Writing a battle scene is different to writing a fight scene. It’s ten or a hundred or a thousand fight scenes happening all at once. You need to move fast. Imagine you’ve got a bunch of movie cameras on the scene and it’s all happening at once. You need to cut, fast, between all the best bits. All the best characters in all their goriest moments.
Use short sentences. Like this. And this. And don’t mince words. Grognak tore the man’s head off. Superman cratered the car with a punch. Tabitha buried her knife in the spider in a spurt of silver blood. Imagine the movie cutting quickly to each character in turn. The heroes fight harder; the heroes are winning. Some big brute comes along and suddenly they’re losing. Together they outsmart it. Bring it crashing down with an earthquake tremor. They look around, and the savage horde is backing away.
But your heroes won’t fight like this on the strength of their conviction. Well, they will. But they need to be reminded of the strength of their conviction. They need to know why they fight. Why they risk their lives against impossible odds. And no one needs reminding of that more than your reader. They’re the one factor in your story who are least likely to care. So, you need to make them care about the battle to come. You need to make them care about the action and whether the heroes win, or die. You need to give them a speech.
I’ve tweeted this clip a couple of times the past few weeks, because it’s so powerful. It’s the New Zealand All Blacks doing their traditional haka before going into battle (well, rugby match.) If your characters speak English, give their massed troops the greatest speech they’ve ever heard. It ramps up the tension until the reader’s right there with them on the brink. If your characters don’t speak English… well, even better. Actions can speak louder than words.
Well, unless those words are in Maori during a haka. Because those words are loud.
So yeah, give this a watch before you write your battle speech. And here’s proof if proof were needed: the final score was Japan 7, All Blacks 83.
Tell your characters exactly what they’re fighting for. Yell and scream and bellow at them until they’ve lived for this one day and there’s absolutely no doubt that they’re going to tear the other guys apart. Because they are. And it’s going to be fucking awesome.