1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Creating and describing settings for a battle scene

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Meteor, Nov 12, 2013.

    Hello and thank you for taking the time to view this thread. Today I'm here asking about settings for a battle field centered around duels since my story follows mainly just two person engagements. How can I make these types of settings more interesting in themselves and how descriptive should I be about the "arena" before hand? I was never exactly good with this aspect of my stories and usually just give a very brief description of a charred landscape or something. Thank you again for taking the time to view this and any advice is much more than appreciated. I apologize in advance if I've posted this in the wrong place and please direct me to the right threads if I have. Thank you again. :)
     
  2. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    There isn't really any set standard for whether you should describe the surroundings in a battle, although it can obviously add to the tension in some cases, and sometimes plays an important part in the battle (someone could trip, be forced against the wall, trip into a pit of snakes Lol) and that's just something to ponder.
    Also, I feel it is good to use description in some cases, where they actually add to the scene itself rather than just adding to the word count, where it can build up tension, (eg. Describing the cheering of the crowds in the arena stands, etc) or creates an emotion in the reader; maybe anxiety from a character's train of thought after seeing something of the arena, or landscape. Anyway, to conclude, I like to vary, and use the description in one fight, and then in the next, maybe use just brief sentences here and there, but have the majority as actual action.
    If you don't agree, please feel free to reply. Nothing stated above is being claimed to be true, it is purely my personal opinion regarding the subject :)
     
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  3. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    I gotta say thanks for the advice Dazen. It was pretty helpful and I'm actually a lot happier with the way the scene is playing out as opposed to before now. Thanks again :)
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, Meteor, it depends on the POV you're using.

    If it's first person POV, it's going to be limited to what the POV character sees, hears, smells, etc. If he/she receives information before hand, that could be added. With personal combat, really, not much else that's going on will be recognized or remarked upon by the POV character as their life at the moment, depends upon the duel they're engaged in--unless it in some way intrudes or interferes.

    If it's third person limited, there is of course a little more leeway in description and what's going on nearby. Omniscient, POV, the sky is the limit, but the further away you stray, the less emphasis and importance the duel will take on in the scope of the overall battle--unless in truth everything hinges upon the result of the individual combats.

    It's difficult to say how much detail and information to provide. I don't think there's a % of words or content that should be 'devoted' to this or that. It's more of a feel, the best way to relay the story and action to the reader. Take a look at some of your favorite authors who have combat/battles similar to what you're trying to accomplish. See what they incorporated and described, how and when they did it--maybe try to determine why. Then apply that knowledge to your writing style and the project you're working on.

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
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  5. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Not much to add to what others have already said, but just a few thoughts:
    I tend to focus on the things that help create the mood I want. If I'm going for desolate and depressing, e.g, I'll include a few little details about the surroundings that support that kind of a mood. If I want the scene to be dark, dirty, and gruesome, I'll mention a few details that help create that tone. If I want it to be a happy-go-lucky swashbuckling tussle, I'll throw in something that sets that kind of a mood.

    Other than that, I usually focus on the fight, how the POV character experiences it, how he/she feels, what they are thinking before SHTF, and, of course, what actually happens in the fight. To me, it's all about creating a certain mood, whatever I want it to be for a given scene, but keep it pretty compact because the surroundings are usually there only to set the tone whereas the "meat" of the scene revolves around what the characters are doing and experiencing. That usually helps make the scene more intense, which is usually my main goal: to drag the reader right into the thick of it, make the reader feel like they are watching a real fight from a few feet away, give the reader that adrenaline rush you get when violence erupts close to you.
     
  6. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    What kind of duel are we talking here?

    Is it two people who happen to come across each other in the midst of a much larger battle? Or two people simply engaged in one on one combat, with no other conflict around them? And again, if it's the latter, what kind of set-up? Is it to the death or not? How many people are watching? Is it for sport, or something else?
     
  7. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Thanks again for all the advice guys and for your answer TLK, its a one on one. My MC is seeking out his enemy after accepting a contract to rescue someone who was kidnapped.
     
  8. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    If it's fantasy, maybe you could look for the screenplays of tv shows that have something similar, and get some inspiration from that. For example shows like Merlin and the new Atlantis always have people being kidnapped and the MC having to rescue them.
     
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  9. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    It also depends on how formalised the dueling is. If it is the swords or pistols at dawn scenario then the environment will not affect or be affected by the combat.

    If it's the Hollywood style musketeer duel with lots of running around and jumping on barrels, then you need a more colourful and prop filled arena.

    If the fight can take place anywhere the MC comes across the enemy, then it can be in the middle of uninvolved crowds of innocent bystanders, such as in a marketplace or even in the middle of a religious ceremony. Then you have to decide how much (if any) collateral damage is acceptable and whether hostages can be used as shields.

    Finally you have the straight forward assassination. Here you will have peaceful scenes shocked by sudden but isolated and brief moments of violence.
     
  10. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Okay, here's the deal: you're not in the story. You're not on the scene. And every time you open your mouth to talk about anything, there's nothing going on in the story. So you're an annoyance—or at least are at risk of becoming one, because your reader isn't visiting you to be told a story. Storytelling is a performance skill and no matter how hard you try, the reader won't hear the emotion in your voice, see the gestures and expressions, or notice that meaningful pause for breath.

    And no matter how clearly you see the scene in your mind you can't make the reader see it because even a static picture would take the traditional thousand words. That's four standard manuscript pages and at the end it's a still picture. And of more importance, nothing has happened for four pages,

    To describe something in detail, you have to stop the action. But without the action, the description has no meaning.” ~Jack Bickham

    There are lots of tricks that can make the reader see that scene, though—to the point where they can feel the afternoon heat tightening the skin on their face as they squint against the sun. You can make the reader hate the one who faces them, yet fear his skill with a knife at the same time.

    But you really don't think the craft; the understanding of the nuances of POV; the knowledge of how to hook and hold the reader can be boiled down to a few words in a post, I hope. If it was, we'd all be rich and famous. Writing's easy. Writing well is a bitch. Writing fiction for the printed word, like any other profession, takes time, mentoring, study, and sweat to master. As has been said many times, it cannot be taught. It can only be learned. And that's your job. Lots of people have worked hard to place useful information where you can find it and profit by exposure to it. There are classes, workshops, retreats, books, online articles, and more. And, there's lots of misinformation available, too. so you need to be careful that your source is both knowledgeable and reliable.

    A great place to begin is the public library's fiction writing section. And in that, a good name to look for is Jack Bickham's.

    After all, if you learn a little bit every day, and write just a little better every day, and live long enough...
     
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