23 Techniques for Fighting Dirty + A Mini-Contest!

Welcome to Techie Tuesday at More Cowbell! This is the day where we cover some piece of wicked cool technology or dive into some technical aspect of writing.

Consider this post your graduation day into Dirty Fighting Apprenticeship. Your graduation present from me? An amazing contest (OMG, wait till you see the judge at the end of this post)!

We’ve been rolling around in the Dirty Fighting mudpit for several weeks now, so I’m pretty confident you’re ready to THROW IT DOWN!

There are twenty-three entries on the Dirty Fighting Techniques document (not twenty-two as I originally thought). Surely at least one of these will help you ratchet up the conflict in your story. We want to throw those precious characters FAR under the bus.

Note: Be sure to flex your sarcasm muscle – which is always used in a Dirty Dogfight.

Top 10 Dirty Fighting Techniques For Your Writing

Round 1Top 5 (click here for the Round 1 post on usage)

#1 – Triangulating: Don’t leave this issue between you and your conflict partner (could be a family member, friend or love interest), pull everybody in. Quote well-known authorities who agree with you and list every family member whom you know has taken your side (and lie about the ones you haven’t spoken to, yet).

#2 – Escalating: Quickly move from the main issue of the argument to questioning your partner’s basic personality, and then move on to wondering whether the relationship is even worth it. Blame your partner for having a flawed personality so that a happy relationship will be impossible.

#3 – Leaving: No problem is so big or important that it can’t be ignored or abandoned all together. Walk out of the room, leave the house, or just refuse to talk. Sometimes just
threatening to leave can accomplish the same thing without all the inconvenience of following through.

#4 – Timing: Look for a time when your partner is least able to respond or least expects an argument.

#5 – Rejecting Compromise: Never back down. Stick with the philosophy that only one of you can win.

Round 2 The Next 5 (click here for the Round 2 post on usage)

#6 – Brown Bagging: Never stick to just the original issue. Bring up as many problems as possible, and in great detail. Think of every complaint you can from your past history and lay them all on your partner at the same time. An overwhelmed person can never fight back effectively!

#7 – Cross Complaining: When your partner complains about something, make sure you raise a complaint of your own. “I forgot to make up the bed? How about all the times you haven’t taken out the garbage?”

#8 – Over-Generalizing: Use words like “never ” or ” always .” “You never act decent to my mother.” This will force your partner into defending his or her overall actions rather than looking at the issue at hand.

#9 – Pulling Rank: Don’t address the real issues— it’s much easier just to say that you bring home more money, or you have more friends, or you have more education, or you do more around the house. “When you make as much money as I do, then I’ll listen to you” works like a charm. Keep your partner down! There’s no need for equality in a relationship!

#10 – Using Sarcasm: This really gets their goat! “Well, lookee here at who’s so perfect all the time!” Use just the right tone and your partner may not have a good comeback. Push their buttons!

Now, we’re ringing our Cowbell for Round 3!

For the TKO…here are the other thirteen dirty fighting techniques, in alphabetic order. The original list came from my therapist (yeah, those details are juicy if you’d like to read the original Dirty Fighting post).

Because I love my peeps here at More Cowbell, I also searched high and low online and finally found a link to 19 of the 23 techniques so you’ll have an online reference to most of them.

#11 – Asking Why: Treat your partner like an irresponsible child. “Why didn’t you clean up after dinner?” “Why don’t you love me like John loves Helen?” Make your partner feel that he or she is incapable of an adult relationship rather than focusing on the issue at hand.

#12 – Avoiding Responsibility: Bring any disagreement to a sudden halt by saying “I forgot.” Other convenient excuses could include: “I had too much to drink,” or “I guess I was tired.” Why engage in a discussion when it is much easier just to avoid the whole thing?

#13 – Be Inconsistent: Keep your conflict partner off balance by changing your position.
Never hold the same opinion twice. Another good twist on this theme is to complain that your partner never speaks to you and ignore whatever they do say.

#14 – Blaming: Make it clear that you are not at fault and that you are simply the victim. Never admit that you play any part in the difficulty and that you will never make any changes. Let your partner know that he or she is entirely at fault and that if the relationship is to get any better, it is your partner who will have to change.

#15 – Crucializing: Exaggerate the importance of an issue by drawing conclusions of great magnitude regarding the relationship. “If you loved me, you would never have done this” is a good one. Or try: “This proves you have never cared about me.”

#16 – Fortune Telling: Like mind-reading, this technique gives you the upper hand. You will never change” demoralizes your partner and effectively blocks resolution of the real issues at hand.

#17 – Giving Advice: Whenever your partner wants to talk over a problem, always act like the expert. You should tell the person how to act, think and feel. Always have the better answer. If this is ever questioned you can always say that you were only trying to be helpful.

#18 – Labeling: Learn some negative terms like “neurotic,” “alcoholic,” “immature,” or “paranoid” to use whenever you want to give the impression that the other person is at fault. For a potent impact, use a term like “You slob…” whenever you want to suggest that your partner is inherently flawed as a person rather than focusing primarily on behaviors that can change.

#19 – Mind Reading: Let your partner know that you are the expert in how he or she feels or thinks. This way you won’t have to deal with any issues at all. “You don’t really feel  angry right now.” “You didn’t mean to say you wouldn’t be home for dinner.” Deprive your partner of all rights as an equal.

#20 – Not Listening: Don’t let your partner know that you value his or her opinion or feelings. Hear only what you want to hear and ignore the rest. Reinterpret whatever your partner says to suit your own needs. Better yet, interrupt whenever your partner starts to  talk. Or pretend to read or fall asleep while your partner is talking. A powerful tactic is to leave the house whenever your partner brings up an issue for discussion.

#21 – Personalizing: Anybody can solve a fight by sticking to the issues. Shift to personality and character issues and you should be able to generate enough defensiveness to keep the conflict going forever. Name calling and other terminal language (“You never really loved me!”) can help take the focus away from a healthy debate of the issues and into real character assassination.

#22 – Playing the Martyr: If timed properly, this technique can completely disorient your partner. “You’re right, honey, I guess there really is no hope for me.” How can your  partner respond to that? Let him or her think they have won the victory! If there is no other alternative, pretend to be sick until your partner’s behavior changes— and blame your illness on your partner.

#23 – Self-Righteousness: This is the great morale builder. By listing and reciting every slight, injustice, inequity you’ve suffered through and sacrifice you’ve made, you will experience a renewed sense of self-righteousness. Giving advice on how to think, act, and feel maintains the superiority you need. You can use this approach to justify almost any activity you want to engage in.

What is the reward for all this Dirty Fighting apprenticeship?? A Dirty Fighting Contest!

Between now and midnight on 9/6, if you send me the following, I will work with my (exciting) contest judge to pick the Top 3 and put them in a post here on More Cowbell. Read below the rules for my BIG SURPRISE!!


  • Send a short scene, maximum 150 words (if you need 155 to finish the sentence, I’m not gonna ding you, I promise) to JennyHansensMail (AT) aol (DOT) com.
  • Your scene may contain a sentence at the top telling us what the fight is about though it will be included in your wordcount. (We really just want the fight. :-))
  • In your short scene, illustrate one or more of the classic Dirty Fighting techniques. If you choose to name the technique(s) you are going for by number, this will not detract from your count.

You can use this to work out some dialog for your WIP or just use practice characters for your conversations. If you just can not come up with your own scene, you may sub in one from your favorite author. (I think, once you read the next line, you’ll really want to use your own writings.)

CONTEST JUDGE:  Tiffany Lawson Inman – NakedEditor

Tiffany is none other than Margie Lawson’s daughter! I’m here to tell you she’s got just as much energy revving her jets as our beloved Margie. Maybe even a tiny bit more. For the naked truth about our esteemed contest judge, click here.

Tiffany will take the winning three entries and do an on-screen edit of how to give them even more punch. (We’re gonna have so much fun!)

NakedEditor will be here on More Cowbell on September 20th to work her magic on the winning entries! September 20 is my mom’s birthday (which is always special because she’s in heaven) and we’re gonna have a birthday party More Cowbell style with this contest!

In light of that the GRAND PRIZE is:

  • Free 1st Five Page Edit or Free Registration for her class in October:  http://bit.ly/TripleThreatBehindStagingA_Scene hosted by Lawson Writer’s Academy.
  • Anyone who comments between now and midnight PST on 8/31 gets their name put into the pool to win a seat in the October class! Tiffany will draw out a lucky name, which will be announced in the Lovin’ Friday post this week.

Are you as amped up as I am?? If you haven’t seen Tiffany in action, click here to see a fabulous scene dissection she did over on Haley Whitehall’s site.

Do you have editing questions for Tiffany?? Have you gotten ideas about how to use these filthy methods in your own stories? What is your favorite Dirty Fighting technique? Enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell!

(who is bouncing off the walls with excitement)

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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67 Responses to 23 Techniques for Fighting Dirty + A Mini-Contest!

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Holy poop Jenny – I’m printing these out and framing them! Nothing like some good old self-righteous labelling to set off a grenade or two! Wow, I don’t know how I’m going to find the time to get something ready to enter the contest with all the plates I have spinning right now…

    Oh I know – who needs six hours sleep a night? I’ll set the ‘feline alarm clock’ an hour earlier!
    I am NOT missing a chance at winning a Tiffany Lawson review! She’s not only amazing – she’s a real Sweetie – I met her in Colorado this year!


  2. These are great, Jenny!

    I love your contests. The prizes are always fabulous!


  3. Jenny,
    Thanks for all of these tips for ramping up conflict in our stories. I sometimes need to remind myself that whining does not equal conflict. Your list here helps with that.

    My personal favorites are numbers 2, 3, 14 & 22. The real trick for me is setting up the conflict so that it throws the character under the bus without killing him/her. Gotta leave ’em alive for potential reconciliation 🙂

    I’m going to go get busy and polish up my entry now!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Michele…those are GOOD ones! Nothing like a little escalating and blaming to red line a fight! I’m soooo glad you’re going to enter. I’m bummed that I can’t enter it myself, so my consolation is seeing the prizes go to one of my peeps. 🙂


  4. amyshojai says:

    I’ve been stashing these wonderful fight tips in my “fiction MUST-DO” folder for future reference. They’s GOLD, I tells ya, GOLD! (says the squirrel gloating over her stash-‘o-shiny-icity).

    Love the contest concept and will try to get it on my to-do list but no promises (deadlines, I keep beating ’em down and they keep coming back like the undead)


  5. I recognize a lot of those dirty fighting techniques. Not from me of course. Lol.

    I looked but I didn’t see it or it’s a snake and I’m about to get bit. Is there a deadline or is it 9/20?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      9/20 is when the blog posting will be. The current deadline is midnight on Labor Day (I’ll make that stand out more) but I’m thinking of extending it a few days because I think some of my peeps are knocked out with a hurricane backlash.

      It is QUIET around here today. Either I scared everybody or I’ve got busy peeps today. I’m holding the comment prize out through tomorrow just to give people a chance to get over here.


  6. Wow Jenny, you are definitely the fighting dirty queen. I think this is a good thing? Ha!

    I need to put these in a doc while I’m revising so I can make certain I’m keeping the conflict fresh. Can’t have my couple fighting in the same old way about the same old thing…Thanks so much!


  7. Trash that same ol’ same ol’ junk! I want fresh meat 😀


  8. Sharla Rae says:

    Love these blogs Jen. They are keepers to be sure.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Shar!! From you, that means a lot because you are the Champion Extraordinaire of the Craft blog. 🙂

      Do we get to see some dirty fighting? Perhaps from Vidar???


  9. Fae Rowen says:

    OMG! As if these 23(!) dirty fighting techniques aren’t enough of a gift, you give us Tiffany Lawson Inman, who I was lucky enough to share Mother’s Day dinner with “on the mountain” when Laura and I went to Margie’s Immersion Class. How do you do it?

    You’ve probably started a virtual bar room brawl today. I hope you scheduled a good deal of time to pick your top three entries, because there are going to be hundreds!

    Don’t answer the door in case it’s the guys in blue wanting to put you away!



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I give you Tiffany because I like to bring the love to my peeps. 🙂

      Still jealous that y’all went to the Immersion Class without me but I’m saving up and gearing up. Ima going this next year….


      • Does that mean Tiffany = Love? I can handle that.

        Jenny – don’t worry. I will be there with you for a day or so of the immersion classes and you will get to absorb GREAT things from both mother and daughter ( I’m the bonus!) Oh – and of course my dad and I will make some tasty food 🙂


    • I love how people (mostly immersion grads) are calling my mom’s
      place “on the mountain!”

      I’m sure the phrase is going to land in one of your books, maybe even 2 – how funny would that be?!

      I know if the immersian ladies are joining in the contest – I am in for a treat! I better be – if I see any adverbs or cliches poking their UGLY heads out on your pages, well, I’m telling my mom on you!



  10. Sherry Isaac says:

    Hey Jenny, I’ve been AWOL. Lots of great ideas as I revise my manuscript with a self-sabotaging heroine. Gonna be fun!


  11. jamilajamison says:

    Another fantastic set of dirty fighting techniques, and an amazing prize for the winner! Polishing up my entry! 😀


  12. Ok. Will someone please explain TheLifeList to me? I’ve been popping around some of your blogs today and have seen it SEVERAL times. AND I saw it hashtagged on twitter today!

    …scraping the sand out of my hair and ears, ready to get on this writing world groove.


  13. Jami Gold says:

    Wow, that list gives me nightmares. 🙂 Personally, I think only my antagonists could use these methods because my protagonists just aren’t that unfair. (However, I’ll check out the original post to see if I’m missing something. 🙂 )


    • Jami Gold says:

      *comes back after reading all the posts*

      Ahh, *now* I get it. 🙂 Your posts with the “Uses” cleared it up for me. Yeah, my characters do stuff like that. LOL! Okay, trying to think of an applicable scene now.


      • Yeay! You clicked over here! I know – the list is great, right?! Looks like there’s gonna be a lot of folks on here kickin’ shins and pulling hair (verbally, or physically) – I cannot wait to see it!


      • Jenny Hansen says:

        See, Jami…I wouldn’t let your characters be unfair unless it helped YOU (and their character arc)!

        Can’t wait to see your entry…cause I know you have one. And if you don’t, you’ll just whip one up. 🙂


  14. I just saved a bundle on couples therapy Thanks!


  15. Oh my word, Jenny! These are great. I found myself blushing while reading through the list, because I used so many of these techniques the first couple of years I was married–until I finally figured out how bad they were. Well, I suppose that means I know intimately how to write those scenes, right??

    I already have a scene that will be sooo improved by these hints. Thank you, thank you!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You are so welcome, Elizabeth! And really, there’s no need to blush…EVERYBODY dirty fights at some point, until they work it out (or in my long history of dating schlocky men) break up with the dirty bastard. (Killing myself today!)

      I can’t wait to see your scene! Send it on over. 🙂


    • Blushing is GOOD!! We want viscerals in your 150 words too!

      Yup, while I was reading that list I flashed back to an icky relationship I was stuck in – verbal fights galore! We had some real dooozies…wish I recorded those!

      Thanks for stopping by! Can’t wait to see your scene!


  16. I just recently found Tiffany on Twitter and Facebook….courtesy of #SharetheLove. GREAT post, Jen!

    I’ll send a scene…if it’s too late, I understand!


  17. Okay… Now that I have a thorough understanding of what Dirty Fighting is thanks to you, lovely woman, I must go dive into my WiP and come up with something! The question at the moment is; Should I start sweating the contest now, or wait until it’s time to reveal the winners?


  18. Jody Moller says:

    Fabulous advice not only for my characters but also for me at home 🙂 Will definately be entering the contest, I have a scene in mind already, definately not a fair-fight (though when a fight is between a demon and a human I don’t suppose it was ever going to be fair!)


    • Superpowers are a nice addition to the mix. We don’t need it to be a fair fight to be a good fight. Some readers are just coming for the blood.

      Hmmm… should we hand out ponchos and rain hats?


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jody, don’t worry about that “OMG I’m a down and dirty fighter!” moment…we all had it. If you read the original post, I registered at a 15 out of 23 on the filthy fighting scale. Now, to be fair, I marked things if I EVER did them but still…


  19. susielindau says:

    What a fun idea and I can work out my frustrations at the same time as a bonus!!!


  20. Jen Greyson says:

    Great stuff Jenny!!
    I’m working on a fight scene right now, so this is perfect.

    (will also try not to use so many of these around the house haha)


  21. Jill Kemerer says:

    Love your list–and chuckled throughout! I love the round 1–where we bring in anyone who will support our position. Isn’t that the truth?? Ha!


  22. I am low on energy…….

    I need a boost. Or an elbow in my ear. ( sounds funny, but is some truly odd pain – and a BIG wake-up!)

    I wanna start reading these entries NOW!


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  25. Wow! That’s an extensive dirty list of fighting techniques! They could lead to a knock out brawl or a divorce quickly. Now when I write I can label my fighting techniques and be aware of which ones I use most often. Thanks for sharing!


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