1. Pixieshield
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    Pixieshield New Member

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    How do I write a battle sequence while introducing my characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Pixieshield, May 12, 2014.

    Hey guys, like the title says, I'm trying to write a battle sequence between two groups who have magical abilities while introducing my characters, except whenever I focus on the battle it just seems that random people with no relevance go flying, and when I focus on the characters the significance of the battle is lost. I don't know what to do and would really appreciate some help.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    How many characters are you planning to introduce in this scene? If you focus on only one or two of them, you should be able to pull this off. If, however, you're trying to introduce a whole regiment, you're going to struggle.

    We're not likely to care much about a battle if we don't know the characters or context.

    Some folks think that starting with a battle is very 'exciting' and will get the reader hooked. That's not necessarily the case. In fact it's probably not the best way to start a story at all.

    Did you see the film Lord of the Rings? Do you remember how it started? Some backstory about Middle Earth, then the great battle where Sauron lost his ring? Did we give a hoot about anybody in that battle? Probably not. Fortunately it was a quick sequence. (A sequence that was NOT presented like that in the book, fortunately.) We could easily have got up, left the theatre at that point, and not been the least bit upset about not finding out what happened next.

    Instead, we got 'hooked' when we met Frodo, then Gandalf, visited Hobbiton, met Bilbo, went to the party, etc.

    Compare that opening battle with the battles that followed. The battle between the Fellowship and the orcs in Moria, for example. OMIGOD ...and a major character was killed ...we really cared, didn't we? And the Battle of Helm's Deep, where Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, King Theoden and the others fought to exhaustion to keep the citadel from being overwhelmed ...and the exhilarating finish to THAT battle ...etc.

    See what I'm getting at? A battle doesn't matter if we don't care about the characters. You can get away with a short battle as a starter, but it's no more exciting than watching a few people eating lunch, if we don't know anything about the context. And it's potentially a hell of a lot more confusing to present a complex battle than people eating lunch. It's usually best to introduce the characters differently, so we care about them when they get embroiled in a battle.

    The one example I can think of that flouts this convention, and does it in a memorable fashion, is the opening chapter of Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, The Blade Itself. It opens with a battle ...but it's a one-to-one battle, and we are directly in the head of one of the characters, Logen Ninefingers. It works a treat. There is (or was) fighting going on around Logen, but we're not really involved in anybody else's struggle. It's just Logen and his Shanka opponent. It's a cracking scene. One of the best opening scenes I've read in a long time. You might want to take a look at it.

    Anyway, I think the fact that you're having such problems with your opener idea means you might want to rethink it. From the ground up.
     
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  3. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    All I can add is that if you are wedded to an opening battle, you could write the battle from one character's POV and what the other characters mean to her/him. That way you can put in brief asides that shouldn't disrupt the flow of the battle.
    For example:
    "She glimpsed him through the clouds, flying straight and true as a silver arrow, dividing the cumulus before him. Even as the pyrotechnics roared across the sky, thunderbolts and fireballs streaking inches past his determined face, she knew he would not turn, he would not falter. He had always been a strong flyer. The best of them all ..."

    This is just a very rough example but you get some history as to who the character is, and who she is and what she knows and respects, as well as keeping the momentum of battle. If you show what the characters mean to the main character, if they are lost in battle it will matter and you won't loose that whirlwind sensation of combat.
     
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  4. Pixieshield
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    Pixieshield New Member

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    Thanks Jannert I see what you mean and definitely agree with you if the characters have no context, and that's how I would've expanded it if this particular moment was part of the bigger story. However it's a, sort of sub story about the past and the battle needed to be included as it holds a significant part of how the rest of the events unfold throughout the story. So it needs to be short and sweet, but intense. Thanks though and I'll most certainly check out the First Law trilogy :)

    Frankie that really helps and it's a hell of a lot better way to write it than I had been doing (lets just say it was really, really terrible) and I needed to add significance to one of the characters and that's a perfect way to do so.

    Thanks guys you're both gems :)
     
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