1. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada

    Combat scenes.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by hawky94, Feb 26, 2011.

    Hey everyone,

    I'm trying to write a combat scene, my MC is in a British military camp in Afghanistan, which has just come under attack by Taliban mortar teams... I'm looking for intense action, lots of description and accuracy as far as weapon specs/realism goes.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks, hawky.
     
  2. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I also want to use lots of sensory details.
     
  3. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    One major tip for battle scenes is to make the readers feel what's at stake. I've read lots of really, really bad battle scenes where it's just "then this happened, then they ran over here, then the building blew up, then they drew fire," on and on for three pages. Don't make it cartoonish or flat. On the other hand, don't try to convey themes and emotions by infodumping or telling (rather than showing) because that's even worse and will just seem cheesy.

    I'll use an example of what I think stands out as a great battle scene: the last fight in the first of the LOTR movies. I know it's fantasy, but I don't watch that many war movies, so it's the best I'm familiar with. It starts off being relatively lighthearted (Peppin and Merry yelling out insults to the orcs, stunt-driven swashbuckling etc) but then there are some moving scenes; Boromir dies, Sam almost drowns because he refuses to let Frodo leave without him, the 4 other characters swear to go hunt down the orcs to rescue Merry and Peppin. The scenes really convey the themes of the movie, like stepping up to the plate and standing by your friends and not giving up. It's not just a flat story about people in a fantasy world fighting monsters; if it were, I wouldn't care about the characters dying.

    Really make the readers care about the themes in the story. What are they fighting for in the battle? What will be at stake if they lose? Make the reader care about these things, not by infodumping but by putting them in the MC's shoes and giving them reason to care.

    Then, when the tide of the battle gets scarier and uglier, they will be turning pages.

    Hope I helped!
     
  4. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    You certainly did, time to dig out some war books.
     
  5. spice
    Offline

    spice New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I recommend you check out some good narrative non-fiction, like Blackhawk Down or Generation Kill (or I suppose whatever the Brit equivalent is).
     
  6. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    "All Quiet on the Western Front" is a must-read if you're digging out war books.
     
  7. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    To make the scene memorable, think of a strong image that will summarize the scene. Although you can't avoid blood and gore, don't make it too bloody and gory. Remember the scene in Saving Private Ryan, a soldier is hit by a bullet and saved by his helmet, he can't believe his luck and removes his helmet to check out the bullet mark, then he is hit by another bullet directly on his head. That I still remember it is in itself a testimony how strong the scene was. It tells us so much about the uncertain lives of those soldiers. So, develop one or two such images (go out of your comfort zone if you have to) and you can develop the scene around it. Also strive to bring out the emotions of the soldiers and the people caught in the chaos. The accuracy of the types of weapons used will be useless informations unless the readers have something to remember or emotionally connect with.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Lothgar
    Offline

    Lothgar Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2010
    Messages:
    417
    Likes Received:
    37
    Do some google.com searches for British military, British military vehicles, British military weapons, British Military ranks, etc. This should get you a lot of real information about what kinds of weapons they use, the types of vehicles they use and what their rank structure is. If you can find some actual unit designations that are currently deployed to Afghanistan, and mention them in the dialogue, it will add a touch of realism from the real world.

    As for intense accuracy, description and realism, keep these things in mind:

    Bullets never kick up dirt around you feet like they do in the movies, they come snapping and whizzing by at chest level, because that is where they are aiming, and kick up dirt a good distance behind you.

    Most assault rifles only hold 30 rounds of ammunition, which must be reloaded after it is expended. Military protocol for changing a weapon's magazine is to grab the magazine with one hand, thumb the magazine release button and remove the magazine out of the weapon's magazine well. A fresh magazine is inserted inside the magazine well of the weapon until the magazine lock "clicks" into place. A firm slap on the bottom of the magazine ensures that the magazine is firmly seated, then the weapon's charging handle is drawn back and released with a loud, metallic "CHA-CLACK" sound, as the bolt snaps forward, stripping a fresh round from the new magazine and sliding it into the weapon's chamber. You are now..."READY TO ROCK".

    Firing an assault rifle not only sends a stream of 5.56mm NATO full metal jacket slugs flying downrange, it also sends a stream of tumbling expended brass casings fling out of the side of the weapon, through its ejection port.

    Firing your rifle, without hearing protection, will leave you with ringing ears and limited ability to hear others around you. Firing you weapon with hearing protection will save your ears from the ringing but muffle the verbal commands you hear. The universal compromise seems to be to fire your weapon without hearing protection and YELL verbal commands. It time and the situation permits, hearing protection is nice to have, but life and death situations don't always allow for it.

    No professional British soldier in his right mind will hide behind a brick wall corner, close his eyes tight, and stick his weapon around the corner, spraying ammo wildly into the night (despite the news footage showing taliban and Al Queda terrorists doing just that). Rifles are fired from the shoulder, using the sights, preferably using a "double tap" to ensure that your shot hit something important. When moving during combat, the British soldier will keep his weapon shouldered, but lower the front sight by an inch or two to allow a greater field of view (and he can return his weapon to a proper sight position simply by flexing his arm muscles).

    As more of a cultural observation, the British military regularly engages in the use of profanity, as all military organizations are prone to do...but the British don't use nearly as much as the Americans do. Like I said, its more of a cultural observation than anything else.

    Heavy armored vehicles (Tanks and Armored Personnel Carriers) don't just start up and drive off. Huge diesel engines roar to life, belching oily black smoke from their exhausts, as the armored hulk of the vehicle rumbles and shutters. The engines rev up, the vehicle shifts into gear with a heavy, metallic "CLANK" as the armored behemoth lurches forward and starts moving forward with its heavy, steel tracks flowing end over end as they roll over the wheels. The rolling tracks sink into the soft earth, leaving deep trenches in the vehicle's wake.

    Artillery and Tank Cannons don't just fire. The weapons THUNDER, with a huge muzzle blast that sends dirt and debris flying through the air in front of the weapon and a concussive blast forceful enough to knock you off your feet if you are too close to the muzzle end. Not wearing hearing protection will leave you hearing bells and/or deaf. Artillery pieces rock on their carriages with the force of firing, but tanks are heavy enough to absorb the recoil.

    EVERY army complains about the food. Its one of the universal laws of being a soldier and its expected.

    EVERY army complains about shortages of supplies (food, ammo, fuel, whatever you need, you can expect to not have it at some point).

    Running through mud isn't running. Its sloshing, with sticky mud sucking at your boots with every step, slowing you down and making you easier for the enemy to shoot.

    Incoming attacks never happen when its a good time for you. You are either asleep, eating chow, taking a dump, in the shower with shampoo in your eyes, etc.

    A percentage of each group of villagers you meet are informants for the taliban and you and your men need to keep talk to friendly, NON-TACTICAL subjects only.

    Grenades are typically used for enclosed spaces (inside of vehicles, bunkers, buildings, tunnels, etc.). Grenade explosions are LOUD, you can feel the shockwave in the ground and turn a lot of dirt and dust into smoke that boils out of windows, cracks in the walls and holes in the roof. Shrapnel isn't usually what kills the enemy with a grenade, its the sudden overpressure of the explosion turning their internals into jelly.

    Getting shot isn't like it is depicted on television. It feels like you've been hit with a baseball bat and will knock you off your feet. If it penetrates your body armor, a slug will break bones as it passes through you, inhibiting your ability to stand, use your arms, etc. Punctured organs are function specific to their damage. Severed arteries will bleed out and cause death in a matter of seconds if the blood loss isn't stopped with direct pressure or a tourniquet.

    No matter where you are in Afghanistan, it is either too hot or too cold.
     
    2 people like this.
  9. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    LuleƄ, Sweden

    I hope you seen the award winning Afghan war documentary Armadillo. It Danish, following danish soldiers (Denmark is the nation that has lost most soldiers per capita in the conflict).

    Lot of accurate descriptions of military life and actual combat footage.

    But see that you get a English sub version.
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I'll be sure to check that out, what I've decided is that rather than write my combat scene right into my novel, I'll write it out separately and post it to here for review. That way I can make it perfect before I insert it in.

    Thanks to all.
     
  11. mraverageguy
    Offline

    mraverageguy Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    I might not be the best writer in the world but I am currently joining the British Army, so I do have some knowledge of things such as weapons, rank etc. Although the key word being "joining" and so I can't actually give you hands on experience just yet!

    If there are any specific questions you have I will do my best to address them?
     
  12. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Thanks mate, I'll just PM you with specific questions. Most of them will be weapon specs/procedural questions and the like.
     
  13. goldhawk
    Offline

    goldhawk Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    The Great White North
    Peter Jackson on the battle of Helm's Deep:

    "We found when we were cutting, you really needed to follow you main characters, your principle characters. If we had two or three shots of stunt guys fighting, you wanted to come back to one of your heroes.

    "I think with any battle sequence, there has to be a fundamental purpose to the battle. If it's a global, strategic kind of purpose, you're trying to defend your castle because this person wants to take your castle, it's not compelling. And that's really what we had with Helm's Deep. When we were beginning to cut it together, it was just an attack on a castle. We felt strongly that we needed to make the battle have more a human quality, that there had to be more of an emotional reason for the battle to take place.

    "So when we did our pickups for the Two Towers, we spent a day during our pickup shoot actually filming a group of actors and extras being terrified, huddled refugees, hearing the sounds of battle, reacting to various moments of the battle, suddenly, it had a purpose. I mean to have Viggo standing on the ramparts, drawing a sword, facing the Uriks[sic], and then you cut into the huddled women and children in the cave, and then back to Viggo, you felt, Wow, this guy is defending his people."

    Peter Jackson on the Battle of Helm's Deep, "Editorial: Refining the Story" [12:27], Special Extended DVD Edition, disc 4, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers.


    Although you can jump around as quickly in a book as movies can, you must keep reminding your readers what is at stake. And you, at times, describe the battle from an distant observer, you should return to what your heroes are doing so that your readers won't lose interest.
     
  14. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I need some help, I'm wondering whether to create a new thread and then post the scene there? It's incomplete but I need help on description...
     
  15. goldhawk
    Offline

    goldhawk Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    108
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    The Great White North
    It's best to post new questions in a new thread. If you tack it on an existing thread, only those subscribed to the thread would read it. Those not subscribe are not likely to read an addition to a thread they not interested in.
     
  16. Thom
    Offline

    Thom Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    8
    Personalize it. Sometime it's good not to try and cover the whole arc of the battle, but just a single person or platoon.
     

Share This Page