How technical should an author get when describing fight scenes?
The answer may depend on who your readers are. Fans of military thrillers might have a different level of fight knowledge than fans of women’s fiction or YA. An author would be wise to take reader expectation into account when writing.
Regardless of genre, though, I would advise against getting too technical. You don’t want your fight scene to read like a training manual. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will also slow down the action and pacing.
If you want to showcase a particular technique in the final battle scene, explain it or refer to it earlier in the story; perhaps in a training session. For example, in the original Karate Kid movie, we saw Mr. Miyagi practicing the crane technique, Daniel asked about it and we learned that, “If do right, no can defend.” Daniel practiced it on his own, and when he got into the crane stance in the final scene, we knew this awesome move would make him a winner. How about the five-point palm exploding heart technique in Kill Bill? If these techniques weren’t explained until they were used in the story, the pacing would slow, and the significance would be lost.
Fights are fast, so fight scenes should be quick reads. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. This will help elicit the correct emotional response from the reader. He/ she should feel the excitement of the fight, not confusion over the words used to describe it, or boredom from it taking too long.
Do you have any favorite techniques from books or movies you’d like to share? Have you read any books where the fight scene reads like a how-to manual? How about books with awesome fight scenes that were handled flawlessly? I love hearing from you. Please leave your comments below.