How to Write a Sword Fight Scene


Part One

1.      There is no need to be over-complex with your sword scene.

»A.     Description and setting.

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.

»B.     Write about the inner thoughts, reactions and drama. The main character’s emotions and senses must be at play in the struggle like his body and weapons are.

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.


»C.     The actual scene is the next step. In a fight, no one is going to do anything normal or dull, so use powerful adjectives often.  This will allow the fight to become more vivid and detailed.

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.



Part Two

2.      Light swordsman against heavy swordsman. (Skip if it does not apply to your scene).

»A.     Because of the contrast of these characters, they will fight differently. Don’t make someone do something that is physically impossible.

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.



Part Three

3.      Base your fights on the real world, not on media fights if you want it to be realistic.

»A.     Don’t forget they’re human with imperfections.

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.


Part Four

4.      Elaborating on physical reactions.

»A.     Do your due diligence here. Think of a radio broadcast of a boxing match, where the reporter had to tell the audience what was going on in the ring. This goes for the sword fight too.

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


Part Five

5.      Is there anyone around them that can give a reaction as well?

»A.     Here are some basic things to remember:

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


»B.   Ending.

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


»C.       Extras: Parts of a Sword…

 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.


»D.      Some swords include:

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



!You might have to scroll down the textbox with your mouse!

8 thoughts on “How to Write a Sword Fight Scene

  1. Hey! Awesome stuff, I’d love to read the examples (post them please!!) and I think it would be really helpful to see/read a fantasy (monsters/demons/superpowers) styled fight as apposed to a historical human sword fight. Thanks so much, these are all really helpful!.

    1. Hey! Okay, I’ll get on that. Also, what do you suggest specifically? What kind of monster and superpowers would you like me to add?

  2. This helped me out a load with my stories thanks for making this, and this site is really useful!
    I was wondering if you’d be willing to put up a how-to on writing panic attack scenes? Like PTSD attacks and how people help calm it down or something? I know it’s a hard thing for me to try and write but it seems to crop up in the stories my ‘buddy-writers’ and me ultimately try out. Just a thought.

    1. I appreciate your comment, Hijem! I can do that. Now that my hand is feeling much better, I will be doing a lot of the scenes people asked of me.

      —For anyone who is reading this comment and has asked for a scene a while ago, I apologize. My hand needed to heal before proceeding.
      However, as of today the requested scenes will get finished. It may take about a month or two before they are all completed. Thank you, fellow writers.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to share. Read several blogs on sword fighting before I read yours. I do not need to read another.

    Great job on setting up the pacing of the fight. How to pull readers in, spark the fight, and ache afterward.

    Thoughtful to include terminology.

  4. Thanks! This was really helpful. Super off topic, but you said their feet aren’t supposed to be rooted to the ground. You know what would be fun? Writing the antagonist to be someone with flora magic, who has made plants grow around the protagonist’s feet. Preferably, roots. Their feet are now rooted to the ground! If you wanna use this, go ahead. I’ll most likely never get around to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *