How to Write a Fight Scene: The Ultimate Guide for Writers

A fight scene is the culmination of good conflict. It starts as a slow simmer with arguments and minor offenses. But always boils over and climaxes in betrayal, first blows and physical conflict.

Problem is, most writers don’t know how to write a good fight to save their life (or their character’s!).

You’ve been building towards this explosive moment since page one. Now it’s time to deliver a bone crunching, knuckle busting fight scene that keeps your readers on the edge of their seats.

In this article I’m going to give you all the tools you need to do just that. So let’s get started!

Why Writing Fight Scenes is So Hard

On the surface, it seems like writing a good fight scene isn’t that difficult. A punch to the gut, a kick to the face, and a couple big explosions is all you need, right? WRONG.

Despite all the intense action scenes we’re typically used to that are fun to watch, they can be an absolute bore to read.

When watching a movie, you just sit back and enjoy the show. Your imagination doesn’t have to do too much work. You just unplug for a bit and enjoy the ride and let the screen do all the heavy lifting for you.

But when reading your imagination has to do all the work. It has to construct your fight scene blow by blow — if you write it that way 😉

Fight Scenes in Fiction vs. Fight Scenes in Real Life

In real life, fights are actually quite short. 30 seconds or less and someone is on the ground and the fight is over. They’re quick and fast paced.

But in literature fight scenes — if written incorrectly — tend to slow the pace. There’s only so many punches and kicks you can read before yawning.

This is the reason many readers simply skip over fight scenes in novel. They think “Yeah, yeah… punch, kick, blah blah blah… let’s get back to the juicy character driven drama I came here for.”

In this article I’m going to show you how to keep the readers hooked for every blow and be begging for more.

Fight Scene Guidelines

There are several guidelines or rules you should keep in mind when writing fight scenes. This will help you craft a good fight scene that keeps your reader engaged for every beat of the battle.

#1) Fight Scenes Should Always Advance the Plot

Just like sex scenes, your characters shouldn’t fight just to fight.

For every fight scene you plan on writing, ask yourself “What purpose does this scene serve?”

Tip: You should be doing this for every scene you write, not just fight scenes!

Does your fight scene act as a crucial plot point? Is it integral to later events in the story?

Or maybe it delays your hero from achieving their goal? Perhaps it reveals something about their character and who they really are?

Here’s how to find out if your fight scene moves the story forward:

Delete it.

Now read the scenes directly before and after. If you can still make sense of what happened, there’s no need for your fight scene.

#2) Less is More When it Comes to Description

In a scene where your characters are beating the snot out of each other, each sentence should feel like a punch to the teeth. Or a kick to the groin. A bullet to the shoulder.

Make the fight scene take as long to read as it would to take place. Less metaphors and similes, more raw action.

You’ll lose the reader with flowery, over-descriptive language. They just want to see what happens.

You want to increase the pace of your fight scene with short, choppy sentences. Only sprinkle in the longer description of the major blows or where needed to provide detail and realism.

Don’t pad the battle with a bunch of extra moves just to be fancy. And don’t drag it out until the audience gets bored.

Ask yourself, “Does this section of the fight truly enhance the quality of the battle scene?” If not, cut it.

If every part of your fight scene doesn’t showcase the character’s personality or abilities, or add tension, or affect the outcome of the fight, it’s just filler that should end up on the cutting room floor.

By removing all the parts of your fight scene that don’t improve it, you’ll make the parts that do shine all the more to your readers.

#3) Fighting is Boring. Story is Everything.

What makes a fight scene interesting isn’t the actual exchange of bullets or blows. It’s the story. The context behind the fight.

Readers don’t care about the fighting. They care about the characters doing the fighting, why they’re doing it.

The fight only matters if it has stakes. Watching two guys beat the crap out of each other isn’t interesting. But knowing what they stand to gain or lose from the fight is.

This is why commentators are so important to the world of professional sports. Often they spend several hours of pre-game air time going over the details of each player, coach, team, etc. to show why this game is so important to them.

Imagine you’re flipping the channels and come across some American football game. Pass, catch, run, kick… all in all not too exciting.

Now imagine that one team has won 15 games in a row. They’re hoping to go undefeated this year with a perfect record. If they do, they’ll make NFL history. Contract bonuses and new brand endorsements will also make their wallets fatter too. Lose, and their chance at the perfect record is gone.

The team they’re facing isn’t quite as good, but the stakes are just as high. They need to win this game or they won’t make it to the playoffs. Not only that, since they haven’t made it to the post-season in several years, there are rumors that they head coach will be fired and the starting quarterback will be traded if they fail to make it this year. It’s all on the line for them.

NOW we’ve got an interesting game. Every action, every play now matters to the audience. There’s way too much at stake not to care.

And that’s how your fight scenes should read too.

Charged with enough context, even an arm wrestling match can be high stakes and super engaging.

In fact, they already made a movie built around that premise:

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who arm wrestles on the side to make extra cash while trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind 10 years earlier.

Upon their first meeting, his son does not think too highly of him until he enters the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. His hope is to receive the grand prize of $100,000 and an expensive current custom semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company.

Lincoln is down and out and hard on his luck. He needs the money to get back on his feet and provide for his son.

If he loses, he loses more than just the cash and prizes. He loses his dream and the only family he’s got left.

The stakes make the story. And they make the fight too.

Nine Types of Action Scenes

Roughly speaking, there are nine types of actions scenes found in stories. These come from Ian Thomas Healy in his book Action!: Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques.

Book Cover - Action

These will help you to set up your fight scene and provide a greater context behind the fight and why and how it happens.

Nine Types of Action Scenes

  • Escape — One character is trying to escape from another
  • Rescue — One character is trying to rescue another
  • Chase — One character is chasing another
  • Race — One character is racing another
  • Fight — A close combat fight between two or more combatants
  • Shootout — A long range fire fight between two or more combatants
  • Battle — An epic-scale battle between two warring armies
  • Sports — A competitive event between two opposing teams
  • Heist — A mix of Escape, Rescue (retrieve), and Chase

Read Ian’s book to get a more in-depth description of each type of scene. But this short list here will help you decide what type of scene you’re trying to write. This will act as the context and setting that your fight scene takes place in.

Five Types of Fight Scenes

Once you’ve used the list above to determine the context in which your fight scene is taking place, it’s time to choose what type of fight scene you’d like to write.

  • One vs. One (The Duel)
  • One vs. Many (The Gang Up)
  • Few vs. Many (The Last Stand)
  • Many vs. One (The Monster Attack)
  • Many vs. Many (The Big Battle)

One vs. One — The Duel

Man vs. Man, mano a mano. This is the first kind of encounter that comes to mind when we think of a typical fight scene.

This is most often used in the final showdown between the hero and villain near the end of the story. It’s the climax of the conflict that you’ve been carefully constructing since page one.

But sometimes it’s also used when fighting a henchman or mini-boss of the main opponent. It isn’t just some low-level lackey or foot soldier.

The opponent must be skilled enough to present a challenge to your hero in a one-on-one fight.

A great way to think of this type of fight scene is by comparing it to a boxing match:

Two men enter. One man leaves. The duel.

One vs. Many — The Gang Up

The next type of fight scene is where you add a few (or a lot) of combatants to the opposing side.

Usually this is where the opponents are thugs and low level soldiers for the opposing side. Their individual skill isn’t what makes the challenge to fight, it’s their sheer numbers.

Often times the sole fighter is given a weapon, tool or super-power that gives them an unfair advantage against a single fighter, but enables them to take on the group as a whole.

Here’s a clip with a dozen examples:

As you can see, these types of scenes have been around quite a while (Bruce Lee clip), and are often quite the spectacle to watch.

Few vs. Many — The Last Stand

The next type of fight scene is One vs. Many kicked up a couple notches.

Add a few more fighters to the Hero’s side, and a WHOOOLE lot more fighters to the opponent’s side.

These types of fight scenes are typically used in a “last stand” type of scenario like the Alamo. But you’ll also find it used in the “storming the castle” finale of many stories.

The history of the Alamo present the perfect real life example. 200 or so Texans held off nearly 2,000 Mexicans over a 13-day siege.

Another example of this also staged as a last stand was the Battle for Zion from the movie Matrix Revolutions.

You see these types of scenes a lot in the Marvel Superhero movies. It’s usually a small group of powerful heroes vs. overwhelming hordes of not-so-powerful enemies. And that’s what makes the fight “fair”. The heroes have the power, the enemy has the numbers. But it could also be reversed…

Many vs. One — The Monster Attack

The next type of fight scene is used when one opponent is so overwhelmingly strong that it takes multiple fighters to take him down.

The perfect example of this, obviously, is Godzilla.

Whether it’s Godzilla, King Kong, or the Kaiju from the Pacific Rim franchise, audiences can’t get enough of this type of fight scene.

But it can also be used for smaller sized “monsters” too. And it doesn’t have to be a monster-sized force fighting them either.

In this scene from the Avengers, it takes all of their powers joined together to even come close to taking down the mad titan.

Many vs. Many — The Big Battle

This is by far the most challenging type of fight scene to write. Especially for novelists.

The reason big battle scenes between large forces are so hard to write is because it’s easy for the reader to get lost in all the action.

If you’re going to write a big battle scene, map it out first. Determine the physical geography first, then you can plan out of the different stages of the battle and where each of them takes place.

When writing a big battle scene, you’ll want to show the perspective of several characters to truly experience the battle as a whole.

The experience of the soldier on the field, the general watching over it, and the civilians trying to make it out alive are all different. So show them.

Watch this scene from the battle in Troy and count how many different character’s perspectives we get on the battle:

In just the first 30 seconds we get five different character’s perspectives.

  1. The Greek King Agamemnon making the battle cry
  2. The King of Troy Priam and Helen of Troy fearing what’s to come
  3. Achilles and his soldiers watching the battle from the sidelines
  4. The no-name soldiers in the thick of battle on the field
  5. The Troy princes Hector and Paris trying to get ready for battle

The Lord of the Ring Franchise does the well with their individual heroes. And they absolutely nailed it in Battle of the Five Armies:

Thorin, his Dwarves, Bilbo, Gandalf, Bard, Thranduil, Azog and the list goes on and on. They all have different action scenes and roles in the battle and each has a different perspective.

The reason different perspectives in a big battle scene is important is because it provides the context and stakes of the story.

Each character has their own goal and stakes in the battle. When you combine them all together you get a very complex and rewarding battle scene for your reader to enjoy.

How to Structure a Fight Scene

Now that you understand the different types of fight scenes and the contexts they can occur in, it’s time to learn how to structure a fight scene.

Four Main Phases of a Fight Scene

Most fight scenes happen in four different phases:

  1. Setup
  2. Complication
  3. Crisis
  4. Resolution

Here are the descriptions of each phase in more detail:

Phase #1: Setup

This is a combination of all the events leading up to the fight, and the “pre-game” of the fighting match itself.

Think of what you see the players do before a sporting event:

  • Arriving at the stadium
  • Putting on their uniforms and gear
  • Interviews with sportscasters
  • Stretching and warming up
  • Getting in “the zone”
  • Pre-game speech by the coach
  • Team-specific tradition
  • Prayer, both team and individual
  • Taking the field, entrance into stadium
  • National Anthem
  • Lining up for the first play

The same kind of things happen for your fight scene. For a boxing match, you’d see the boxer getting his fists wrapped, putting his gloves on, shadow boxing in the locker room, and so on.

Phase #2: Complication

As the first quarter of the fight plays out, the fight should become more complicated for each fighter.

In essence, this means it should become apparent that neither fighter is going to have an easy fight. They’re going to have to put their mettle to the test and pull out all the stops if they want to win.

A good way to do this is to alternate who has the upper hand in the battle. This will make for a dynamic, unpredictable fight and show that neither fighter is going to have an easy match.

Phase #3: Crisis

About 3/4 of the way through the fight it reaches a crisis point. One of the fighters delivers a serious blow and gains the upper hand.

They will fight harder than ever now trying to press their advantage and end the fight. Both characters will take some damage and are starting to tire.

At this point the reader may think they know who is going to win the fight. It seems like it will be the person with the upper hand at this point.

Phase: #4: Resolution

The crisis builds to a point where one fighter is going all out on the offensive and the other is on the ropes barely hanging on.

The fight will be over soon, and you’ll need to decide who is going to win and how they’re going to do that. It’s never too late for a sudden reversal to have the underdog come out on top.

You won’t always write a fight scene that follows these phases, but that’s the general pattern to follow when starting out.

10 Stages of a Fight Scene

The fight scene happens in four main phases, but to break it down even further it generally happens in these ten stages:

  1. The Challenge — The challenge to fight is made and accepted
  2. Warm Up — Combatants warm up for the fight and get ready
  3. First Blow — First real blow or wounding takes place
  4. Complication — Defeating the enemy becomes more challenging
  5. Major Blow — Enemy delivers major blow as the better fighter
  6. Crisis — Enemy presses their advantage, fighting intensifies
  7. Reversal — Underdog surprisingly gains the upper hand
  8. On the Ropes — Characters must win before strength expires or they lose
  9. Resolution — Final blow delivered, winner is declared
  10. Aftermath — How has this fight affected your characters?

Watch these One vs. One scene below from Bruce Lee’s Way of the Dragon and see how many of these individual stages you can identify:

Pretty crazy huh? Breaking down a fight scene is much easier when you know the stages involved.

The Challenge is made within the first five seconds as Chuck Norris stands in Bruce’s way. No other signal is needed.

The fighters then proceed to Warm Up by undressing, cracking their knuckles, and shadow boxing.

The First Blow doesn’t happen until around the 2:40 mark when Chuck kicks Bruce in the face with a roundhouse kick.

Chuck starts to gain the upper hand and lands more and more blows. This is the Complication stage. Bruce realizes this going to be no easy fight.

Watch the rest of the fight to see how the other stages play out. It doesn’t follow the pattern exactly, but provides a good example of how to integrate most of the stages into your fight scene.

Three Main Variables of a Fight Scene

The fight scene is made up of three main components or variables that you can change to alter the fight:

  1. The Fighters
  2. The Arena
  3. The Odds

Each one of these components requires their own section to go into full detail. See each of them below.

Fight Scene Characterization — The Fighters

By far, the most important component to your fight scene is the fighters themselves.

The reason the combatants are so important is that story is about character. And the only way to provide story through a fight scene is by characterization of the fighters involved.

In this section will go over how to provide characterization for your fight scene in great detail.

Fighter Motivation

The first and most important thing about your fighters is why they are fighting in the first place.

People need a strong reason to voluntarily risk physical injury or death. They’re not just going to enter a fight for no reason.

By becoming clear about what motivates your fighter to enter combat, you’ll make sure you don’t end up writing a meaningless fight scene just for nothing.

Fighters willingly enter combat for one or more of eight main reasons:

  1. Survival
  2. Protection
  3. Revenge
  4. Ideology
  5. Economic Gain
  6. Dominance
  7. Sport
  8. Honor

Survival is at the low-end, most basic end of the spectrum. Honor is at the high end.

Here are the motivations to fight described in more detail.

Survival — When zombies attack, it’s a fight to survive. Your life is threatened and you must do all you can to not end up dead.

Protection — You may not be in danger, but someone you care about is. Most often it’s loved ones. You’ll need to risk your life to protect them.

Revenge — You have been greatly wronged and insulted. It’s time to get revenge. Blinded by rage, you attack those who harmed you.

Ideology — Religion, Nationalism, Democracy vs. Communism. You’ve got different beliefs, and yours are superior, so they must be destroyed.

Economic Gain — They’ve got resources or territory you want, so take it. Water, food, precious metals… history is full of these kinds of fights.

Dominance — All social groups have a pecking order, and those on top seek to maintain their position. It’s what high school bullies are made of.

Sport — Whether it’s to test your abilities, win fame and prizes, or simply the thrill of battle, so people just like to fight for the sport of it.

Honor — Honor is integrity and the right to respect from your equals. If you get hit, you hit back. Fail to fight and you will be shamed. People rarely fight for honor alone. But it can really show characterization when present.

Beware making your fighter’s motivations to fight simply for the sake of pure evil. You often see this late into the career of horror movie franchises.

The Nightmare on Elm Street Film Franchise is a whopping nine movies long. And while it starts off with Freddy seeking revenge and collecting souls to increase his powers, by Freddy’s Dead he becomes a flat-out boring homicidal maniac killing people for no reason. Yawn.

Goal + Obstacle = Confrontation

The way to think about fight scenes is that your characters have a goal, their opponent stands in the way, and the must confront them to achieve it.

Fighters always have their reason for fighting (see above), but they should have a concrete goal they’re looking to achieve too. This is linked to the overall character goal for the story.

Here are some good goals for your characters in the fight scene:

Win — The fighter wants to win the fight for money or resources
Stop — The fighter wants to stop the opponent from causing more harm
Escape — The fighter wants to escape, and the opponent tries to stop him
Retrieve — They want to retrieve something in the opponent’s possession

By identifying your character’s reasons for fighting and the goal they’re trying to achieve, you’ll have locked down their character motivation.

How to Set the Stakes for Your Fight Scene

To determine the stakes for your fight scene, ask yourself what your hero stands to lose or gain from the fight. Especially what they will lose.

Here are some good stakes to consider for your characters:

  • Lives of their loved ones
  • Their own Life
  • National Safety
  • Livelihood or Career
  • Freedom
  • Reputation
  • Sanity
  • Access or Inclusion
  • Regret
  • Suffering
  • Sacrifice
  • Justice
  • Happiness

The more of those things that are at risk, the higher the stakes for your character.

But that doesn’t mean you have to cram them all in there. Even just one of them will suffice.

Once established, be sure to remind the reader from time to time what’s at stake so they don’t forget. This is a story strategy as a whole, but reminders during or near the fight itself are paramount.

The simplest way to do this is to cut away to the stakes. Although it’s a little harder to do in a novel than in film.

For an example, look no further than Silence of the Lambs. The story occasionally switches from Clarice’s search for the kidnapped woman to the kidnapped woman herself.

This constantly reminds the reader and audience what’s at stake. That way when the story switches back to Clarice they’re all the more invested in seeing her achieve her goal.

How to Set the Tone of the Fight Scene

Taking all of the above into consideration, you will create a certain tone for the fight scene. Usually based around a certain motivation and the reason why the characters are fighting or what they’re fighting for.

Is your hero fighting out of desperation, doing anything he can to save his family and his country?

Are they fighting out of anger, seeking revenge on those who wronged them?

Or are they fighting for pride, taking a stand against their oppressors and defending their freedom?

Watch these two scenes from the same film, Braveheart. See if you can notice the different in tone for each scene:

In the first scene, Wallace seeks revenge against the English soldiers that murdered his wife in cold blood. It’s a very serious, somber, rage filled fight scene, and it shows.

In the second scene, Wallace gives a rousing speech prior entering the battle. The speech gives the fight a whole new meaning and feeling. Instead of feeling like the underdogs, his fellow fighters now believe they have a chance. It’s a fight of hope and freedom.

How to Show Character Through Combat

The way your character fights — and whether they choose to fight or walk away — tells the reader a great deal about them.

If you have a character that’s passionate and fierce, they could brazenly attack their opponents in a blind rage. Nothing by haymakers and body slams. They tear up the room as they go wild in battle.

If your character is more calm, cool and collected perhaps they attack with practical precision. They move swiftly and efficient about the room as they land their honed strikes on the opponent.

Or you can do the opposite. Mr. Cool brings out the wild side in combat, and Mr. Fierce becomes cold and calculated when it’s time to brawl.

Characters can also learn something about themselves and the world through combat. The cocky champion can realize they’re no longer atop the food chain. The scrawny underdog may realize he’s stronger than he thought he was.

Using the fight to give your readers insight into your characters is a great opportunity to show who your character really is in a high pressure situation.

10 Questions to Ask About Your Fighters

Here are some questions you should ask about your fighters when designing your fight scene:

1) What kind of skills or training do my fighters have? How do they compare to one another? Are they even or unmatched?

2) What kind of experience do my fighters have in battle? Are they hardened war veterans or rookie foot soldiers seeing battle for the first time?

3) Are there are specific physical traits that affect how my combatants fight? Do they give them an advantage or disadvantage?

4) Do either of my fighters have specific knowledge that gives them advantage? Do they know anything about the territory or battlefield that the opponent doesn’t? Do they already know their opponent’s weakness?

5) Are there any specific pieces of clothing, armor or props that affect the way my character fights? Do they give him an advantage or disadvantage?

6) What weaknesses do my fighters have? How hard are they to find or exploit? How will their opponents attack them?

7) Why does the character make the choices his does in the fight? How do each of those choices reinforce their characterization? How does each choice impact their internal or external goals?

8) What are the stakes for each character? What do they stand to win? What do they stand to lose? How would that loss or gain affect them?

9) What does this fight scene help the reader learn about the character’s strengths and flaws? What does the character learn about their own strengths and flaws?

10) What does this fight scene reveal about the story or what’s to come next? Does is show how strong the villain is? Does it show the hero still needs training if he’s going to win? Will one character seek revenge later for a loss in this fight?

Fight Scene Setting — The Arena

After the fighters themselves, the next most important thing to consider is the arena in which they fight.

The Colosseum, the boxing ring, the cage… these are all special arenas from real life that pit two fighters against one another.

To get a sense of how important the arena is to the fight, watch this short documentary about the history of the Roman Colosseum.

Your arena doesn’t have to be that intricate. It can be something as simple as a back-alley behind a bar. But it goes to show you that the arena can take on a character all of itself.

The Environment is a Weapon

The important thing to realize about the Arena is that it acts as a weapon itself. It is more than just a playing field.

Often you see characters using their environment to battle their foes. Coat hangers and plungers became makeshift weapons in a room. Bottle and bar stools get used as knives and mauls in an Irish Pub. The possibilities are endless.

Here are some things to consider about the arena and how they affect the battle your characters are having.

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself About the Fighting Arena

By answering these questions, you’ll have a well-crafted arena that has high impact on your characters and the fight scene.

1) What are the boundaries, hazards, and barriers to escape? How do they impact your characters in the fight?

2) Are there any exits, trap doors, or short cuts that you characters can use to hide or get an advantage in moving around the arena?

3) Are there any specific places to take cover or hide from your opponent? How will your fighters use these against one another?

4) What items or materials can become makeshift weapons, traps or tools the fighters use? What would commonly be found in this type of setting? How could your fighter use it against their opponent?

5) Are there any certain people, places or things in the environment that must be protected? Such as the crowd, civilians, bystanders or important objects that cannot be destroyed or damaged?

6) What about the environment can be destroyed to either impact the fighters or slightly change the arena? Broken windows, busted-down doors, and hollow walls make for good destroyable objects.

7) Are there any parts of the arena that differ from one another in terrain? Are there pools of water, quicksand, or slippery floors that impact the way a character must move around the arena?

8) Are there any obstacles or hindrances that affect the setting? Things such as weather, traffic, dangers animals, fire pits, lava pools and booby traps?

How to Use the Arena to Make Your Fight Scene Unique

The arena in which your characters fight has the most impact on the uniqueness of your fight scene. Not two arenas are alike.

The arena allows for unique set ups for battle that could only happen in your story. The fighters could be exactly the same, but the type of arena they’re in creates a unique and one-of-a-kind fight scene.

And that’s what you want. Your fight scene should try to be completely unique and original. Write it like it could only happen in your story and nowhere else. That’s what will make it memorable.

Watch these video clips and try to identify all of the variables detailed above and how they make these fight scenes unique to this story.

Some of these are a little over the top, but you’ll get the point.

Each one of those fight scene was totally unique. While they may have been copied in later films and stories, they’ll never fully be duplicated.

And if you want your fight scene to be memorable you must do the same thing too.

Granted, not all fight scenes are going to warrant this kind of spectacle and detail. Some are over in 30 seconds or only last a couple punches.

But when it’s all on the line for your fighters, craft a unique arena that will make the fight special and help it stand out in reader’s minds.

Fight Scene Odds — Favorites vs. Underdogs

The last thing you need to consider after creating your fighters and the arena is the fighter’s odds to win the fight.

Now, you don’t need to crunch the numbers into some algorithm and come up with the same sort of odds Vegas would. You should just take the odds into consideration when designing the fight.

It’s mostly a comparison of the two fighters and how the arena plays to their advantage.

Nine Questions to Ask Yourself About the Fight Scene Odds

1) What is the level of skill and experience each fighter has? Is one fighter significantly more skilled and experienced than the other one?

2) How physically fit are your fighters? Is one at the top of their game and the other still getting back into shape?

3) Does either fighter have an injury, obstacle or handicap that hampers their ability to fight their opponent?

4) How do the fighters stack up size wise? Is one much taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, or muscular than the other one? Is their size extreme enough that it plays a role in the fight?

5) Does one or both of your fighters have any special equipment or weapons that give them a unique advantage over their opponent?

6) Do either of your characters have special knowledge of the terrain or arena that the other does not? How will they use this to their advantage?

7) Do either of your fighters have any allies or sidekicks who will come to their aid or play a special role in influencing the outcome of the fight?

8) Was there any special preparation or training your fighters went through to be better prepared to win this fight?

9) How will luck, surprise and inventiveness in the moment affect the outcome of the fight for either or your characters?

Don’t Make Your Fighters Invincible!

Your fighters shouldn’t be invincible. Even Superman had a weakness to kryptonite. And your characters should have a weakness too. Both the hero and the villain.

Because if they don’t, there’s no stakes. To take the fight to the highest level it must be truly life or death. Without that the fight is just boring.

Ask yourself “What goes wrong for my hero in this battle?” Something always does, and it will help make your fight more entertaining for your readers.

Another good trick is to even make your hero the underdog. Make the villain seemingly much stronger than them. The hero will win through heart, determination and cunning. And that’s what readers love.

Give Your Hero The Moral High Ground

Another thing to keep in mind is which one of your characters has the moral high ground. The one that has it is the one your reader will be rooting for.

Readers like heroes who are perceived underdogs that fight for an honorable cause and put in the hard work to achieve their goals.

But readers also dislike overpowered goons that fight to hurt others and will cheat to get an unfair advantage on their noble opponents.

Mike Tyson was one of the most recognized and favorited boxers of all-time until hit bit his opponent’s ear in the middle of match.

That’s certainly not in the rules!!

This was a fall from glory for Tyson. His career was never the same after this match. He lost the moral high ground that comes with being a fair fighter and the crowd hated him for it.

For an example of this from film, take the movie Gladiator.

Just before the final fight between Commodus and Maximus, the snotty little emperor stabs Maximus in the back. Literally.

If you didn’t hate this guy already, no you REALLY hate him.

Not that you would’ve rooted for him if he had chosen to fight fairly. But cheating and losing any moral high ground he had left ensures you won’t.

At the same time, it also makes Maximus a bit of an underdog, causing the audience to root for him even more.

How to Raise the Tension for Your Fight Scene

Now that you know all the parts to create a fight scene, I’m going to show you how to raise the tension for the event.

The best way to raise tension for your fight scene is the process of escalation.

Escalation is the process in which you increase the intensity or seriousness of something. I’m about to show you how you do it for your fight scene.

Five Ways to Escalate the Tension:

  1. Increase the opponent’s advantage over the hero
  2. Increase the number and skill of opponents
  3. Increase the deadliness of the weapons
  4. Increase the deadliness of the arena
  5. Increase what’s at stake for the hero, what they will lose

Increase the Opponent’s Advantage Over the Hero

As you saw above, by making your hero an underdog the reader will root for them to win the fight.

Think of increasing the opponent’s advantage as an overall strategy to raise the tension for the fight scene. Below you’ll find specific ways to do it, but you may think of some on your own.

It’s good to have your hero start as the underdog, increase the opponent’s advantage until the hero is on the brink of destruction, and then have a reversal where the hero suddenly gains the upper hand and is able to defeat the opponent.

Increase the Number of Opponents and Their Skill

As the fight progresses, you can increase either the number of opponents, the skill of the opponents, or both.

A great example of this is the “One vs. Many” scenes detailed above. But you may also have the character encounter mini-bosses before fighting the main opponent.

You see this a lot in the video game industry. Your character fights a bunch of lackeys, and midway through the level they have to fight one single opponent with more skill and power than everyone he’s been fighting up until that point.

They’re not as powerful as the main opponent, but still pose a challenge to the hero.

Increase the Deadliness of the Weapons

Another way to raise the tension is to increase the deadliness of the weapons. This can either happen before the fight begins or at a middle point during the fight.

From pillow fight to boxing gloves to brass knuckles. Increasing the deadliness of the weapons means that each blow will cause far greater injury to the fighters.

Try to be unique and surprise your audience. Don’t just have the characters put down one weapon and pick up another. Here is a great example from the movie Kickboxer of a surprising way to increase the deadliness of the weapons.

This scene also shows how to increase what’s at stake for the hero, as well as make the arena deadlier than previous versions.

Another great example of deadlier weapons is from the movie Star Wars the Phantom Menace:

A double-sided lightsaber?! No way! Fans totally geeked out about this because it was something they had never seen before and was totally unique to the Star Wars Universe.

Increase the Deadliness of the Arena

A great technique for raising the tension is to increasingly make the arena more and more deadly to the fighters. Especially the hero.

One blazingly simple yet effective example of this is a scene from the action movie Die Hard:

Midway through the fight, the opponent realizes that the office building is full of glass and the hero is bare foot.

What better way to stack the odds against him than by shooting out all the glass to make the hero’s ability to travel around the arena much slower and more painful?

Increase What’s at Stake for the Hero

Watch the Kickboxer scene from above, and find as many clips as you can for the entire end fight sequence. That clip is only the beginning.

Before the fight starts, the town mobster Freddy Li pulls the hero aside and tells him that if he wants his brother to live, he has to let the opponent beat him up. They’ve got his brother held hostage and will kill him if he doesn’t comply.

Throughout the fight sequence, the film cuts to a warehouse where the hero’s brother is being held hostage. The film is literally showing you what’s at stake during the fight.

While this a little harder to do with a novel, it’s still possible. Just make sure to integrate the stakes into the scene. Either before, during, afterwards or all three depending on what’s at stake.

How to Describe a Fight Scene

Up till now, this article has covered how to structure a fight scene and all of the parts involved in making it happen.

Now we’re going to cover how to actually describe it. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you describe your fight scenes.

Don’t Choreograph Every Single Move and Attack

When it comes to writing a fight scene, less is more. Leave something to the reader’s imagination.

“They struggled” paints a far more vivid picture than if you were to describe the entire scene in detail. Leave out how their arms are positioned, exactly where they’re grabbing each other, etc.

If you describe every single detail of the fight you’ll bore the heck out of your reader. Not only that, you pacing and tempo will totally fall apart.

Remember what I said earlier. Most fights are over in 30 seconds or less. So if your scene takes five minutes to read you’ll kind of missed the point.

You just want to give the reader enough detail to let them construct the fight scenes in their minds. Instead of choreographing the fight for the reader, let them choreograph the fight themselves.

Think of it this way — violence is dialogue. Fight scenes are like conversations where blows takes place instead of words.

And just like no one wants to see ten pages of dialogue without a break, same thing goes for ten pages of kicks and punches.

So be careful of repetitive description. ““He hit him, and then he did this, and then he did that, and he’s like oh yeah?”, etc.

You’ll need to learn to integrate the characters thoughts and emotions along with the physical description. I’ll show how to do that in just a bit.

Outline the Main Fighting Beats

When writing a fight scene, it’s best to plan it all out first before you begin writing.

Start with the Four Phases and Ten Stages I went over earlier. And then go over each fight scene to plot out all the major beats and moments.

That will help you connect each phase and stage of the fight scene to one another. And ensure you’re leading the conflict to a resolution.

Once you’ve outlined all the main beats, then you can go back and start filling in the details and adding in the description.

Do Research to Ensure Accuracy of Time Period

Few of you will actually fired a gun before, and even fewer of you will have swung a broadsword from the middle ages. That’s why a little research can help with your description.

Luckily there are all sorts of YouTube videos out there today that make this research easier than ever. Never shot a gun before? Here’s an 18 minute video on the basics of handguns for beginners:

Only seen sword fights in the movies and have no idea how to actually swing one? Here’s a 35 minute video on how to fight with a longsword:

And the research doesn’t stop there. Stances, weapons, techniques, blocking, roles within a larger fighting group, etc. The list goes on and on. And the Internet has made it easier than ever.

So there’s no excuses not to be historically accurate with your weapon choices. The rapier wasn’t invented until the 16th or 17th century, so you medieval knights or ancient samurai shouldn’t be wielding one.

Don’t Get Bogged Down in Technical Details

But just because you have access to all the cool weapon and fighting terminology doesn’t mean you should use it.

See how many of these sword fighting words you can correctly define:

Appel
Balaestra
Boar’s Tooth
Botta Secreta
Cob’s Traverse
Empty Fade
Fuller
Half Iron Gate Guard
Posta
The Ninth Parry

I bet you got none. And neither will your readers. Don’t assume they’ll know what each one means. It’s ok to describe the thing itself, but don’t just call it by its name and expect readers to know what it is.

Watch this short clip from the Princess Bride where they poke a little fun at the whole notion of including technical fight terms in the scene.

Bonetti’s Defense? Capo Ferro? What the heck is all that?!

Instead of focusing on the technical terms, focus your description on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of combat.

That’s what will pull the reader’s imagination into the scene. Not that a Forte is the section of the blade going from mid-sword to the hilt by which parries should be made.

Overwrite Your Fight Scenes Then Edit Down

Much like the rest of the story, it’s easier to overwrite the fight scene and then edit it down.

The main thing you’re going to cut is physical action. That’s where most writers overdo it.

As you write the fight, you’re choreographing it in your mind. So it makes sense to initially list every blow and move to ensure the logical and realistic movement of the fight.

But writing is not the same as reading. So you’ll want to go back and trim the fat. Try to focus on the major blows, not all the rabbit punches in between.

You’ll probably overdo the rest of the description as well. Many writers make the mistake of describing the emotion and thoughts of every single strike. But that too affects the pacing and slows the fight down.

You’ll want to use thoughts and description sparingly, and focus mostly on the action. Get it all out in the first draft, but then go back and edit down.

Use Strong Verbs and Avoid Adverbs

Mark Twain once said “I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me.”

And for good reason. An adverb is a word that supports a verb. And they can be useful at times. However, often they are best replaced with a stronger verb that gets the job done all on its own.

Instead of saying your character yelled “loudly” across the room, say that he “roared” at the top of his lungs.

Instead of saying the glass broke violently when it landed on the floor, say that it burst, shattered, or exploded all over the place.

When it comes to writing fight scenes, verbs are of key importance. After all, this scene is all about the action, so the verbs used to describe it have to be top notch.

Here is a short list of some powerful action verbs to use instead of “he hit him really hard” and other weak descriptions.

List of Strong Verbs to Use:

  • Advance
  • Attack
  • Bang
  • Bash
  • Batter
  • Blast
  • Bolt
  • Burst
  • Bust
  • Capture
  • Charge
  • Clutch
  • Collide
  • Crash
  • Crush
  • Crunch
  • Dash
  • Demolish
  • Destroy
  • Devour
  • Drag
  • Drop
  • Engulf
  • Ensnare
  • Explode
  • Fling
  • Grasp
  • Grip
  • Groan
  • Growl
  • Gush
  • Hack
  • Hurdle
  • Jab
  • Launch
  • Leap
  • Pierce
  • Plunge
  • Pound
  • Retreat
  • Rip
  • Rush
  • Scorch
  • Scrape
  • Scratch
  • Seize
  • Shatter
  • Shock
  • Shove
  • Slash
  • Slam
  • Smash
  • Smite
  • Sneak
  • Soar
  • Strain
  • Struggle
  • Stumble
  • Surge
  • Swell
  • Swipe
  • Trip
  • Tussle
  • Withdraw
  • Wrench
  • Wrestle

This list is by no means complete… there must be at least a dozen other strong verbs I haven’t thought of. So feel free to add your own.

Describe the Pain and Physical Effects of Emotion

The next thing to focus on describing is the pain and physical effects of the emotion that result from all those strong verbs.

Actions have consequences, and attacks have wounds. A good way to bring your readers in close to experience the battle is by detailing this.

This is essential to include because you must describe the fight through the perspective of the attacked or the attacker. Don’t just hover above like you’re watching a boxing match. That’s boring and will put your audience to sleep.

The first way to do it is by describing the pain experienced by your characters. This makes the fight seem much more real when you describe it in vivid detail.

Here are some examples:

  • Vision blurred after the hammer came crashing down on his helmet
  • Stabbing pain in my side as his spear pierced through my armor
  • I could feel the warm blood trickle down my face

Describe the action, and then describe the pain that results from that action. This will make your fight scenes come to life and not read like it’s just a bunch of useless hacking and slashing that has no consequences.

Next, take some time go back over what you wrote and add in some details that describe the physical effects of the emotion being experienced.

A fight will definitely get your blood boiling as the adrenaline surges through your veins, so make sure to describe it and it’s effects.

  • Fists trembling with rage
  • Heart racing with fear
  • Brows sweating
  • Lungs surging and gasping for air

Illustrate characters’ reactions and emotions with physical demonstrators: pounding hearts, blood rushing in ears, weak legs, hazy vision, and so on. Highlight their fury, their desperation, and their feelings of triumph or defeat.

Notice that these are all highly visual moments. They translate well to both the reader’s mind and the silver screen. When you describe flesh sizzling on a hot stove, it paints a super vivid picture for your reader and pulls them into the scene.

Beyond the five senses (which we’ll get to in a moment) describing the pain, emotions felt, and physical manifestations of them will take your fight scene description on the next level.

Fight Scene Description Using the Five Senses

As with all description, to properly describe a fight scene you need to make use of our five sensory perceptions:

  • Sight
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch

You’ll need to sprinkle these descriptions throughout the scene to properly paint a vivid picture for the reader to engage with and experience.

Let’s go over each of the five senses one by one.

How to Describe What You See in a Fight Scene

Sight is perhaps the most obvious and easy sense to describe in a fight scene. We are a highly visual species and use our eyes to interpret the world around us.

Humans have five senses: the eyes to see, the tongue to taste, the nose to smell, the ears to hear, and the skin to touch. But by far the most important organs of sense are our eyes. We perceive up to 80% of all impressions by means of our sight.

Therefore, as I stated earlier it’s important to focus on highly visual images for describing the fight scene. This is important for both screenplays and novels.

Watch this fight scene below from Pirates of the Caribbean and note which shots or images stand out for painting a vivid imagery for the scene:

Here’s a short list of the things I would use sight to describe:

  • The overall scene: the wood, stone, and items in the environment
  • The moment when Depp slides his blade up and down Bloom’s as a taunt
  • The fancy footwork Depp uses, and the resulting dust and dirt that gets kicked up into the atmosphere of the scene
  • Bloom’s sword stuck into the wall next to Depp’s head
  • Depp’s physical struggle to remove the sword from the wall
  • The fire poker Bloom picks up, and the Donkey hiding from the fight
  • The machinery the two fighters battle on
  • The wood cart they balance on midway through the fight
  • The chain used to stick Depp to the beam, and his trouble removing it
  • Bloom being launched into the rafters, cutting the barrels loose that launch Depp up to join him
  • The jumping back and forth on the rafters trying to maintain balance
  • The dust and ash sprayed into Bloom’s face to distract him
  • The banging on the doors of people trying to get in
  • The glass breaking over Depp’s head that knocks him out

All these visual moments act as anchor points throughout the fight, and give us moments to describe in detail and avoid repetitive hacking and slashing that would bore readers to death.

Use the sense of sight to help you create the main beats of your fight scene that are most visually stimulating to your reader.

Then use the other senses to fill in the details and fully flesh out the scene to bring readers in and have them experience it as if they were there.

How to Describe What You Hear in a Fight Scene

Hearing is a little more delicate and should be used more sparingly than sight — and so should the other senses.

Fight scenes are great time to introduce onomatopoeia into your narrative. Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like what it is describing.

And I don’t mean turn your story into a old-school comic book where you use words like KAPOW! and SHAZAAM!!! to describe the action.

Use these subtle yet powerful descriptive words instead:

  • Boom
  • Clang
  • Clap
  • Clatter
  • Click
  • Crack
  • Creak
  • Fizzle
  • Gargle
  • Groan
  • Grunt
  • Gurgle
  • Hiss
  • Howl
  • Hum
  • Knock
  • Plod
  • Rattle
  • Roar
  • Rustle
  • Sizzle
  • Smack
  • Splash
  • Splatter
  • Squeal
  • Tap
  • Thud
  • Thumb
  • Whine
  • Whisper

The swords should clang, the canons should boom, and fires should fizzle out long after the battle is over.

But the sound description doesn’t just have to be a result of the action. It can also describe the environment as this example does below:

“Distantly, I heard the frantic screams of my friends, but these were obscured by the blood pounding in my ears.”

Paints a clear picture doesn’t it? People are dying in the background and screaming from the sheer terror and the pain, and all the excitement has gotten our hero’s heart racing. Will he be next?

Use the sense of hearing to describe not only the action and fighting itself, but also the surrounding environment. Not just what your character hears in the immediate area, but what they hear far off in the distance as well.

How to Describe What You Taste in a Fight Scene

Didn’t think you’d describe taste in a fight scene, did you? Well think again. It’ll be used far less than the other senses, but can make a great impact on the description when used appropriately.

When using taste to describe a fight scene, avoid abstract and fanciful description like “He could taste fear in the air” and other such nonsense. While it sounds fancy, your readers have never “tasted” fear so the description won’t do anything for them.

Instead, stick to description that’s much more concrete and real:

“Her fist slammed into my jaw and I tasted a surge of coppery blood. Sullied blood mixed with strawberry lip gloss was a strange taste indeed.”

That’s something your reader can taste, not the fear in the air. So keep it simple and make it real for the best effect.

How to Describe What You Touch in a Fight Scene

Next to sight, this is the easiest sense to convey when describing a fight scene. After all, fights are a highly physical interaction, and so the feeling of the physicality should be described.

Probably the thing you’ll want to focus most on when describing touch is the feel of the impact. Not only when you character is attacking, but when they are defending too.

“The wind had been knocked clean out of me; as I lay gasping on the floor, it felt like I would never breathe again.”

We can almost feel the thud of the character hitting the floor and the tightness in his chest as he gasps for air. That’s how to describe physical feeling in a fight scene.

Go back to the list of strong verbs to use when describing a fight scene, and imagine how those verbs would feel.

How would it feel to rip through your enemies with an enchanted sword that cuts like a knife through butter?

Or have your shield crumpled by a war hammer smashing down on you, swung by a man twice your size?

Use the blows and major physical movements as your guide and describe touch and you can’t go wrong.

How to Describe What You Smell in a Fight Scene

Smell is a really good sense to add to a fight scene because while it usually doesn’t play any major role in the outcome of the battle, it does help pull your reader into the atmosphere.

For example, let’s say your fight scene takes place in a back alley behind a local bar. What would your characters smell?

The dumpster overflowing with the weekend’s trash, the stagnant dirty water pooling in the corner that’s starting to fester, the vomit and bile splashed on the wall from the guy who had too much to drink last night, and so on.

If the fight takes place in a garage, there’s probably a lingering scent of motor oil or tire rubber that pervades the room. Describing that can help pull your reader into the scene like they’re actually there.

Just be sure to only describe things that are concrete and can actually be smelled by the reader. You can’t taste fear in the air, and so you shouldn’t be able to smell it either. Stick to what’s real and not imaginary.

Does Thought Description Work in Fight Scenes?

When describing a fight scene, it’s best to take a balanced approach. Describe a little of the blow by blow action, describe the sights, sounds and smells of battle, and a little bit of thought or emotional reflection… if it fits.

But most of the time, it doesn’t. Thought description and emotional reflection mostly doesn’t work in fight scenes because it doesn’t play a big part in the immediate physical reality of the situation.

In other words, you can’t sit there thinking about your feelings when you’re too busy worrying about getting your head chopped off.

There’s plenty of sensory information to describe, which is why it’s often better to focus on the five senses. The taste of blood, the ringing in the ears, the ache of your injuries. Not how you feel about all of it.

If you’re going to show thought, do it sparingly, and only when there is a break in the action. Before the battle and after the fight is over are best, but if you can find a quiet spot in the middle of the scene you can do it there too. Just don’t remain there too long or you’ll lose momentum.

When reflecting, your characters are mostly going to be thinking about three main things:

  1. What was lost
  2. What was won
  3. The deaths of their enemies and allies

Either you win, lose, or break even, but no gain comes without some loss. And while the deaths of your friends will certainly be the most pertinent, even the death of your enemies can bring a horror and sadness all their own. So keep your focus there if you decide to include it in your fight scenes.

How to End a Fight Scene

So, you’ve set up your fight scene, taken your fighters through the different phases and stages of a fight, and described it well. Now what?

Well, this fight has to end somehow. Here are the five ways to do it.

  1. Death
  2. Surrender
  3. Run Away
  4. Knock Out
  5. Interruption

Now let’s go over each of them one-by-one.

Death — In this ending, one or both of the characters dies. It’s as simple as it sounds, and is how most action stories end. The good guy kills the villain and the fight is over.

Surrender — This is when one character gives up and taps out, surrendering the battle to the other fighter. This is mostly done in exchange for mercy and saving your own life when it’s realized the battle is lost and there’s no use in continuing the fight.

Run Away — Surrender? NEVER! Run away and live to fight another day! Characters will take this action when the odds are too overwhelming, or surrendering will just lead to death anyways. So they disengage and escape to return to fight another time when they have a better chance at winning.

Knock Out — This is when one character deals a blow so damaging that the other fighter is unable to continue the fight. It’s not a permanent status like death, but losing a limb can be just as bad for a fighter. Just ask Jamie Lannister!

Interruption — Sometimes outside forces will interrupt a fight scene and prevent it from reaching its natural conclusion. If two gangs and fighting and the cops show up, it’s time to get out of there before you get arrested! But it doesn’t have to just be the authorities, all kinds of things can stop a fight. So get creative.

The Perfect Fight Scene Example — Fury Road

If there was one fight scene you could learn more than any other one, it’s the fight between Mad Max and Imperator Furiosa in Fury Road.

This is probably the most toned down fight scene of the entire film, yet it has enough other ingredients to make it absolutely thrilling.

At the beginning of this scene, there are four conflicting goals in play:

  • Max wants to unchained and escape the scene in Furiosa’s war rig
  • Furiosa wants to get rid of Max and Nux and escort the wives to safety
  • Nux (unconscious guy) wants to capture the wives for Immortan Joe
  • The wives want to escape, but without any unnecessary killing

As if this wasn’t enough, the tension is further raised by the threat of Immortan Joe’s Posse closing in that might just kill them all.

Plus, any character that doesn’t achieve their goal and gets left behind, will likely be killed, tortured, or greatly harmed. So it’s do or die.

The chain binding Max’s head to the unconscious Nux is probably one of the greatest fight scene props of all time. It’s used by every side in unique interesting ways throughout the fight. It makes the scene one of a kind.

The scene also does an amazing job of using the arena as a weapon: 

  • The threat of a shotgun blast
  • Using it as a club when she realizes it’s empty
  • The pliers that take its place
  • The truck door used as a shield
  • The chain used to trip Furiosa, later used as a leash and a choking device
  • The hidden pistol on the truck
  • And even the water hose! Perfection.

Plus, the fight scene reveals character. Furiosa’s name is well earned, as she’s simply the most bad-ass female fighter I think I’ve ever seen. She’s relentless in attacking Max and trying to take him out. 

And when Max is given the opportunity to kill her, he doesn’t… so he’s showing that he’s not some ruthless bad guy like the posse they’re running from.

Your fight scenes should make all efforts to be as close to on par with this fight scene as possible. Not every one of them will be, as this is near-perfect, but it sets a standard you should strive for if you want your fight scenes to stand out from the crowd and be memorable.

Fight Examples from Books & Novels

I’ve given you plenty of examples from movies, but it’s another thing when it actually comes to writing what you see.

So here are some fight scene examples from some great stories that you can use as a guide when writing your own fight scenes.

Fight Scene Example #1

Book Cover - Never Go Back

"Reacher half turned and half stepped back, toward his door, a fluid quarter circle, shoulders and all, and like he knew they would the two guys moved toward him, faster than he was moving, off-script and involuntary, ready to grab him. Reacher kept it going long enough to let their momentum establish, and then he whipped back through the reverse quarter circle toward them, by which time he was moving just as fast as they were, two hundred and fifty pounds about to collide head-on with four hundred, and he kept twisting and threw a long left hook at the left-hand guy."

Fight Scene Example #2

"The shot thundered across the beach, an echo of the waves. The lead bullet broke his bottom right incisor, tore through his palate, just above his upper teeth, punched through the lower bone of his eye socket, and broke through the skin just in front of his left ear. He staggered back, then dropped down into a sitting position. Pain shot through his head. The blood dripped warmly down his cheek. His left eye wouldn’t focus.

But he was alive."

Fight Scene Example #3

"The six soldiers, watching, were too astonished to move. The small-seeming cowman kicked Dixon so hard in the face that it seemed his head would fly off. Then the man stood over Dixon, who spat out blood and teeth. When Dixon struggled to his feet, the smaller man immediately knocked him down again and then ground his face into the dirt with a boot.

“He’s gonna kill him,” one soldier said, his face going white. “He’s gonna kill Dixon.”

So there you have it! That’s just about everything I can think of to consider when writing a fight scene!

I hope you learned a thing or two that makes your writing better. 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or post in the comments below and I’ll get your question answered!

How to Write a Toe-Curling Sex Scene That Blows Reader’s Minds

How to Write a Sex Scene

Let’s face it: a good sex scene is one of the most challenging things to write.

How do write an original, tasteful sex scene that’s completely unforgettable? Without being too vulgar?

For some writers, the challenge isn’t the description. It’s the taboo. The potential embarrassment. The sheer privacy of the act that makes it difficult for them to write about it.

In this article I’m going to give you the complete guide to writing an amazing sex scene.

Why Writing Sex Scenes is So Hard

No pun intended 😉

The reason writing sex scenes is so hard is because everything else in the story is stripped away. All you have to work with is the characters and their emotions. There’s nowhere to hide as a writer.

There is generally be very little dialogue. And few interruptions from other characters or action moving the story forward. Sex scenes are an interaction between two characters unlike any other you will write.

For some writers, sex scenes are hard to write because it’s such an intensely personal act. Sharing your thoughts, fantasies and experiences about sex with your readers isn’t easy.

Some writers find it liberating. But for others it’s painful. It all depends on your personal feelings about sex and your level of experience with it.

But have no fear! I’m going to share advice here that will make writing sex scenes easier for you. No matter your outlook on the subject.

Remember that if you don’t feel comfortable writing sex scenes, you don’t have to. It is not a requirement for most fiction.

But you should at least give it a couple tries if it could fit into your story. You can always delete what you write if you don’t like it.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

Does Your Story Need a Sex Scene?

This is the first question you should be asking yourself.

Just because you have written a great story with some fine characters doesn’t mean they have to bump uglies. Many stories are fine without a sex scene.

Sex scenes should never be forced. Don’t write one only to try and “sell” the story by including sex. Readers are smart, and they’ll see right through you.

Forced sex scenes will call attention to themselves and pull your reader right out of the story. And that’s not good.

Your sex scenes should feel “natural” and blend in with the rest of the tempo and tone of the story. It should feel like a natural progression in the relationship between the characters. Not like they did it just for kicks.

You should ask the question “Has sex changed anything between the characters?” If nothing has changed, then delete the scene.

You can replace it with something as innocent as a kiss. Or simply close the door and leave the rest to your reader’s imagination.

How to Write a Balanced Sex Scene

The first thing to understand about writing a good sex scene is that it’s a balance of two things — body and emotion.

The two participants perform explicit acts with their bodies during sex. And having sex generates certain emotions in each of the characters participating.

Let’s take a look at the different kinds of sex scenes.

The Five Categories of Sex Scenes

Here are the five categories of sex scenes depending on the balance of body and emotions.

Porn — 100% Body, 0% Emotion

Erotica — 75% Body, 25% Emotion

Adult — 50% Body, 50% Emotion

Young Adult — 25% Body, 75% Emotion

Disney — 0% Body, 100% Emotion

It all depends how much emphasis and description you put on the character’s bodies and emotions.

Let’s say your sex scene is super raunchy and full of explicit detail about your character’s private parts. You’re either writing erotica or a script for a porno shoot.

But what if it’s more focused on the emotions of the two characters kissing or having sex for the first time? Then you’re probably writing for a much younger crowd.

If you’re writing at either extreme of the scale, what to focus on is pretty obvious. That’ll make writing those types of scenes easier.

But most of you will be writing something for the adult or young adult audience. That’s where the balance gets a little tricky.

The rest of this article will help you find the proper balance of body and emotion when writing sex scenes.

Why Great Characters are Essential to Great Sex Scenes

Sex scenes in fiction are more about the characters having sex than the actual sex they’re having.

Don’t try to write about having sex. Write about specific characters having sex.

Almost everyone wants to have sex. But you need to show why your characters want to have sex with each other.

What do those characters want from the sexual encounter and how do they go about trying to get it?

Great sex scenes aren’t about anatomy, they’re about the characters involved.

Consider how the sexual encounter reflects their needs and desires. Or their inner lives, outer lives, and ongoing circumstances.

Once you start to think about it in this way, writing a sex scene will never be the same for you again. It’ll never be a mere physical act void of character.

Remember that people aren’t objects. Men aren’t silly, sex-crazed fools cartoonishly overcome with lust. And women aren’t helpless dolls or damsels in distress waiting for some big strong man to come rip her clothes off.

In real life people are much more multi-dimensional than that. And so are their desires for sex.

How to Show Character Depth Through Sex Scenes

Sex scenes are a wonderful opportunity to show character depth. You should reveal more about the characters personality as you reveal more of their skin.

Characters may surprise you and be more raw and vulnerable than you’d expect. They might reveal a side of themselves they don’t normally show others.

A confident man may have a moment of awkwardness or doubt. He may have trouble performing the deed due to a bad experience from his childhood.

A shy woman might turn out to be a total minx in the sheets. She’ll show her playful, mischievous side that takes readers by surprise.

Revelations of character will make your readers love your characters more. Readers want characters who are emotionally attractive, not just physically attractive.

And this level of honesty and intimacy is the perfect way to do it.

How to Build Anticipation for Your Sex Scenes

In order for the sex scene to have the most dramatic impact, you have to build anticipation for it. Your reader has to be eagerly waiting for it happen.

Like the rest of the story, you build up slowly and continually escalate until you reach climax. Same theory applies here.

If your characters are having sex before the 50% mark of the story, you’re escalating way too soon. You need to build up the sexual tension some more before you release it.

Think about what happens when you go on a first date. You don’t ring the doorbell and jump their bones the moment you see them. Neither should your characters.

Instead, show them eating, drinking, dancing, playing, flirting, teasing and kissing before you get to the hot and heavy stuff.

Tease, Then Separate

One of the best ways to build anticipation is to tease, then separate.

Tease the reader with a potential hookup between two flirting characters. Then separate them for some reason related to the plot.

One TV series did this for FIVE LONG YEARS before finally letting a long awaited romance bloom.

Longmire, is a crime/detective series based out in rural Wyoming. Sheriff Walt Longmire struggles to maintain order. All the while dealing with the loss of his wife a year earlier.

With the help of a younger female deputy named Vic, he feels reinvigorated and commits to running for re-election.

These two characters tease the audience for hours on end before finally hooking up. And it was well worth it once it happened.

But if they had hooked up in the first season, we would’ve lost all that tension created in seasons 2-5. The story would’ve focused more on the aftermath of the hookup instead.

How Character Tension Makes for Hot Sex Scenes

“Tease, then separate” is a great technique for building tension for the reader. But to take it a step further, you’ve got to create tension between the characters themselves.

The best way to do this is by making opposites attract.

One of my favorite writing quotes is by Linda Howard. She says, “If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.”

It’s a push-pull dynamic waiting to happen. Firefighter and arsonist. Cops and robbers. Cowboy and Indian. This helps to create a chase-and-be-chased of interaction that’s perfect for romance.

In the greater plot, the two opposites set up as enemies or opponents. But the development of a relationship between them raises some big questions for the plot.

When it comes down to the crucial moment, will love win out, or duty?

There are several movies that come to mind that absolutely nail this.

An English soldier and the daughter of an Indian chief share a romance when colonists invade 17th century Virginia.

This is cowboys and Indians, but colonial cowboys instead of the six-shooter type.

Want space cowboys and Indians? Ok, try Avatar.

Same basic setup. Two opposites from two opposing forces fall in love. When it hits the fan, who are they going to side with? Their lover? Or their people?

For a variation on this idea that builds tension to the max, watch Allied.

They’re already a married couple, so there’s no tension there. But his superiors suspect she’s a German spy playing for the other side.

If she is, he’s to kill her with his own hands. But if he doesn’t comply, he’ll be killed. Talk about tension!

How To Structure a Sex Scene

Now that you’ve built the proper anticipation and tension, it’s time to release it.

If by this point in your story the two characters haven’t kissed yet, you should probably have them do that first.

You can see my guide on how to write the perfect kissing scene here:

How to Write the Perfect Kissing Scene

For structuring the sex scene, you want to follow the structure of the sex act itself:

1) Foreplay
2) Sex
3) Climax
4) Cool Down

Let’s take a look at how to write each part.

Foreplay

Before any physically strenuous act, it’s important to get warmed up. A foreplay is the perfect example of how to get warmed up for sex.

The kissing scene you wrote above is a good start to some great foreplay. But here’s a short list of other ideas to help your characters warm up to the big act:

  • One character gives the other a striptease
  • The characters turn up the music and dance around the living room
  • One character assumes sexually suggestive poses (bending over, etc.)
  • Sex toys
  • Sexting
  • Surprise a character with a gift
  • Play footsie at dinner… or more
  • Plan the sex before hand
  • Have one character not wearing any underwear, and tell the other
  • Whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears
  • Bump and grind secretly in public before getting home
  • Have one character groom the other, shaving, waxing, etc.
  • Board games
  • Have one character make the other a drink
  • Pretend you’re strangers
  • Trail of rose petals leading into the bedroom
  • Restraints
  • Blindfolds
  • Have one character take charge and tell the other what to do
  • Have one character give the other a bath
  • Strip Poker, or strip anything
  • Play with their hair
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Lap dance
  • Dirty Talk
  • Tickle fight, playful wrestling

Read through any Cosmo mag and you’re bound to find a million other ideas. Try to be unique and write something original if you can.

Sex

For the sex act itself, we’ll get to describing that in a minute. That is the most important part and requires its own section on how to write it.

Climax

For the climax, you probably shouldn’t announce it. It depends on your audience and the tone and style of your story.

But as a general rule you should just show the character’s reactions and body language to it. Remember, show don’t tell.

The Cool Down

For the cool down phase, you’ve got several options.

Do your characters quietly fall asleep in each other’s arms?

Does one nod off while the other stays up all night analyzing their new change in relationship?

Or do they take a short break and do it all over again?

Some writers have trouble transitioning from the end of this scene to the next. If you do, try interrupting the pillow talk with a phone call or a knock at the door to keep things moving.

Mix Things Up and Be Original

With these four parts to a sex scene, it’s easy to fall into a trap. So many writers create standard sex scenes that are boring and predictable.

Kiss, grope, oral, sex, yada yada yada… we’ve all been there done that.

So don’t be predictable. Mix it up.

Your characters might make love before they kiss. Perhaps one has a fetish they’d like to explore. All it takes is one new element to change up the sex scene and make it unique.

How To Describe a Sex Scene

Now that you know how to structure the perfect sex scene, how do you go about describing it?

There are five key parts to describing a sex scene:

1) Action — What the characters are physically doing
2) Description — Details of the five senses
3) Exposition — information and context not ‘in scene’
4) Dialogue — the character’s external speech
5) Thoughts — the internal dialogue going on in their mind

Here is brief example of each:

He grabbed her by the waist, pulled her closer, and ran his fingers through her hair. It was chestnut brown, flowing, and smelled like lavender. He had never been with a woman of such beauty before. “So beautiful,” he delicately whispered in her ear. He wondered what a good looking uptown girl like her ever saw in a blue collar backstreet guy like him. ;-P

Action — He grabbed her by the waist, pulled her closer, and ran his fingers through her hair.

Description — It was chestnut brown, flowing, and smelled like lavender.

Exposition — He had never been with a woman of such beauty before.

Dialogue — “So beautiful,” he delicately whispered in her ear.

Thoughts — He wondered what a good looking uptown girl like her ever saw in a blue collar backstreet guy like him.

Look how much information is jam packed in five short sentences.

We have the physical action of him pulling her close and running his fingers through her hair. We know what her hair looks like, feels like, and smells like.

We also know she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever been with. Not just because of the exposition, but also because he says it.

Lastly, we know that there is some class differences because of his thoughts. Uptown girl meets backstreet guy.

To describe a sex scene, start with the main actions, then describe them and the characters. Pick a few points to reveal some exposition, but don’t overdo it.

Next you add in your character’s thoughts. They will think a lot more than they actually say, so start here and then filter for dialogue.

Then finally you add in the dialogue. It’ll mostly be compliments, instructions, dirty talk, or confessions of love.

Following these five steps will help you write a better sex scene. No matter what kind of love they’re making or where they’re making it.

10 Tips for Writing Great Sex Scenes

Here are 10 more tips for writing amazing sex scenes. Be sure to remember them when writing your next sex scene.

1) Use All Five Senses

Sex is much more than sight and touch. Sweat and saliva is the perfume of lovers, so be sure to include it.

Men and women both wear cologne and perfume. Describe what makes their chosen scents unique and intoxicating to their lovers.

But there are also other scents in a sex scene as well. First is the character’s body odor, and it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. Particularly if one has been sweating and recently come home from the gym or work.

You also have the scent of the room. The candles, cookies baking in the oven, or the scent left from the fabric softener on the sheets.

Another thing to describe that you’ll find in the environment in the sound. It can be music or the TV playing in the background. Or the sound of strangers nearby if your characters are secretly having sex in public. Maybe it’s traffic noise from the street if the window has been left open. The options are endless.

When it comes to taste, mainly stick to something sweet. You can’t go wrong with honey or fruit. Make it pleasant.

2) Sex Can be Funny or Awkward Too

Think about the worst sex you’ve ever hard. There’s a good sex story buried somewhere in there. Or at least some funny or awkward detail you can use. So use it!

Think about what it’s like to have sex with someone new for the first time. Yes, there is certainly the thrill of experiencing a new lover and releasing all the built up tension.

But there is also the clumsiness of bad coordination and bumping into each other. It’s the awkwardness that comes along with exploring a new body for the first time.

Plus people often think a lot during sex, and not just about the sex they’re having. To do lists, remembering to take out the trash, that commercial for a new car they saw last night, etc.

While these kind of thoughts aren’t the best for new lovers, they are perfect for a couple that’s been married 30 years. It’s reality.

And don’t be afraid to make the awkwardness a little funny too. Characters can hit their head on a ceiling fan or get painful cramps in their feet in and make for some light humor.

But make sure it fits in with the rest of the tone of your story. Don’t write something over the top hilarious for a story that’s supposed to be a serious drama. It won’t fit in and will distract the reader.

3) Explore Different Places to Have Sex

Even if the sex itself is boring and predictable, one way make it new and exciting is a unique location for the act.

Sex doesn’t have to be restricted to the bedroom. Think of all the places you can have sex inside of a house. The living room, the kitchen, the shower, the garage, the back patio, the pool and so on.

Here’s a short list of other places your characters could have sex too:

  • Hotel Room
  • Rooftop Deck
  • Car
  • Beach
  • Movie Theater
  • Back Alley
  • Gym
  • Wilderness
  • Balcony
  • Boat
  • Elevator
  • Park or Playground
  • Restaurant
  • Dressing Room
  • Amusement Park
  • Sports Game
  • Train, Bus or Plane
  • Workplace

You’ve surely seen or read a sex scene taking place at one of these locales before.

But some can feel a little cliché. Especially the beach.

So be sure to explore locations within the main setting to keep your sex scene fresh and original.

Instead of sex on the beach with the waves crashing up against their bodies, try something else. Maybe your characters sneak off from a bonfire and climb up into the lifeguard tower and have sex there.

Instead of a car, why not a police car? Or in a car wash? Instead of sex in the office of a bank, why not the safety deposit vault? The options are endless when you use a little imagination.

4) Stay In One Person’s Head at a Time

“Head-hopping” from one character’s thoughts to another is already frowned upon. And it’s especially jarring during a sex scene.

It’ll be confusing and make it much harder for your reader to get caught up in the moment.

Stick to one character’s point of view to avoid confusing your reader.

5) Don’t Be Predictable

We’ve all seen it before. The romantic candlelit dinner. A long walk on the beach. Some tender, affectionate banter. Cue the passionate first kiss and… BORING!

Instead of writing a scene that will obviously end in sex, twist the reader’s expectations.

Maybe the perfect date ends in complete disaster. Maybe the date from hell surprisingly turns into the best night ever.

Stereotypes and clichés are waiting to be broken.

Ask yourself “What does my reader expect the characters to do in this situation?”

Write down the obvious answer, and then make sure you do something different.

Provide an alternative, but make sure it’s still true to who the characters are. It shouldn’t feel “out of character”. Make it believable, but unexpected.

One way to twist your reader’s expectations isn’t where or how the characters have sex. It’s when they have sex.

Like sex after a funeral. Sex at the kid’s birthday party in the jumphouse while they’re opening presents.

Think about what your characters should be doing in this moment, and then do the opposite.

This will help you avoid being predictable. Because there’s nothing that turns your readers off like predictable sex.

6) Don’t Censor Yourself In Your First Draft

Writing sex scenes can be a little taboo or explicit. So some writers can get a little uncomfortable writing them.

But be careful that you don’t end up writing something watered down that doesn’t do your lovers justice. Don’t let your conscious get in the way.

Remember that writing is rewriting. Whether you’re writing fight scenes, death scenes, or sex scenes. So don’t hold back. Especially on the first draft.

You can always cut back. If some part of the sex scene isn’t working or is a little too much you can always remove it later.

One piece of advice others have used to help them write sex scenes is to have a few alcoholic drinks and write in private.

It helps to loosen you up and let your inhibition go. It might help you draw out a few golden nuggets that help your scene come together.

The best way of writing sex scenes is to do the first draft, orgasm, and then start editing. You can be objective post-orgasm. :-p

7) Change the Tempo and Rhythm

Good sex isn’t static. And your sex scene shouldn’t be either.

Sex has a rhythm to it. Much like dance. Speed up, then slow down. And every middle tempo between.

Watch this sexy dance below with this young couple.

Notice how the dance changes the tempo. It starts off slow, picks up speed, and then slows back down again. Over and over.

This is the same type of rhythmic pattern your sex scene should have too.

8) Consider Clear Consent

Here’s a question you didn’t think you’d have to ask yourself about your sex scene. Is clear consent is important to you as a writer?

But in today’s politically correct culture, it’s a question worth asking. Some writers make it blatantly obvious that both characters are 100% interested in having sex.

This is quite different from many scenes from the past with questionable consent. For the perfect example, look no further than the Christmas classic, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.

This song has been getting banned around the country lately. Some people think the lyrics don’t show clear consent on the part of the woman.

But as you see in the video above, it can be flipped around too. The man can be the one trying to leave, and the female is the one throwing herself at him and trying to convince him to stay.

All in all, it’s a game of cat and mouse. It’s the chase. There has to be a little conflict and some obstacles to the lovers coming together. It’s “Will they? Or won’t they?” writ large.

Also, make the characters at least 18 years old if they’re going to be having sex. Even if the age of consent in your area is lower.

Why? Because California is where Hollywood exists. And Hollywood is the titan of the movie industry. And there 18 is the legal age of consent. There are no close-in-age exemptions either.

That way your story will be well-received everywhere, no matter the age of consent.

9) Consider Safe Sex

You’ll also need to consider if you want your characters to address birth control and safe sex.

In real life, people often have “the talk” before having their first sexual activity with each other.

But in fiction, that can often make for an awkward conversation. It will pull your readers out of the moment.

They go on an amazing date, fall in love, and are about to get naked. Suddenly one of them asks “When was the last time you got tested for STDs?”

MAJOR mood killer. Imagine if James Bond did something like this. It would totally kill the scene, if not the entire movie.

But if the discussion of STDs and birth control is “in character” for your story, go for it.

Since “the talk” is typically a little awkward, it’s most often seen in comedies. The setup is ripe for jokes and comical tension.

Watch this scene below from The 40 Year Old Virgin:

Another time where “the talk” would be appropriate is virgins making love for the first time.

They’ve never done it before, and are nervous as hell.

All the thoughts about the Sex Ed class they took in the 5th grade would come rushing back to them.

10) Make Sure the Sex is Physically Possible

Here’s a hilarious way to spend your Saturday afternoon. Ask your partner to help you act out your character’s movements for their sex scene.

You’ll be surprised how many sexy movements you’ve written aren’t possible real life. Especially if one character is a lot taller than the other one.

Remember that often during sex you’re using at least one hand to support yourself and hold your body up.

But in badly written sex scenes a magical “third arm” will come out of nowhere and make the position possible.

And no, I don’t mean “that” third arm either.

If you don’t check your sex scenes for this, you might miss something that your readers will notice. It’ll break their suspension of disbelief and take them out of the scene.

Once you’ve done that, also check for continuity. If your hero’s hands were just groping her bosom, how did they suddenly get tangled in her hair?

Remember that this is literature, not film. So the reader won’t “see” the movement of the hands up to her hair unless you describe it.

How NOT to Write a Sex Scene

We’ve covered what you should do when writing sex scenes. Now it’s time go over what NOT to do as well.

Here are a few tips that will help you write better sex scenes.

There Are Certain Words You Just Shouldn’t Use

When writing sex scenes, there are some words you should avoid at all costs.

And that’s because while physical description doesn’t make a sex scene, it can certainly ruin one.

If you use too many metaphors or euphemisms, readers will laugh when they should be getting turned on.

“He plunged his throbbing manhood into her pulsating velvety folds” is an example. It’s going to get your sex scene laughed at for sure.

But being too literal with your word choice can have the same effect. “He inserted his erect penis into her vagina” doesn’t get your reader turned on either. It sounds like something from a textbook.

Purple prose will make people laugh, and beige prose will make them yawn. So be careful not to use either.

So never use the word penis or vagina. And don’t compare a character’s manhood to a magic wand or call it man meat.

And don’t compare her lady parts to a hot, wet flowery garden of delights either.

This problem often arises from focusing too much on the genitals. Instead you should focus on the lips, hair, skin, hands, etc.

Often you can leave the private parts out altogether.

Take a look at these two sentences below:

“She reached for my manhood.”

“She reached for me.”

See? The second one that leaves out the private part reference works just as well. Try to write your scenes this way too.

When it comes to dirty talk or the character’s thoughts describing the action, speak in the character’s voice.

Dirty talk isn’t for everyone. Not every character needs to talk in porn clichés and say “Give it to me big boy.”

So when writing a sex scene, ask yourself “What would this character say?” and write it like that.

That way you won’t jar your reader out of the story by having a character do a sudden 180 degree turn.

Lastly, there are some words you should use extreme caution with. They don’t paint a pleasant picture in your reader’s mind:

  • Gushing
  • Weeping
  • Seeping
  • Turgid
  • Swollen
  • Purple
  • Wrinkled
  • Tumescent
  • Pert
  • Member
  • Bosom
  • Butt
  • Splay

You get the idea. Be careful about your word choice, and try to keep the language simple, yet punchy and evocative.

Don’t Let Your Sex Scene Distract from the Story

One of the worst sins when writing sex scenes is when you let them distract from the main story you’re trying to tell.

Your sex scenes shouldn’t turn your story into a porno. They shouldn’t happen just to happen. They should move the story forward.

Remember that your story comes first. Always. You are telling a story. Not selling porn. Don’t forget it.

Also, your sex scenes should match the tone and style of the rest of your story. Otherwise they’ll feel out of place.

If you’re writing a comedy, the sex should be light and comical. If you’re writing romance, the sex should be hot, heavy and romantic.

But if you’re writing a serious drama, and your sex scene is something straight out of American Pie, you’ve got major problems.

So make sure that your story comes first, sex scene second. And that the sex scene doesn’t distract the reader from the story you’re trying to tell.

Don’t Repeat the Same Sex Scene Over and Over

Most stories will only have one sex scene. But if your plot requires more, make sure you don’t make the fatal mistake of repeating the same one over and over.

While sex is largely the same every time you have it, it is always personal and unique for every character. No two couples have the exact same sex. And neither should the couples in your story.

If it’s the same couple having sex, be sure to make each scene unique. Otherwise it’ll feel episodic like an adult film.

The motivations could be different. The experience could be different. The effect on the plot can be different, etc.

Try to do something other than change the location or who’s on top. Try to better integrate the sex scene with the rest of the story.

Examples of Bad Sex Scene Writing

Every year, Literary Review Magazine hands out their Bad Sex In Fiction Award.

They ‘honor’ the author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.

Here are some examples from previous winners of this hilarious award.

Bad Sex Scene Example #1

"‘You’re beautiful,’ she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo."

Good God, how long are this man’s arms? And the urge to look at her passport photo? C’mon man you gotta be kidding me.

Bad Sex Scene Example #2

"Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone."

Really bad purple prose here. “Giggling snowball of full-figured copulation” and “clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation” are way over the top and completely unnecessary. 

Bad Sex Scene Example #3

"Bianca shivers with pleasure. Simon whispers to her with an authority that he has never felt before: ‘Let’s construct an assemblage.’

She gives him her mouth.

He tips her back and lays her on the dissecting table. She takes off her skirt, spreads her legs and tells him: ‘Fuck me like a machine.’ And while her breasts spill out, Simon begins to flow into her assemblage

Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine."

“Let’s construct an assemblage.”

Need I say more?

Examples of Good Sex Scene Writing

But there are plenty of examples of good sex scene writing as well.

Be sure to contrast these examples with the ones above. Try to determine what makes these scenes so much better.

Here are some examples from famous examples of great sex scenes.

Good Sex Scene Example #1

“I couldn’t get enough of him. I was tired and sore but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted the ache. I wanted him in me, all the time. His weight on top of me. I wanted to squeeze him in further and further. I wanted to watch his face. I wanted his sweat to drop onto me. I wanted to drop mine on him. I got on top of him. I’d never done it before. I couldn’t really believe it; I was doing this. I was inventing something. I held him and put him in. He felt deeper in me. I’ll never forget it. I was in charge and he liked it. I held his hands down. He pretended he was trying to break free. I let my tits touch his face. He went mad; he bucked. He split me in two. I pushed down. I couldn’t believe it. One of his fingers flicked over my bum. I did it to him. He lifted and heaved. I couldn’t believe it. There was no end to it, no end to the new things. He did something. I copied him. I did something. He did it back. He took me from behind. I pushed back, forced more of him into me. I sucked him. He licked me. I made him come on my stomach. He sucked my toes. The whole room rocked and Mrs. Doyle smiled at us every morning.”

Short, punchy, effective. Notice how the private parts were left out of the description. “I sucked him. He licked me.” Not purple prose here.

Good Sex Scene Example #2

"The length of her body is the simple answer to what I am missing. It’s an odd sensation to have something in your arms and to still be yearning for it and you lie there and feel the yearning subside slowly as the actual woman rises along your neck, chest, legs. We are drifting against each other now. Sex is the raft, but sleep is the ocean and the waves are coming up.… I run my hands along her bare back and down across her ribs and feel the two dimples in her hip, and my only thought is the same thought I’ve had a thousand times: I don’t remember this— I don’t remember this at all. Katie sits up and places her warm legs on each side of me, her breasts falling forward in the motion, and as she lifts herself ever so slightly in a way that is the exact synonym for losing my breath, we see something."

Notice the balance between the physical action and the emotions involved. Things happen, and then the point of view character reacts to them emotionally. 

This is how you should pace your sex scenes. Actions, and then the emotional reaction to them, which leads to more action.

Good Sex Scene Example #3

In his room, I stripped naked in one minute flat and lay on the bed.

“Pretty desperate, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“For God’s sake, why? We have plenty of time.”

“How long?”

“As long as you want it,” he said, ambiguously.

If he left me, in short, it would be my fault. Psychoanalysts are like that. Never fuck a psychoanalyst is my advice to all you young things out there. Anyway, it was no good. Or not much. He was only at half-mast and he thrashed around wildly inside me hoping I wouldn’t notice. I wound up with a tiny ripple of an orgasm and a very sore cunt. But somehow I was pleased. I’ll be able to get free of him now, I thought; he isn’t a good lay. I’ll be able to forget him.

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

“That I’ve been well and truly fucked.” I remembered having used the same phrase with Bennett once, when it was much more true.

“You’re a liar and a hypocrite. What do you want to lie for? I know I haven’t fucked you properly. I can do much better than that.”

I was caught up short by his candor. “OK,” I confessed glumly, “you haven’t fucked me properly. I admit it.”

This is a good example of integrating dialogue into the sex scene. And it’s also a good example of how the description of the sex scene doesn’t have to be a mile long.

Why did the author make that choice? Well, probably because the sex was bad. No reader wants a three page description of bad sex. And neither did the main character. So in describing it, she made it short as possible.

Sex Scene Writing Prompts

Maybe you’re not quite ready to write the hot sex scene for that novel you’ve been working on. Perhaps you’d like to get a little practice first.

If that’s the case, here are some tips to help you practice writing good sex scenes for your stories.

Sex Scene Writing Prompt #1: Rewrite Your Favorite Sex Scenes

You’ve probably come across some hot sex scenes in other novels you’ve read. It can help you practice by copying those scenes down, word for word.

By writing another author’s words, you’ll practice writing in their voice. It’ll help you to get feeling for the flow of action and description used in writing them.

You should pick up some of their skill in writing good sex scenes too.

Sex Scene Writing Prompt #2: Describe Sex Scenes From Movies

I’m sure you’ve seen some good sex scenes from your favorite movies. For some extra practice, try your hand and describing them in detail like you were writing them for a novel.

If you can’t think of any good sex scenes to start with, here are a few that work as good examples to get started with.

Dirty Dancing gives you a scene that’s romantic and passionate. 

Crank gives you a scene that’s funny.

And Boogie Nights gives you something in between. But you’ll probably have to look on some adult sites if you want to find that clip 😉

Sex Scene Writing Prompt #3: Write Imaginary Sex Scenes

If you don’t have characters to write a sex scene with, you can always write imaginary scenes between two characters you already know.

These can be characters from fiction or people from your real life.

Imagine two heroes from the marvel universe hooking up. Or how about two friends from real life who haven’t gotten together yet.

Knowing what you know about them, how do you feel a sex scene between them would go? Would it be serious and sexy? Or comical and funny?

You get to decide.

111 of the Funniest Quotes About Writing

Funny Quotes About Writing

I scoured the internet to find you the funniest quotes about writing out there. Take a break from writing and have a laugh with these hilarious writing quotes.

"I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”

— William Carlos Williams Tweet

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

“Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.”

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

“People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don't like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.”

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity."

“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

“A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God.”

"Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing."

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly."

"It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous."

"Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful."

"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn’t require any."

"Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being."

"There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write."

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it."

“Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”

“It takes a heap of sense to write good nonsense.”

“I just sit at my typewriter and curse a bit.”

“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”

“You know how it is in the kid's book world; it's just bunny eat bunny.”

“A best seller was a book which somehow sold well simply because it was selling well.”

“There is probably no hell for authors in the next world -- they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.”

“Either a writer doesn't want to talk about his work, or he talks about it more than you want.”

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”

“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer--and if so, why?”

“There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing -- to find honest men to publish it -- and to get sensible men to read it.”

“Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.”

“Never throw up on an editor.”

“There is no mistaking the dismay on the face of a writer who has just heard that his brain child is a deformed idiot.”

“I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.”

“Writing is turning one's worst moments into money.”

“People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.”

“Nothing, not love, not greed, not passion or hatred, is stronger than a writer's need to change another writer's copy.”

“Bad things don’t happen to writers; it’s all material.”

“First you’re an unknown, then you write one book and you move up to obscurity.”

“Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.”

“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”

“Hobbes: Do you have an idea for your story yet? Calvin: No, I’m waiting for inspiration. You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood. Hobbes: What mood is that? Calvin: Last-minute panic.”

“There is no idea so stupid or hackneyed that a sufficiently-talented writer can't get a good story out of it.”

“There is no idea so brilliant or original that a sufficiently-untalented writer can't screw it up.”

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

“When writing a novel, that’s pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day.'”

“Sir, nobody but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

“Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.”

“Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure.”

“I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.”

— Clarence Budington Kelland Tweet

“Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? In any event, is he able to construct a simple English sentence? Do his participles dangle? When moved to lyricism does he write "I had a fun time"? Was he ever arrested for burglary? I don't know that you will prove anything this way, but it is perfectly harmless and quite soothing.”

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.”

“Use your imagination. Trust me, your lives are not interesting. Don't write them down.”

“Poets are interested mostly in death and commas.”

“Fiction is about stuff that's screwed up.”

“We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.”

“Writing is a fairly lonely business unless you invite people in to watch you do it, which is often distracting and then have to ask them to leave.”

“Having been unpopular in high school is not just cause for book publication.”

“Nature fits all her children with something to do, He who would write and can't write, can surely review.”

“Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.”

“A critic knows more than the author he criticizes, or just as much, or at least somewhat less.”

“There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are.”

“A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down...If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book, nothing can help him.”

— Edna St. Vincent Millay Tweet

“I'm the kind of writer that people think other people are reading.”

“Fantasy doesn't have to be fantastic. American writers in particular find this much harder to grasp. You need to have your feet on the ground as much as your head in the clouds. The cute dragon that sits on your shoulder also craps all down your back, but this makes it more interesting because it gives it an added dimension.”

“Writers are schizophrenic. On the one hand we tell ourselves, "This is a work of genius! I've created Art!" Then we try to peddle it, like a widget, to The New Yorker, Playboy, or SF Age.”

“Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.”

“Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

“Every writer is a narcissist. This does not mean that he is vain; it only means that he is hopelessly self-absorbed.”

“No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self-deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.”

— Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Tweet

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been erected to a critic.”

“Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.”

“People are certainly impressed by the aura of creative power which a writer may wear, but can easily demolish it with a few well-chosen questions. Bob Shaw has observed that the deadliest questions usually come as a pair: "Have you published anything?" (loosely translated as: I've never heard of you) and "What name do you write under?" (loosely translatable as: I've definitely never heard of you).”

“PI suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting.”

“I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has just put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or banana split.”

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

“The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy The books that people talk about we never can recall And the books that people give us, oh, they're the worst of all.”

“If the sex scene doesn't make you want to do it - whatever it is they're doing - it hasn't been written right.”

“I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.”

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

“I hope someday to write something worth plagiarizing.”

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”

“Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.”

“Writer’s Block: When you imaginary friends stop talking to you.”

“There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people… mystery writers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays better.”

“Write drunk. Edit Sober.”

“I write to escape… to escape poverty.”

“Writing is a lonely job, unless you’re a drinker, in which case you always have a friend within reach.”

“I wrote a few children's books. Not on purpose.”

“I get a lot of letters from people. They say: "I want to be a writer. What should I do?" I tell them to stop writing to me and get on with it.”

“If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.”

“If Moses were alive today he’d come down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments and spend the next five years trying to get them published.”

“The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.”

“The only time I'll get good reviews is if I kill myself.”

“It's splendid to be a great writer, to put men into the frying pan of your imagination and make them pop like chestnuts.”

“Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

“There's not much to be said about the period except that most writers don't reach it soon enough.”

“Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we.' ”

“When Thoreau wrote: "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" shouldn't he have edited it down to "Simplify!"?”

“I am a writer. If I seem cold, it 's because I am surrounded by drafts.”

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time… unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”

“Being an author is being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.”

What do you think?
 
Did I miss one?
 
Share which one is your favorite in the comments below!

44 of the Funniest Writing Memes on the Internet

Funny Writing Memes
I scoured the internet to find you the funniest writing memes out there. Take a break from writing and have a laugh with these hilarious writing memes.
What do you think?
 
Did I miss one?
 
Share which one is your favorite in the comments below!

In Media Res Definition With 28 Examples

In Media Res Definition & Examples

In Media Res is a Latin word that means to start your story “in the middle of things.”

It’s defined as starting in or into the middle of a narrative or plot, rather than the natural beginning.

For example, a murder mystery could start after the victim is already murdered. Only later in the story is it revealed why and how the murder took place.

Why You Should Start a Story In Media Res

The reason to start “in the middle” is to quickly capture the reader’s attention.

You could start with the characters running away from a dragon, sitting in a jail cell after a crime, or jumping off a sinking boat.

Not knowing the whole story raises questions in the reader’s mind. They’ll stay glued to your work as the answers to their questions are gradually revealed.

It also has the added bonus of allowing you to start in the middle of some exciting action. You won’t have to tediously explain why it is happening either.

You can explain what happened before the action later. But you can also continue forward and leave it to the reader to figure it out. Both options have their benefits.

In Media Res is more often used in TV and film than literature. In those mediums you need to capture the audience’s attention immediately. Because if you don’t they’ll turn the channel.

In a novel you’ve got more time to settle into the story. But if your reader isn’t hooked by the end of the first chapter it’ll never leave the book shelf.

Readers must care, and must care quickly, what happens to your characters.

And starting in media res is an easy way to make that happen.

Readers must care, and must care quickly, about what happens to your characters.

And starting in media res is an easy way to make that happen.

In Media Res Origin

The term in media res comes from the Roman poet Horace in 13 BC in his work Ars Poetica, where he describes the ideal poet:

“Nor does he date Diomede’s return from Meleager’s death, nor trace the rise of the Trojan war from [Leda’s] eggs: he always hastens on to the event; and hurries away his reader in the midst of interesting circumstances, no otherwise than as if they were [already] known;”

In Media Res was a common literary tool used in ancient epic poems, two such examples are below:

Book Cover - Odyssey

In Media Res Example #1 - Homer's Odyssey

We first learn about Odysseus’s journey while he is held captive on Calypso’s island. Only later in books IX through XII we learn that much of his journey precedes that moment in the narrative.

In Media Res Example #2 - Homer's Illiad

The “egg” reference from Horace refers to the mythological origin of the Trojan War.

The myth is that the birth of Helen and Clytemnestra came from a double egg laid by the Spartan queen Leda. She laid an egg because she was seduced by Zeus while he was disguised as a swan.

But instead of starting with all that, the story begins right in the middle of the Trojan War.

No boring exposition, but right into the juicy conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon.

How to Start Your Story In Media Res

In media res takes the natural opening sequence structure and rearranges it.

Typically you start a story like this:

  1. Begin with the status quo. Introduce the main character and show an ordinary day in their life.

  2. An “inciting incident” happens. This is the catalyst event that calls the hero to action and interrupts their ordinary life.

  3. After some delay, hesitation or debate, the character decides to answer the call.

But by beginning your story in media res, you flip the first two steps around:

  1. You begin with the inciting incident or something happening. The dead body is discovered. The dragon attacks the city. The main character is fired from their job.

  2. Then you backtrack to show the events leading up to the inciting incident. Why the murder happened. Why the dragon is attacking. Why they got fired.

  3. Then once you arrive at the inciting incident you move the story forward. You can also move forward immediately after Step #1. Then you would gradually reveal the events leading up to it as you progress the story to its conclusion.

Tips for Starting Your Story In Media Res

Here are some tips for starting your story in media res to make sure it has the most impact on your readers.

Start with an Important Emotional Scene

The scene you start your story with in media res should be three things:

  1. Interesting
  2. Emotional
  3. Important to the Story

The easiest way to do this is by using conflict, dilemma, or high stakes. Or all three.

In Media Res Example #3 - Troy (2004)

A great example of this is from the movie Troy. Although this is not the very first scene, this serves as a illustration of how the Illiad begins.

Achilles and Agamemnon argue over what will happen with Briseis. a woman who was captured when Achilles sacked the temple of Apollo.

There’s your conflict.

Achilles faces a dilemma. Does he let Agamemnon have her to ensure a smooth fighting of the war with Troy? Or does he take her and start a massive conflict with his most powerful ally?

There’s your emotion.

If Achilles can’t have her, he’s unmotivated to fight. And if Achilles doesn’t fight, the Greeks will surely lose.

That’s why it’s important to the story.

Decide How to Reveal the Backstory

Without exposition, you’ll need to reveal the backstory after the opening scene.

There are several ways you can do this:

  1. Go back to the beginning and lead up to it
  2. Reveal bits and pieces of the story via flashbacks
  3. Tell the backstory via dialogue and a frame narrative

In TV, you’ll often see the story begin in media res with a flash forward. Then they’ll dedicate the rest of the episode to showing how the characters got into that situation.

In Media Res Example #4 - Breaking Bad (2004)

The hit TV series Breaking Bad is the most famous recent example of this.

The series’ first episode begins with a old RV swerving through the desert.

Inside, two men are wearing gas masks are driving it. One is in his underwear, and the other is slumped over in his seat like he’s injured. Dead bodies slide around the floor in the back as the RV swerves left and right.

The RV crashes on the side of the road, and the man in his underwear runs outside and starts freaking out. You can hear sirens in the background. They’re being chased.

He grabs a video camera from inside the RV and starts recording himself. He identifies himself and starts speaking to his wife and son, as though these were his last moments.

Now how can you not stick around for at least one episode to see how he got himself into that situation?

While Breaking Bad goes back to the beginning, you can also move forward and use flashbacks to fill in the gaps.

Homer’s Odyssey is a perfect example.

The story begins with his son Telemachus trying to find news about his missing father. His mother Penelope is busy fending off potential new suitors. They’re looking to take Odysseus’ place as king.

Meanwhile, Odysseus crash lands his ship on Scheria. The King and Queen there beg to hear the tales of his adventures. The story uses flashbacks to share his journey up to that point.

In Media Res Example #5 - Life of Pi (2012)

A more modern example of this type of storytelling is Life of Pi.

The story of Life of Pi is told through an interview. It is between the main character, Pi Patel, and a novelist. The interview is about Pi’s story of being lost at sea for 227 days.

The film alternates back and forth between flashbacks of Pi’s time on the boat and the interview.

Pi spends the movie telling his story about being lost at sea and the events leading up to his rescue.

This is a great example of using flashbacks to fill in the blanks and tell the story of what happened leading up to now.

The last way to reveal the backstory is to use dialogue through a frame narrative.

A frame narrative is a story within a story. The first story is the main story that your book or film is about. The second story is the frame narrative. It either sets up the main story or provides context for it or one of the characters.

Here are two good examples of using a frame narrative to reveal backstory.

In Media Res Example #6 - The Town (2010)

In this scene, two characters argue about continuing their spring of robberies.

It gets physical and ends with both characters taking a moment to catch their breath. Here is where one uses a frame narrative to give context for his thoughts and actions.

10 years ago, James stopped someone from killing Doug. He spent nine years in prison for the crime, and is trying to make up for lost time. He thinks Doug owes him one for saving his life, so he’s not going to let him walk away from the robbing spree.

In Media Res Example #7 - Jaws (1975)

Quint gives a bone-chilling monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

Now we know why he is so gung-ho to hunt down this bastard shark and kill it. It’s a personal vendetta. He’s got to get revenge.

This frame narrative also provides context for the entire story. We are more scared of the shark because of it.

His tale was absolutely horrific. The details about floating in the water waiting for a shark to come rip you to pieces is scarier than the film!

Create Curiosity by Raising the Stakes with a Crucial Scene

Whether you begin your story in media res or not, you should start with a scene that’s important to the plot.

You don’t want to start the story at any place in time. You want to start with a bang. Something that hooks the reader and pulls them in immediately.

And a great way to do that is by raising the stakes in the first scene.

Take the Breaking Bad opening for example.

It’s obvious something illegal has gone down. And the sirens in the background mean big trouble for the main character if he doesn’t find a way out of this situation.

This scene is integral to the plot and the stakes are extremely high. The audience is curious how he got into this situation.

Who is this guy? He looks like a nerd, not someone who should be running from the police.

Why is he running from the cops? Does it have something to do with the dead bodies in the back of the RV? What happened to them? Did he kill them?

And why the heck is he in his underwear?!

This is the perfect example of how to hook a reader in your opening. The audience can’t help but stick around after the commercial break to find out what happens next.

Start With an Intriguing First Line

A great way to hook your reader when starting your story in media res is to writing an intriguing first line.

Starting your book in media res cuts out all the exposition leading up to that point.

So you’ve got write something engaging enough to carry the reader through the next few chapters.

And one of the best ways to do that is intrigue them with a great first line.

Here’s an example from James Patterson:

“To the best of my understandably shaky recollection, the first time I died went something like this…”

That raises all sorts of questions!

Is this person dead already? How are they still talking? Are they a ghost? How did they die? Why did they die?

This line hooks the reader and they have to stick around to get the answers to their questions.

The goal of an intriguing first line is to raise questions in the reader’s mind:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Here are some more examples of starting in media res with an intriguing first line.

In Media Res Examples #8 - 12

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

— George Orwell, 1984

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

— Franz Kafka, The Trial

They shoot the white girl first.

— Toni Morrison, Paradise

I’ve been locked up for 264 days.

— Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Since it’s Sunday and it’s stopped raining, I think I’ll take a bouquet of roses to my grave.

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Someone Has Been Disarranging These Roses

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Starting In Media Res

By now you might be thinking this is the only way you’ll ever start a story again. Beginning your book in media res is quite powerful indeed.

But it’s easy to mess up too. Here are some mistakes you should avoid when beginning your book in the middle of things.

#1: Don’t Delay The Boring Setup Till Later

Starting in media res helps you offset the slow build-up of conflict.

But often it only delays the slow build-up and traps the reader in it a few pages later.

Unless your opening scene is intriguing or significant, it will soon be forgotten. The reader will get bogged down with all the new characters and set up moments later.

Make the first scene interesting. But also make the scenes that follow interesting too.

#2: Don't Forget to Give Your Reader Some Context

A common mistake new writers make is to start with an action scene that doesn’t provide any context.

They start in the middle of a fight scene or some other action-packed sequence. But we have no idea who to root for or why they’re even fighting in the first place.

Fights are only interesting if we know why they’re happening. That’s what the conflict is about.

And if we don’t know who’s side we’re supposed to be on, we don’t care when either one of them comes close to death. There’s no stakes. Your readers could be rooting for the wrong character!

You might be tempted to start with an action prologue like the James Bond series is known for. But remember that readers already know to root for 007.

If you’re introducing entirely new characters in your first book, no one has any idea who they are. Or who’s side they are on. On why we should care.

In Media Res Example #13 — GoldenEye (1995)

Take this opening scene from the James Bond film GoldenEye.

A solid five minutes goes by before we’re in the heat of the action.

That leaves plenty of time to establish the setting, who the bad guys are, introduce 006, and their goal to blow up the base.

If James Bond was a new character with no history or context, this still could’ve worked. But imagine if they started with the gunfight at the five minute mark. That wouldn’t have worked at all.

We wouldn’t be sure what’s going on, where they are, who to root for, etc. It would’ve been a big mess of confusion.

To see a better way to introduce a new character in media res, watch this scene from Casino Royale (2006).

In Media Res Example #14 — Casino Royale (2006)

Bond was being reintroduced to audiences with a new actor, so this type of intro was appropriate.

Especially since Daniel Craig was rougher around the edges compared to previous actors.

That’s why the fight scene here is so brutal and visceral. The director was telling the audience that this isn’t going to be your ordinary James Bond film.

But even then there’s still plenty of time for setup and context.

Bond has been sent to kill the Section Chief for selling military secrets. In a three minute scene with flashback action sequences intercut we get all the context we need.

#3: Don’t Introduce Too Many Main Characters

Starting your novel in media res can be fun. But if you try to introduce too many characters they will get lost in the action and confuse your reader.

Watch this open from The Fast and the Furious (2001):

The story takes a minute to provide some context. They’re at a shipping yard in America and a truckload of money is leaving the port.

Several suped-up sports cars chase the truck and start hi-jacking it. They dodge in and out all across the road and are coordinated in their efforts. These are excellent and highly trained drivers committing this crime.

The next morning, we see the main character (Paul Walker) racing around a race track in a similar vehicle. He spins out of control trying to drive like the robbers last night.

It is clear he’s trying join the group of bandits. He’s practicing his driving skills so he’ll fit in and be welcomed to the crew.

Only one character was introduced in this setup. They didn’t try to introduce all the gang members participating in the heist at the same time.

That would’ve been a mess, and they all would’ve gotten lost in the action. So don’t do that to your characters either.

In Media Res Examples

Below you find dozens of examples from film and literature of how to use in media res. Use them as inspiration for starting your own story this way.

In Media Res Example #16 - Inception (2010)

Inception’s first scene has the main character washing up on shore. The rest of the movie explores how he got there.

In Media Res Example #17 - Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump opens with the main character sitting on a park bench. The film uses frame narratives and flashbacks to tell his story. He goes back to the past and catches up to the present, and then the story continues forward for the ending.

In Media Res Example #18 - National Treasure (2004)

National Treasure begins with the characters digging up a ship in Alaska. There’s no explanation of how they got there or why they are even there.

In Media Res Example #19 - Batman Begins (2005)

After showing why Bruce Wayne is so afraid of bats, the film flashes forward to a scene with Bruce Wayne in prison. There’s no explanation of why he’s there, and soon he’s attacked by the other inmates. The film then goes back in time to fill in the gaps leading up to that point.

In Media Res Example #20 - Fight Club (1999)

The movie Fight Club opens with a gun being held in the main character’s mouth. Talk about high stakes! The film then goes back to catch you up to this point which is near the end of the story.

In Media Res Example #21 - Indiana Jones (1981)

Being an action and adventure film, this is a natural way to start. The film would’ve been much more boring if it opened with Jones sitting in his office doing research. This is a much better way to kickstart the action and show his character.

In Media Res Example #22 - Raging Bull (1980)

The film starts in 1964, with hero Jake LaMotto rehearsing for a one-man show. The film ends with Jake walking on stage to deliver the performance he’s been rehearsing. Through a series of flashbacks, we get the story of Jake’s career and how he lost everything. This helps to understand why he’s an overweight loser at the end of the film doing stand-up for a living.

In Media Res Example #23 - Kill Bill Vol. I (2003)

The film opens with the character laying on the floor, bloodied and beaten. It seems she might be wearing a wedding dress. A man approaches and wipes the blood from her face. After a short speech, he gets up and loads his gun. The Bride tells him the baby is his, but not before he shoots her in the head. Talk about starting with a bang!

In Media Res Example #24 - Memento (2000)

The film Memento opens towards the end of the story with a man being murdered. The story alternates scenes to get to that point. Some are from the start of the story, and the others are from what takes place right before the murder.

In Media Res Examples #25, 26 & 27 - The Hangover Series

Each film in the Hangover series opens in media res. The first two movies begin with a phone call explaining how messed up the previous night was. The rest of the story shows how they got to that point. The last movie opens in the middle of an apparent prison riot with no explanation why it’s happening.

In Media Res Example #28 - Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The film begins with a family walking through the Normandy American Cemetery in France. An older gentleman kneels down in front of a grave and begins to weep. The movie then goes back to the D-Day invasion of 1944. It tells the story of the relationship between the weeping man and his lost friend.

There’s about a million other examples, but these should provide a good start for you. Think about your favorite books and movies… do any of them start in media res? How do they do it? Can you learn anything from it?

Post your favorite in media res scene in the comments below!

How to Write Text Messages in a Book: The Complete Guide

How to Write Text Messages in a Book

What are the Rules for Writing Text Messages in a Book?

The rules for writing dialogue have been long established. And that makes sense, as people have been talking to each other for really long time.

But what about texting on cell phones?

2007 was the first year more there were more text messages sent than phone calls made. So texting has only been a thing 20 years or so.

But it’s still surprising that there isn’t a standardized way of writing text messages in fiction.

In this article I’m going to show you the best way to do this.

With these tips your character’s text messages will be easy to read. But more importantly, they’ll also be easy to write.

Chicago Manual of Style on Writing Text Messages in Books

The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most widely used and highly respected style guides in the United States.

Here’s what they had to say about writing text messages in a book:

Unless a designer wants to create a special typography for text messages (as is sometimes done in books for children and young adults), just use quotation marks.

It’s never been considered necessary to have a separate style for phone conversations, e-mails, or other types of communication, and texts are nothing new in this regard.

The context should make it clear:

“how r u,” he texted; “ha ha Daddy I can’t believe you use ‘r u,’” she replied.

Mehhhhhh what do you think about that? To me it’s kind of lame.

As authors, not editors, we can come up with something better.

Don’t you think?

Here’s how you should write text messages in a book:

  • Use italics and beats
  • Be consistent with your formatting
  • Don’t use quotation marks
  • Don’t use colons
  • Don’t use offset lines or special alignment
  • Don’t use emojis or lots of abbreviations

Read on below to find out why.

Why You Should Use Italics and Beats to Write Text Messages in a Book

The best way to write text messages in a book is to use italics and beats to portray the conversation.

Italics are often used to display letters, emails and book passages in fiction. That makes them perfect for text messages too.

Beats will help break up the text conversation. They also help to show the the action and thoughts of the point of view character.

He’s an example below:

Writing Text Messages in a Book Example

I was just getting ready to leave when my phone vibrated. It was Jon.

I’m running late so I’ll be there at 3:20.

Great. Another delay. I’m gonna get stuck in rush hour traffic at this point. Ok, see you soon.

Thirty minutes later I’m scrambling for a parking spot outside of Target. Hopefully he’s got the forms ready for me. Parking. You in the pharmacy area?

Yep.

K be right there. I was walking so fast the squeak of my shoes could be heard a mile away. I’m over by the drop off.

I stood around waiting for a bit. I got a few random glances from the pharmacist at the desk. She could tell I wasn’t there to pick up a prescription.

“Just waiting for Jon.” She nodded her head and went on helping the next customer in line. My phone vibrated.

Be right out.

Good. Hopefully he filled them out correctly. I’m not making a long trip like this again.

Notice how the conversation flows back and forth. It goes between the interior dialogue and the texts in a smooth fashion.

When writing texts from the point of view character, you’ll want to set it up with a beat beforehand. That makes it clear who’s sending the text.

Write the beat first, and then add the text message on at the end.

For received text messages, start a new line. It helps separate the beat of the point of view character from the text message.

Why You Shouldn't Use Quotation Marks

You shouldn’t use quotation marks to write text messages in a book. They’re already used to write spoken dialogue.

This creates the need for extra speech tags to make it clear who is texting. Your writing will be much cleaner if you use italics instead.

The biggest problem with using quotation marks is when dialogue is spoken between text messages.

The only thing that would distinguish a text from spoke dialogue is the speech tag. And if your reader misses it they’ll get confused.

Read the same passage again using quotation marks instead of italics. Notice how it’s confusing when the character says something to the pharmacist.

Example with Quotation Marks

I was just getting ready to leave when my phone vibrated. It was Jon.

“I’m running late so I’ll be there at 3:20.”

Great. Another delay. I’m gonna get stuck in rush hour traffic at this point. “Ok, see you soon.”

Thirty minutes later I’m scrambling for a parking spot outside of Target. Hopefully he’s got the forms ready for me. “Parking. You in the pharmacy area?”

“Yep.”

“K be right there.” I was walking so fast the squeak of my shoes could be heard a mile away. “I’m over by the drop off.”

I stood around waiting for a bit. I got a few random glances from the pharmacist at the desk. She could tell I wasn’t there to pick up a prescription.

“Just waiting for Jon.” She nodded her head and went on helping the next customer in line. My phone vibrated.

“Be right out.”

Good. Hopefully he filled them out correctly. I’m not making a long trip like this again.

You’re used to seeing spoken dialogue in quotation marks start a new line. so when you do it was text messages too it can get a little confusing.

That’s why you should use italics for text messages, and only use quotation marks for spoke dialogue.

That’s what everyone is used to, so don’t confuse them by using it for text messages too. They won’t know what’s a text and what’s dialogue.

Why You Shouldn't Use Colons

Some people suggest using colons to help show which character is sending each text.

But this makes your story read too much like a screenplay. That will pull the reader out of the story and back into reality. Not good.

The thing to remember about a screenplay is that it’s a set of instructions for the director and actors.

Not only does it have the dialogue and action like a novel, but it also have camera directions too. That’ll never be in a book.

Take a look at the same conversation as before below. But this time it uses colons instead of italics or quotation marks.

Example with Colons

I was just getting ready to leave when my phone vibrated. It was Jon.

Jon: I’m running late so I’ll be there at 3:20.

Great. Another delay. I’m gonna get stuck in rush hour traffic at this point.

Me: Ok, see you soon.

Thirty minutes later I’m scrambling for a parking spot outside of Target. Hopefully he’s got the forms ready for me.

Me: Parking. You in the pharmacy area?

Jon: Yep.

Me: K be right there.

I was walking so fast the squeak of my shoes could be heard a mile away.

I’m over by the drop off.

I stood around waiting for a bit. I got a few random glances from the pharmacist at the desk. She could tell I wasn’t there to pick up a prescription.

“Just waiting for Jon.” She nodded her head and went on helping the next customer in line. My phone vibrated.

Jon: Be right out.

Good. Hopefully he filled them out correctly. I’m not making a long trip like this again.

See how that pulls you out of the story? It has the same effect as too many speech tags.

Although, it does make it clear who is texting. And it also is distinguishes the text from spoke dialogue by using colons. So it does have it’s advantages.

But the problem with it is that the reader is going to say “Me” or “Jon” each time a text is sent.

Say every word of this out loud:

Me: Parking. You in the pharmacy area?

Jon: Yep.

Me: K be right there.

Clunky right? Takes you right out of the story. That’s why I prefer to use italics instead. And you should too.

Why You Shouldn't Use Offset Lines or Special Alignment

Some people suggest alternating between left and right justification for writing text messages. Or changing the alignment back and forth and using offset lines.

But let’s be honest… do you really want to create another formatting problem for yourself?

Nobody wants to break out the ruler or indent tool when writing a manuscript if they don’t have to. So let’s not.

Plus, it would also create the question of how much to indent for each person texting.

Two tabs for the point of view character and one for the person they’re texting? Why not three tabs and two?

This style would make the text conversation look more like an actual text. But the last thing we need is another formatting issue.

So don’t create one for yourself by using special alignment for text messages. Use italics and beats instead.

How to Write Text Messages in a Script or a Screenplay

Because of the way screenplays are formatted, it makes writing a text message much easier than in a novel.

In a script you are outside the characters by default. The colon-type formatting above doesn’t take you out of the story like in a novel. You’re already getting stage instructions and camera directions.

To write text messages in a script, state that text messages are in italics. Then include “(TEXT)” next to the character’s name doing the texting.

See this example below:

Screenplay Text

Much easier than in a novel, don’t you think?

It’s up to the director how they want to portray this on screen. Your job is only to write what they say.

A director might use speech bubbles, but an over-the-shoulder view of the phone works too. Leave that up to them. You write the text.

Why You Shouldn't Use Emojis or Abbreviations

When it comes to common texting practices, you should leave them out of your book.

Things like using emojis, all caps, abbreviations, etc.

You don’t want the text messages to call attention to themselves and take your reader out of the story. You want the text messages flow with the rest of the conversation and narration.

Placing an emoji in your book is a surefire way to take the reader out of the story. So don’t do it. It’s not necessary. You can communicate perfectly fine only using words.

For abbreviations like “R u here?” keep in mind who is texting. Not everyone texts like that. Especially adults.

With teens and young adults it’s more acceptable. But you should try being more brief with the text and see if that works better.

Once again, you don’t want to call attention to the text message.

For a text, instead of writing “Are you here?” you could try “You here?” or “Here?”

That’s realistic for a text but doesn’t distract the reader. Don’t make it harder for readers to interpret what your characters are saying.

Be Consistent with Your Formatting for Text Messages

Whatever format you decide on, be consistent. Don’t change back and forth several times in a story. You’ll only confuse readers.

Hopefully you will adopt the italics and beat style of writing text messages I shared here.

Eventually readers will catch on too. It’ll soon become the new standardized format for writing text messages in a story.

How To Write The Perfect Kissing Scene: See Examples

How to Write The Perfect Kissing Scene

The perfect kissing scene is somewhere in the middle of steamy and sophisticated.

Too little and it won’t get us turned on.

Too much and it’ll quickly turn us off.

Kissing is an uncontrollable desire. And the reader must desire the kiss as much as the characters do.

To do that, you must understand the character’s motivations and feelings.

And that’s because kissing needs context.

History. Build up. Tension. Emotions.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to do.

Why Writing a Kissing Scene Is So Hard

One of the most difficult scenes to write is a kissing scene.

But why?

For starters, first kisses are often very private.

You won’t have many experiences to draw from other than your own. And if you have limited sexual experience, you might now have any at all.

Second, there’s lot of ways to mess up a kissing scene.

If the setting isn’t right or you don’t have the proper build up it can fall flat. And for an important moment in the story like a first kiss, that’s a disaster.

Lastly, it’s real easy to ruin the kissing scene with clichés.

When trying to capture the essence of a wonderful kiss, it’s easy to fall into traps like calling it a “magical moment.”

A kiss is an act of love. And love is often clichéd because people write what they think love should look like. Not what it actually looks like.

But have no fear my dear. In this article I’m going to provide you with a foolproof formula for writing great kissing scenes.

Plus, I’ll include many kissing scene examples from literature and film for you to follow.

Also, I’ll include my Kissing Scene Template Worksheet. This way you’ll never get stuck trying to write a kissing scene ever again.

The Kissing Scene Formula

The perfect kissing scene is like any other scene you will write.

It should have a beginning, rising action, and a climax (the kiss).

To do that we’re going to break the kiss scene up into five steps:

1) Set Up The Kiss
2) Get The Characters Close
3) Show Their Admiration For Each Other
4) Make Them Kiss
5) Show the Outcome

By following these five easy steps, you’ll write the perfect kissing scene every time.

Step #1: How to Set Up a Kissing Scene

One of the most important parts to writing a kissing scene is the set up.

Kissing scenes are only interesting when we know the context and emotional history between the two characters.

There should be tension, flirting and even a little bit of foreplay before the big moment. This should happen earlier in the story too.

Then once you’ve arrived at the kissing scene, it’s time to decide how to set up the situation that leads to the first kiss.

Will the kiss scene be romantic? Chaotic? Or somewhere between?

Your answer will have an impact on how the kiss scene is set up. So choose wisely.

The kiss can be set up in one of three ways:

1) Tender Moments
2) Fighting First
3) High Stakes Action

Below is an example of each one with some analysis.

Kissing Scene Example #1: Tender Moments

The first kind of kiss scene is when two characters are having a tender emotional moment that leads to a kiss.

Often they’ll be alone somewhere talking, sharing secrets, discussing dreams and fears. This emotional closeness and vulnerability leads them to the big smooch.

This is the type of stereotypical set up you think of when imagining a kiss scene. After all, this is how it actually happens most of the time in real life.

The perfect example of this is from the book and film Dear John (2006 and 2010).

John and Savannah get caught alone in the rain at a construction site. They stop and hide under what little shelter they can find.

Savannah asks some personal questions about John’s history. In sharing this information, it leads to confessions about how they feel about each other.

She smiles, he leans in close, and boom… the two start kissing. Textbook.

Kissing Scene Example #2: Fighting First

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to start a scene at one emotion and end at its opposite.

Happy to sad. Scared to excited. And in the case of a kissing scene, anger to passion.

Lovers can often start off as opponents of sorts. The “battle” between them amps up the flirtation and anticipation.

There are a million examples of this, but one of my favorites is from the movie Army of Darkness.

The main character, Ash, is rude and disrespectful right from the start. Sheila is intent on having a serious conversation with him, but he’s way too distracted to care.

He insults her several times, and even throws some things around the room. When she gives him a gift she made, he replies “Thanks. I could use a good horse blanket.”

How rude!

Sheila can’t take his attitude anymore, and smacks him hard right in the face. SLAP!!!

Ash gets up and chases after. He grabs her by the arm, pulls her close and spouts his famous line… “Give me some sugar baby.”

Their anger has boiled over into passion, and leads to a hot first kiss. Once opponents, they’re now lovers. The relationship is forever changed.

Kissing Scene Example #3: High Stakes Action

Research shows that when you meet someone during a scary situation, it increases your attraction to them.

A study once proved that if you met someone on a suspension bridge, you are more likely to be attracted to them. Much more than if you met the same person on a safer, less scary bridge.

So it’s no wonder that we often see two characters fall in love right in the middle of dangerous, intense action.

A good recent example of this is from Jurassic World (2015).

Claire and Owen are fighting for their lives while trying to escape the theme park and save her two nephews.

An escaped dinosaur pins Owen to the ground and starts biting at him, threatening his life. What ever will he do?!

But have no worry, Claire comes to the rescue. She knocks the dinosaur off of him and shoots it to death, saving Owen’s life.

She helps him up off the ground, and he can’t help himself. He’s lays and unsuspecting kiss on her right in the heat of the battle.

Even if your story doesn’t have intense action like this, other emotional highs can work too.

A perfect example is an automobile accident. It can happen in almost any story. It’s an emotional high with a little bit of danger.

While it’s better to come up with something unique, you can always fall back on a car crash as a crutch. It works in a pinch.

How to Build Tension and Anticipation for the Kissing Scene

One trick to build tension and anticipation for the kissing scene is to have an “almost kiss” earlier in the story.

This lets the audience know the attraction is there, but they’re going to have to wait to get the emotional payoff.

In fact, this is so common it’s almost cliché. Watch these lists of Top 10 “Almost Kiss” Scenes to see examples of how it has been done already.

All those scenes make it crystal clear the two characters will be locking lips later in the story. So in a sense, it doesn’t build too much tension at all. We already know what’s going to happen.

But here’s the secret to using an almost kiss scene. You should make the future outcome a lot vaguer.

It shouldn’t be obvious that the characters are going to hook up. Keep the reader guessing. That will build the tension.

The perfect example of this is Gone with The Wind (1939).

Watch some of the other scenes above, and then watch this one. Vastly different tone, right? We don’t know what will happen between them. Will they finally kiss? Or go their separate ways?

This is how you should write your “almost kiss” scene too. Make it a cliffhanger. Don’t be so obvious about the outcome. Make the reader wonder what will happen next.

Step #2: How to Bring Characters Close for a Kiss

You’ve created a situation that brings the characters together, but you need to bring them close enough to kiss. Literally.

Characters can’t lock lips without being real close to each other first.

In this step you’ll need to decide exactly how that happens.

We’ll use the scenes from above as examples.

Kissing Scene Example #1: Outside Circumstances

Watch the kiss scene from Dear John again. Pay attention to the following.

John and Savannah are checking out a home her family is building when it starts to rain.

To get shelter from the rain, they have to huddle close together since the roof isn’t finished yet. Otherwise they’ll get soaked.

It’s the perfect excuse to get close. They wouldn’t have done so otherwise. Now they’re close enough to kiss, and it happens.

Your characters would eventually get close on their own anyway. But sometimes outside forces will bring them close enough to make it happen earlier in the story.

It can be the weather, other characters, events in the story… you name it. Anything outside of the two characters can work.

When the characters move slow and steady to get closer, it usually indicates a soft passionate kiss is coming. Like the one we see in this scene.

For the opposite, see the example below.

Kissing Scene Example #2: Character Choice

Watch the scene from Army of Darkness again. Pay attention to the following:

In this scene, the characters get close when Ash gets up and chases Sheila to the door. He grabs her by the arm, spins her around, and plants a big kiss on her.

When the closing is fast and sudden like this, it usually leads to hard and assertive kiss that we see here. It’s the result of lots of built up sexual tension.

This type of character choice is where one of the characters takes what they want — the kiss. And usually it’s the man.

But it can also be the woman. If she’s more experienced than the male character, or can’t resist kissing him anymore, she’ll make the first move.

Although, most of the time one of the two characters invites the other one to kiss them. They give them a big green light that says “Kiss me, you fool!”

Now watch the scene from Gone With The Wind again. Pay attention to the following:

Scarlett says she wouldn’t kiss Rhett for the bonnet. But then gets really close to him. Like real close. Close enough he could kiss her if he wanted to.

This is a big green light for Rhett. Typically women don’t like to make the first move. So they’ll help the guy along a little by signaling that if he does try to kiss her, it will be well-received.

So either one character can make the first move, or the other can invite that character to make it. Your choice.

Step #3: Show Characters Admiring Each Other

Once the characters are close enough to kiss, their focus is on the other character. The rest of the outside world fades away and their focus is locked on the object of their heart’s desire.

With such intense focus, the characters start to notice things about each other. Things that they find sexy, attractive or intriguing.

In the scene from Dear John, Savannah asks him about the scar on his eyebrow at the start of the conversation. This starts an intimate conversation that leads to their first kiss.

But you can show the characters admiring each other without words too. In the scene from Army of Darkness, Ash doesn’t say a word after grabbing Sheila before telling her to kiss him.

All they do is gaze into each other. You can feel the attraction. Particularly when Ash takes her hair down. He’s admiring her beauty.

In these close moments, male characters will usually admire something physical. Her lips, eyes, face, hair or figure. Her physical beauty is what turns him on.

Female characters will usually admire the strength or confidence of the male lead.

Ash is quite bold when he takes her by the arm, and Sheila is head over heels for his masculine energy. She can’t resist a take-charge kind of guy. He’s bold, sure of himself, and ready to take the lead.

What your characters admire about each other will depend on their personalities. Bonus points if you can link it to something that reveals their past or shows their character. The Dear John scene is the perfect example.

Step #4: The Kiss

Your characters have come together, gotten close, and admired each other. Now it’s time for the big moment…

Pucker up buttercup, it’s time for a kiss.

The key to writing a good kissing scene is to focus on describing everything else but the actual kiss.

Focus on the five senses and the character’s thoughts and emotions. Not on the actual physicality and motions of the lips and tongue.

Otherwise it’s too easy to get grossed out. It takes all the romance out of it. Look at this excerpt below from Sophie’s Choice for an example of what not to do:

Kissing Scene Example #1

“In the shadows her face was so close to mine that I could smell the sweet ropy fragrance of the sherry she had been drinking, and then her tongue was in my mouth. In all truth I had not invited this prodigy of a tongue; turning, I had merely wished to look at her face, expecting only that the expression of aesthetic delight I might find there would correspond to what I knew was my own.

But I did not even catch a glimpse of her face, so instantaneous and urgent was that tongue. Plunged like some writhing sea-shape into my gaping maw, it all but overpowered my senses as it sought some unreachable terminus near my uvula; it wiggled, it pulsated, and made contortive sweeps of my mouth’s vault: I’m certain that at least once it turned upside down. Dolphin-slippery, less wet than rather deliciously mucilaginous and tasting of Amontillado, it had the power in itself to force me, or somehow get me back, against a doorjamb, where I lolled helpless with my eyes clenched shut, in a trance of tongue.”

- Sophie's Choice by William Stryon

Writhing tongues, gaping maws, and mucilaginous (sticky) uvulas? No thank you! I’m going to have to ask you to leave now young lady.

Now compare that scene with these two below. One is from Gone With the Wind and the other from Anna and the French Kiss.

Notice how much more description there is about everything else going on. There is very little focus on the actual kiss.

Kissing Scene Example #2

“Before she could withdraw her mind from its far places, his arms were around her, as sure and hard as on the dark road to Tara, so long ago. She felt again the rush of helplessness, the sinking yielding, the surging tide of warmth that left her limp. And the quiet face of Ashley Wilkes was blurred and drowned to nothingness.

He bent back her head across his arm and kissed her, softly at first, and then with a swift gradation of intensity that made her cling to him as the only solid thing in a dizzy swaying world. His insistent mouth was parting her shaking lips, sending wild tremors along her nerves, evoking from her sensations she had never known she was capable of feeling.

And before a swimming giddiness spun her round and round, she knew that she was kissing him back.”

- Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Things other than the kiss that were described:

  • His arms were around her
  • She felt again the rush of helplessness
  • Drowned to nothingness
  • He bent back her head across his arm
  • Intensity that made her cling to him
  • Wild tremors along her nerves
  • Sensations she had never known she was capable of feeling
  • Swimming giddiness spun her round

Kissing Scene Example #3

“We are kissing like crazy. Like our lives depend on it. His tongue slips inside my mouth, gentle but demanding, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced, and I suddenly understand why people describe kissing as melting because every square inch of my body dissolves into his. My fingers grip his hair, pulling him closer. My veins throb and my heart explodes. I have never wanted anyone like this before. Ever. 

He pushes me backward and we’re lying down, making out in front of the children with their red balloons and the old men with their chess sets and the tourists with their laminated maps and I don’t care, I don’t care about any of that. All I want is Étienne. The weight of his body on top of mine is extraordinary. I feel him—all of him—pressed against me, and I inhale his shaving cream, his shampoo, and that extra scent that’s just… him. The most delicious smell I could ever imagine. 

I want to breathe him, lick him, eat him, drink him. His lips taste like honey. His face has the slightest bit of stubble and it rubs my skin but I don’t care, I don’t care at all. He feels wonderful. His hands are everywhere, and it doesn’t matter that his mouth is already on top of mine, I want him closer closer closer."

- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Things other than the kiss that were described:

  • It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced
  • Every square inch of my body dissolves into his
  • My fingers grip his hair, pulling him closer
  • My veins throb and my heart explodes
  • I have never wanted anyone like this before. Ever.
  • He pushes me backward and we’re lying down.
  • The weight of his body on top of mine is extraordinary
  • I feel him — all of him — pressed against me
  • The most delicious smell I could ever imagine
  • His face has the slightest bit of stubble
  • His hands are everywhere
  • I want him closer closer closer

You can read the list of bullet points and feel what she’s feeling without even describing the actual kiss!

Your kiss scene should be able to do that too. Here’s how below.

How To Describe a Kissing Scene Using the Five Senses

Sight — This one is easy. Simply write what is seen. Usually from one character’s point of view. It’s mostly going to be a description of the other character’s face. But they may also notice their surroundings as well.

Sound — There might be music playing, the sound of the rain hitting the ground, or the other character’s heartbeat. Avoid lip smacks and slurping tongues. Yuck!

Smell — This is usually the other character’s cologne, perfume or natural scent. But it could also be something in the atmosphere. Scented candles or food in the oven is the perfect example.

Touch — This one is very important. Describe how the other characters skin and body feels. Be sure to include what they do with their body as well. Where do they hands roam? Do they caress softly, or grab and grope? What about the rest of their body? Their hips? Their legs? Avoid being explicit unless your genre or target audience calls for it.

Taste — Most often the taste is compared to something sweet, like fruit or honey. But you might also taste the saltiness of their sweat. Be careful not to tread into the yucky zone here though. Be sure to use pleasant imagery.

How To Describe Body Language in a Kissing Scene

These are the most important things to focus on with description in a kissing scene.

Eyes — Are they open or closed? Open eyes can be make for an awkward or tender kiss. Closed eyes create a passionate or pleasurable experience. If the characters look into each other’s eyes, how does it make them feel?

Lips — Being a kissing scene, describing the lips is important. Are they hard or soft? Chapped or smooth? Is your character a good kisser? Or could they use a little practice? What do they taste like? Is it a soft peck? Or a soul-gripping lip lock? Don’t go into too much detail describing the tongue though, just focus on the lips.

Breath — Is their breathing slow and steady? Does it momentarily stop? Or is it rapid and fast paced like the beat of their heart? How does it feel on their skin? On their neck? In their ear? Describing this will help you capture the moment.

Bodies — How are the characters physically responding to the kiss? Is he pulling her close? Is she opening up to him? Do they start to bump and grind a little bit? Or does she push him away? Or maybe he stop the kiss before it goes too far? Body language will help you show how the characters feel about the kiss they’re sharing.

Hands and Arms — This is a big one. Is he running his fingers through her hair? Holding the side of her face? Or roaming down her side towards her rear? Is she gripping him close, pulling him into her? Holding onto his muscular arms as he lifts her up? Or gently caressing his skin during a passionate moment? This is key to describing a good kissing scene.

Examples of How to Write a Unique Kissing Scene

Every once in a while we get to experience a unique and original kissing scene that’s totally unforgettable.

The way to write a kissing scene like this is to get creative with the actual moment of the kiss.

Here are some examples of how to make your kissing scene extraordinary.

Choose a Fantastic Setting For Your Kissing Scene

As seen here in Titanic, a kiss at the bow of such a magnificent ship creates a wonderful setting for a kiss.

But what really sets this kissing scene apart is the flying metaphor. It’s the moment pretends to fly right before the kiss.

A kiss is an expression of love. And love can make you feel like you’re on cloud nine. So high that you’re flying.

Make the Kiss Scene Happen By Accident

In almost every kiss scene, one of the characters makes the first move and kisses the other one on purpose.

But what if they kissed by accident instead?

This is hard to pull off. But when you do it right you’ll get a kissing scene that is completely unforgettable.

The spaghetti and meatball scene from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp is the perfect example of this. It’s one of the most iconic kisses in film history.

Change How the Two Characters Kiss Each Other

One way to make your kiss scene unique is to make it different from your ordinary kiss. It can’t help but stand out if you do.

In a kiss scene unlike any other, Spiderman and Mary Jane share a tender kiss while he is hanging upside down.

This is an extremely unique scenario you can’t apply to every story. But it works so well because it’s characteristic of Spiderman.

If Superman would’ve kissed like this, it wouldn’t have the same effect. He’s now known for hanging upside like Spiderman is.

But if Superman were to fly her through the air and up into the clouds like he did below, that would be more like it.

Get creative with your next kissing scene. See if you can experiment with the setting or the actual kiss to make it unique.

Step #5: What Happens After The Kiss

Sparks fly, rockets explode, and now the magical moment is over.

Or is it?

The big question is “What happens now?”

First, you have to get these characters back into the story.

More importantly, how has their relationship has changed because of the kiss?

After the kiss you have two options for moving forward:

1) Lead to Sex
2) Back to the Action

See examples of each below.

How to Write a Kissing Scene that Leads to Sex

Your characters have locked lips and supercharged their libidos. They’re looking to round the bases for a big score… but how do you get them there?

If your characters are in a crowded area, the first thing you’ll need to do is move them to an area where they can be alone.

They don’t need to be totally removed from the scene though. For example, a dressing room in a crowded mall would work fine.

Next, they’ve got to undress each other. You must decide who does the undressing for each character. And what pieces of clothing they take off and leave on.

During all this, the physicality continues to escalate. The action gets hotter and heavier. They’re rounding the bases and approaching home plate. How will you get them there?

Then, you’ve got to find the exact spot they consummate the act. You have to decide how much detail you want to get into with it. Will you go over every little detail? Or simply hint at what’s going on?

Finally, once the act is over, then it’s time to show some interaction. What will the pillow talk be like? Show their relaxed, intimate conversation that often occurs after sexual activity.

For a great example on how to write a kissing scene that leads to sex, watch this excerpt from the Notebook. It goes from start to finish. Set up to pillow talk.

Pay particular attention to the parts after the kiss on the boat dock. Notice how the clothes get taken off and the characters make their way to the bedroom upstairs.

Then sex begins. They change positions a few times, and the scene ends with some pillow talk before starting up again.

How to Get Back to the Story After a Kissing Scene

If your characters decide not to “take things all the way,” then you’ve got to find a way to get back to the action.

Often the easiest way to get back to the story after a kissing scene is to have something interrupt them.

It could be another character, events from the story, or the buzzer bell that class is about to start. The options are limitless.

Watch this video for ten “almost kiss” scenes to see different ways these characters were interrupted. Then come up with something unique and original for your story.

How Does Your Character's Relationship Change After the Kissing Scene?

The last thing you have to determine is how the character’s relationship has changed after the big kiss.

Are they more attracted to one another? Does one of them regret it? Is one of them scared of the intimacy? All kinds of options exist.

The best way to do this is to look at the character’s relationship at the end of the story and work your way backwards.

If the characters fall in love and live happily ever after, you’re going to have to bring them closer together. But don’t forget to put some obstacles in the way as you go. Make it a roller coaster.

If the characters end their relationship with a heart-wrenching break up, it’ll be a different story. You should bring them closer together first, and then tragically rip them apart near the end.

If the relationship at the end of the story is “to be continued,” then you should leave questions about the relationship unanswered. Draw their story out over several books, and you’ve nailed it.

Kissing Scene Examples

Here are a few videos you can watch to see some of the best kissing scenes of all time.

If you find one that particularly interests you, watch the whole movie and study how the kiss scene was set up. Notice what happens with the character’s relationship afterward too.

To see examples from your favorite books, open up your kindle or other e-reader and search for the word “kiss”. It’ll allow you to scan every single time the word was used in the story.

But don’t just read the sentence where kiss appeared. Be sure to read a few paragraphs before and after to see how the kiss was set up and what it lead to.

Reading kiss scenes and watching them in movies is one thing, but to see how people kiss in real life is better.

Awhile back, there was this viral video about 20 strangers kissing for the first time on film. It got over a hundred million views and has been replicated many times since.

Watch these people kiss for the first time and pay attention to the details. Their body language, and the awkward silences before it starts. Who makes the first move? And how does it escalate?

By the time you’re done with these examples, you should be a pro at writing the perfect kissing scene for your own story.

Kissing Scene Writing Prompts

Here are a few writing prompts to help you get started describing you own kissing scene. These are great if you need some practice writing something that doesn’t matter. That will help take the pressure off and allow you to exercise your creative imagination.

Answer these prompts in the comments section and I’ll give you some feedback on how to make the scene better!

Kissing Scene Writing Prompt #1

Pick two characters from your favorite movie who didn’t kiss or have a relationship. Imagine how a kissing scene between the two of them would go. For an extra challenge, pick two characters who you would never imagine ever working out in real life!

Kissing Scene Writing Prompt #2

Pick two comic book heroes from your favorite marvel movies, and write a kissing scene for them. How would their attitudes play off of each other? How could their super powers affect the kissing scene? Or make for a unique setting? Get creative and see if you can use their powers to make the scene unique and interesting.

Kissing Scene Writing Prompt #3

Pick two of your friends from real life who aren’t in a relationship and write a kissing scene for them. Imagine yourself playing Cupid or matchmaker and bringing these two together.

How would the two get to know each other? What would their first date be like? Which one would make the first move? If the scene goes well enough, maybe you could show it to one of them and try to hook them up!

Kissing Scene Template Worksheet

Still stuck? No worries. This Kissing Scene Template Worksheet will take you step by step through the process. Enter your best email address below and I’ll send it to you for free 🙂

What is Purple Prose? Definition, Examples and How To Avoid It

What is Purple Prose?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines purple prose as “prose that is too elaborate or ornate.”

Wikipedia defines it as “text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.”

Strunk’s Elements of Style defines purple prose as “Writing that is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.”

I define purple prose as over-describing something using stupid, silly words just for the sake of trying to be fancy.

Why is it Called Purple Prose?

Purple prose is actually named after a quote by the famous Roman poet Horace (65-8 BCE). In about 19 BCE he wrote a poem titled “Ars Poetica.”

In it he warned to stay away from “flashy purple patches.” And by that he meant flashy patches or passages of writing.

Horace compared this type of writing to the practice of sewing purple patches onto your clothing. This was a common way to show off your pretentious wealth in Roman times.

Purple dye was extremely expensive and quite rare. So by sewing patches of it onto your clothing you were showing off that you had the financial means to pay for it.

Classy (not).

Why is Purple Prose a Problem?

The problem with purple prose is that it distracts the reader and draws attention to itself. It breaks the reader’s suspension of disbelief.

One moment they’re off daydreaming in your imaginary world. Then the next they trip over one of your purple patches and they’re back in reality.

Purple prose is notorious for using too many adjectives and overly fanciful metaphors. It’s excessive description.

By using so many big, uncommon words you overload the imagination and comprehension regions of the reader’s brain.

The challenge in writing description is knowing when enough is enough.

Since you have unlimited space to write, some people overdo and describe things that don’t need it.

You could take five paragraphs to describe how messy a character’s apartment is. Or you could call it a “rotting pig sty.”

The problem with purple prose is that it gets in the way of what you’re trying to say. It interrupts the flow of your story and says “Look at me! See all the fancy words I can use?”

This pulls the reader out of the story, and back into reality. Not good.

What Causes Purple Prose?

Purple prose is usually caused due to a lack of confidence in the person’s writing ability.

Or an actual lack of skill. Or both.

A writer may look over a passage they have written and realize it’s missing something. Or it could be a little dull and boring.

The proper fix would be to add something interesting to the plot or show characterization.

But if the writer doesn’t know to do this, or doesn’t know how to do it, they’ll often focus on beefing up the language instead.

And this is often done by increasing up the syllable and word count.

This too is not good.

Purple prose also happens when writers get caught up being too poetic or lyrical with their writing.

Sometimes you get lost in the moment describing something and overdo it.

This is why it’s important to revise your work and use an editor. They’ll catch purple prose and help you correct it.

How Do You Fix Purple Prose?

You can fix purple prose by learning to spot it, analyze it and rephrase it. Simplify, clarify and keep your story moving.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences for the same reason a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

When reading over a passage you’ve written, see if you used too much description or flowery language. Then try to cut it back a little and focus on what’s important.

For example, let’s say two characters are having a conversation and one of them sets their cup down on the table.

The most important of this action is how he set the cup on the table. That action hints at the character’s thoughts or emotions.

If he slams the cup down on the table, he’s angry. If he gently sets it down, he’s calm. If his hand is shaking while he sets it down, he’s scared.

That’s the part worth describing. But if you start going into agonizing detail about the type of cup he’s drinking out of, the color of the straw, etc. you’re heading into purple prose territory.

How Do You Avoid Purple Prose?

There are two main ways to avoid writing purple prose:

1) Don’t overdo the description
2) Put the story first

Don’t use uncommon or extravagant descriptive words. Use the thesaurus sparingly.

Write in your own words, or the character’s words. Not somebody else’s.

If your reader has to whip out a dictionary to understand your writing, you’ve got a problem.

Use metaphors and similes only when necessary. They force the reader to imagine two things to describe one action. Often a strong verb would do a better job.

Many metaphors and similes in a single passage will make readers disoriented and confused. It’s too much to keep up with.

Always focus on the story first. The characters. Their actions. Their motivations. The plot. The suspense. The drama. The conflict.

Try to communicate that as simply as possible. If you do, the language won’t need much sprucing up to make your writing a hit.

Remember that it’s what the characters do and say, not so much how they say and do it.

What is Beige Prose? Should I Avoid It?

Beige prose is the opposite of purple prose. It’s writing that has brief descriptions, simple sentence structures, plain words, and few figures of speech. It’s non-imaginative and gets straight to the point.

You see a lot of beige prose in screenwriting. In a script writing space is extremely limited, so there’s no room for flowery language.

Much of Ernest Hemingway’s writing is considered beige prose. He is known for his blunt and simple style of writing. Take the passage below:

Beige Prose Example

“In the morning I walked down the Boulevard to the rue Soufflot for coffee and brioche. It was a fine morning. The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early-morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. The flower-women were coming up from the market and arranging their daily stock. Students went by going up to the law school, or down to the Sorbonne. The Boulevard was busy with trams and people going to work.”

- Ernest Hemingway

Quite literal. But succinct. And effective. Here’s another one from him:

“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.”

- Ernest Hemingway

Point taken. No elaborate or glorified descriptions of death here. Dying like a dog was all that needed to be said.

As a general suggestion, I recommend you outline your prose in beige and color the prose in purple.

Use beige prose to communicate the action. Then fill in with purple prose in a few select locations to bring the description to life.

But don’t go overboard. Use adjectives, similes and metaphors only where it would help with the description. That way it won’t turn purple.

Purple Prose Examples

Below are some examples of purple prose. I have also included the reading grade level to show how hard the passages are to understand.

Here’s the important thing to understand about reading grade levels: It’s not about education. It’s about ease of comprehension.

Low grade level writing is not “talking down” to educated readers or treating them like children. It’s about making your writing easier for them to understand.

Hemingway is one of the greats, and I’ll include some of his writing too so you can see the difference.

Purple Prose Example #1

“He spoke to her but all she heard was music, and his scent filler her head like a wineskin. Her nerves resonated in symphony and her body swayed and turned with his orbits, like a compass following a magnet. Her mouth and tongue were as dry as flannel, they burned like a furnace, yet her body was beaded with sweat like a glass of cold wine. The beads coalesced and ran down her arms and sides, down the groove of her spine, funneled between her breasts, in rivulets that tickled like the lick of a hundred tiny tongues. Sequins of perspiration ringed her lips, and her tongue lapped at the salty fluid.”

- Silk and Steel by Ron Miller

Estimated reading grade level: 9

Five sentences, six similes. Good god my dear friend that’s overdoing it.

Purple Prose Example #2

“It did not seem right to the celebrated detective that he should be dying in such a clean and sterile room on such a bright January day. He had lived his life in the humid hear of the narrow Hong Kong streets, wet with the warmth of the constant crowds. He yearned for the smell and the feel of it all once again: the acidic, polluted heart notes, black particles of exhaust spewing constantly from engines; the resinous, mossy head notes, that solid wave of damp air that crashed into you when you stepped outside; and the final, swarming, oppressive base notes, of congestion and people and industry.”

- Anonymous

Estimated reading grade level: 14

The average sentence for this paragraph is 36 words!

Research shows that when average sentence length is 14 words, readers understand more than 90% of what they’re reading. At 43 words, comprehension drops to less than 10%.

Studies also show that sentences of 11 words are easy to read, while those of 21 words are fairly difficult. At 25 words, sentences become difficult, and 29 words or longer, very difficult.

Purple Prose Example #3

“Longingly looking at the water bound pisces flying through the ethereal mists of the shattered molecules crashing from the precipice above, feeling the urgent call of tartar sauce while desiring the yumminess of the savory softness entering its eager digestive track, the Purple Bear eagerly awaits Mother Nature’s ample Omega 3 laden bounty.”

- Anonymous

Estimated reading grade level: 17!

While written as a joke, this passage shows how bad you can overdo it with description. Hopefully you learn something from it.

And now Hemingway’s passages from above:

Example of Good Prose

“In the morning I walked down the Boulevard to the rue Soufflot for coffee and brioche. It was a fine morning. The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early-morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. The flower-women were coming up from the market and arranging their daily stock. Students went by going up to the law school, or down to the Sorbonne. The Boulevard was busy with trams and people going to work.”

- Earnest Hemingway

Estimated reading grade level: 6

Need I say more? 😉

Top 5 Reasons Why Most Aspiring Writers Fail – And How To Succeed

There are vast amounts of courses, classes and seminars on writing. Heck, there are 90,000 search results for writing books on Amazon.

But despite that, most people don’t experience success as a writer.

Thousands of screenplays and manuscripts are written each year. But only a handful of them sell. And even less are produced or published.

Self publishing and new film markets like Netflix have made success easier than ever. But even then, the numbers are a little disappointing:

Nearly 80% of writers make less than $1,000 per year with their writing. 786,935 books were self-published in 2016. And over 600,000 of them hardly made anything. Over 150,000 of them made $0. Yikes.

Now why is this?

The truth is there are a few problems that most writers face when they have the idea of: “Hey, I think I’ll write something!”

In working one-on-one with my coaching clients, I’ve noticed the same set of problems pop up over and over again.

In fact, I have experienced many of them myself in my own writing career. And I wanted to share what those problems are so you know you’re not alone in your struggles as a writer.

Reason Why Writers Fail #1: They Don't Believe They Can Succeed

Hands down, the most common reason don’t succeed at writing is they don’t believe they can. I’ve met dozens of people at writer’s groups who don’t believe they have what it takes to be a writer.

They have a passion for it. They have a desire for it. But for some odd reason, they simply don’t believe they can do it.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

This belief stops a lot of people right at square one. They don’t pursue their passion to write, and instead spend life their life at a day job they absolutely hate.

Without belief in yourself and your writing abilities, you’ll never make it to the finish line.

And a big reason many writers don’t believe in themselves is…

Reason Why Writers Fail #2: They Don't Have a System For Writing

If I asked you to build me a rocket ship that could fly us to the moon, would you be able to do it?

Unless you’re a rocket scientist, chances are you wouldn’t even know where to begin.

You know that it’s possible. Many other people have been able to do it. But you don’t have guidelines or instructions to follow. You don’t know how to overcome the challenges of building it. Even though you know the destination, you’re not quite sure how to get there.

And the same thing goes for a writing.

You can’t just wake up one morning and say “I’m gonna be a writer!” and then expect the first thing you churn out to go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

If I asked you to write an Oscar winning screenplay or Pulitzer Prize winning novel, most people wouldn’t know where to begin. They’d have no plan or course of action for reaching that goal.

To write successfully, you have to have a system. You need a system for creating your plot. You need a system for creating your characters. You need a system for writing dialogue. And so on…

Luckily, you’ll be able to find them here.

But even though some writers have these systems, another reason they fail is…

Reason Why Writers Fail #3: They Don't Have Any Support

Many writers don’t have a support system in place to help encourage them along. They don’t have a group of people they can rely on to provide support when the going gets tough.

All too often, our “normal” friends don’t understand what we writers go through. They don’t understand the tough decisions we have to make, or the frustration we have to deal with.

And they really don’t understand the fear of rejection we face when we share our work with others.

They just don’t get it.

And unfortunately, some of those same “friends” don’t believe in you or your ability to write, either. Ouch.

Sure, you may not be the next Ernest Hemingway or William Goldman, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have success as a writer.

When thoughts of self-doubt creep into your mind, the last thing you need is someone saying you’ll never make it.

So many writers stopped pursuing their dreams because they didn’t have anyone to believe in them.

They didn’t have a system of support from other writers who understood them.

Writing can get lonely. You spend so much time in your imaginary world, and none of your friends can come with you. You feel like they don’t understand what it’s like to be a writer.

But there are many who do. And you can find them here.

And locally too. There are more local writer groups than ever. And if there isn’t one, it’s easy to start one and make new friends.

If you don’t connect with fellow writers, you’ll likely fail because…

Reason Why Writers Fail #4: They Don't Have a Mentor

No matter what you’re looking to become successful at, you need a mentor.

Watch any YouTube video on the subject. You’ll see that many millionaires have mentors. Even many years after making it.

The key to success in anything is to find someone who’s done what you want to do, and model them.

And by model them, I mean replicate their actions and behaviors for success. Do as they do, and write as they write.

Two heads are better than one. And we all need someone to run our ideas by every now and then. That’s where a writing mentor can help.

No matter how unique your problem may be, you’re not the first person to experience it. By learning from someone who has overcome that same challenge before, you can overcome it too.

As writers, often when we ask our friends for help all we end with is bad or useless advice.

Ever tried talking about a writing issue with one of your friends? Only to have give you a blank stare with no idea what to say? Or offer some half-wit advice that doesn’t help you anyway?

Trust me, you’re not the only one.

Without a mentor or support group to rely on for help, you’ll be all alone in trying to reach your dreams.

When you start to have self-doubt after hitting a challenge you don’t know how to overcome, it’s easy to give up.

And that leads us to the next reason why writers fail…

Reason Why Writers Fail #5: No Discipline or Commitment

This is one of the biggest problems that affects people in all walks of life, not just writers. It’s a lack of discipline and commitment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the book you’re working on.

I’ve met plenty of aspiring writers who gave up on a book they were writing because thing became too hard. For one or all of the reasons I listed above, somewhere along the line they threw in the towel and gave up.

To succeed as a writer, you need perseverance. You need grit. You need a stick-to-it mentality. You have to keep writing until you type “the end.”

Sure, there are some shortcuts and secrets to help catapult your success to the next level. I intend to share as many as possible with you.

But I didn’t find those secrets out overnight. I spent years writing tons of drafts, reading dozens of books, and studying hundreds of movies.

If I had quit at any point along the way, I’d be just another writer that never made it. I don’t want that to happen to you.

I’m not going to lie, writing is hard.

But with a system for writing, support from peers and mentors, and discipline to see it through, you’ll gain confidence. And that belief in yourself will fuel your success.

So don’t give up. Don’t give in. There is a path to success. And you can take it. It can be yours.

10 Common Myths About Writing – And Why They’re Wrong

Spend enough time around writers, and you’ll hear one of these common “writing myths.”

“Great writers are born, not made.”

“You need to have a degree in literature to be a great writer.”

“Writers are lonely all the time.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that they simply aren’t true.

A lot of these common writing myths are hearsay. It’s often not something they’ve experienced first hand.

And most of these myths have to do with mindset. And if there was one thing holding most writers back, that would be it.

So in this article, we’re going to bust 10 common writing myths and show you the truth behind them.

  1. Great Writers Are Born, Not Made
  2. Real Writers Think Writing Is Easy
  3. You Need To Be a Great Writer Before You Start
  4. You Need a Degree in Literature or Film School
  5. You Can Only Write About Original Ideas
  6. Great Writers Get It Right on the First Draft
  7. Writers Are Lonely All The Time
  8. You Can Only Write About “What You Know”
  9. You Should Only Write When Inspired
  10. You Can’t Make Money Writing Part Time

Writing Myth #1: Great Writers are Born, Not Made

Like any other skill in life, some people are naturally better writers than others. But only by a little bit. Remember that Michael Jordan didn’t come straight outta the womb dunking basketballs. And you aren’t gonna write a Pulitzer price winner on your first try either.

Great writers are not born – they are forged through study and practice. Any professional writer you meet has worked extremely hard to get where there are today.

The truth is that any writer, at any level, can become better at the craft of storytelling. The simple act of writing makes you better. The more you write, the better you get.

No one is born with a complete understanding of character, plot, and story structure. Storytelling is a learned skill. All writers must learn the same basics to improve.

The good news is that the rules of writing never change. Conflict and drama are what drive plots. And they have driven them since the days of Shakespeare. Learn the rules of the game and one day you’ll become a master.

Writing Myth #2: Real Writers Think Writing is Easy

Simply not true. Writing is often hard work. Although it does get easy over time. just like anything else in life.

Meaningful writing comes from concentration, effort, and a tolerance for frustration and disappointment.

What makes experienced writers so “great” isn’t that they find it easy to write 5 pages a day. It’s that they make a habit out of it.

If writing doesn’t come easy to you, the only thing you need is more practice. That’s it. If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

Great writing is really about solving complex problems. Once you have a basic understanding of theory, all you do is solve problems.

“How do I make this character’s arc more impactful?”

“How do I make the exposition in this scene less boring?”

“What’s a good act break to get this story rolling into Act 2?”

You know what you need to do… that’s the easy part.

The challenge is doing it in an entertaining way.

Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. And the more you practice, the easier it gets. So just keep going!

Writing Myth #3: You Need to be a Great Writer Before You Start

Some believe you already need to be a great writer before you starting writing your own stories.

Nonsense.

That’s like saying you need to be a great swimmer before you get into the pool. You only learn how if you get in and flop around first.

You had to crawl before you could walk. And you had to scribble before you could write. The process doesn’t change.

Writing is something that is only learned on the go, not beforehand. The results come from doing the work.

You can’t teach kids how to swim on by staying on dry land. It all starts in the bathtub… then the kiddie pool… then the shallow end with floaties. Then before you know it they’re doing back flips and cannonballs all by themselves. The same is true in writing.

Even the most successful writers had no darn clue what they were doing when they started. All you have do to become a good writer is to write, write, write.

Study the craft, practice the craft… then write, write some more.

Writing Myth #4: You Need a Degree in Literature or Film School

You only need a degree if you want a job as an editor, or as a writer for newspapers of magazines. And degrees are becoming less important.

In the world of fiction, nobody cares about your education or lack thereof… the proof is in the pudding.

All anyone wants or cares about is a good story, well told.

You can have all the literary degrees on the planet, but if you can’t write well, no one is going to buy your work.

But if you can write a brilliant novel or killer screenplay, no will give a damn about your degree. All that matters is the craft. Not where or how you learned it.

As for film school, there are plenty of esteemed ones that will teach you a lot about the craft of screenwriting. But, it is not a requirement for getting into the industry. There are more ways than one to study of the craft of writing.

All that matters is that you can write. And write well.

What’s the best way to learn how to write?

Duh! Writing! So get to it!

Writing Myth #5: You Can Only Write About Original Ideas

Are you kidding? We’re talking about Hollywood here folks. A great idea is one that makes money.

Great story ideas are so overrated. I’m surprised the world hasn’t turned them into a currency yet. Ideas are a dime a dozen… they’re everywhere.

Just look under your desk, out the window, or online. There they are, staring at you… crawling up your leg… screaming in your ear – pick me! Pick me!

It’s what you do with those ideas that makes them unique.

I’ve got news for anyone who thinks they can’t come up with a completely original idea…

Nobody else can either.

I recommend you check out the book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. You’ll find that if there’s an idea out there someone claims to be original… odds are it was already thought of it before.

Take World of Warcraft for example. The lore is full of the everyday, sword-and-shield, bash ‘em up Orc. Big green humanoid monsters with sharp teeth and black hair.

Sound familiar?

That’s because they weren’t the first to come up with them. They’ve appeared in other fantasy fiction many, many, many times before. They’re a common fantasy race, and are the creation of good ol’ J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of The Rings trilogy.

But you’ll also find term “Orke” used in many 16th century works, such as Don Quixote. So perhaps didn’t invent Orcs after all.

In fact, the monstrous green creatures stem from the Latin “Orcus”, the demonic Roman god of death. And HIS origin stems from Etruscan religion and mythology. That dates all the way back to 1,000 B.C. And who knows where they may have got it from.

(If you can’t tell, I wikipedia’ed like a mofo to find this all out.)

Tolkien took a 3,000 year old idea, put his own spin on it, and did it bigger and better than anyone else. That’s why he’s famous for it.

So much for an “original” idea.

Ask any Hollywood producer if he wants a original idea or something like a movie that came out last year. This is what he’ll tell you:

We want something that’s the same… but different.

Meaning that they want something that has been proven to be commercial in the past. Something they know a large audience will pay to see.

But they also want your own spin on it so it’s also new and exciting… and “original.”

Storytelling has been around for thousands of years. It uses the same ideas, characters, creatures, and plotlines over, and over, and over again…

Don’t reinvent the wheel… just put your own set of rims on it.

Writing Myth #6: Great Writers Get it Right on The First Draft

Malarkey! Most people can’t even write a grocery list without making a couple changes!

Even famous authors have to write a few rough drafts before arriving at their best work.

How do they do it?

They keep on writing until they’re satisfied that what’s on the page is what they meant to say in the first place.

Writing is a lot like sculpting. You start out with a big block of clay. You have a vision for the finished product, and begin sculpting.

First forming the major shapes, and then filling in the details where needed. As you progress, you make slight changes and rework the clay as needed. Ultimately finishing with your final vision.

"The only kind of writing is rewriting."

Great writing requires many drafts and revisions to produce something that satisfies the writer. Great writing comes from great revision. No one gets it perfect on the first go. Nobody.

Don’t sweat over your pile of false starts, unfinished scripts or rejected novels. All writers have them. It’s part of the process.

Just keep writing.

Writing Myth #7: Writers are Lonely

It’s true that much of the actual writing takes place alone. But most writers actually have tremendous people skills.

Great writing requires other people for several reasons. They stimulate discussion, listen to pieces of your story, and provide critical feedback.

I’m sure there’s some great writers out there who like to write all along in a dark quiet closet. But many writers today enjoy busy coffee shops, college campuses, and other more social areas.

You shouldn’t isolate yourself on purpose, thinking that it’s the only way to write a great story. That’s just not true.

Remember to stay social and active. I recommended joining a local writer’s group for starters.

You can meet up with writers like you to bounce ideas off of, share stories, and provide feedback. It’s truly an awesome experience.

Writing Myth #8: You Can Only "Write What You Know"

Try telling that to Ray Bradbury, George R.R. Martin, Stephen King or any other author for that matter.

I don’t think Agatha Christie ever killed someone or solved a murder mystery. And Ray Bradbury sure didn’t colonize Mars either.

Most think “write what you know” means you can only write about what you have experienced first-hand.

But what it really means is that you can use everything you have experienced to imagine other possibilities, worlds, and outcomes.

In a sense, there are no restrictions.

Since you are the one writing the story, you can’t help but include you own personal viewpoints, experiences, and beliefs.

No matter what, your story will be “what you know.”

Let’s say you want to write a war story but you’ve never been in a war before…

So you haven’t been to war, but I’m sure you know what fighting is like. Or at least a conflict or argument. You may not have lost a close friend or family member, but you might have lost a cherished family pet.

Or maybe your Uncle was in the military, and used to tell you all sorts of stories when you were a kid. And you’re inspired to share his tales. That’s perfectly fine.

The truth is, nothing is off limits. If you follow your gut, the story you tell can’t help but by influenced by your experiences. It IS what you know.

As for lack of experience, there are plenty of interviews, research and personal stories to help you fill in the blanks.

The more you write, the more you’ll have the ability to step into other’s shoes and experience their thoughts and emotions.

And these “characters” will naturally pop up in your writing. They are now a part of what you can say to have known and experienced.

Writing Myth #9: You Should Only Write When Inspired

The truth is that if we all waited around for inspiration to strike, nothing would ever get written.

Creativity must be chased. You’ve got to start writing to catch it, and only then will it flow.

Sometimes you have to be willing to put your fingers on the keys and squeeze out a single letter. And then another. And another.

Until you have a word. Then a sentence. A paragraph. A chapter. A novel.

This is the process.

And while the process can at times feel magical, it’s mostly just putting one word after another.

Instead of waiting around for inspiration, trade it in for discipline.

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”

Sure, sometimes it may feel formulaic, stilted, or lifeless. But that’s what rewriting is for. Writing is rewriting.

Get up on time, write out your daily word count, and hope that inspiration strikes you. If it doesn’t, still put the words on the page.

That’s what counts.

Writing Myth #10: You Can't Make Any Money Writing Part Time

If this were true, how would anyone else get started?

If you don’t know the story of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, perhaps you should look into it.

She wrote the first Harry Potter book as a depressed, divorced, single mother living on welfare and on the verge of suicide.

But now she has sold over 500 million books worldwide, in over 80 different languages, and is worth over a billion dollars.

Now, not everyone is going to have a success story like that. But it goes to show that despite the greatest of odds, overwhelming success is quite possible.

And in today’s world it’s easier than ever.

The internet is the single biggest invention that has ever happened to the human race. And for writers, that’s because there are no gatekeepers anymore.

It used to be that you had to have your work chosen to be shared with the rest of the world. First you had to be published, and then book store owners had to be willing to give you shelf space.

But nowadays, anyone with a finished book can self-publish on the biggest book store on the planet, Amazon. No publishers can keep you out anymore.

Amanda Hocking was working two jobs and had 17 unpublished novels by 2010. They had all been rejected by book agents and publishers. To many, it seemed she’d never make it as an author.

Until one day she decide to self-publish a book on Amazon, and started selling nine copies per day. She then self-published a few more. And sales went up. And up. And up some more.

To this day, she’s sold over 1.5 million copies and made millions of dollars.

There are hundreds of writer making good money with self-published titles on Amazon. Just like Amanda.

And you can be one of them.