1. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    How to write giant battle scenes?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Dagolas, Dec 15, 2012.

    How should one write a big battle scene, like two armies facing each other? Should you concentrate on what's happening to several parts of the army, or just several important people? Should you use short, dynamic sentences or long descriptive ones?
     
  2. SuttonMichael254
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    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

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    it would depend on what point of view the writing is done in. In first person you can really only concentrate on what the MC can see and do. 3rd can concentrate on a wider spectrum. Both can be done effectivly though.
     
  3. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    IMO, you should always keep your central characters in focus, and only break away very occasionally to see how the rest of the battle is going on around them. Even then, try where possible to see those other events in a way which shows how they will affect your central characters.

    In general, I would use shorter, snappier prose for the action, with longer sentences for when I want to highlight a particularly important event in the battle.

    It's not just shorter sentences though. It helps to 'intercut' more rapidly from one area of battle to other areas of battle. In cinema, it's something the Star Wars films do to good effect towards their ends. They have several theatres of action, and the story of the battles switch between the theatres regularly. In writing, I would do it by switching MC POV quite a lot, accelerating the action towards the end of the battle by using shorter and shorter sections for each theatre. It can be done by having lots of chapters, but I favour using a separator in the text - something like a group of asterisks on their own, like so *****.
     
  4. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I just finished two different battles, and a pair of space navy battles too, and while the numbers are smaller, that same I can be done. What I did, not only to make it more interesting to the reader, and to keep it from ending in 2k words was to show a POV from both sides. I took the commander of the enemy, then showed my lead Warrior Talia's POV a lot, but then put, on the ground battles, one or two of her sister's experiences in the same battle.

    That way you can show the enemies story too, which the reader would like to know, and get a couple of perspectives to show the battle. Plus, every death doesn't have to be told or you'd be there for ten thousand pages. If you need to some examples of how to pull it off, I'd be willing to give you help on that.

    There some who say use just short sentences, while others will say use long sentences. It depends on your ability to put the action to paper with words. While short sentences are "snappy" they can lack the punch of showing events. So, that part falls into writer preference. I myself? I tend to use both. Particularly when doing naval battles because they're by nature more complex then ground battles. In space, that's became C and C are harder due to communications-unless you have FTL coms like I do-along with missiles, beam weapons, etc, etc. Ground battles can be anything from complex magic based one to simplistic (for some things like naval battles) of firearms.

    Depends on what type you're working on. But I've just finished for very, very solid battles in my rough draft, so they're examples there if need be.
     
  5. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    So basically concentrate on heroes pov.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    READ literature that contains such large scale clashes. Pay attention to how well each one brings about the feelings you wish to evoke among your readers.

    Let that be your blueprint.
     
  7. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    Are you talking about a contemporary battle or something along the lines of a sci-fi/fantasy war? Is the battle crucial to the plot or the character....or both? You could do a wide panorama of the battle or focus in on your characters part in it. Please give a little more information on the battle and the characters. I have written a lot of battle scenes and have a lot of military knowledge/experience. I'd love to help
     
  8. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I have written one novel where a big battle has taken place and i wrote mine from perspective of the American soldiers who were in the battle since it was a battle in a war that American soldiers fought.
     
  9. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Battle of the Blackwater from the second book of A Song of Ice and Fire might give you some help. The battle is a siege of the capital in the world, extends over several chapters, and includes multiple points of view from both sides of the battle.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A lot depends on what you are trying to portray. Large scale battles in modern warfare have been extremely complex, and so presenting them in detail is a daunting task. "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara is a depiction of the Battle of Gettysburg, while Herman Wouk presented a more limited view of the Battle of Midway in "The Winds of War".
     
  11. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    If you are going at it from multiple POVs, be careful to keep your actions and timelines accurate. What are your characters seeing, both within close proximity and in the distance? Are the protagonists and antagonists near each other? Look at it from both sides to get a more rounded picture. Use key events to synchronize characters' actions and reactions. Layer your pieces and keep the order of POVs consistent. It should flow like a well choreographed dance.

    - Darkkin, the Tedious
     
  12. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    one option that might be useful is to just tell the battle from your characters POV, then have then find out what happened elsewhere latter.
    as said above switching between characters or having a character in a command potion can help.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll go along with what Cogito indicated.

    Find novels you've enjoyed that have battle scenes similar to what you'd like to include in your novel (scope, content, level of action, etc.). Examine the POV, to see if it fits (ie: First person POV vs. Third Person Limited, etc.)

    Read and study them, taking note of how action, switches, time, POV is worked with. Note descriptions, dialogue, action, senses used to relay the storyline/action. Note word choice, sentence length, scene breaks, use of contractions, pronouns, action verbs, etc.

    Then, from what you've learned, apply the lessons and techniques to your own story and writing style.

    I really think that's the best way to accomplish it. It's what I've used. I don't think there is a blog post answer that can provide the detail required to your specific situation, Dagolas.
     
  14. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    I'd love to read that scene :)
     
  15. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    What scene?
     
  16. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I think Cognito said it best. If you're writing sci-fi, check out some war styled fiction in that genre, while at the same time, don't ignore fantasy. They can give melee styled combat sequences a good layout and feel. Also, you might try reading some history. Such as Roman campaigns, tribal warfare, city-state warfare, that type of thing. History can tell you what worked, how it worked, and why. If you can write historical accounts, and make it so that it becomes a story instead of just history, then you'll probably be able to write your large scale battles.
     
  17. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    That's not necessarily hard to do. Ground battles are an easy flip back and forth. Here's a generic order. allied attack-enemy commander reaction and orders-allied moves-officer to officer on allied side-enemy commander reaction and orders-allied attack.

    That's not an exact of preordained order, just a generic idea of how to do POV. That's how I did my ground battle, but naval battle was similar. I started with my MC and actions to a point, flipped to enemy commander and showed her reaction to MC's vessels arrival and then initial communications, back to MC's ship getting missile lock, back to enemy when they detect missile lock and then detecting launch before returning fire, back to MC's ship as they leave the ship and are guided by tactical towards the target, then switch to enemy right before the salvo hits and then show the results, back to MC for the impact of the Salvo, then back to enemy and their forced surrender.

    Battle scenes are good to have POV switches in because so much is happening. Keep in mind, it'll use up at lot of your word count so it becomes a balancing act.
     

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