When a Fictional Fight Gets Bloody

Spike from Cowboy Bebop

Spike from Cowboy Bebop

I recently finished writing a scene where two characters have their final showdown.  It’s a very brutal fight with broken bones, punctured organs, bleeding, and a wonder that both of them didn’t die.  The reason it came to this is because this isn’t their first battle, which meant the stakes and severity had to keep going up.  I reached the point where they simply got angry and agreed that it was time to end it without holding back.  Similar to Spike and Vicious from ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and we know how that ended.  Or do we?  (Yes.  Yes we do, anime conspiracy person.)

Now as I wrote the scene, I wondered if I was going too far.  Then I realized that this felt more real while worrying that readers would find it gratuitous.  Especially given the characters involved.  I’ll say it to clear things up: I wrote the final battle between Nyx and Trinity.  This isn’t much of a spoiler because anyone who has read the book or the blog knows that this was going to happen.  And it’s destructive.  Still, I’ve gotten a lot of heat for having a brutal scene where I describe the injuries during a fight.  (Though never when it’s Luke taking the beating.) For some, this seems to pull them out of the moment.  Yet I also hear that a fight scene with no injuries or only minor wounds makes little sense.

Personally, I don’t mind reading that a character has a broken arm and continues fighting. In fact, I fall into that second category because an injury reminds me that a character can be killed or crippled in the scene.  If it’s all punches and kicks without bruises and some bleeding then it might as well be a slap fight considering how little impact the strikes are making.  Is this a hunger for violence?  No because this is in stories that require a fight scene and if you have one then you need to show the results of said violence.  Also a hero fighting with an injury brings more gravity to the situation.  This can show a lot of the character’s mental toughness and determination too.  I enjoy a character who takes a beating, drags themselves back to their feet, smirks, and says ‘try it again, Princess Limp Wrist’.

So, that’s my personal opinion on a bloody fight that doesn’t skimp on the details.  Though I will say too much information takes away from the actual action.  As usual, balance is everything.

What do you think of fictional fights that get brutal and bloody?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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48 Responses to When a Fictional Fight Gets Bloody

  1. I’m in favor of them. If nobody is going to get hurt, a verbal diatribe is a possible better choice. Words can hurt too. Eventually Gary Cooper had to step into the street in High Noon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah. It is weird reading an action scene and nobody gets hurt. You can rationalize it in a show or movie because of the rating or thinking they had a limited budget. Doesn’t seem to work in a book, especially when a character is brutally pounded on and only comes out with a black eye.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I got pretty brutal in The Cock of the South. Those were brutal times, and it wouldn’t be fair not to include it.

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      • I’ve got a few brutal grudge matches in my books. Especially when Stephen gets involved. Cutting them down seemed to remove the danger and severity of the fight. It was like there wasn’t as much at stake.

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is true. GRR Martin establishes stakes like no other. It doesn’t mean everything has to be Walking Dead or GOT. There needs to be a legitimate urgency though.

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      • GoT is interesting in that it can also demonstrate the issue of going too far. I know a lot of people who have no reaction to the violence in that show. If it happened in one that didn’t have it so often then they’d be surprised. Yet it’s more of a shock when something brutal doesn’t happen in GoT. At least to these people.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. Still, offing a character establishes that bad things are possible. I don’t know that you have to eliminate 2/3 of the characters to prove that point.

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      • That does seem excessive. It is realistic that you would have a high body count, but there’s the fictional side of things too. A story needs a reader to connect and become emotionally involved. One way is through the characters, but if everyone can die (and usually do) in a long series then people will remain distant. Sometimes it’s even ghoulish in the way people are more interested those who die violently than the ones that survive and continue the plot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m with you. GOT and Walking Dead have things to teach us, but sometimes it’s what not to do. It’s like everything else in fiction, take what works and leave the rest.

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      • Good point. Think Walking Dead definitely has the ‘no’ lessons a lot of times. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bill says:

    I believe there is a place for such “APEX” encounters. They shouldn’t be frequent or gratuitous, but as a culmination of a long brewing conflict, they are fine.

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    • Timing is everything. I would think the gratuity would also be in rational to the emotions. Yet there is a limit since you also have to stay within the character’s established moral code. Unless that’s going to get broken and their guilt/new attitude is part of another plot line.

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  3. L. Marie says:

    For me, violence is an aspect of the high stakes of a story. I can’t say I’m a fan of gore. But in my YA novel, I had to go there when the hero and the villain had their knife battle. No one expects a knife battle to be gore-free. That was a tough one for me to write though. I’m usually pretty wimpy about gore. But the amount of blood loss felt right for the scene and for the YA audience.

    I can’t help thinking of V for Vendetta where some of that ending felt gratuitous to me. But that opinion was split along the gender lines.My female friends said the same thing. My male friends were enthusiastic about it. Yet I never felt that way about any boxing movie I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t shy away from gore at all, but I think it’s because I write about warriors and action-packed adventures. I try not to over do it, but there are times where I think it has to be extensive. As I mentioned, the emotions and talents of the combatants determine it for me as well.

      I vaguely remember that ending, but I don’t remember a lot of gore. My definition of it is severed limbs and internals being shown. I know others were gore is defined simply as ‘seeing blood’. So there is a personal spectrum in that arena.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m like you. Balance is everything, as you point out, but the golden rule is that it’s gotta feel real.

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  5. I’m with the others, and think Nicholas summed it up. A fight has to feel real and, let’s face it, sometimes it can get brutal. You have to be there, have to know the risks and dangers these characters are facing, so you’ve got to know it hurts. I’m all for it! 🙂

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  6. VarVau says:

    Must feel real, and it must vary in speed. Some fights are stand offs with few instances of actual aggression. Others are more energetic. Some are paced for strategy, others are frantic. Most fights generally should be quick, only dragging out if necessary.

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  7. I think a scene needs to depict reality. If people want to read the kind of story where no blood gets shed then they should stick to romance. I personally have never been in a fight where there was no bloodshed. It was usually mine.

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  8. renxkyoko says:

    Anime fights are brutal.

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    • Definitely. Still remember watching one movie where every wound was a gusher. We kept making jokes that paper cuts were lethal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • renxkyoko says:

        I think that was hunter x hunter. The protagonists were 12 year old boys, and one o the villains’
        weapons were pieces of paper. lol

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      • Only read the manga of that and Hisoka was awesome. Creepy, but definitely a villain to remember. The anime movie was an old one called ‘Ninja Scroll’. The dorm I was in had a small movie collection and that was in there along with ‘Vampire Hunter D’.

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      • renxkyoko says:

        also found Hisoka creepy… and awesome. I haven’t watched the ending because Netflix doesn’t have the complete episodes….. I don’t know if Hisoka is evil or not.

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      • I stopped with the manga around the beginning of ‘Greed Island’. So hard to find the volumes and the creator took a long hiatus. Hisoka is . . . something. He’s definitely neutral on a lot of things since he only cares about killing and satisfying his bloodlust. His whole thing was waiting for Gon and Kallua to get strong enough for him to kill them with a good fight. I’d probably put him as a selfish evil.

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      • renxkyoko says:

        Oh, right. I remember now. That’s even worse…. he’s fattening the cows … * shakes head *

        Oh, I’m going to buy your book soon. Promise.

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      • Awesome. Hope you enjoy it.

        Fattening the cows is a great way of putting it. Yet it also puts him on the side of heroes at times. Evil or not, he’s such a deep and interesting character. Not so straightforward and predictable, which makes every appearance riveting. 😀

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  9. To me it comes down to, “your circus, your monkeys.” They can fling poo or they can battle tooth and claw. You are writing the story. You get to decide the weapon and the stakes. If readers come back that it’s too vicious and out of character, perhaps suggest that they write their own books. 🙂

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  10. Helen Jones says:

    I think fictional fights that get brutal and bloody are like real fights 🙂 I used to fight competitively, so know how it feels to stand opposite a competitor in the ring, how it feels when they move in to attack. There are a few fights in my own books and I’ve tried to incorporate that imagery, as well as the more intense street fighting techniques I learnt, where the key is to survive, rather than score points – you don’t walk away from an attack without any bruises, that’s for sure.

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    • Interesting background, which I bet comes in very handy for writing fight scenes. Like how you say that a person doesn’t walk away from an attack without any bruises. Think people forget that a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        It does come in handy, that’s for sure. I think I might even have a martial arts type of book lurking somewhere in my brain, once I’ve finished all the others burbling about in there. And yes, I think we see so often fight scenes depicted in movies and on tv where the hero (or heroine) is set upon by multiple attackers, yet walks away with just a few artfully placed scrapes. Or is able to take a barrage of punches and stay standing. We are more fragile than these types of scenes convey.

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      • I wonder if it has to do with the rating system for movies and TV. You have to limit the damage or you’ll get too high a rating. Wonder how a martial arts type book goes. I get the basics, but it always strikes me as a visual medium.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        Yes, I think you’re right. And my martial arts book is a character thing, at the moment – just a shadow of a story in my mind. It is a visual sport, but there are aspects to it that I think could translate well into a story – I guess I’ll just have to try it and see how it turns out! 🙂

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      • Nothing wrong with it being a short story or novella too. I love writing novels, but I’ve learned that I shouldn’t push stories beyond their scope.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        This is very true. I’ve done short stories and full length books, but haven’t yet tried the novella. Perhaps this is one to consider…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve taken the approach of writing the story and let fate decide the length category. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        The best way, I think 🙂

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