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Fight Scenes Part 2: Physical Differences

Here is the second installment of my Fight Scene series based off notes from Jonathan Maberry’s fabulous class. If you haven’t already, check out Fight Scenes Part 1: An Introduction. So lets’ get started. This post will be dedicated to how physical differences in all parties involved can make a big difference in how a fight plays out.

Physical differences are a BIG deal…

  • Small against large
  • Speed
  • Longer reach
  • Muscle density matters
  • Length of hair matters
  • Abilities matters, better trained more chance of win
  • Location is big
  • Clothing
  • Tools

Small Against Large

In a fight with rules almost always the strongest will win.

Length of Hair

Pulling hair backward can cause tremendous injury to the neck.

Want to end a fight quickly? Grab hair and slap wrist to make most damage.


If your character is in a fight, they need to win as fast as possible. Don’t play by the rules or make it look good. Just win any way possible.

Something to think about... If a person is used to a certain sport (like tennis or soccer, ect.), they can used their trained muscle memory to naturally hurt someone with that trained move. But don’t mention this sport during the fight! Mention it much earlier in the story and build up to that moment so it comes out naturally.

Abilities may not be based on actual combat moves, but what a person has been trained in muscle memory.

Combat is about each person fighting as themselves and where they are at.


Conditions can be your enemy or your friend.

Understanding the basics of physics can be extremely helpful…. i.e. What happens when a fist hits a wall? How much force does it take to make a person fall backwards?

You can make surrounding circumstances be a challenge like snow, stairs, elevator, rain, cold, ect.

A shove with a combination of the environment (a flight of stairs or a curb) can do a significant amount of damage than a regular shove.

Want to contain a fight and make it harder for the character? Have the fight occur in one of the following…

  • Behind wheel of car
  • Elevator
  • Bathroom
  • Or any small enclosed place

Also, many attackers choose to corner their target in an enclosed space to make it easier to win a fight, especially if the attacker has the element of surprise and are better trained. The encounter is an almost definite win for the one attacking.


Little things matter such as the way clothing binds. How does it allow movement? How does it restrict movement?

Other things to consider….

Any disadvantage that can be seen can be used against someone (example… the other person is limping, the other person flinches, ect.).

It’s a challenge to be resourceful in the moment, but readers love it. It endears the character to the reader.

Fun Fact…

There is an exception to all fighting “rules”. If a person is fighting for their life, anything is possible.

Check out Fight Scenes Part 3: Hand to Hand Combat.

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