Ah, the epic final battle. The grippingly dramatic climax of an epic thriller, fantasy, horror and/or historical fiction story. Although the idea of writing several thousand words of constant, mindless and spectacular-looking fictional violence might sound easy, doing this can get very monotonous very quickly.
But, plenty of stories have extended final battle scenes. So, how can you make these scenes interesting to both read and write? Here are a few basic tips – however, they are designed for stories written from a third-person perspective.
1) Sub-plots: One of the easiest ways to make an epic, extended final battle scene more gripping is simply to add a sub-plot or two to it. The easiest way to do this is simply to split up your group of main characters into two or more smaller groups and then show alternating scenes focusing on each group. This can add some variety to your epic battle scene in a number of ways.
For example, each group could have a different mission, each group could be on different sides of the battle and/or each group could be trying to find each other. A slightly more sophisticated way to handle this is to assign a different genre to each group of characters. For example, one group of characters could be engaged in dramatic, fast-paced thriller novel -style combat, whereas the other group could have a more suspenseful stealth-based storyline.
The trick here is to add some variety to your extended battle scene. After all, thousands of words of nothing but the same mindless violence over and over again can get really dull.
2) “Zoom in” on the battle: Although your story might contain a gigantic epic battle scene, remember that you are writing a story and not making a film. In other words, lots of distant descriptions of the battle as a whole might look spectacular when rendered visually but, if you’re just using words, then too many of these descriptions will sound really dull and vague.
In other words, you need to focus on the characters who are actually fighting. Instead of showing the battlefield as a whole, “zoom in” on a familiar character or two and show your reader what they are doing. Show how they narrowly dodge death, how they use their weapons, how they help out the people on their side etc….
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, focusing on a tiny part of your epic battle scene can result in much more intense and gripping storytelling than just focusing on the battle as a whole.
3) Danger: Simply put, battles are horrific and dangerous things. You need to show your audience this. Yes, it can be tempting to get attached to your main characters and want to show them winning easily without so much as a scratch. But, this will completely ruin any tension or suspense that would actually make your battle scene gripping.
But, even if you don’t want to kill off several of your main characters, then there are still other ways to show that they are in danger and are fighting for their lives.
The easiest way to do this is simply to show your characters sustaining injuries from fighting. Although, like in films, these injuries shouldn’t slow the characters down that much – be sure to emphasise the pain that these injuries cause.
Although this might sound needlessly sadistic, it instantly adds suspense to the battle scene by showing the reader that the character in question is fragile, mortal and in danger. Likewise, the fact that a character keeps fighting despite their injuries also makes them seem more courageous/heroic too.
Likewise, if you want your main characters to survive but still want to make the battle scene appear sufficiently dangerous, then introduce a few extra side-characters just before the battle starts. And, well, you can probably guess the rest….
But, whatever you do, you need to make sure that the reader feels that your characters are actually in danger during the battle. Without a genuine feeling of danger, fictional battle scenes are incredibly dull.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂