Weapon Name: Knife, Dagger, Blade, Small Pointy Object
You can never carry too many knives.
Description: A small blade (under a foot long) with a single-hand hilt. Knives can have one or both sides sharpened, and come in many varieties. Generally, there are knives that fold up (switchblades, pocket knives, butterfly knives, etc.) and knives that do not (daggers, kitchen knives, hand-carved blades, etc.). Every area has different restrictions on what kind of knives are legal to own, so check your local laws before acquiring one.
Where Can You Get One? Any weapons store, many outdoor/camping stores.
Natural Genres: Pretty much anything. Even in a technologically advanced setting, you can work in an alleyway knife fight.
Unnatural Genres: None. If you have a scene where everyone else has a full-length sword or projectile weapon, though, your knife guy should run away as fast as possible.
What’s It For? Poking holes in things or slicing things.
Range: Very close.
How Long Can You Fight With It? Knife fights only last seconds, a minute at most. They are quick, dirty, and deadly. Your characters WILL get cut if they engage in a knife fight, so don’t expect them to take on a dozen armed attackers, one after another. Those little wounds will add up.
If they’re fighting unarmed opponents, like maybe slow zombies, they could keep going as long as they could in a fistfight. A knife takes little physical effort to wield.
What Muscles Wear Out First: Whatever gets cut by the opponent. Fatigue is not going to be an issue here.
Can it leave enemy debilitated but alive long enough to deliver a monologue? Yes.
Learning Curve: Moderate. Any character can deal damage with a knife. Any character can get lucky against an untrained opponent and win a knife fight. But it takes many, many years of safe practice with an instructor to learn to use the weapon efficiently and intelligently. This is not a weapon that can be truly learned through street experience; learning by fighting would kill the character before they really got the hang of it.
Nifty Fact for Authenticity: There are different schools of thought on how to hand a blade to another person. Some say you should present the handle toward the other person out of respect and politeness.
“Here, have this blade, good madam.”
“Oh, why thank you, dear friend.”
Others say you should hold the knife point-down so you don’t trip and impale yourself (or give the other person the opportunity to push it into you). Passing it point-down also makes the handoff subtler and faster.
Will You Hurt Yourself With It? Not if you’re training properly. If you’re careless, though, yes. Badly.
Things Your Characters Can Do With It:
1. Slash all the things. It doesn’t take much pressure to break skin, so attacks don’t need to be too forceful.
2. Stab all the things.
3. Sneak attack.
4. Spin it in hand. Carefully.
They shouldn’t try this with a real blade until they’re at least level 40. Maybe 50.
5. Do awesome disarms.
This is why we bring spare blades.
6. Use wilderness survival skills. Like carving stuff, or marking trees, or skinning prey. I don’t have pictures of those things to show you.
7. Throw it. Sort of. This takes a ton of practice to even make the blade hit with the right end. And after that, you probably wouldn’t have enough force behind the throw to deal real damage. And you’ve disarmed yourself. But it would at least distract an enemy.
This is black belt Britt and black belt Danielle. Both of them can beat me up, which is why they’re the ones throwing the practice knives around.
8. Prepare a delicious salad.
Eat your vegetables.
Things Your Characters Cannot Do With It:
1. Block a sword. Knives are tiny. Swords are big. The small length of a knife is unlikely to block a sword effectively. Yes, kids, that means Peter Pan lied to you.
2. Block anything else. Again, knives are tiny. They’re not made for blocking, and any blade-on-blade contact will dull the sharp edges. The best thing to do if a knife thrust comes toward you is to get out of the freaking way.
3. Defeat weapons with a longer reach. If you have a knife-wielding character fight a baseball-bat-wielding character, my money’s on bat-guy. The knife wielder simply can’t get past the bat’s longer reach in order to strike. Unless there’s a serious difference in skill level, bat-guy is bringing it home.
4. Kill in one blow if the fight has already started. While a single knife thrust can be deadly, it will take some time for the opponent to bleed out, during which they can continue combat. Insta-kills don’t fit in these kinds of fight scenes if both people are armed and aware. If it’s a sneak attack, though, one hit can totally end the fight before it even starts.
5. Cut through solid objects. No limb removal, no slicing through trees, no cutting the rope bridge in one swing. For a knife to cut through a solid object, it has to spend time sawing.
“In about seven hours, I will be victorious!”
6. Store them in hair. Storing something sharp near your skull is one of the dumbest things I can imagine doing. Also, it will probably cut through the hair and fall out after jostling.
7. Pick them up off the ground. Don’t just present the back of your head to an opponent.
Instead, kick it back to a safe distance before picking it up, and keep your eyes on your opponent the whole time.
8. Toss them in the air and catch them. There is no good reason for your characters to do this during a fight. In addition to possibly missing and slicing their own hands open, they risk having opponents push them out of the way and steal their weapons.
Knives create quick, gritty fight scenes, and can produce a lot of gore. They fit into any genre, provided the characters use them in the right context. Great for adding some scrappiness to your stories, though not great for full-on wartime scenes or long battles.
This information is provided for assistance in writing fight scenes only, not for real-life application.