Battlegrounds: The Importance of Location in Fight Scenes

Don’t underestimate the importance of setting in your fight scenes.

Which of these locations would prompt a more memorable fight: a random field, or a dentist’s office?

A field makes sense historically, since people usually lined up and fought each other in big, open areas. But if you’re writing something other than historical fiction, don’t cage yourself in that trope.

The dentist’s office provides a wide variety of contraptions for cover, distractions, and improvised weapons. It is an enclosed space, forcing the combatants to stay locked in combat. The antiseptic smell could mingle with the odor of sweat and blood. In short, you’ve got a lot of possibilities.

When you choose a unique location for a fight scene, make use of it. Explore the potential details for all five senses. Is the floor slippery? Are there pipes to climb? Do the characters have to hold their breaths because of toxins in the air? Be creative with this. Those minor details give a fight gritty realism and make it memorable.

Don’t get me wrong; you can write interesting fights that take place in empty fields, and you shouldn’t set a fight in an outlandish location for no reason. But if your characters are already there, and then a fight breaks out, have some fun with it.

Here are some location ideas to get your ideas spinning. I’ve included examples of unique choreography or obstacles available in each one, and an example of a detail sentence that you could write. What other possibilities stand out to you?

1. Ziplines – upside-down fighting, strategically speeding up or slowing down
“The wire flayed his skin raw in seconds, but he couldn’t bring himself to care, not when his inverted angle provided such a chilling view of the drop below.”

2. Chemistry Lab – liquid nitrogen
“Ice coated everything – the tables, the floor, the toes of her boots – and the vat wasn’t even half empty.”

3. Neighborhood Lit with Christmas Lights – rope fighting, really cool shadow effects
“The flashing primary colors cast playful reflections on the barrel of the gun.”

4. Elementary School – climbing desks, swords scraping on chalkboards
“The blade scraped along the slate slab, piercing the chalk-filled air with the most ungodly awful sound she had ever heard.”

5. Post Office – throw boxes, hide in boxes, ride conveyor belts
“He rode the avalanche of boxes to the ground and rolled out of the way just before the huge one marked ‘fragile’ could land on him.”

6. Woodshop – power tools, sawdust in eyes, loud noises
“Sawdust choked her lungs, and she barely managed to bring the wrench up in time to block another attack from the drill.”

7. Bookstore – climb shelves, meta humor
“He dove over a stack of those supernatural teen novels his daughter liked and crashed through a display of motivational nonfiction.”

This information is provided for assistance in writing fight scenes only, not for real-life application.

Next week: Taking a break.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all!

What weapons and topics should I feature in January?
Suggest one in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Battlegrounds: The Importance of Location in Fight Scenes

  1. How about a fight in an airplane? And maybe it starts decompressing, lol !
    Or a cavern…with an underground stream and those stalactites hanging from the ceiling to avoid, and stalagmites coming up from the floor of the cavern?
    How about a fight in a forest, and the weapons would be branches?

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