1. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    looking for advice

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sophia_esteed, Jun 20, 2009.

    I'm at the point where the final battle is supposed to take place.
    Only, I'm not very well-versed at describing subtle and complicated military strategies, but I don't want for the final battle to be just a pretty flash-boom-bang-no-real-substance-thingy either.
    I want for it to be epic and memorable and for a fair bit of strategy to be mixed-in with the action, not forgetting the commanding officers'/crews' reactions.
    So I was wondering what would be a good starting point to treat the subject?
    Are there any particular works I can read that could help me? :confused:
     
  2. lovely
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    lovely Member

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    What type of battle is it? Is it a magical battle or a military battle? Also, how many participants?
     
  3. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, I've been in this position before. I keep trying to write the battle, but write crap. Still, I have a few tips and good phrases you can use.

    I need to know the weaponry of the people fighting, and why they're fighting, though. Also, how skilled in the general/soldier focuses on?
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    With commanding officers/crews mentioned, is this a naval battle? A space battle?

    What is the size/scope and ultimate implications of victory or defeat? For example, is it a last stand, a suprise offensive, a trap?

    What is the POV used? Who are the POV character(s)?

    As indicated More information is needed to really assist.

    Terry
     
  5. SingToMeMuse
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    SingToMeMuse Member

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    I've got a couple battle scenes in my book and one is from a bystanders perspective watching the mayhem unfold and another is from the perspective of a fighter in the battle.
    I suggest picking one particular character to stick with and show all the strategy unfolding, the commanders reactions, the people who fall etc. etc. that way you can get all the glory and the horror but still have the emotion from that one characters taking in of it all.
    As for a starting point, I began my first battle scene with a sensory description of my characters feet stepping in the blood soaked dirt as he walked toward the battle as a kind of calm before the storm.
    I wish I had some excerpts from other works I could show but at the moment I'm coming up empty.
    Good luck!
     
  6. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    Although it would really help if we knew more about the battle - the POV, the weapons used, the situation all around - one thing I am almost certain is that you shouldn't go describing too much the "subtle and complicated military strategies". If one of your characters, for example, starts talking way too long about how to outsmart an enemy, like "If they do A we better do B and counteract C by using D with the hopes that their E can be forestalled by our forces at F", it basically turns into infodumping and just plain useless text.

    Of course, if your POV is just some normal soldier on the battlefield - or even that of a general, actually - don't waste too much time over them doing some epic speech or having some philosophical thinking about war. Again, you'll have to get to the action and tension as quickly as you can.
     
  7. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Ah, sorry, I should have put more info from the start.
    It's a space battle in which there're three main opposing forces.
    Two of them are allied and they attack the third force.
    The third force is concentrated all around and protects its HQ, while the aim of the other two is to conquer and dismantle the third force's HQ.
    All of the forces posses a large starfleet, with many kind of vessels, from cruiser/frigate-class to star destroyer-class and dreadnoughts. And all of them make use of squadrons of smaller but swifter starfighters.
    For the battle, I thought I would show both the skirmishes between the larger vessels and starfighter battles, mixed-in-between. But I would also like to show what's going on onboard the ships, on the brigde and also the starship's captain's decisions. And I would like to use different points of view, like that of the Fed ship's captain, the Midgard's fleet commander and the enemy's commander and also there'll be dialogues between pilots.
    It'll be a large battle and a long and exhausting one, with smaller victories and setbacks and things will work out only at the end.
    It's not like I have no ideas as to what to put in it, but I'm at a loss as where to start from and then how to regulate the unfolding of the battle, without it resulting in some chaotic magma of pointless flashy action which will end to confuse the writer and reader both.
     
  8. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I noted you said there were "skirmishes", in the plural, so I'm assuming there's a lot of small battles going on - and some time inbetween them?

    If that's true, then you can think of each skirmish as a mini-battle in and of itself.

    I'll take an example from one of my favorites, the Chinese classic the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The largest battle (The Battle of Chibi) in the book occurs over the span of at least 10 chapters (and these aren't tiny chapters, either). What happens? In the first few chapters, although many of the generals are planning, there's skirmishes going on, and the generals are just testing each other to see each others' capabilities. Basically, there's a pattern for these skirmishes - there's a situation to set up the skirmish, the skirmish occurs, and then the result of the skirmish happens, which probably would set up the situation for the next mini-battle. But these mini-battles all have consequences that finally set up the chain of events for the large, hugest battle, in which one army is completely routed. And note they aren't routed because they just lost like *snap*, but because of the many events and consequences that happened before.

    The "inbewteen" time, when there's no battle, is an excellent time to show some character development (and, as this is the end of your novel, perhaps to show how some characters have changed and some have not). Show generals on the same side arguing about what to do, and maybe even leading each other to reckless decisions. Show enemy generals taunting each other, and maybe someone giving in. That kind of thing.
     
  9. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I love the idea of writing an intense battle scene... unfortunately I haven't managed to yet, though I've only tried twice and not very seriously. Anywho...

    If you don't want to get into *too* much work researching this, you could take on the perspective of a random crewmember on a larger ship. Not only would you then be able to avoid the strategery of a huge battle with three massive fleets, but you could explore/display a bit more what it's like for a common soldier, one who probably isn't even battle hardened yet. Like depending on the tech you're using, you could use a gunner. I'm picturing decks with rows of guns like wooden ships in the future, with powerful laser batteries instead of cannons. Each gunner has a clear and frightening view of the battle, the incoming fire. Also, since they're near the wall it'd be a pretty harrowing and dangerous job. opposing fire would be slamming into the shield directly in front of them, or making it through and slamming into the wall, finally breaking through that. They'd also have to deal with potential boarding, if the enemy decides to cut through the hull.

    What I'm getting at is you'd have a different perspective than one might expect for a grand battle, but you could also capture the emotions of fear, terror, confusion, etc. in a hectic fast-action spot.


    Now if you'd rather do the overhead viewpoint, not even focusing on individual ships, or just viewing the commander's bridge where he directs it all, I can give you a few basics that you can't really go wrong with.

    If you have two fleets with 4 basic ship sizes (fighter, cruisers, frigates, then battleships) the tactics would be very much like a modern naval battle involving two fleets which include aircraft carriers.
    The fighters are in the thick of the fight, two (or more) swarms tangling with each other. The goal is to attack the other ship with some sort of bomber, and protect your own. So there's two types of fighters really.

    Cruisers have a slightly sneakier job. They need try to flank the enemy and strike from there. The idea is to attack from multiple fronts.

    Frigates are more defensive, as the battleships (and aircraft carriers for the navy) are not as well equipped to fight close-range. But frigates can also slowly advance the battle line, with moderately strong shields and capabilities. It'd require more than a passive hit to take them down.

    Battleships have long-ranged capabilities and can take a lot of damage, but aren't equipped to defend themselves in a close skirmish. They hang in the back, usually with the commander on board, using their powerful batteries.


    This isn't based on anything, that's simply what I feel is right as I am more than passively interested in battle tactics. But it should work for you even if it's not quite correct.

    Good luck, Nate
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    From what you describe, obviously one of the POV characters would likely to be a captain of one of the major vessels (capital ships), such as a carrier of some sort, possibly from one of the two allied fleets.

    The captain would receive reports from his navigator and tactical officer.

    He would receive communications from other ships and even allies.

    He could send orders and get reports to fighter/attack squadrons, as well as ships escorting his large one.

    His thoughts and tactical assessment would relay much to the reader.

    The only thing he may not be able to give would be the personal human suffering and cost, unless his vessel were severely damaged, boarded by the enemy, and/or destroyed.

    Maybe he'd escape to a secondary ship, already heavily damaged.


    Just a few thoughts that might help.

    Terry
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What most SF writers fail to do in space battles is understand and convey the scale. There are vast distances involved, and it takes time for shots to travel to the target. Even light-based weapons may take seconds to reach their targets, and it's relatively easy to take advantage of that to evade statically targeted weapons.

    A laser can't adjust its path to anticipate enemy random course changes; by the time you see the target, it's somewhere else. So either you must close in, or use smart physical weapons that can lock in on the target and correct course.

    Even if you close in from hundreds of thousands of miles to mere tens of miles, targeting is not trivial. Energy weapons like lasers make more sense at such close ranges, but you are still talking about tiny targets and high velocities.

    Make good use of time and scale. You can build tension into that as well, without having to keep up with the pace needed for a swordfight. Te advantage is that with a slower pace, you can make more use of description. Your battles can be grand and majestic rather than flash boom zing.
     
  12. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Wow, thanks to all of you!
    Now I have lots of material to start working from.
     
  13. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    Remember in space there are no directions, so parts of the battle could be happening perpendicular to other parts.

    Secondly as Cog pointed out maneuvering ships takes time because of the distances involved, so battles would hardly be the fast and furious affairs Hollywood would have you believe, the would be more like prolonged submarine chases; much waiting interspaced with brief flashes of actual combat.

    Now anyone who has seen films like Das Boot will know that a submarine is not a nice place to be when things go wrong. Imagine what a spaceship would be like? There’s a hull breach, but unlike on a submarine water does not come flooding in, instead anyone or anything nearby will be sucked out into space. The internal gravity systems may damaged so nothing stays put, the ship is out of control and to regain it the captain must maneuver himself through a floating field of debris, while the ship continues to be bombarded with laser fire.
     
  14. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    Cog, I respectfully disagree. I hope no one minds :)

    Yes, there is much more distance and relatively smaller targets to hit, given the infinite battlefield. But heated battles are still very possible. For one thing, hitting the enemy isn't so hard actually because manual/automatic steering aside, there are technologies like a space version of GPS. If you know where your enemy is, you can shoot at him. Missing is a matter of system malfunctions, or the miscalculation of the target's or your own movements. And despite larger distances, the battle would naturally consolidate into a tighter area as the initial fury of the beginning dies down. Either the attacking force gradually closes in on the target, (aka a planet) or the defender pushes back and separates clusters of the attackers, where smaller fast paced battles would take place.

    As for speed, spaceships travel quickly. That's the whole concept behind interplanetary , intersystemary, and intergalactic travel. Big ships with powerful engines move up rapidly, then send out the smaller ships which can't travel as fast without warp engines or whatever technology you choose.

    Nate
     

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