Screenwriting: How to Write a Fight Scene

When writing a screenplay, fight scenes often take front and center stage. But, writing a fight scene isn't as easy as simply saying that there will be a fight here. A screenwriter has to coordinate dialogue, figure out how long the fight will last and similar considerations. To really write a great fight scene, screenwriters need to understand the type of fighting in which they are writing or at least buy a book to learn more.

Step 1: Knowing the Fighting Style

If a screenwriter has never written or even practiced a certain fighting style, then they may be creating unrealistic moves and sequences. If they don't know about a fighting style, it's time to either learn or read about it. The best way to really know how to write about a sequence is to get out there and do it. 

Writers should take classes in boxing, Taekwondo, fencing or the like. Then, they'll really know what's involved in these fighting styles and be able to write about it.

If screenwriters simply don't have the time, they should pick up a book that not only describes the styles, but has illustrations of the moves. Then, writers should watch videos of taped competitions or experts in the field, or they can actually go to a competition in their area.

Step 2: Pace the Dialogue

Fight scenes are never completely silent. Usually, there are wars of words or at least some grunting involved. A screenwriter needs to figure out what they want to do. Just don't make it too unrealistic.

Most major action movies have the main character making some playful, oftentimes hokey dialogue. But, if writers want their movie to be serious, then they need to skip the humorous banter and figure out what would actually work for their character. 

Study films with interesting fight scenes like Enter the Dragon, Kill Bill, the Mask of Zorro, Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood and so on. Screenwriters will get an idea of what works and what doesn't.

Once the dialogue is written, act out the scene and figure out the timing. If the goal is to create a 10 minute fight scene, then the dialogue may need to be cut down or expanded. 

Step 3: Involve Others

While most screenwriters are highly protective of their work, it may be worth their while to bring in someone else to help with the fight scene. They should ask someone who practices the fighting style to read the script. They can give pointers are what sounds authentic and what doesn't. They can also offer suggestions to make the scene better.

Then, screenwriters should bring in their friends to run through the scene. Screenwriters should have their friends act out the entire sequence with fighting techniques and dialogue, and the writer should film it as well. This will help determine whether or not the timing is off or whether or not more dialogue is needed.

Step 4: Add Cues

Screenwriters are going to have to add thorough information in the setup for the scene and what occurs while the dialogue is being said. This is the only way to ensure that instructions are being followed.