WRITING A GREAT DUEL SCENE by Rayne Hall


Note to blogger: Consider embedding the two youtube videos for which I’ve given links at the end.

 

Duels are often the most exciting and memorable scenes of a novel.  Here are some tips how to make yours unforgettable:

 

* Readers love it when both fighters fight honourably – even the villain.

 

* Duels often have a ritual component, especially in cultures with duelling traditions. There may be witnesses and courteous formalities.

 

* For each fighter, a lot is at stake. Emphasise the stakes.

 

* To make the duel exciting, give both fighters equal skills.

 

* Readers root for the hero if he has a disadvantage: perhaps he is injured or does not wear armour, while his opponent does.

 

* Blow-by-blow accounts are dull. Describe the opening moves and the final strikes in correct technical detail, but for everything in between, just show the general gist.

 

* Most dialogue happens before the fight starts. The opponents taunt each other, agree on rules or promise to care for the loser’s orphans.  During the fight, they have neither concentration nor breath to spare on witty banter. When the loser lies dead, the winner may say something profound.

 

* Create a sense of realism by describing what the ground underfoot is like (hard, uneven, muddy, sloping, slippery?) and how it affects the fight.

 

* Use sounds to make the fighting vivid. Let the reader hear zinging bullets or clanking swords.

 

* Vary the sentence length. As the fighting action speeds up, use shorter sentences. This creates a sense of breathlessness and speed.

For inspiration, watch this superb film duel scene:

 

 

 

To learn more about Rayne Hall and her publications, please visit Meet the Contributors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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