1. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    How to Write a Magical Battle?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by astrostu, Jun 22, 2011.

    I'm working on the 11th chapter of a 13-chapter "short" story and this chapter is pretty much entirely a battle sequence. And since it's fantasy, here's the BASIC outline:

    - Very powerful warlock is attacking a glen of elves who refused help from 3 witches/wizards who warned them since the elves think they're powerful enough to resist.

    - Warlock is (as stated) very powerful and channeling energy from a demon (though he doesn't actually know this).

    - The three witches confront him as he disspells the illusion that hides the elves.

    - Battle ensues between warlock and 3 witches, the elves not really being able to defend themselves other than commanding the forest (e.g., think the trees moving in Narnia).

    - They're losing, when other magic creatures generally associated with forests come to help (specifically fairies, gnomes, and centaurs (nymphs can't fight effectively in my framework)).

    - Now they're winning and the warlock is pinned.

    - Demon makes his entrance.

    - The magic folk scatter, elves run and hide, and the three witches are left facing the demon.

    I can write the rest since it'll be mostly dialogue and I know exactly what I want to happen (and that's the end of ch. 11).

    In my head, this is very much like the first Narnia movie battle. But I don't want to do what Lewis did and not even mention it except as an "oh, and then a battle happened." I want there to be something there. But I don't want it to be a boring blow-by-blow account. If it were a movie, it'd be much easier ;).

    Any suggestions/tips on how to write this to be engaging with fire throwing, spell flinging, potions hurtling, energy balls wizzing, and that just being from the warlock and witches?
     
  2. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    Take the spells perspective:

    Instead of saying "Bob cast fireball"

    say: " A fire ball flung from bob's palm"

    or even better : "A red orb of energy flew out of the palm of bob's hand"

    basically show don't tell.
     
  3. Suadade
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    Suadade Senior Member

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    Magic is among my favorite things to write because you can be so abstract about it. But abstraction might not work so well in conjunction with a straightforward battle sequence...

    ... or does it?

    In any case, how long do you intend this chapter to be? Action scenes in writing are fine, so long as they don't go on too long. As far as writing the scene goes, try to be suspenseful about it. In movies action scenes can just be pretty to look at, but for a written one to be interesting there has to be an emotional stake. If the reader cares about the characters and cares for the outcome of the battle, then it will (or can, I should say) be interesting. Otherwise, not so much.
     
  4. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't write it from an over-head perspective; write it from the viewpoint of one of the characters participating in the battle. From that viewpoint, the battle should be confusing, scary, tense, and so on. Perhaps the PoV character doesn't get the full picture of the battle until the end.
     
  5. J.P.Clyde
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    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

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    Personally, as a writer I always find writing battle scenes written in first person awkward. And strange. It isn't like its something people focus on. I mean I wouldn't narrate, "and now the warm engulfs my hand and I can feel the power..." cause it just feels awkward.

    I think bigger picture is a better idea.

    Colormap, has a good idea.
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking more like this:
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Instead of just summarizing who made what moves, focus on the strategies, plans, setbacks etc from your MC's perspective. Make us want to root for them, and make us feel like we're there. Appeal to the 5 senses.
     
  8. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would suggest focusing on the characters first of all. It doesn't really matter what kind of weapon they use. Magic, swords, hand to hand, laser guns, it's all the same. The important part is to get the impact of the battle and let us know how the characters feel about all of it, like it was a "real" battle.

    And btw you might want to loose that demon in the end. The heroes almost win, then suddenly loose? Such a cliché. Why not let the demon show up earlier in the battle instead? It would make it a lot more interesting. Still a cliché, but better at least.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the POV used to tell the story, first off.

    Second, it depends on the magic, type and how it is employed and its effects or results.

    Pick up several of your favorite authors' works that are similar to what you're trying to do. Observe how they did it. Paced, described, used different character perspectives.

    Apply it to your style and particular situation.

    Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, especially the 2nd and 3rd in the series would be good. Steven Brust's Dragon would as well.

    That's how I did it for my novel (I studied Donaldson, Burst, Zelazny and Hamilton) as my combat sequences involve not only magic vs. magic and physical combat, but magical creatures and relatively modern military equipment, from artillery and chlorine gas to muzzle-loading rifles and WW II era panzers.

    If I can do it, you can do it.

    Studying other authors' works takes longer but you'll pick up techniques and the skill that you can hone and improve over the years--not only for this project but for many others yet to come.
     
  10. PastPresentNFuture
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    PastPresentNFuture Senior Member

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    I would say,develop your chracters more. You should have an idea of what their personalities, are and how they feel towards this battle. Are they frightened? Do they enjoy it? etc
     
  11. Contacaton
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    Contacaton New Member

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    It may be cliche, but when you think about it, it does kind of make sense depending on the context. The demon would have more important things to do than to fight all the warlock's battles for him, and would only really take notice if the warlock was in real trouble. This, of course, hinges on the warlock being an absolutely pivotal servant in the demon's plans, as it's not going to be personally aiding every cutthroat and thief that does it's bidding.
     
  12. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your magic users are flinging spells everywhere so remember to write the effects of the spells realistically. An explosing fireball will not only burn things, but it is going to unleash a lot of heat. Being near a lightning bolt, whether it hits a person or not, will probably cause your hair to stand up on end due to the static in the hair. If a person or item gets frozen solid and they topple to the ground, they will shatter appart.

    Make certain you stay within the rules you have set for your magic. Those rules are what makes your magic believable.
     
  13. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    As ellipse said be realistic about your magic. If magic takes a lot of energy to use then fireballs aren't going to be flying everywhere. Physical combat will be used as well. In the book I'm writing I have a Necromancer character but he fights with a sword as well as magic because of the effort in spell casting. Consider stuff like that.
     
  14. T.N.Korgan
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    T.N.Korgan New Member

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    For my fight scenes, especially my big ones, I'd map out attacks and movements. It helped me see what was going on even though in the end I maybe only used half of it because I was writing firstperson. It helped me know when my character hit, was hit, or distracted by a teammate/battlemate. Also try writing multiple fight scenes and use the one that comes out best.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A little off the topic, but short stories aren't divided into chapters, as a rule. What you are describing us probably more a novella, which you'll find a very limioted market, if you care at all about publishing the story.
     
  16. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I was actually looking over the Battle for Hogwarts and I remember what I didn't like about it in the book but that I think worked well for a book: She really didn't describe what was going on battle-wise, it was much more about the characters. Unfortunately, that approach doesn't quite work well in this case, but I think I'll try for that, as many of you suggested.

    To answer a few questions and respond to a few things:

    The intention of this is to be a chapter long. Chapter opens with the three MCs standing waiting and talking nervously and then the warlock entering in and starting everything. That said, each chapter has averaged around 3000 words, but I've already written the next chapter and it's about 1200. So, 1000-4000 words. ;)

    I switch voice a fair amount in my novel from first person to third, but I agree that with everyone fighting here, I don't think first person limited is the voice I want to go with.

    I like the idea of strategizing and discussing it from that point rather than the nitty details, Mallory. That would also let me focus more on what the characters are doing and what they're feeling when thwarted as opposed to the dry stick figures on a map approach. And PastPresentNFuture, the entire preceding chapter on battle planning is really mostly characterization.

    Yes, in my world, magic does require energy. So potions are going to be thrown by one character a lot more than spells. (That's actually one thing I don't like about HP.) I think having some of the other tertiary characters fighting with physical weapons could work well.

    I think I will try to map it out so I can write it more realistically as opposed to a stream-of-consciousness.

    I realize the good guys almost winning and then the biggest bad guy coming in at the end and turning the tide may be cliché, but it's all that can be done within the rules I've established: Demons (and their good side counterparts) CANNOT interfere directly without risking war between themselves (this fits into the background mythology I've been working on for several years). Demons of course bend the rules, but never break them (until the climax of my main novel, which this is not). I need the demon to come in at the end so that one of my MCs can die to trigger the other to sacrifice themselves to save everyone else when it seems absolutely hopeless. And yes, the warlock is basically the demon's stooge here, though he has his own motivation as he was promised acquiring all the elves' magic if he could destroy them.

    And Cogito ... short story, novella, whatever. :) I'm writing it more for me than for any third-party publisher. This "document" is going to be roughly 28,000-30,000 words.
     

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