1. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    Writing About Combat

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JPGriffin, Nov 28, 2011.

    This has been a persistent problem for me- simply finding the right word to use or describe certain maneuvers or motions used in swordplay. I know the physical motions that are involved, and I have the scene played out through my head (think like in a movie). I rarely have a dictionary or thesaurus at hand, and what I'm looking to do is the reverse order of a regular dictionary- start with the definition, end with the word. Any terms anyone could provide or any online sources will be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Kube
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    Kube Member

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    I would stay away from getting too technical with your combat descriptions and keep it simple. If you use a bunch of technical phrases, you're likely to lose your reader. Just my 2C.
     
  3. Flashfire07
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    Flashfire07 Active Member

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    I'd have to say that if you just describe the action it will work better than using the technical terms. But if you want to use the 'proper' terms here is a site which lists renaissance fencing terminology and other assorted things http://www.thearma.org/terms2.htm
     
  4. Prolixitasty
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    Prolixitasty Member

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    Here's what I suggest. Watch a movie with sword fighting, and then desribe what you see exactly as you see it. I assume your writing a story, I assume that your reader is a more or less average person who is not a swordsman. Discriptions are only as valuable as they can be appreciated by the reader. If you describe a sword fight, and I describe a sword fight, how different will it be? Show me what you see, don't tell me what you see. Show me the blade thrust, don't tell me the blade thrust.

    If, however, you still want to maintain this line, I'd simply suggest www.thesaurus.com. But if you really want to write about a sword fight, then write about a sword fight. If you want to come up with a manual which describes specific sword motions, if your story incorporates that, then you should look more specifically for it. Although if that were the case, I don't think you'd be here looking for help.
     
  5. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    Felipe studied the young man in front of him. Although he was supremely confident in his skill he had never faced another man in real mortal combat or killed another. Still, this man was pushing him. He casually looked over his left shoulder and then his right and replied “Are you by any chance addressing me?”

    The woman in the carriage giggled and the man’s face flushed crimson. It was unheard of for a Criollo to speak back to a Gachupine. He had been embarrassed in front of the lady that he was courting by a Criollo and had lost face, this was unacceptable in his culture. Bolstering his courage he reared his horse up in a show of bravado but Felipe was not impressed. He trotted his horse around in front of the carriage and again shouted “I said move along! Do not make me draw my sword. I will kill you where you stand.”

    Now he had gone too far and Felipe would not back down or be intimidated. “I just honed and polished my blade.” He looked around on the seat beside him. “I do not have a cloth to clean your blood off of it when we are through. If you choose to cross swords with me, it will be the worse, and last mistake that you will ever make. But if you insist, I will give you the time to go and get your final affairs in order and to write your will. I will wait here and entertain this lady until you return.”

    Again the woman giggled and the man, although deeply afraid was so deeply insulted that he had to respond. He dismounted and drew his sword. Felipe shook his head and sighed “Foolish man.” he said as he jumped lightly to the ground and drew his sword.

    Just from the man’s stance Felipe immediately knew that he had no idea of what he was doing. He stood facing Felipe, flat footed with his feet planted two feet apart. He was in no position to maneuver, to advance or retreat. He held his sword low, pointed at Felipe’s navel. This left his entire head, neck and upper torso exposed and unprotected.
    Also from his stance, Felipe knew that he had probably never even practiced with his sword and only drew it to admire it. He could have easily lanced his heart with the precision of a surgeon and walked away. But Andreas had instilled character as well as skill in him and he had no intention of killing such an outclassed opponent.

    Felipe took his stance. He stood on the balls of his feet with his heels slightly raised. His right foot was forward and his left leg was back behind him. He could spring in any direction. His body was canted slightly to the left and the tip of his sword in his right hand pointed at the base of the man’s throat.
    Women began getting out of their carriages and hurrying to the scene and the other caballeros trotted up on their horses to watch this drama unfold. Although much showmanship took place at the square, an actual sword fight was rarely, if ever seen. They circled around the two men.

    Felipe asked him “Are you certain that you want to go through with this? Are you really prepared to die? You can simply sheath your sword and walk away, there is no shame.”
    With his friends and peers gathered and watching that was not an option now, he would forever be branded as a coward to a Criollo. He drew his sword back over his right shoulder and made a strong but clumsy stroke at Felipe’s neck which was easily parried.

    “You may as well have written me a letter.” Felipe said, “I saw that stroke coming for miles. Again, I will ask you to concede.”

    The man was infuriated and began to swing wildly, each attempt was easily deflected by Felipe. At the end of one stroke his sword was down as was his guard. Felipe swung hard and slapped him on his right ear with the flat side of his blade. The percussion of air against his eardrum and inner ear made a loud ringing sound in his ear that was very disorienting and also affected his balance.
    Andreas had done this to Felipe many times to teach him not to drop his guard. The man shook his head. Felipe told him “That ringing in your ear will not go away for some time. While you can still hear me I will ask you just once more to concede. I will not ask you again.”

    Although clearly outclassed the man could not bear to be branded as a coward for the rest of his life. He thought that perhaps he would receive a wound that would not be fatal and that would end the fight and he could still save face. Again the man stepped forward and this time he tried a thrust at Felipe’s chest. Felipe deflected the blade to his left and stepped into the man. He grabbed the man’s sword hand with his left hand and hit the man square in his nose with the pommel on the hilt of his sword. Blood spurted from the man’s nose and ran down his face.

    “Try not to let the blood drip on the hilt of your sword. It will make it slippery.” Felipe told him.

    The man had a dazed look on his face so Felipe waited for him to recover. He again shook his head in an attempt to clear it and swung again at Felipe. Felipe parried the swing and slapped the man hard on his left ear with the flat side of his blade.
    The man’s ears were ringing so loudly now and his balance was so affected by the percussion on his inner ears that he stood dumbly with a dazed look on his face, his sword out in front of him.

    Felipe quickly circled his blade around the man’s sword capturing it in a spiral motion and slung his sword out of his hand. It clattered onto the cobblestone street. He turned to his left and kicked him hard in the center of his chest. The man fell in a heap, moaning and holding his ears. Felipe sheathed his sword and turned toward his wagon. The circle of gachupines, the caballeros on their steeds and the ladies parted. He walked to his wagon, got on and rode away.
     
  6. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Bad ass. I like it.
     
  7. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    It's not really using the particularly technical terminology that makes for a good combat scene as much as it is being able to have a good sense of flow and describing character motions in a way that really captures the same speed (or lack of) in the combat you wish to portray. I don't use a lot of very technical terminology when I describe combat but rather, I just try to create a sort of "atmosphere", one of tension, carnage, and barely controlled surging violence, and try to show the severity and frantic-mania of a single life-or-death situation.
     
  8. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    As has been said, technical terminology will lose your readers. Are we sword fighters or would we recognize a particular terminology? No, we are people, men and women. When writing this scene, I actually stood and took the stance so that my body would memorize it, muscle memory they call it. If you actually "go through the motions" as your story progresses, the swordplay will come more natural to you.This is the basis of showing, not telling. Make your readers see what is happening, the entire story. Also consider the background, how is this affecting the others? The spectators?

    Women began getting out of their carriages and hurrying to the scene and the other caballeros trotted up on their horses to watch this drama unfold. Although much showmanship took place at the square, an actual sword fight was rarely, if ever seen. They circled around the two men.


    This adds a sense of realism and urgency to your characters. Even though obviously outclassed, the man can not back down now because of pride and culture. The individual characters that are actually facing each other in battle and the emotions that you attach to them are a lot more important than words that describe the parry or thrust. you have to set a scene.

    Forgive me if you will as I take you to the island of Tortuga, the year is 1632 and this particular small band of pirates needs new recruits, good swordsmen so they go into a tavern....

    “Rum for my friends and I” Felipe replied. When their drinks were served, Felipe turned his back to the bar resting his elbows on it. His four companions did the same. They surveyed the crowd. A loud and celebrating group, many of them looked fierce and he knew that all were good fighters and sailors.

    The drunken men finally finished their song and much laughter and clapping erupted. In a corner four men were engaged in a game of cards. One man, the largest was getting loud and angry banging his fist on the table and screaming at another. Felipe nodded toward them and they all moved to a close table and sat down. “Look at this character.” Felipe said. Three of the men, including the large, angry one were typical of the crowd, unkempt with shaggy beards and dirty clothes.

    The man with all of the winnings in front of him had a neatly trimmed red beard and mustache. His long, curly red hair was clean and he wore a black cavalier hat at a cocky, rakish angle on his head. The hat had one side pinned up with a silver emblem that represented crossed swords. A feather was sticking up from the hatband. His white shirt was clean and had ruffles down the breast as well as at the cuffs. He dabbed at his nose nonchalantly with a white handkerchief that had lace along it’s edges and stared calmly at the large screaming man with his eyelids half lowered over bright blue eyes.

    Batu said “He looks more like a woman. We need sailors and fighters, not a pretty boy.”
    Felipe said “He is obviously very shrewd, look at his winnings.” He had a large pile of reales in front of him. “His manner of dress suggests that he is also very meticulous.”
    I think it suggests something else.” Batu said and wiggled his eyebrows up and down.
    Andreas added “He certainly isn’t showing any fear. The other man stands a foot taller than he.”

    The large man was complaining that the red haired man had taken all of his money and the others agreed. The man calmly raked all of the reales into a leather pouch which he then tied and secured it to his belt. Taking a puff on his thin cigar he blew the blue smoke toward the ceiling while the other three men glared at him.

    He spoke with a French accent and in a cultured voice. “Well then messieurs if I have taken all of your money, then I guess that this game is over.”
    The large man shouted “You must give me a chance to win back some of my money! I cannot even buy a drink now!”
    The man calmly looked at him and said “How can you gamble with no money? You played and you lost. So if you will excuse me now, I need another drink, I will buy you each one as well” As he reached for his handkerchief that was laying on the table, the large man grabbed his hand roughly and pulled it toward him. When he did, three aces fell out of the handkerchief onto the table.

    “You French bastard! You have been cheating us all this time!” The large man screamed.
    The Frenchman replied “Oui messier, for over an hour now, you are as stupid as you are fat and ugly.” He yanked his hand away and the large man stood up and threw the table to the side. The Frenchman’s sword was already out and he took a professional stance. All three of the men drew their swords. The bar fell silent as everyone watched.

    Batu asked “Should we help him? He is outnumbered.”
    “No, let us watch and see how he handles himself first.” Andreas said.

    The large man attacked first using more strength than skill. The Small Frenchman easily sidestepped and parried all of his wild swings. The other two men spread to either side of him to flank him. He kicked his chair out of the way and got his back into the corner so they could not surround him. He took two steps back.

    “Look” Andreas said “He is luring him in.“
    “Just as you taught me to do” Felipe replied.

    The Frenchman arrogantly took a puff on his cigar as his blue eyes slid from one man to the other. His sword was as steady as a rock out before him. He blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling.

    The large man knew he was no match for this man with a sword. But he thought that it was a mistake for the man to back into the corner, he now had nowhere to retreat. He fell for the bait and lunged forward, making a thrust toward his chest. He was overextended and off balance. The Frenchman sidestepped the thrust and stepped in toward the man. Using the man’s own forward momentum he grabbed the large man’s wrist and pulled him toward him. Stepping behind him his other arm went around the man’s neck and he easily pivoted the man around in front of him as a shield.

    At that moment, both of the other men made a thrust and both of their swords sank deeply in the large man’s chest. He cried out loudly and blood began to gurgle from his mouth immediately. The Frenchman kicked the large man square in the middle of his back sending him crashing to the floor. Before the man even hit the floor, he sank his sword deep into the center of one of the other men’s chest and pulled it out. Blood spurted from the mans chest and he held his hands over the wound as he went to his knees.

    The Frenchman stepped over the large man, now dead on the floor toward his only remaining adversary. This man made the mistake of looking at his kneeling friend who was dying on the floor. Before he could look back the Frenchman made a hard, precise upward thrust. The tip of his sword entered right below the man’s breast bone, sliced through his heart and exited the left side of his neck.

    “That was a good stick” Felipe said.
    “A very good stick.” Andreas agreed.

    The blood spurted out of either side of his blade and then he quickly removed it. The blood spurted from his neck in a geyser and the man fell to the floor with a large pool of blood spreading out. The Frenchman wiped the blood from his sword on the dead man’s shirt at his feet and slid his blade back into it’s scabbard. He had killed all three of them in less than two minutes. He calmly turned his table and chair back upright and sat back down motioning to the barmaid for another drink.

    “What do you think now?” Felipe asked and looked at Batu. Batu just smiled and nodded his head. Felipe got up and walked toward the man. Men were dragging the dead men out of the bar by their heels leaving a bloody swath behind them. A woman threw a bucket of water on the trails and began to mop. The noise level slowly resumed in the bar.

    Felipe said “May I buy you a drink?”

    The Frenchman smiled and said “I never turn down a free drink, please have a seat. My name is Jean Pierre François.” He extended his hand and shook Felipe’s hand with a strong grip.
    Felipe introduced himself and asked him if he minded if his friends joined them “Not at all, please call them over” the man said with a smile. Felipe motioned to the others and they all introduced themselves. The drinks arrived and Jean Pierre raised his glass, they all tapped glasses and he took a slow sip.

    Felipe asked “ So Jean Pierre, what is your profession?”
    “I am a blade for hire, a soldier of fortune.” the man said.

    Felipe looked at Andreas who smiled and nodded his head. “You handle yourself very well, do you have any problem killing Spaniards?”
    The man drank the rest of his rum in one long, slow drink, patted his lips with his handkerchief and replied “I would much rather kill the French, but Spaniards will do just as well.”
     
  9. Tzalosrex
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    Tzalosrex New Member

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    I agree with the other posters, don't use technical terms unless you have a character who is expounding on combat techniques. Describe the combat as if you were someone with no knowledge of the terminology, many of your readers may not be familiar with it. Also, personally I find that writing short, simple sentences tends to make the fight feel like it's happening very quickly. Have you ever read Robert E. Howard's Conan stories? Whatever you think of his writing, I think he was amazing at writing combat, even though he's a bit over the top sometimes.
     
  10. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    I haven't read THAT much Conan but the combat for the most part is surprisingly simple both in execution and word-choice; it's less about flashy moves that look like they came out of Street Fighter and more about a mixture of raw destructive power (basically most "Conan is surrounded by general grunts and utterly devastates them") and lightning fast decisions made just in the nick of time (like when he fights the giant spider in The Tower of the Elephant). Howard basically using a few careful word-choices and spoke of the sort of romanticized if still brutalized "bright madness" of battle in a lot of large sweeping literary motions (the overall progress and process of the conflict) when he needed larger-sized battles or capturing the raw physical might or otherworldly power in more personal duels or smaller skirmishes.
     
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Read a couple of novels about medieval knights and check out how those authors describe the swordfights?
     
  12. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    I second this. Keep the action tight and compact and you'll have your reader at every sword thrust. Mix it up too much with technical details and it'll most likely go in one ear and out the other.
     
  13. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    You could use words like: swing, swoop, scathe, side-step, pivot, strike, dance (the swordsman danced around his opponent), dodge, cut, puncture, graze, wound, pierce, stab, etc. No need to get techincal
     

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