Fight Scene Structure Part 5: Resolution — A. C. Spahn

Click here to read Part 1: Inciting Incident
Click here to read Part 2: Rising Action
Click here to read Part 3: The Climax
Click here to read Part 4: Falling Action

A fight’s resolution, like its inciting incident, will generally consist of a single line. The resolution line indicates to the reader that the fight is, indeed, over:

Example 1. Megan drew her service weapon and blasted a round into the thug’s skull. (climax) He dropped to the cold concrete. (falling action) Blood pooled around the lethal wound. (resolution)

Example 2. His weight became limp and heavy. Megan lowered the unconscious body slowly to the cold concrete. (falling action) He didn’t stir. (resolution)

Example 3. “… and that is why Grelgathor the Shadow King should be the ruler of your mortal world. And now I shall take you to him.” The thug whispered another arcane phrase and shot a glowing hand toward where Megan stood prone. Invisible lightning filled her body. (falling action) She dropped into dreamless darkness. (resolution)

Usually the resolution line will be followed immediately by a change of topic. Megan will flee the scene, or wipe down the body for fingerprints, or wake up in Grelgathor’s underground kingdom. Whatever the case, once you’ve written your concluding line, exit the fight by shifting to another activity. The character must do something else once the fight is over to ensure that it ends on a strong note.

What if your character wants to stay and think about what they’ve done? That’s still a shift in focus. Have them sink to their knees, or sit down, or wipe away sweat or tears, or otherwise do some physical action to guide the reader’s brain into changing topics with you.

Without this physical clue from the character that the fight is really, truly finished, the reader will hang onto unresolved tension, making the entire sequence feel incomplete and unsatisfying. Character activity helps the reader transition out of the fight and go, “Wow, that was a great ride! Let’s see what happens next.” It is the deep breath they need to move along in the story with you.

Summary

Fight scenes follow the same structure as novels: inciting incident, rising action, climax or turning point, falling action, resolution.

The inciting incident is the moment where the fight becomes inevitable. Rising action should escalate tension, stakes, and level of violence. When the rising action reaches its highest point at the climax, the end of the fight becomes inevitable. Falling action de-escalates the fight as the consequences of the climax take place. The resolution provides a final line to signal that the fight is over. Follow up with a transition action by the character to indicate a change of focus from the fight to something else.

This is the basic structure of any satisfying fight scene. You can see it in movies, in books, in TV, in plays, and even in demonstrations of martial arts. Think of your favorite fight scenes – chances are, you remember them fondly because they followed this structure to take you on a satisfying ride.

If you’re new to writing fight scenes, practice with this basic structure for a while before attempting any twists on it (fake-out climaxes, fake-out endings, and such). Once you’ve mastered the basic flow of a fight, you can modify it to create unique and creative variations on the underlying structure.

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via Fight Scene Structure Part 5: Resolution — A. C. Spahn

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