Writing with knives

How do you write a convincing scene with knives? Romance writers don’t just learn about story structure, dialogue, publishing deals, and publicity. They also learn how to fight with knives. At last year’s national meeting of the Romance Writers of America, three women who know the martial arts (K.M. Fawcett, Melinda Leigh, and Rayna Vause) taught others how they could choreograph their fight scenes. They named their workshop “Kick-Butt Heroes: Using Martial Arts in Your Action Scenes.”


Learning to write with knives. K.M. Fawcett, Melinda Leigh, and Rayna Vause taught “Kick-Butt Heroes” a workshop at the Romance Writers of America conference.

Author: How are we going to—What is a good way to do a knife fight? Just technically.

K.M. Fawcett: Alright, as far as—My favorite way to hold a knife is this way. Okay. This is like a hammer grip. You’re going to grab a hammer, you grab it this way and, you know, hammer down this way. You see a lot of people do like the “ice pick” or the reverse grip this way.

Melinda Leigh: That’s a lot harder.

K.M. Fawcett: You should be able to fight no matter how you pick it up. There’s a knife on the table, and the knife is this way, I can just grab it. I’ll have to fight this way, because I’m not going to have time to turn it. But if you had the knife this way, you had time, and you have the psycho guy coming this way, if you come in with the ice pick, who has the reach? Leigh motions toward Fawcett with the ice pick style, while Fawcett holds her arm out straight towards Leigh, brandishing her knife. Fawcett has the reach.] So this is obviously a better way to—Boom! Right in here, and I can block up here or whatever if she comes in. But I’ve got reach. Now, you want your knife scene to probably be a bit longer than just, boom, and you’re dead, right? We gotta razzle dazzle them a little bit, because, we gotta make it exciting. So you can choreograph any kind of fight scene that you want going on, and maybe he’s experienced too.

Melinda Leigh: And a trained fighter is going to keep the weapon in front. He’s always going to lead with the weapon, and if he’s fighting with a knife, the non-knife hand is going to go here to protect these vitals. That’s your sacrifice hand, so it’s always right here to block.

K.M. Fawcett: Okay. When I was holding the knife this way, an experienced fighter is going to come up with a thrust under the sternum here. You don’t want to go straight in. You want to go up under the heart. You can think about the way your body is set up. Here’s your sternum. Here’s your heart. Right, so if you come up, you have to come up underneath the ribs. Well, to get my heart here, up under—. Just to give you that visual, right? You have to come up underneath the ribs that way. So somebody that’s really trained. . .

Melinda Leigh: Do the fillet.

K.M. Fawcett: Okay. The fillet? You come in with an ice—I like this one too. If we both had—I just grabbed it. I had this ice pick; she’d come in overhand. I’m just going to block here; scoop down. Now as I’m going around, my knife edge—This is my knife edge, right? It’s going to come up, fillet, and into the stab.

[Audience makes sounds of repulsion and interest.]

K.M. Fawcett: And I’ve got control over here of her hand, so I can take this away, and–as in whatever you need to do to finish this off.

Melinda Leigh: You’re gory.

[Audience laughs.]

K.M. Fawcett: I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how she’s going to be able to continue to defend herself when her skin is flapping down here, after I filleted her.

Audience Member: Do it again slow.

K.M. Fawcett: Sure.

[Audience laughs.]

Jamie Schmidt: Woohoo! Right?

Audience Member: Once more with feeling!

K.M. Fawcett: And this is romance writers. Okay, so I block. . . Boom! Right to the face!

Download a transcript.

Share this