The “Magic” fight scene: The magical fight scene is a story specific fight scene that can’t be understood without knowledge of the way the created world operates. In this technique the author must invent his or her own rules for how battles are fought. As such, consistency and logical progression/extrapolation are the most important rules for writing these scenes. In other words, the world and the fight must make sense and follow the established rules of the story.
Example: Mistborn: The Final Empire (2006) by Brandon Sanderson
Something’s wrong. Vin ducked and threw herself to the side as a handful of glittering coins—her coins, the ones her opponent had Pushed away—shot back down from the sky into her opponent’s hand. He turned and sprayed them in her direction.
Vin dropped her daggers with a quiet yelp, thrusting her hands forward and Pushing on the coins. Immediately, she was thrown backward as her Push was matched by her opponent.
One of the coins lurched in the air, hanging directly between the two of them. The rest of the coins disappeared into the mists, pushed sideways by conflicting forces.
Vin flared her steel as she flew, and heard her opponent grunt as he was Pushed backward as well. Her opponent hit the wall. Vin slammed into a tree, but she flared pewter and ignored the pain. She used the wood to brace herself, continuing to Push.
The coin quivered in the air, trapped between the amplified strength of two Allomancers. The pressure increased. Vin gritted her teeth, feeling the small aspen bend behind her.
Her opponent’s Pushing was relentless.
Will...not...be beaten! Vin thought, flaring both steel and pewter, grunting slightly as she threw the entire force of her strength at the coin
What makes it work:
Reading this without knowing the rules makes it impossible to understand, and this was a simple example chosen for its clarity. Most of the fight scenes in this book are much more complicated, being intertwined with rules for magic far outside the laws of our own reality, or the logic of most fantasy novels for that matter. That being said, if the author can create a logical, believable world that is something extraordinary, then the fight scenes will be something the reader never forgets, something far outside normal, run-of-the-mill battles. For the fight scenes in this book, the reader must know that by ingesting metal flakes the protagonist can “burn” them for magical powers, with different metals and different combinations creating different effects.
Why it doesn’t always work:
It is hard to pull this technique off and keep, as Samuel Coleridge would say, the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.
Sanderson writes with a natural balance of action-counter action, inner thought and feeling, and description that flows beautifully across the page without pushing the reader too fast or slowing the action down.