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  1. lilix morgan
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    lilix morgan Contributing Member

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    Writing A Battle Scene

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by lilix morgan, Mar 18, 2009.

    So, for this little thing I've got going on, I'm kind of writing a tense battle scene just before the fight for a prologue. I'm not quite sure how to do this, because I've never written anything insanely dramatic and pulsating like that, but I'd like some advice, if possible, or tips on how to go about doing this.

    It's not meant to be huge, or massively long, but it's supposed to keep the reader excited, anticipating the event, almost to the point where they can taste it but not touch it. Here's what I have so far:

    The air was thick with charging anticipation, senses electrified beyond the wildest dreams of the imaginative. Hungry for battle, we stood together in our group, each one posed for the fight.

    Looking back onto the past few months of my life, I never would have suspected my outcome would be as it was now. I figured it could have been worse; I might not have ever met half of the people I knew today, nor understood as much as I do now. My life could have stayed in the same, mindless routine consisting of nothing but superficial tasks while a real war brewed just under my shoes.

    Unsheathing the two katanas on each side of my hips I leaned forward, staring down the enemy before me. Vast numbers, as many as two dozen, met my gaze, each one drunk with bloodlust.

    Raising my sword, I charged forward.
     
  2. ArticulatedInsanity
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    ArticulatedInsanity New Member

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    Is this all there is to your prologue? If you would like me to make some suggestions about how I would convey this scene in my own context, based on your original, then, please let me know.

    - For now, I will tell you that if you are writing about war, then, make the audience feel like they are in the thick of battle. Use imagery combined with the psychological aspect of it all. Play out what is going on in your character's mind before he engages the enemy in battle. What does he observe around him? Give your character emotions, fears, and resilience.
     
  3. joe
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    joe Member

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    I agree with Articulated Insanity (the member, not as a general rule) about making this experience more intimate. I also think the passage, especially the first two sentences, would be even more effective if you gave us some more specifics.

    Tell us what the character is seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. What are some of the finer details that he's aware of? Or describe some of the fellow warriors around him, and some of their past experiences together.

    Hope it all works out! Happy writing.
     
  4. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    Think about the moment before you have done anything that scared you. If you ski or snowboard remember that moement before you went down the hill beyond your ability. If you've ever been in a fight(one set up, not a spur of the moment one) think about what you saw before you that first punch. If you play a sport think about the championships and how as time seemed to slow down right before the ref blew the whistle. If you've ever tried to ask a girl out who you thought you were in love with, feel the heart beat in your chest and the tightness in your stomach. Write all that down, then pick pieces and put them into your story.
     
  5. lilix morgan
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    lilix morgan Contributing Member

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    Alright, taking everyone's advice (thanks much!) and running with it, I came up with this:


    The air was thick with charging anticipation, senses electrified beyond the wildest dreams of the imaginative. Hungry for battle, we stood together in our group, each one posed for the fight.

    Looking back onto the past few months of my life, I never would have suspected my outcome would be as it was now. I figured it could have been worse; I might not have ever met half of the people I knew today, nor understood as much as I do now. My life could have stayed in the same, mindless routine consisting of nothing but superficial tasks while a real war brewed just under my shoes.

    I glanced over to my left, catching sight of Kyle, his bronze hair matted against his forehead, arctic blue eyes burning with fury. Even in his stance, crouched low with his hands slightly in front of him, he gave off an air of an innocent, angelic cherub. My gut twisted as I realized there was more at stake than just my own life, but the lives of those who swore to protect me, defend me to their death.

    Unsheathing the two katanas on each side of my hips I leaned forward, staring down the enemy before me. Vast numbers, as many as two dozen, met my gaze, each one drunk with bloodlust. They may have once been like me, different from our human counterparts, but now they'd become nothing to me. An enemy, ready to be slain. Bile reached the back of my lips as my body quivered, shaking me to my core. It was now or never.

    Raising my sword, I charged forward.
     
  6. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    I would possibly incorporate the fact that there's probably more emotions involved in the scene than just anticipation and excitement. There would be fear, love, hate, anger, puzzlement, religious thoughts, these are all things that I think should be in a battle scene. Just an idea though :)
    Good luck, Nate
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I can explain best by example. Here are just a few snippets that came to my mind.

    My throat constricted, making it hard to swallow. I wanted a drink of water. I tried slowing my racing heart down by inhaling the crisp air through my nose, and breathing out my mouth. It wasn’t working.

    I glanced over to my left, catching sight of Kyle, his bronze hair matted against his forehead, arctic blue eyes burning with fury. Did his heart thrash so hard he could feel it in his temples, too?

    With trembling hands, I gripped the katanas at my sides. I clicked them from their sheaths. The solid weight of them steadied the trembling. My enemies pulled their weapons. This was it. For the next timeless moment, I could only hear the thudding of my heart, and my harsh breathing. Then all around me men yelled like raving warriors, a rush shot from my shoulders into my rubbery legs, and I charged.
     
  8. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    I still think this can be expanded. I would expect the first paragraph to give some visual and auditory images. Let us hear the creak of armor, the whispers of nervous men. Let us see the tents, the flags, the formations, even the privies. Use colorful imagery.
    I'll give it a quick try.
    The air was thick with anticipation, or perhaps it was just fumes from swamp. My armor was wet with morning due and the sun had turned the shadowy mists into ethral ghost obscuring my view of the enemy. I turned in my saddle to view the giant tents our army head set up; from vantage on the hill they seemed little more than pimples on the giants face, his beard the swamp that surrounded us, the twin lakes to the north his sad blue eyes, and my spot on his nose the place where men would soon loose any civility they had in an attempt to slaughter as many of their own kind as they could. Grey mornings like this always brought out the moralist in me.
    So that isn't the best example, but I hope it gives the idea. You want to start out slow, build up with description that give hints at what your character is feeling and as we get closer to the action, less and less description until your final line. I think your climax is great, but if you don't build it up it means nothing. It's like giving a punchline without the set up.

    I would put this paragraphs near the end, right before "I charged forward."
    These will be the thoughts your main character is likely to have the moment before charging. A last second reflection.


    This is good. Give us more like this.



    This is not so good. For one thing, two dozen is not a vast number. Second, the enemy can't meet the MC's gaze across a battlefield. It's a good image though and if the MC is imagining them staring back then it could very powerful. I would also place the description of the enemy earlier. This may be a personal thing, but I just don't see a person pulling their weapon out, an action that suggests readiness to fight, and then considering the enemy. I do like the idea of a moments pause for one last reflection in between pulling out the katana's and charging. I just think it would read better with your paragraph about the MC's friends. Just my two cents.
    Biggest thing, keep adding build up. Add as much as you can until there is too much and then cut out the extra.
     
  9. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    Just take a more realistic look at the scene. Would you be reflecting about the months before, or would you be planning the battle in your mind? Would you be terrified of what could happen to you or someone in your group?

    Also be careful about what words you use. You've got to set the mood for your writing, and using words like angelic or cherub or innocent just clash with the whole battle scene thing. Also the bile seems a bit unbelievable because before that point she holds no feeling for her enemy, besides that they are "just another enemy to kill." If that were so, why would she have such a violent reaction?
     
  10. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    Writing battle scenes can be very difficult for me because I tend to write on a smaller-scale, until recently when I decided not to limit my writings to whatever talent that I expect from myself. (What one lacks in talent, they make up for in effort.) I go for realism when I do write them though.

    Hope the best for you! :)
     
  11. RyanM
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    RyanM Member

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    I think you make a very good point here addicted. It is good to conisder, the size of the enemy before taking an action like pulling out a sword. The character needs to be able to gague his/her own feelings about the situation and wether or not they are prepared for what they are about to do. It maybe that fear will engulf them and they will flee or they will face the foe. It is hard to be ready to fight and will, and to then consider the scope of the enemy at hand. Also if you are using only two dozen men/women in the army opposite it would be more of skirmish (or perhaps a raid), if that, rather than a battle scene.

    Right here Morgan, I (me personally) would put more, just a little, detail into the action of unsheathing the swords. Like someone before had posted, the in clicking of the hilts out of the sheath, the sound of the steal as it slides out of the sheath and how your (keep to your POV) hands curl around the hilt (describing the hilt helps as there are many "flavors" and sizes to them.

    I do believe you could have the staring down the enemy when your MC engaged in the charge. Here is a quick example:

    I spurred my horse from a slow canter into a gallop. My heartbeat increased in pace, as I felt the hairs upon the back of my nape rise in both fear and excitement. As I approached the front of the enemy line, I locked on the gaze of the nearest soldier, and could see the fear building within the line as my comrades and I advanced faster and faster and within seconds I was upon them...

    That wasn't a great example but I think it displays the point well enough.

    RyanM

    BTW: I don't know how to Multi-Quote so it never kept the "Originally Posted by lilix morgan" sorry.
     
  12. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I want to back up a moment, rewind and talk about the previous posts.

    They say to do things like describe the senses; feeling, hearing, smelling.
    While that is all well and good, an intense scene like this can be easily weakened by a lot of unnecessary descriptions.

    When deciding what to put, you should describe things that a person might feel during this moment. One might not notice at ALL his sense of smell when in this situation. He might, on the other hand, be keenly aware of the callouses on his hands rubbing against the material of his sheath and the hilt of his sword.

    As for ME: I thought this scene was done fabulously, heretofore. It had a good first bit, then the retrospect telling of his modest, unimpressive beginning, then launches us into a scene wherein he is unsheathing two katana, a vast difference and heart-skipping.
    A bit longer, a few more details, a little more tantalization to give it an extra jolt would be good, and of course, everyone in here has good ideas, et cetera.
    I am just being the voice of caution, is all. You would not want to spoil what I think is a rather good opening.

    Also, ONE against twenty-four IS a vast number, I think.
     
  13. Brandon P.
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    Brandon P. Senior Member

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    How to write battle scenes?

    You cannot do a blow-by-blow account the way you can do with one-on-one characters, in part because of the number of actors involved, but also because of the significant amount of time a battle may take. How do you write an engaging battle scene that doesn't bore the reader with lots of details?
     
  14. Twisted Inversely
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    Twisted Inversely Senior Member

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    First you need to work out what the key points of the battle are. The moment when the two armies’ first clash would be one, the death of an important character, on either side, might be another. Focus in on them. You can throw in a few sentences accounting for the time that has passed between each one.

    Most battle scenes are told from multiple points of view. This can be used to create suspense. For example character A is leading re-enforcements to help character B but is ambushed, the reinforcements are killed and character A is captured. We then switch to character B awaiting character A’s help, which we know is not forthcoming, while they struggle to hold of an overwhelming number of enemy forces.

    That said I do have stand up for single POV action scenes. If done well they can really capture the uncertainty of combat. For example you might write the entire battle from the point of view of a single foot soldier. He has no idea about what is happening outside his immediate vicinity, no idea if his friends are alive or dead and he certainly has no idea which side winning or loosing save what he can piece together from his confused surroundings.

    Hope that helps
     
  15. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends on the POV you're using. First person, third person limited or omnicient.

    That aside, focus on what's important, turning points, things that will give a flavor of what is happening all over--tactics, charges, retreats, routes, counter attacks, ambushes etc.

    My novel Flank Hawk has quite a few combat/battle scenes (from one-on-one, small group engagment, company-sized, to a pitch large-scale battle). It is written from first person perspective, which can be limiting if the author isn't careful, but it also allows the reader to get a better sense of what is at stake. A character can observe from a distance, hear reports and orders, as well as engage in combat. Thus a battle can be relayed in a concise yet comprehensive manner.

    Hope that makes sense. If you're unsure, get some of your favorite authors and take a look at how they do it. I'd recomend The The Chronicles of Amber by Zelazny, the Vlad Taltos Series by Brust, The World War Series by Turtledove, and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Donaldson. And of course my novel ;)

    Hope this helps. I can be more specific in suggestions if the type of combat/battle and the scope is provided.

    Terry
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aside from what the others say, I think your text has some confusing imagery and metaphors, making things more complicated than they need be.

    Why not "my wildest dreams"? Is the MC experiencing the senses of someone else, who's more imaginative than himself? If not, then it makes no sense.

    I could be wrong, but "my outcome" just seems gramatically wrong and confuses me. Why not just "I never would have suspected this outcome/turn of events."

    Doesn't things brew under the nose? Brewing something under a pair of shoes makes for some really confusing imagery. ;)

    Sorry if you think I'm nitpicking, but my first impression when reading was that these things confused the flow.

    I would really avoid flowery prose in cold, hard action scenes -- it's stylistic contradiction. You might find that it comes closer to what you're seeking if you keep your focus on the grit, blood and sweat. Don't be afraid of typical expressions like "cold steel" and "pumping veins" -- they're effective and to the point and describe exactly what things feel like.
     

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