1. Nadine
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    Nadine New Member

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    Writing battles and fight scenes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nadine, Jan 10, 2011.

    What makes a great fight scene in a novel?
    What are the keys things to include to make it extra special or stand out from the rest!!

    In my big battle scene there will be the use of guns and also martial arts with special powers; how can I stop this getting to messy and keep it believable?

    Thanks
     
  2. thenewpeter
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    thenewpeter Senior Member

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    Hmm... I'd say, only follow what your charecters will see/know, don't going into a general commanding troops style of telling, it'd be better to make it more personal. IMA.
     
  3. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    I knew there was something I needed to ask; i'ed forgotten :p It was this.

    I hate trying to write fight scenes in a book, they always descent into chaos (see what I did there? :p)

    So I guess I'm trying to say that I need help on this to. ^
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    When it comes to fight scenes, chaos is a good thing though, isn't it...?
     
  5. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    Peter Jackson on the Battle of Helm's Deep, "Editorial: Refining the Story" [12:27], Special Extended DVD Edition, disc 4, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers.

    Of course, you can't cut back and forth in a novel as quick as you can in film, but Peter does have some interesting points.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep the humanity and emotion in them, facial expressions, remember you have five senses not just one. Include smells, sounds, touch. Like someone has said with Big Battle scenes focus on the humanity the little touches like who is scared, who is clutching their crucifix and who is going yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I'll get the ****** !!. What are individuals doing at all time, who is rescuing his pals, who is crying for Mummy.

    Pick out motion and how they are moving, rather than what the movement is. Under Iron Falcon I have a martial arts scene I have worked through with someone. I kept the bindings as it has magical significance but I had to change why it was used because it is impractical. So a binding in my world paralyses and places you in the control of the person. It also can only be undone by the person that has placed you in it, which means your side is less likely to kill them.

    Fist fights are more intense and in your face. Right up to you, the pain, maybe have someone touching their split lip. Balling their fist. etc

    Anything you do that is unusual like the bindings make sure the explanation as to why is BEFORE the battle, otherwise you have people head scratching.
     
  7. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Guns AND super saiyan powers?

    9_9

    I don't think you want to write a conventionally "good" fight scene.

    Wilbur smith does decent "period piece" combat while Matt Reilly write more modern fight scenes, though these are kind of more... well, serious than what you're proposing.

    I guess you could take your cues from the fight scenes in Twilight? Do those even happen, or were they just in the movie? I'm running through all of the books that I've read - Of all of the books where characters have super powers or something like that, fights are over in like, a paragraph.

    As far as I can recall, the only way you can draw out a super-power fight scene is have everyone stand there and yell "KAAAAAAMEEEEEEHAAAAAAMEEEEEEHAAAAAA!"

    For like, five hours.
     
  8. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    Good fight scenes

    The best fight scenes have interesting and believable action. If you have any experience with combat martial arts (much different from sports/performance martial arts) this will help you considerably. If not, take some time to watch good action movies with lots of fight scenes. You'll start to see what evokes that 'rush' feeling people get from actions movies, and also what looks unrealistic and stupid. When it's appropriate, you can even add in some humor.

    One of my favorite series is the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. The fight scenes in these books are very well written. One of the main characters, a short woman who works in the Police as a Lieutenant, is an expert in Akido, and the main character of the series, Harry Dresden, learns a lot of hand to hand from her and from practical experience over the course of the series. In one scene where two hit men tried to take him out, a man was about to shoot Harry with a shotgun, but the shot went wild when Harry's dog hit the man, and the blast caught the other assassin in the right butt cheek. This was a bit of well-placed humor. Jim Butcher had Harry acknowledge in his mind that the wound could possibly be fatal, but that it wasn't likely, and in the moment found it so funny he cackled on his way back to his car. In this scene there was gun fire, magic, and the sudden inclusion of a large dog in the mix. It was pretty cool.

    One thing to stay away from is vagueness. I recall reading a book with an ex-Navy seal who fought a 'bad guy' at one point. The description of the fight was that "It took a few solid punches to subdue the gunman." Just awful, completely ruining the scene. This clearly showed that the author had very little understanding of combat, and should either have done their research or stayed away from it altogether.

    Reality, even in fantasy books! Punches and kicks hurt, and feel completely different depending on where you get struck. Knives have their own special category in combat, causing gripping fear in many people. When they are used, the sensation is often a sort of cold sting rather than hot pain, unless the wound is pretty deep. I've been cut (in reality, not fiction) about 1/2 inch deep, and the wound wasn't very painful. I've heard that deeper cuts can burn and are very painful, and stab wounds in particular cause a lot of shock. Bullet wounds cause A LOT of shock. Most of the time, people do not continue on after getting shot, unlike most action movie heroes. Gunshot wounds tend to bleed a lot, and the shock can cause confusion and disorientation. It's not impossible to fight on after being shot, but unless your character has special powers (you mentioned some would be present) that allow them to either not get hurt or heal really fast, it isn't easy. A shot to the chest or abdomen will cause the worst damage short of being shot in the head, but there are large arteries running through both legs and arms that will cause death pretty quickly if hit. If an important character is going to get hurt and continue on, the easiest type of damage to do that with is blunt force, such as pipes and baseball bats. Even this should be treated with respect. No matter what kind of pain tolerance you have, getting struck causes bruising, which in turn causes muscles to stop responding as well. Watch some MMA fights. If a fighter is too fast with their hands, a common thing to see is the other fighter kicking their legs over and over. After getting struck there a few times, the fighter can no longer jump forward suddenly, and the leg sometimes just gives out. Stun guns are also good, but they're not the quick fix many people believe. It takes 3-5 seconds of holding a stun gun to someone to do a lot of good. You can't just zap someone briefly and watch them flop around. Even taser guns are limited, but are much stronger than stun guns. The problem with taser guns is the requirement of getting both prongs into the target. If they have thick clothing or you strike something in their pockets, no juice. I should state, however, that often just the sound and sight of a stun gun being fired off can deter most people. It's really frightening. If you don't have one and you plan to include it in your book, stop by a place that sells them and ask to see it fired. DO NOT test on yourself. While not generally a cause of long-term damage, they hurt a lot and can possibly cause arc burns (though this is unlikely).

    Near-misses are important to build tension in battle. A knife makes a unique sound when slicing through the air. Get a large kitchen knife out and whip it around (get a lot of clearance around you first, of course). Listen and see what you think describes this best. There are so many ways to describe this sound, I can't list them here. Bullets going through the air make a sound somewhere between an angry bee flying by and that odd buzzing sound of electricity heard at large power lines. It's closer to bees than power lines (if the bee is moving fast and continues past you), but has a bit of both. In my life, I've done a lot of combat arts and have actually been attacked with a knife and shot at, so I know at a very deep level what it's like. What the heck was I doing to get into these situations? Actually, it was a combination of living in a bad area and some idiocy. Nothing illegal, just stupidity, and luckily far in my past.

    Something to keep in mind is the perspective of each character. Even if you're writing in the first person, other characters will show a lot of what they're thinking by the main character observing them. Some relish combat, some are paralyzed by fear, and most are somewhere in between. Their fear and motivation, and well as their skills, will bring a lot to your scenes.
     
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  9. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    Detail. I crave and demand detail from scenes of combat. Accurately describing and being knowledgeable about fighting techniques and firearms can add greatly to your story.

    If your MC is pinned down by gunfire, what kind of weapon are the bad guys using? "Machine guns" won't cut it; that could be a full-size Squad Automatic Weapon, Assault Rifle, Sub-Machine Gun, Machine Pistol. The make and model of firearm can be an effective way of showing the audience the background of your bad guys. This applies to military equipment in general, as well as anything that predates firearms; Knights in King Arthur's Court probably didn't use Katanas.
     
  10. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't forget injuries on the battlefield. Arrows, bullets, and long sharp, pointy objects piercing the human body hurt. A person might be able to shrug off an injury for a short time due to shock, but eventually the injury will catch up to them.

    The human body naturally moves to avoid pain. So an arrow through the leg will cause a person to limp. A broken collarbone won't let you lift your arm very high. And good luck making a fist with broken fingers.

    A person can bleed internally without an attack breaking the skin. Broken ribs can pierce lungs and other organs.

    Amor is not 100% effective. You can block the attack of someone swinging a giant club with a shield, but if the attacker swings that club hard enough, the kinetic energy will still break your arm.
     
  11. Nadine
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    Nadine New Member

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    Yeah guns and super saiyan powers but the powers will mostly be used in one on one battles between the main characters and enemies.

    Ive tried to watch films with battle scenes to see what they focus on and what excites me. Maybe even come up with ideas that are not really used during fight/battles scenes, just to be different.

    Yeah will defo be using the 5 senses during the battle and cutting away to a hospital scene to focus a little on the injuries and how much death there is!!

    Thanks for everyones help, keep it coming lol
    xx
     
  12. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    With the kinds of thrillers I read, there aren't too many fight scenes going on that really make my day. However, I have read Fuzzy Navel by J.A. Konrath, in which a cop is the MC. She has a pretty epic battle scene with an escaped killer who's had training in the marines, while there is also a sniper outside of the house toying with them. This is pure person-to-person fighting, with a few other people in the background, so not the army or big battle scene you're speaking of. But I think in no matter what kind of battle, there are similarities.

    The major things in writing a fight scene are to know what you're writing about, and to never forget to focus on what's actually around the main focal point of the fight. Yes the MC and the nemesis (one person or a large army) is a big deal, but what about the people around them? Or their surroundings? Mishaps happen. Death happens. Make a list of things that could go wrong and things that could go right. In a bigger battle with more enemies, there are going to be a lot of things to consider.

    Someone mentioned something about injuries. Everyone, I think, makes the mistakes of overlooking injuries. If the MC is injured, you may not look at it as such a bad thing, and it's mainly because you want them to be OK enough to continue fighting right or to escape the battle somehow. If not everyone then most people. :p Guilt, perhaps, for hurting the poor person. But it won't be believable if there aren't injuries...or even deaths in big groups, friends or not.

    Also don't forget, someone may not be able to get out of a tough situation alone, which is why it's handy to have friends somewhere around, or simply back-up.

    Noises are another thing. Don't let the world be quiet. You're in a big battle there's going to be crashes, gunfire, shouts, screams, and--most of all--people like to taunt one another. They don't have to be huge paragraphs of words, even the smaller sentences count, because the characters don't want to babble and forget about the world around them. The more you talk, the more your attention tends to be focused on the person you're talking to, rather things around you. (Someone sneaking up behind the character perhaps, or a sound they should've heard, but were too busy talking.)

    I think to end this...I'm just going to say one last thing, and end it with another example. Add tension. Make people think something's going to happen, even though it might not.

    Humors always good for bad situations, no? :p

    I hope my ramblings helped out a little for your scene. Everyone else has great advice too, and this one was purely based off a book I enjoy, but I still think perhaps there are some pointers here that work on bigger battles as well. :)
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the POV you're using. First person, you only get what is happening from the limited perspective of the protagonist. What he/she sees, hears, smells, feels, believes, etc.

    Third person limited, it is similar, but you can get different vantage points based on the characters who are the POV ones. It is harder to get an overall understanding unless one of the characters has the overall view/knowledge. Omnicient (sp) can give the reader this, however.

    Instead of watching movies with battle scenes you're intereted in writing, read authors who have similar content with respect to what you hope to write. Study how they did it, and modify it to your writing style.

    The trick is to give enough information for the reader to visualize and understand, but not too much. Trust the reader to fill in some of the blanks, fill in the images and action with their own mind's eye. A delicate balance, to be sure, but if done right it's the most effective way.
     
  14. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    I couldn't agree more. You want to be detailed enough that the reader understands exactly what's going on, but you don't have to spend a paragraph describing a few punches. Sometimes what a person is wearing, or what they smell like, might be important, and other times not. The reader should have a good idea of the rough build and size of combatants in most cases, unless of course you're taking them out at a distance via sniper rifle. If the combatants are integral to the story, the reader will probably already have a good description of their appearance and their temperament and style. Other than that, basics of body positions and movements should be clear. Then let the reader's imagination flow.
     

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