My novel has a lot of fighting scenes. It's natural since its about a war. The problem is that people don't read books for fighting scenes. Numerous fighting scenes is just bad writing. J.R.R. Tolkien decided to knock Bilbo Baggins unconscious rather than to write a single one (although I did read the abridged version of The Hobbit.)

What is a good way to skip over the action scenes? I don't plan to write too many of them.

What I have right now is basically this: The monsters attacked Maeken. He slew the primitive beasts with the several tricks up his sleeve that he had learned over the years. Blah blah backstory. Maeken beheaded the final monster and surveyed the field of corpses.

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    Re. "people don't read books for fighting scenes", you don't wan't to go too far with this (granted, you don't seem to be, but it's just here to think about). There was a fantasy book (maybe the Diamond Throne) where everything was just chatter and spying, and when we was about to FINALLY have a fight, it went roughly: "CharName drew his sword//scene break// CharName sheathed his sword" and totally skipped it. Having said that, The Dragon's Road has no fight scenes at all, not even skipped ones, they just don't happen, yet it was fantastic. So it does have to be done right ^^ Just FWIW :-)
    – Mac Cooper
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 18:17

6 Answers 6


As to a good way to skip the action scenes - what you have seems fine. It's basically just that - skipping the action scenes. Say 'he slew the monsters,' and you can technically stop there.

However, I think you're going about this wrong. Fighting scenes can be tedious in a book. Does this mean you should skip them? No, it means you need to know how to write them correctly. A book with no action will not bore the reader if it is written correctly, but it will certainly make the job a lot harder for you. Action is a useful device for maintaining reader interest (note: useful, not necessary to certain types of books).

The way to relate action scenes, from my own experience, is not to focus on the action. Focus on the emotions. Focus on the inner action, not the outer action. By all means, detail the scene with every move made. But show why every move was made, and what they meant. Follow the PoV's thoughts as he performs the action.


I am not convinced of your premise that people don't read books for action scenes, nor that numerous fighting scenes are "just bad writing." I'd argue that knocking a character out just to skip an action scene is bad writing. The Hobbit certainly had battle scenes, I remember one where Gandalf was turning pine-cones into fire bombs.

Tolkein's The Two Towers contained multiple battle's that spanned multiple chapters. If i remember correctly there was a battle that lasted for two chapters, and another that lasted three.

Now we have two, apparently conflicting, examples of handling action scenes from the same author. I think this illuminates the fact that that story is whats important. You shouldn't skip action scenes because you have some irrational belief that writing too many is "just bad writing," you should only skip the scene if it serves your story. If your story is better told with cover-to-cover action scenes, write it that way; if a scene hurts your story, then you should excise it!


Approach this the same way you approach everything else.

Some books contain eating and cooking to an extent that you could recreate the exact meal, if you wanted, others just let the reader assume that the characters eat, without mentioning it at all. War is no different.

Make up your mind what your story is about. That is what must be told.

A detective story does not need to show the murder happening. But the protrait of a serial killer must show how that protagonist feels and behaves while he kills. In that case, skipping the murder would be odd.

So, is your story about a fighter? Then you must show him fight. Is it about someone with a non-fighting story who also has to fight (just like everyone has to go to the toilet, even that is not the premise of their story)? Then show him doing what his story is about and skip the fighting (like you would skip his bowel movements).


my favorite fight scene of all time is when David Webber has Honor cut a guy in half with a sword. The whole fight is one stroke of the sword. On the other hand the whole book is about a fight centered around that single stroke of the sword. Webber's Honor books are a great examples of the fight following and influencing the politics. It is not that the action is in balance with the plot, but that the fight is part of the plot.


A writer friend of ours was afraid a fight scene was dragging on too long. In the story, the heroes are hiding in an enemy stronghold; one goes out, fights some guards, and drags one back to interrogate. Our writer explained the purpose of that scene was for the characters to have someone to interrogate.

We told her to skip the fight. The lone hero leaves the hideout, the others make small talk, and their friend returns with the unconscious guard.

If the fight isn't consequential in itself, you can skip it.

Does something happen during your fight that's plot-relevant? Does the character experience the fear of battle for the first time, or come close to committing a war crime? No? Then give us the short version.


To be honest, it depends on if any character arcs are being explored through the fight. If the result is all that matters, then eh, skip to it. But if there's layers of doubt being overcome, grief being felt, self-discovery occurring through percussive maintenance, et cetera, then be sure to focus on that aspect of the fight rather than a play-by-play.

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