1. There is no need to be over-complex with your sword scene.
I. To keep a reader interested and involved during the fight, stimulate all their senses BEFORE the battle begins. That way, they become attached to what is going to happen. It seems realistic, and therefore the results seem realistic and important, and the reader is more interested in what is going to happen.
II. Tell the reader why the characters are in that place. This is a great time to say what (day- raining, snow, temperature; year-summer, fall, winter; and time- night, morning, dust, twilight) it is in your scene.
Example 1: COMING SOON.
I. The character may be anxiously clutching the sword at his side; their other hand opening and closing in nervous energy, and a friend may warn him to relax and may mention his dead wife and kids, fallen empire, stolen throne, (or whatever the case may be) to remind him of why they are risking their lives.
II. You can add in some quick drama. For instance, the image of his wife’s raped and brutalized body could flash through his mind, as he tries to fight his raw anger and lust to kill. It’s best to add a flash image rather than a long flashback of him finding his family’s bodies, and his vow of revenge. As a result of the added drama, the reader will question whether this guy will lose his cool and get everyone killed, which adds good tension.
III. Present this information earlier in the scene so the reader will know the details and will only need a small reminder of this character’s motivation and tendency to attack without warning.
Example 2: COMING SOON.
I. Make sure the sword arrive at the fight before the character’s elbow (or worse, the character’s face) does.
II. Avoid using technical terms to describe the fight because, remember, you’re writing as much for those unfamiliar with sword fights as those who are. But you should still be accurate about how to use the weapon. A good idea is to sprinkle correct terminology here and there to make it seem more realistic. Learn the names and actions of real moves to make describing easier.
III. Know that it’s the transfer of body weight, not the arm strength that gives force to cuts and dodge. Most of the time retreat should be sideways, not straight backward.
IV. The character should move their feet. Not get rooted to the ground.
V. Visualize the fight and choreograph each character’s moves. Pretend you’re holding a sword; imagine the opponent’s move, and block it, noting your balance, what you’re leaving open, and the possible return blow.
VI. Or, break down the mechanics of the fight into something simple like: character A lunges after character B, several sparring moves occur. How about, character B is knocked hard to the ground.
VII. Writing out blow for blow can become boring and tedious. If you want, give occasional overviews of what’s happening. For example, the hero is thinking about how his body is learning the rhythm of the fight, or he’s aware of other fighters around him.
Example 3: COMING SOON.
2. Light swordsman against heavy swordsman. (Skip if it does not apply to your scene).
I. The heavy swordsman would likely attempt to overpower the light using the increased armor to cover normal vulnerabilities. Although, his plate is cumbersome and more than likely restricts movements during swings.
II. If the light swordsman can dance past the swing of your heavy swordsman, and land a blow behind the knee or on the inner thigh with the arming sword to pierce or send the heavy swordsman off balance, he’ll gain an great position to strike from the back or into the neck between the helmet and neck guard or even the chest.
III. If you want your heavy swordsman to loose, but live – have the light snag and cut the straps off his chest piece – it will nearly render them immobile as it collapses onto his shoulders with full weight and will lock their arms into place.
IV. Remember these words when it comes to writing fight scenes in general: Dodging, swiping, stabbing, slashing, and bleeding. Usually, the large person with the sword gets clobbered by the little swift guy with the stick, or vice-versa. It depends on the swordfight and skill level. What height advantage does the main character have?
Example 4: COMING SOON.
3. Base your fights on the real world, not on media fights if you want it to be realistic.
I. Use defense as well, because no one is ever only in the offense. And no one fights fair! It’s literally survival of the fittest.
II. Fighting is physically and emotionally exhausting and your characters need to act accordingly. Fighting will cause an incredible adrenaline rush, and then the fighter will crash when that adrenaline has gone. If he must continue fighting, he will be more careless of his safety. Being tired/exhausted does that, sometimes.
III. If the combatant is injured, he can’t be perfectly fine in the next scene unless you have one heck of swordsman. Let me say this again, NO ONE comes out of an intensive sword fight unscathed, unless they have magical healing powers.
Example 5: COMING SOON.
4. Elaborating on physical reactions.
I. Make a special effort to include all the senses in your descriptions. What does he hear? See? Smell? Taste? Feel?
II. Imagine the weight of the weapon, the sound a fighter makes as he swings the heavy sword, and the sheer weariness of the weight of fighting something or someone.
III. Describe the feeling of the blade in the hand, the motions of attack, the lunges and the thrusts, the feeling of your wrist vibrating along with the sword as the character blocks his/her opponent’s attack, then the final moment when the thin blade slides between your opponent’s ribs and they fall to the floor, dead.
IV. Describe the heft and swing of the weapon, the metallic retorts when blades collide, how they move around to get into a better position or just avoid the next attack they can’t parry, then step in with a lunge that gets slapped away by the opponents timely parry, only to be faced with a counter that hits him on the shoulder, letting him score.
Example 6: COMING SOON
5. Is there anyone around them that can give a reaction as well?
I. Think about what you would be witnessing while in a fight. What would you be concerned about? What would you be hearing, feeling, seeing? What similes or metaphors you can use to describe the sound?
II. Think about the inconveniences of fighting. What will happen? Who will get hurt? Why does this matter if they do? What’s at stake? What is the aftermath? And how about that ground like? Is it uneven, all dirt, quick sand? Does this make the fight harder or easier?
Example 7: COMING SOON
I. Make an ending for your scene. Describe the fight down to the last detail. However, many group battles are best limited to the main character killing a couple of people, maybe seeing a comrade die, and skipping the rest of the fight.
II. How does he react to killing someone? The death of a friend?
III. Just because it’s a sword fight doesn’t mean you can’t punch, kick, grapple, or throw things.
Example 8: COMING SOON
I. Basket Hilt — a kind of guard designed to encircle the entire hand.
II. Blade — the length of steel that may have one or more sharp edges.
III. Grip — the part of the sword designed for the hand.
IV. Hilt — “handle” of the sword, including everything that isn’t the blade.
V. Knuckle Guard — A piece of metal that curves from the quillions to the end of the hilt.
VI. Quillions — the T-shaped crossbar just above the blade that protects the hand during a parry.
I. Broadsword — A long, heavy weapon designed for cutting rather than thrusting.
II. Dagger — a long knife designed to be used as a parrying weapon in the left hand.
III. Falchion — a curved sword, with a broad blade and a single edge. Designed for fighting from horseback, because you can pull them free and keep going more easily.
IV. Great Sword — a sword with a blade about 50 inches in length, with an abnormally long grip designed for both hands. Designed for use from horseback.
V. Rapier —A light weapon, with a narrow blade designed to be used in quick, skillful swordplay. Primarily a thrusting rather than cutting weapon. Designed to break an opponent’s bones.
Example 9: COMING SOON