Get Into The Fight: How to Write Action That Won’t Show You’ve Never Thrown a Punch

Our books are getting so close to being finished! We’re in that weird almost-done stage where you can see the finish line but you still have so much left to do, and there are roughly a million decisions to be made. And all of this is happening as my daughter starts kindergarten this week.

*cue head exploding*

I admit to being more than a little crabby. I’m not quite to the point of wanting to smack people, but I’m close. Which is why I’m so grateful that Erin Flynn is here today to talk about….FIGHT SCENES! Just…you know. Strictly from a research standpoint…


fightI’m an enigma in that I’m a romance author who likes to write a lot of action into her books. An interesting side effect came about from that, though: lots of romance authors asking me on a regular basis to consult on their action or fighting scenes.

What amazes me is how often I talk to other authors who are baffled by the questions I ask them. Did you do any research? Some are honest and say they didn’t know where to start. Others act like I’m the twit and inform me there’s no way to research fighting.

Actually, there is. I’m a Chicagoian with an Irish temper, so depending on how snippy someone is, my reply can range from a nice suggestion of starting points to an offer of learning firsthand. Honestly, I say it to make a point—not that they should get in a fight, but that they could watch one.

I tell most authors seeking help that studying MMA fights is a great way to understand technique, timing, reaction, gut responses, and such that I see mucked up all the time in books with action sequences. Here are some of the most common pitfalls.

  1. Balance. A person can’t throw a punch with their right hand and step with their left foot. Punching is about more than the hand or arm. To cause any damage, the whole body is behind a punch and has to be on the same page.
  2. Taking hits with no recourse. I can always tell when someone has never been punched. They write their characters getting punched in the face as if they’re dropping a piece of paper on their heads. Let me tell you, it hurts. It really hurts if the person knows what they’re doing. Your characters will stumble backwards, see spots in their vision, experiencing ringing in their ears, feel bones snapping, and so on. And don’t forget to make your characters feel the fight afterwards. They will hurt from it!
  3. Timing. People are not semi-automatic weapons. It takes a bit of time to reset to throw another punch or get into position. It’s why boxers and fighters “dance” around so much. Give your characters a chance to assess their opponents. These are moving targets and oppositions with a plethora of variable components.
  4. The fingers wrapped over the thumb in a fist. The second that fist comes into contact with something hard and un-malleable—say bone under skin—that thumb will break. It’s broken, no ifs, ands, or butts. Maybe even shattered, and the hand is out for the count. The thumb goes on the outside of a fist.

I’ll share my favorite mistake only because those who winced while reading the list of pitfalls will feel better when they hear this. So, it’s a New York Times bestselling author, proving that we all make mistakes.

The author goes into detail about two guys goofing around—best of friends, shoulder to shoulder once again as they patrol the streets to keep them safe. Fred, who’s on Ted’s right, just as they’re on the right side of justice (yes, it said something like that, though they weren’t Ted and Fred) is listening all about Ted’s new woman.

Suddenly they’re attacked! Ted sees them first, grabs his sword, and extends it over his right shoulder to gain momentum before striking out at the enemy. Crisis averted, Ted saved the day.

Anyone else catch that? Yeah, apparently Fred wasn’t that great of a friend because Ted just beheaded him…or at least cut the guy up something fierce.

That is why I always tell authors and writers to physically draw their action scenes. It might sound silly or weird, but I have over a hundred books as Erin and my pen name Joyee, and I’ve drawn out every fight sequence, bomb scene, car chase, or anything that gets remotely complicated.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Heck, my neighbor thought I was a football coach because he used to see me in my garage drawing X’s and O’s with arrows on my whiteboards all the time. But it works. It works for the NFL, doesn’t it? Movie stunt coordinators do it before filming as well.

First, I map out the location. Once I know what I’m working with, I mark up my available space. It’s also helpful for the visualization when it comes time to write the description of the room, but I’ll leave that article to someone else.

Hopefully this post showed that there are lots of tools out there to help with action and fight scenes other than jumping into a bar brawl. Though, those are always good fun, too.

Not that I’d know anything about that.

Growing up on the northwest side of Chicago, Erin is a loyal Cubs fan, but she also admits to being a die-hard Green Bay Packers girl. From target practice to putting puzzles together, she enjoys an eclectic list of hobbies that feed her outgoing and creative personality. To date, she has published over 90 books in the erotic romance genre, and her dedicated readers eagerly await each installment to her numerous series. You can find out more about her books on GOODREADS!

First Image: RyanMcGuire @ Pixabay


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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31 Responses to Get Into The Fight: How to Write Action That Won’t Show You’ve Never Thrown a Punch

  1. saleem mohd. says:

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