Swords are a staple of the fantasy and historical fiction genres, but they can be tricky to get right. Let’s take a look at a sample scene submitted by author Gwen Dandridge and explore how memorable sword fights are made.
If you like this analysis and want more advice on writing fight scenes, including profiles of specific weapons, visit author Amy Spahn’s fight scene resources.
Author: Gwen Dandridge
Book: The Dragons’ Chosen
Buy Link: Work in Progress
Combatant 1: Genevieve, female, a traditional princess circa medieval times. Small build, with very minor weapons training.
Combatant 2: Chris, female, a 1970s Berkeley college student. Average build, some karate training but no weapons experience.
Combatants 3: A pack of wolves.
Combatant 4: A mysterious man defending the two women. Well-muscled, with lots of combat training.
Scenario: Chris has been transported into Genevieve’s world. Whenever Chris is startled, she disappears from that world. In this scene, they are ambushed by wolves in the middle of a mountainous forest.
One of the wolves darted toward the man. He parried the attack with his blade, and we heard the crunch of metal into bone over the yelp of pain. The man stepped backwards into the creek, balancing like a tumbler, one step, then another. The four remaining wolves, heads down, matched his every footfall, waiting for a misstep.
The flame before us grew as we cosseted and coddled it into a sullen but viable fire. Next to me I felt Chris shaking, though it could have been me. My brain focused only on building the fire; nothing else mattered, each twig, each branch that burned meant hope, and every flame that expired, despair.
The wolves separated. Two of them leapt the creek and were upon us before the man could react.
Chris grabbed the end of a burning stick and shoved it at one slavering muzzle. The wolf flinched, snarling as he snapped at it. He feinted away but then darted back to attack again. He lunged past Chris at me, his jaws closing on the folds of my velvet riding skirt. I held the blade with both hands as I stabbed, missing as he twisted away.
The fabric of my skirt ripped. The wolf shook his head, pawing at his mouth to remove the cloth. I stabbed at him again, a glancing blow, but blood covered my hand. He dove toward me, fangs bared as he snapped at my arm. I jerked back, then stabbed again and again, not caring what I struck, until at last he lay unmoving. I stood gasping, staring at the lifeless body. I looked up to see that the man had dispatched the other two wolves and was racing across the creek, water sloshing. Chris screamed and, as I turned, the last wolf leapt straight for her. She threw herself backward and there was a resounding thunk as she hit her head against the rock ledge. Without another sound, she was gone.
The wolf seemed momentarily confused, staring intently at the space where Chris had been one moment ago. The man slew it with a single swipe of his blade. He spun around, but no living wolf remained. We were alone.
My legs gave out beneath me. I’m sure that I didn’t faint. I would not have. But I was momentarily confused. Chris was gone, and there was gore covering me. I had killed a creature, I, who hurt nothing. And my riding skirt was ripped.