Sunday, July 03, 2011

How I write a Fight Scene

The Podcast is up! Last week I sat in on Scriptcast, a weekly radio show with Script Doctor Eric and his buddy Matt.

Check it out on ITunes under "Scriptcast."

One of the questions Matt asked was how I write fight scenes. I talked about using the terminology and order of the fight to push the story, and I thought it would be helpful to show an example of how I do it.

So here's a scene from Nice Girls Don't Kill where my protagonist has to kill an evil Korean physical therapist while her partner in crime waits in the lobby. The don't realize a hooker is smoking meth down the hall.



Park lounges comfortably naked.

Mary Beth puts her gun up against his head.

Park opens his eyes, sees the gun.

At first, his eyes open wide in panic. Then, a smile.

He stands up, dripping whirlpool/sperm water.


You are here to kill me?



He gets out of the whirlpool and dries off.

He shakes his head as he puts on a pair of speedos.


You have already failed.

In a quick Hapkido move, Park twirls Mary Beth around and SLAMS her against the wall, forcing the gun out of her hand.

She gasps.


You didn't shoot.


Elliot stands up. He inches toward the whirlpool room. He peeks around the corner to see Mary Beth FLY into the hallway between rooms.

Hooker pokes her head out of the bathroom, a meth pipe in her hands. She's high.

She drops the pipe.


The fuck?

Park and Mary Beth fight in the hallway - Mary Beth with her Muay Thai and Park with his Hapkido, both tight between hall walls.

Mary Beth kicks Park in the chest. He catches it and starts to twist her foot.

Mary Beth pushes with her foot, pinning him to the wall while he tries to get a lock in. Balancing on one leg, she hits him with a right hook, follows with a left.

Hooker screams and runs at Mary Beth, arms flailing.

Elliot rushes in and grabs Hooker around the waist, pulls her into the


And slams her to the floor.


Park yanks Mary Beth's foot and pulls her in, flipping her onto the floor face down.

He drops to his knees on top of her.

Mary Beth pulls her hand up to her chin just in time to block Park's arm as it wraps around her neck.


Elliot pins Hooker into a chair, but she squirms and screams in his ear.

Then she BITES his ear.

Elliot yells.


I do not want to hit a woman but I fucking will if you don't chill the fuck out!

She spits in his face.



She kicks at him. One shot hits his kidney. OW.

He sighs, then punches her in the face.


Mary Beth tries to squirm her way out but she's stuck. The only thing preventing her from being choked out is her hand between Park's arm and her neck.

He digs a knee into her back.


Tell me, why are you here?

She reaches down into his Speedos with her other hand and WRENCHES the holy hell out of his nuts.

Park yelps and loosens his grip. That's all she needs.

Mary Beth squirms out of his grip and runs for the gun back into the


But Park recovers fast. He sends her a flying kick right into her chest.

Mary Beth crashes back into the cabinetry, spilling little therapy aids everywhere.


Hooker grabs the lamp on the table next to her and CRASHES it into Elliot's head.

Elliot crumples to the floor.

Hooker runs down the


Where she passes the room where Park strolls up to Mary Beth.

She stops.


That bitch ain't no mermaid!

She throws open the door to the bathroom.


Park strolls toward Mary Beth.

Mary Beth grabs a five pound dumbbell, and with all her might POUNDS it into Park's face.

He stops. Blood seeps from the side of his mouth.

Mary Beth's face is bruised.

He smiles.

In the Hall behind him, Hooker shuffles by with her bag.

She's leaving.


Who sent you?


Who do you think? The father of the girl you raped, jerk.


Hooker steps over Elliot's unconscious body and leaves.


Park chuckles.


Aw. It's not rape if you enjoy it, and they all enjoy it. I'll show you before I cut your throat.

Mary Beth grabs him by the arm and trips him with a Judo takedown.

He falls into the whirlpool. SPLASH.

She races to the corner, grabs the gun.

Park begins to pull himself out of the whirlpool.

Mary Beth takes a deep breath.

I'm a big fan of mini slugs in action scenes, especially when switching between two fights or moving from room to room. It makes the pacing faster and the read simpler. I also always try to find interesting locations for the fights. So in this case, I thought at first about an office building, but that's been done to death. So I started to think of other locations.I had been seeing a physical therapist for a wrist injury, so I thought his office woul actually make a pretty good fight location. I almost never go for my first instinct - I always think about how I can up the ante.


  1. I get bored by fight scenes. So in mine, it goes like

    FRED picks up a gun. BLAM BLAM.

    He picks up another gun. BLAM BLAM.

    He shoots and hides. By the way, three more dead.

  2. Anonymous6:43 AM


    This action scene you posted, is outstanding. It got "wings" and style to burn.

    Just discovered you blog, Bamboo Killers, after trying to find one that is cool and honest and very practical. Your blog reads like it was written by a screenwriter like yourself who is embracing life and its entrepreneurialism and the Martha Steward of screenwriting ventures. You got lots of honesty and you got lots of fans at UCLA and at work here.

    Nowadays, there are lots of blog out there come across as nerdy. Like they are written by guys(yes GUYS) who watch Star Trek, Simpsons, Porn, waste time on internet and yes sad, more porn and some still talk like ADULT NERDS or BUNKER GOOFS.

    But I am glad I found your blog.
    It is outstanding.


  3. Also good, Young. Some people are minimalists.

    And thank you, Dee.

  4. Hey I haven't been enchanted by your blog for awhile then I went looking for an interview, found the titles - I was like WHAT WAS THIS? - and clicked. And was astounded, then ashamed for not keeping in touch with you.

    Yesterday's post (7-25) was so on-point. As was this one. You must've read and respected Lem Dobbs' HAYWIRE; maybe chomping at the bit for it. And as for a "perfect union" of sorts, did you get your hands/eyes/mind on Martin McDonagh's SEVEN PYSCHOPATHS?

    You are back in the rotation milady. You've been heralded. And warned.


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