This guide is the result of nearly 10,000 hours dedicated to learning how to write action scenes in fiction. It is a complete guide to writing movement in prose, and covers everything from fight scenes to dance to scratching your nose.
Introduction and How to Use This Guide
Welcome to the most comprehensive action writing guide available online! Don’t be put off by the length of this article; there’s no need to read straight through it, simply use the table of contents to navigate to the section you need.
This post is designed to cover everything from the madness of battle to the intimacy of sex, to the grace of dance. If you want to learn how to write a good fight scene, or a sex scene, or just to express character movement in a more articulate way, this guide should contain everything you need.
I did topic related research in several writing communities and extensive keyword research while composing the table of contents and the body of the guide, so it should cover the bulk of common questions asked about writing action.
Whether you’re writing a novel, a personal story, or flash or fan fiction, this guide will serve you well. If you love bringing the scenes you write alive with vibrant, believable actions, you’ll be particularly pleased with instructions and insights catalogued here. Happy writing!
- Introduction and How to Use This Guide
- General Tips for Writing Action – It’s Not Just About Fight Scenes
- How to Write Character Movement
- How to Craft Believable Interactions
- How Much Action to Describe and When
- How to Write a Fight Scene
- How to Write A Battle Scene – Combat in Fiction
- Need More Help Learning How to Write Action Scenes?
General Tips for Writing Action – It’s Not Just About Fight Scenes
Whether you’re writing a short ebook or a lengthy novel, creating fiction gives you the space to create action scenes ripe with danger and intrigue. I will discuss a number of rules in the following sections, but keep in mind that much like the pirate’s code… they’re more like guidelines.
Keep in mind that if you’re suffering from writer’s block, it may be difficult to follow these instructions. For instructions on how to beat writer’s block, follow that link.
Show Don’t Tell – A Common Rule of Thumb
While this is one of the most frequently repeated pieces of writing advice that you’re probably sick of hearing, it’s of particular importance when writing action.
In case you need a quick refresher, telling generally consists of just presenting information to the reader, often using adjectives.
The little boy ran quickly across the rain-soaked street.
That sentence isn’t terrible, but it could be better if we used showing rather than telling. Showing typically uses more verbs as descriptors, which helps move the action along and keeps the reader interested.
The boy raced across the street, shoes splashing in puddles that threatened to swallow his feet.
Notice how the verbs used imply the same conditions as the adjectives stated outright in the first example. To race is to run quickly. Puddles make it obvious there has been rain, and we get a clear visual as to the boy’s diminutive size when his feet are nearly swallowed by them.
Of course there are situations where telling is not just acceptable, but the right choice. One example is when you wish to convey a large amount of information quickly or accelerate the passage of time.
The boy went to bed. When he awakened, the sun had risen.
I could easily turn those two sentences into two paragraphs that verbally demonstrate the boy stretching, climbing into bed, drifting off, and then being roused by sun leaking through the curtains. But depending on the type of story I’m writing and what my goals are with the scene, it might be in my best interests to just give the reader some quick information.
In most cases though, showing is better for the reader. It will also encourage you to expand your vocabulary and delve more into each character’s intricacies. As with most things, the more you practice this the easier it becomes, so it can be worth putting in some intentional repetitions.
Use Active Verbs
Active verbs occur when sentences are properly structured in this order: Subject, verb, object. The “subject” of a sentence is the noun that performs the action, usually a person or animal except when metaphoric language is used.
The wind lashed his face.
In that sentence “the wind” is the subject, “lashed” is the active verb, and “his face” is the object, the noun which is having the action performed on it. To write that sentence using a passive verb (also called passive voice) we could structure it differently.
His face was lashed by the wind.
While many writers insist that there is nothing wrong with passive voice and that it is crucial to their style, it’s usually an indicator that they lack formal training and simply don’t understand the problems passive voice can present. My personal biggest problem with passive language is the order in which information is presented.
Look at the active version of the sample sentence: The wind lashed his face. By the time you’ve read the first two words, you know something important about the scene (that there is wind). Adding the third word (lashed) you realize the wind is violently striking something, and by the time you read “his face” you have a full mental image.
On the other hand, in the passive example of the sentence “his face” are the first two words. Since his face is not doing anything, this doesn’t move the action along, and it also provides much less relevant information. Getting the third word (was) adds absolutely nothing to the picture, and “lashed” lacks an operator until you finish reading the sentence.
Hopefully you can see how this would slow the reader down, but it’s not the only reason to avoid heavy use of passive voice. Most instances of passive voice use instances of the verb “to be” to set up the actual action verb.
His face was lashed by the wind.
The more you use passive voice, the more you use words like “was” and “were”. Aside from being weak, uninteresting words that add nothing to the story, frequent overuse of any word can remind the reader that they’re reading, destroying their suspension of disbelief.
Masterful thriller writer Lee Child uses active voice so intentionally that he rarely (if ever) fails to use it to attribute an action to his main character, Jack Reacher. However, Child will use passive voice when describing the actions of other, weaker characters, especially Reacher’s enemies.
Focus on Clarity and Sequence
Clarity is key in all writing, but action sequences are even more crucial than most cases. If events aren’t clear, the reader will get mixed up and either have to re-read or potentially stop reading altogether. For the same reasons it’s important to use a chronological sequence of events in most cases. Consider the following scene:
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.
Everything here is properly structured and sequenced, so it’s clear what happened. But what if we rearranged the scene a bit?
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Suddenly they were tumbling down the hill, having tripped on a loose stone. Jack broke his crown.
Using this example may make it seem obvious, but I’ve seen many writers construct sentences more like the second example than the first. The word “suddenly” almost never adds anything, and the order of events is out of sequence so it’s harder to understand.
Use Dialogue with Action
Many excellent writers have trouble using dialogue with action, so I wanted to cover it near the beginning. Some common issues are that their dialogue feels unnatural or ends up “chunky” amidst all the action, or that the dialogue is simply irrelevant to the scene.
Here’s a great tip for incorporating dialogue into fast-paced scenes; do it less.
Depending on your athletic history you may or may not realize how difficult it is to talk while performing fast-paced physical activities. Fighting in particular commands all of the practitioner’s energy and attention, assuming they’re actually feeling threatened by their opponent(s).
There are two ways that you can learn to appreciate this principal; one is to start practicing martial arts or combat sports, and attempt to recite a monologue in the middle of a sparring session. You’ll quickly realize that the words you can get out arrive in sudden spurts as your body struggles to move oxygen to your muscles.
Another way to learn the same lesson is to watch older action movies in which the actors used stunt doubles minimally or not at all. A great example is The Princess Bride, which contains a famous fight scene portrayed in real time by the actors.
In the fight between Montoya and Westley, we get to see two highly skilled swordsmen attempting to trick each other to win a swift victory. At first both of them wield their weapons in their left hands, fencing and chatting effortlessly.
Note that as soon as Montoya switches to his dominant hand and presses for victory, they stop talking. When they do speak again, there’s noticeable strain in their voices, and then Westley is forced to switch to his right hand as well.
At this point there is almost no dialogue; even though Westley is the better fighter, he can’t focus on disarming his opponent and making clever quips at the same time. When he finally overwhelms Montoya, the masked man takes several seconds to regain his breath before he delivers his next line.
From this single scene, several principles can be observed that should be practiced throughout most action writing.
- Characters should speak little if they are sprinting in any kind of athletic event. This includes straining to win a fight.
- Dialogue delivered during action should be inflected with some kind of duress, whether vocal or otherwise.
- Highly skilled athletes may be able to speak normally when competing against less capable opponents.
We see an example of this last principle in the final battle between Montoya and Rugen; even though Montoya is injured, because he’s a far superior swordsman he’s able to shout his fatality phrase repeatedly before claiming victory.
Use Literary Devices to Make Less More
While many writers know how to use literary devices in writing setting and descriptions, some don’t realize the value of these techniques when it comes to movement. This applies to movement of inanimate objects, animals, and characters as well. For example:
The wind shrieked through the eaves.
The boar’s tusks shone like sabers.
The helmsman gripped the ship’s wheel harder than a fastened vice.
Above we have examples of direct metaphor, simile, and hyperbole. There are other ways of writing these sentences, without using the literary devices, which would be far less succinct.
The wind blew into the eaves and made a shrieking sound.
The boar’s tusks looked really sharp.
The helmsman hung onto the wheel for dear life.
It may look obvious when laid out this way, but the second set of examples are how a lot of people write “good action scenes”. What they don’t realize is that passive verbs, phony intensifiers, and cliches make a poor replacement for strong literary devices.
Allow Action to Influence Setting and Setting to Dictate Action
Far too often writers will forget to recognize the influence characters have on the environment, and the impact the environment has on them.
Here’s an example:
If a character attended a party in a forest clearing, how might the revelers influence the setting? What might the character notice as different if they returned the next day?
Likewise, imagine that an earthquake or thunderstorm occurred during the party. How would these weather events impact the party-goers?
These principles are extremely valuable when writing fight scenes. If you’re struggling to realize how, think about a scene you’re writing or a scene from a famous book or movie. Now make two lists; the first list is ways the character could use the setting to their advantage. The second list is ways the environment could negatively impact them.
Isn’t it fun to torture characters in the form of lists?
When you’ve finished with your sadistic pleasures, write or rewrite the scene, or go back and read/watch it. See if any of the ideas you wrote down match up with actual happenings. You might even come up with some new ones!
Be Mindful of Sentence Length and Word Choice
You’ve probably heard this one before; shorter sentences and words work best when you’re writing action scenes. This will help you control the pacing of the scene, and build and release tension. Consider the following example from Persuader by Lee Child. In this scene, Jack Reacher has just provoked a giant of a man to attack him:
His face darkened. He seemed to swell up. He exploded at me. Just launched himself forward with his right arm scything around in a giant roundhouse strike. I sidestepped his body and ducked under his arm and bounced up again and spun around. He stopped short on stiff legs and whipped back toward me. We had changed places.-Persuader by Lee Child,page 347.
Child is one of the most prolific and skilled thriller/action writers currently alive (and in my opinion, of all time). We can learn a lot from this passage: The author could easily have written the first three sentences as a single phrase, but he intentionally kept them distinctive.
This increases both the tension and the speed of the pacing; the reader is given the impression that things are happening alarmingly quickly without the need for adjectives or other weak words.
Notice how Child doesn’t use a single comma in the entire paragraph. I’m not saying you can’t use commas when writing action, but in many cases it’s best to consider whether the’re necessary or best for your purposes.
How to Write Character Movement
Most people always think of fight scenes when you mention “action”. If pressed for more options, they might mention sex, dance, or other macro actions. Few people seem to realize that in prose, every action can potentially be powerful and important.
Walking is Never Just Walking
A common mistake made by new and experienced writers alike is forgetting the significance of more mundane actions. If you asked a dozen people to walk across a room, each of them would have a different way of moving, a different speed, a different cadence. Some might stride, others might limp or totter. The way a character moves can tell a lot about them both as a whole and in that particular moment.
So if you ever feel like an action scene is boring, repetitive, or not moving fast enough, consider whether you’ve done all you can to explore the characters through their actions.
Perfect examples of this exist throughout the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. In Jordan’s world (just like in real life), fighters from different parts of the world have unique styles and ways of moving. Characters observing warriors in The Wheel of Time often note that they look like stalking cats or prowling wolves.
Some swordsmen in this fantasy world even learn specific “walking forms”, which they enter prior to combat in order to prepare their bodies and minds. But this level of detail is not limited to fighters; take a look at the following passage from The Gathering Storm.
One sad mule pulled a single cart among the hundred struggling people; what they hadn’t piled in the vehicle they carried. They plodded northeast along a pathway that couldn’t quite be called a road.-The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, page 95.
The novel quoted above was completed by Brandon Sanderson after the original author’s passing, but Sanderson did an excellent job of finishing the epic true to Jordan’s eloquent style.
Note the two verbs used to describe the movement of the people in this passage; struggling and plodded. Both of these words are extremely descriptive not just of how the people are moving, but how the perspective character is thinking about them.
Expressing Emotions Through Movement
Movement can tell both the physical story and the emotional story of what’s happening within a character’s mind. As easily as you can make a character seem deadly, you can also make them seem angry, or sad. Take a look at this passage from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.
Bob’s shoulders inhale themselves up in a long draw, then drop, drop, drop in jerking sobs. I’ve been coming here every week for two years, and every week Bob wraps his arms around me, and I cry.
Bob’s shoulders inhale themselves up in a long draw, then drop, drop, drop in jerking sobs. I’ve been coming here every week for two years, and every week Bob wraps his arms around me, and I cry.-Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, page 16.
Although it’s pretty easy to tell a character is sad when they’re crying, from Bob’s actions the reader can understand that the character is extremely emotional. He’s not “just crying”. His eyes aren’t watering, he’s sobbing and the narrator captures the cadence of it using careful grammar and intentional repetitions.
A simple exercise you can do to explore your vocabulary is to pick a few verbs from a scene you’ve written and explore other ways the same action could be expressed. If it helps, try making a list of five synonyms or alternate phrases and then picking the one that fits the best.
Writing Dance, Sports, and Long Walks on the Beach
As important as it is to pack as much meaning as you can into the mundane movements, the more exciting actions are the ones your readers will truly remember. This is not limited to fighting, as many authors have found unique and creative ways to bring sports, dance, and other common activities to life.
A strong of example of this is Quidditch in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. A sport invented for Rowling’s magical world, Quidditch is played by wizards and witches riding broomsticks and using a variety of balls.
The fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, opens with a group of principal characters taking a trip to the Quidditch World Cup. From the their magical mode of transportation getting there and the festivities preceding the event to the dark magic which takes place afterwards, everything about the match tells the reader something about Rowling’s magical world.
For example, Harry is a skilled Quidditch player and because of that he pays much closer attention to the game than most of his friends. At one point he even gets caught up using a pair of enchanted opera glasses to watch in slow motion, and misses a live goal. Much of the information presented throughout these early scenes becomes relevant later in the book, demonstrating Rowling’s famous storytelling skill.
How to Craft Believable Interactions
Skilled professional actors are often reminded to remember their reactions, and the same advice applies well to the portrayal of realistic interactions between characters.
It can be easy to get used to writing a character or group of characters and forget to think about how they would react to everything happening around them.
Is the character distracted, or focused on a task? Are they in vibrant good health, sick, or injured? What’s their emotional state? All of these questions can be important to consider when crafting interactions with the environment and other characters.
A good example of this occurs in the third Lord of the Rings book by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King. When Frodo, Sam, and Gollum draw close to Mount Doom, Golllum manages to convince Frodo that Sam wants the ring for himself. Despite the fact that this is an outlandish claim and Frodo and Sam are best friends, Frodo believes him because of the circumstances. He was focused on the task of carrying the ring, and had come to feel reliant on Gollum.
If Tolkien had not set this interaction up so cleverly throughout the earlier phases of the book and trilogy, it wouldn’t have carried the same weight nor been as believable.
So if you need a character to make a mistake they wouldn’t otherwise make, give them a reason. If a guard leaves his post he shouldn’t just wander off, he should see something that intrigues or alarms him. If a merchant fails to notice her pocket being picked, think about what distraction the thief used in order to steal her valuables. Even if you don’t find room to write all the details in your prose, knowing why your characters (even the lesser ones) behave as they do will be beneficial in the long run.
Focus on Character Outcomes Instead of the Plot
When you’re trying to get through the first draft of a story it can be tempting to write for the plot, especially if you’re on a schedule. What I mean by “writing for the plot” is that you create events that line up a little too easily with the story you envisioned, whether or not you planned it ahead.
As you probably know very well, the most interesting stories are usually about great struggle. The Lord of the Rings isn’t an epic trilogy because it’s long and based in a fantasy world. While that helps, the key takeaway here is that every step the characters take in The Lord of the Rings is marred by difficulty.
If you ever find yourself writing for the plot, the easiest way to break the habit is to remind yourself that each character needs to pursue their own desired outcome, and some of those need to conflict with your main character(s)’s goals.
For example, if your hero character is kidnapped by the bad guys but easily escapes, what can you do to make the scene more challenging for them? Maybe the character who tied them up was an eagle scout, and used a complex array of knots. Maybe one of the baddies is paranoid and checks on them every five minutes. Perhaps another is a marathon runner who will be able to chase the hero down.
In the short paragraph above there are three potential characters that could easily have been bumbling, pointless buffoons. Instead each of them has personality traits and the beginnings of a backstory. They also each have unique wants and needs, which would drive their interactions and create believable relationships.
Consider How Each Character Feels About the Next
Another factor that should fuel character interaction is their past and present relationships, and how they feel about each other overall. These elements can dictate the way characters interact, or at the very least inflect their speech and actions.
For example, imagine that a main character in your current Work In Progress is waiting for an important message through a medium appropriate for the world they’re in. But instead of receiving the message, the door to the room opens and another character walks in. How would your MC react if the person entering was:
- Their spouse
- Their child
- Their distant relative
- Their mortal enemy
- Their priest
- Their neighbor from down the way
- Their childhood friend
- Their long-lost sibling
Each of those potential characters would evoke a different reaction from your MC. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but these are the kinds of details you can add when you’re looking to enrich scenes that are otherwise boring or flat.
How Much Action to Describe and When
The last thing you want to do when describing anything is to it too much. But how much action writing is the correct amount, and where do you draw the line?
Is “blow-by-blow” a Bad Idea? My Rule
Taking a blow-by-blow approach to writing action scenes is only a bad idea if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you let the moment stretch too long. Since you’re reading this guide, the first issue won’t be a problem for you; we’ll focus on addressing the second issue here.
Let’s take another look at the fight scene from Persuader by Lee Child between Jack Reacher and the giant man Paulie.
He swarmed through the air at me. Came on like a pile driver. I dodged left and put an elbow in his face and he connected with his left and and knocked me sideways like I weighed nothing at all. I went down on one knee and got back up just in time to arch around his next crazy lunge. His fist missed my gut by a quarter-inch and its wild momentum pulled him past me and downward a little which put the side of his head right in line for a left hook. I let it go with everything I had from my toes on up. My fist crashed into his ear and he staggered back and I followed up with a colossal right to his jaw. Then I danced back and took a breather and tried to see what damage I’d inflicted. No Damage.-Persuader page 348by Lee Child.
That was a solid paragraph which, reduced to its base elements, was just about two guys punching each other. But it didn’t seem that way, did it? That’s because it’s ripe with active, descriptive language that carried a wealth of information about the characters. Even though that was a short passage, from it we can get a clear picture of what a well trained fighter Reacher is. We also get a solid sense that his opponent is larger but much less physically competent.
In total the fight between Reacher and Paulie lasts over seven pages, but it’s not boring at all. It’s one of the most climactic and fascinating moments of the book.
In his lecture on Fight Scenes and Romances acclaimed author Brandon Sanderson said:
In a film, blow-by-blow is fun. In a book, blow-by-blow is not (as) fun.-Brandon Sanderson
As much as I admire and respect Professor Sanderson, I disagree. I think that well written action scenes in books are more fun than even the best filmed sequences, because you get a deeper level of appreciation for what’s going on in the minds of the characters.
While there are writers who will benefit from skipping fight scenes in their prose, this guide is written for those who wish to stand out because of their quality action writing. If that’s the case for you, then you shouldn’t be discouraged from including blow-by-blow sequences, in fact you should be inspired by authors such as Lee Child who have taken his form of writing to a new level.
What Makes Action Relevant to the Story and Plot?
Ideally action should drive plot, in other words plot events should be the direct result of character actions. Of course character actions can also be relevant to the plot if they:
- Show or reinforce something important about the character
- Establish something that will be important later in the story
- Resolve something important that happened previously in the story
These are not the only circumstances where action should be used, but they provide a good starting point. If you have a lengthy action scene in your story that isn’t covered by one of those three points, it may be worth reconsidering whether or not it’s relevant to the plot.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Tuning in to the “right” balance can take practice, so consider writing action scenes when you do simple exercises and focus on finding the right recipe for compelling prose.
How to Write a Fight Scene
Writing fight scenes is a unique art, and doing it correctly requires a mastery of movement in prose and an understanding of human violence.
Understanding Fight Scenes – Violence in Fiction
Comprehending what violence is and how it affects people is crucial to writing realistic fight scenes, but that’s only an issue if you’re trying to write realistic fight scenes.
The first thing you need to understand before writing a fight scene is the setting in which the struggle takes place. A fight in a back alley will look very different from a fight in a jungle, or in zero-gravity or a burning building. Important factors to consider include the physics of the environment, escape routes and improvised weapons, and secondary/tertiary characters.
The next element to get a feel for is each character’s facility for and experience with violence. This includes any combative or athletic training they may have had, previous fights they’ve been in, military experience, traumatic experiences, and so on. These factors should help you figure out how different characters act and react when faced with violence.
Depending on how similar your fictitious world is to our Earth, you may or may not need to set the reader’s expectations with regards to the setting and character abilities.
For example, if warriors are capable of leaping hundreds of feet through the air in your story, it might make sense to establish this fact before demonstrating it in battle. Otherwise your audience may wind up feeling confused, which can lead to skipping through your carefully crafted passages.
Know the Stakes and When to Raise Them
A fight scene is a great way to create or raise existing stakes. They can cause a sudden shift in the balance of power in the story, or of the sequence of events, depending on who wins and how devastatingly.
It’s important bear strongly in mind the stakes each character carries into combat with them. For example, are they fighting for honor an glory, or for life and death? Are they defending their homeland, where their spouse and children live? Are they on a conquest in which failure is not an option? Understanding these stakes will give you the ability to raise them when the time is right.
But when is the time right to raise the stakes? That will depend on the length of the story you’re writing, the genre, and so on, but generally speaking you want to raise the stakes every time there is a significant plot event. Even if one conflict is resolved, it’s beneficial if it triggers a greater conflict or raises the stakes in some other way.
For example, if your principal character is attacked in the street and defends themself with lethal consequences, what is the result? Are they pursued by the local constabulary and/or friends of the deceased? Did they unknowingly kill the leader of a gang that now expects them to take the fallen figurhead’s place? Just because the immediate problems is solved, doesn’t mean there isn’t a larger problem at play that just gets worse.
Remember: A Fight is Another Form of Character Interaction
While actual dialogue should usually be limited in combat as described in earlier sections, character interaction can be delved into deeply during fight scenes. As a character gets tired, becomes fearful or angry, and takes damage, we may see different aspects of them which are hidden in normal life.
This could be a quirk, like a proper squared away character who swears like a sailor when they start bleeding. It could also be a fighting style, such as a character who learned to box from a young age and always tries to floor their enemies with a single blow.
When two characters fight, their personas interact in a unique way which does not happen in almost any other form of storytelling. The bottom line here is that the act of fighting and damaging someone/taking damage yourself can change people quickly. Fights usually end much more quickly than expected, with results that can be confusing and alarming to casual observers.
How to Write A Battle Scene – Combat in Fiction
Although there are definitely some crossover skills, writing a battle scene is fairly different from writing a one-on-one fight or even a barroom brawl. There are a number of important factors to take into consideration when creating and using armies in fiction, some of which will be addressed here.
Understanding Command Hierarchy
If you’re not a soldier or veteran and you haven’t read extensively on the subject of command hierarchy, it may take some time and effort to wrap your mind around command hierarchy. Whether we’re talking about modern military personnel or medieval knights in armor, soldiers are taught to think and behave differently than ordinary citizens, especially when it comes to violent situations.
Among the difference between an average soldier and an average citizen is that soldiers are trained to understand and respect a hierarchy at all times. This means they always know who their commanding officer is, and if their commanding officer is unable to lead, they know who to look to next, and next, and so on.
This kind of trained thinking has a number of benefits in combative situations. If a leader falls, rather than devolving into a horde or an “every warrior for themself” situation, the soldiers will rally around their new commander and continue working together.
Of course, every military system is different, and depending on the type of world you’re writing in (fantasy, sci-fi, first world fiction) the way that soldiers behave may be familiar or foreign. The important thing is that they respect whatever command hierarchy you put in place, and use it to their advantage.
Deciding What to Describe From Which Perspective
If you describe every important event from every major character’s point of view, a single battle scene could easily take up an entire book. That’s why it’s important to only describe the most pertinent scenes. Others can be filled in quickly via dialogue between characters or memories, and others can just be implied.
If you’re planning on writing a pitched battle that lasts more than one scene (for example, a siege that endures throughout one or more books), it makes sense to set things up properly by providing a good description of the battle’s main setting. If the reader knows about a series of catacombs beneath the city in advance, they’ll be more interested in learning that one of the armies used them to sneak around.
That said, you definitely do not want to plunk down a 3+ page description of a setting with no action and no character work in it. The trick is to work the initial description(s) of the setting(s) into some of the earlier parts of the story.
Need More Help Learning How to Write Action Scenes?
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!