement or fear to the scene. A character who is badly disoriented, for instance, can pass that panic and disorientation along to readers.

4) The best fight scenes are immersive. They can make you forget that you are reading because you feel like you are in the middle of the action.

What advice do you have for writing action sequences and fight scenes? Share your own adventures and tips with us in the comments below!

> Back to Writing Prompts


(Featured Image: “Soldiers” by Andrée Wallin)

For more about Andrée Wallin check this out: bit.ly/1nNpGIC

and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter!

The excerpt used in the opening of this prompt was taken from a short story about Fledge

that will be coming out in the next few months.

More on that soon!

Schwind_Begraebnis bw(RoggenWulf, 2014)




    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful! That makes me really happy. I still feel like I have a lot to learn to about writing fight scenes and action sequences, though, and I would love your input.

      What do you think the ingredients of a gripping fight scene are?

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