Writing fights

I unabashedly write kung fu stories. It has to do with the fact that one of my biggest influences is Jin Yong. I’m a huge fan of Wuxia and, in fact, have written articles on the topic of the genre previously.

In short Wuxia is a genre of historical fantasy from China. It draws its roots from Chinese folk tales and opera, historical classics like the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Water Margin, and from 19th century romances, especially those of Alexandre Dumas père.

Jin Yong generally built his stories along the lines of a bildungsroman, as the development of the protagonist is traced from late childhood to adulthood. Other authors used the template of detective stories.

But what gets remembered most about Wuxia stories is that they are kung fu stories. The depiction of superhuman martial skill is the short-hand by which a diverse and complex genre is differentiated from other branches of romance.

And let me tell you, writing fights is hard. A key difficulty is keeping the action moving properly in your head. To write a fight you have to choreograph every player in the combat. You have to be able to keep track of where each person is standing, what they’re doing.

And then you have to be able to lay it out in an orderly fashion. You have to do it in a way that makes it clear what’s going on. You have to do so while respecting the pace of the story, and the pace of the fight. After all, fights happen FAST and if you linger too long describing perfectly what happened you’ll pull your reader out of the story.

At the end of the day there’s no one right way to write fights. There’s a million wrong ways.

I’m interested in your opinion. Please let me know a story you thought had excellent fight sequences, or horribly written fights in the comments.

One thought on “Writing fights

  1. I love Jinyong’s fighting scenes because of the unexpected and exciting coincidences that he piles up in one scene. When you think the protagonist has suffered enough and needs a turn? That’s just the very beginning. You may feel frustrated, angry and can’t help but curse the bad guys, but there’s never lack of excitement.

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