1. seije
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    seije Member

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    writing combat scenes...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by seije, May 20, 2009.

    I'm having a bit of a problem with writing fight scenes in my book. currently, most of them come off as play-by-playish, with me describing almost everything to the reader. I like how it's turned out so far, but i have a few more scenes to write, and i've just run into writer's block whenever i sit down to write it. It's gotten so bad that i went through and wrote an outline of the fight no notebook paper to go by so i can push through the writer's block... And i'm STILL getting frustrated. Here's an example of what i've written that i like:

    Exenwyr threw himself backwards into the air. With a burst of speed he spun around and launched skywards, blazing masses of fire and weaving them quickly into webs of flame behind him. Alsapten followed closely behind, nimbly dodging the netlike flames and easily gaining on his injured brother.
    “Dræcht…” Exenwyr whispered to himself; escape wasn’t an option just yet. As his brother drew near, Exenwyr rolled to the side and swung his scythe with as much force as he could put behind it. Alsapten tried to pull away, but the scythe still found its mark. A loud clang pierced the night. The impact of the scythe blade against armor pushed Alsapten higher into the air, and forced Exenwyr down towards the forest canopy.
    Exenwyr stared up at his brother, the moonlight reflecting off his armor. He definitely looked the hero part.
    “If only your deeds matched your appearance,” Exenwyr shouted, then darted into the trees. He weaved through the tree limbs hoping that they would conceal his movement, but within a matter of seconds his brother had crashed through the branches and forced him to block another flurry of attacks. Leaves and branches rained down as the two dragons carved a scar in the tree line.
    A branch fell and smashed against the burn on Exenwyr’s wing. He let out a cry of pain; the aching had finally returned. He rolled to the side to avoid Alsapten’s sword thrust and then fell to the ground, throwing flame and steel at his brother as he followed. Unable to right himself with his brother following so close behind, Exenwyr struck the ground hard, landing on his uninjured wing. Just as Alsapten was about to land on top of him and pin him, Exenwyr thrust a wave of flame upwards and rolled as quickly as he could to the side.


    The writer's block comes whenever i'm writing about more than two combatants. It just seems like i'm listing off what each person is doing, and i can't seem to make it sound interesting. "Bob punched Joe. Then Joe bit Steve. Then Steve kicked both bob and Joe. then Bob..." That's what it feels like i'm writing. Does anyone have any advice on how to make a fight involving more than two people sound interesting? should i continue with the play-by-play feel, or change the style all together, and sweep through several actions in one description?

    ARG, SO FRUSTRATING!
     
  2. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Well, if it makes you feel better, I finished it before I realized it, so that means it entertained me! I don't know exactly how you feel about that scene (or all your combat scenes) but all I can say is that it was interesting and kept my attention. Good descriptions, I imagined the battle perfectly. Keep it up and good luck!

    ~Marcelo
     
  3. Forde
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    Forde Member

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    My thoughts echo Marcelo's. I have no experience writing combat sequences yet but I thought yours was fine, content-wise. Your blow-by-blow account was broken up with bits of descriptions and speech here and there so it wasn't a "Bob punched Joe. Then Joe bit Steve. Then Steve kicked both bob and Joe. then Bob..." scenario.

    While more vague and stylised fight descriptions definately have their place, personally, I like reading a proper description of the action. Particularly in movies, it annoys me when you can't see what the heck is going on in a fight scene.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I can see why you would think there would be a problem there, but since you're writing action that's what your readers are expecting. As long as the passage isn't tooooo long, there's nothing wrong with writing action in that way.
     
  5. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    I tend to write my chapters from the point of view of a single character, so even if there are multiple combatants, I'm still following the thoughts and actions of the single character rather than trying to focus on the collective. I find that it keeps things from getting too disjointed this way. In application, this means that I go into greater detail with the events that involve that character while I sweep more generally over the rest of the battle.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The biggest issue I see with your battle scene is that the POV is all over the place. In terms of pace, fast-paced action should mostly take place in short, choppy sentences. However, in this case most to the actions do take a few seconds, so there is room for somewhat more complete descriptions.

    But unless the battle is viewed by a bystander, you should focus tightly on what ONE participant at a time is experiencing. A bystander wouldn't know Exenwyr's thoughts, but if Exenwyr is watching Alsapten's maneuvers as well, he wouldn't last very long. To get the sense of peril and chaos of battle, limit your observations to what that one character can see and pay attention to.

    If you want to see the other character's perspective, make it a separate replay of the scene from the other point of view. You can interleave the tow viewpoints, but if you do, you need to manage the transitions, and usually you will want paragraph breaks between them.

    A reader can only really identify with one POV at a time, so if you don't lock down the POV at any point in time, the reader won't get the "being there" feeling. All your eloquent description is diluted as a result.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Good examples of fight scenes are found in the Jason Bourne novels by Robert Ludlum.

    I try to vary fight scenes up. Add action, introspection, dialog, etc. Here is a part of a fight scene from my sci-fi novel. Not sure if it will be helpful or not. It is written from Bharita's POV. His stick is an Agija's stick, which is very strong and deadly. It is not wood.

    Vasuki thrust at Bharita’s chest. He stepped back, was ready to counter, but the Naga moved too fast, and was already following his stab with a diagonal slash. Bharita barely found the time to deflect the blade. It clanked against his stick like metal on hard gem.

    Vasuki pulled back, grinning. They circled each other again.

    Bharita thought about something his father had said. "Think with your whole body, not just the weapon in your hands."

    Vasuki slashed. Bharita committed to a block. Dammit, a feint. Vasuka spun around the stick and slashed at Bharita’s other side. He retracted as much as possible, but not enough. Burning pain exploded in his shoulder. He spun around Vasuki the opposite way. His foot lashed out at his opponent’s knee. It connected, buying him enough time to enter a defensive stance.

    He didn’t need to glance at his shoulder to know it was cut badly. He felt the sticky blood.

    The Naga’s feint was so perfectly convincing. He needed to watch for that.

    "That’s one point for me," Vasuki said.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Note: I broke your original paragraph above into some logical shorter paragraphs to help the fight scene flow better.

    As far as multiple parties in a fight, the vast majority of battles involve only two combatants at a time. Simply write about each such fight separately.

    In some cases, several attackers are involved against a single defender. The action will usually involve two combatants at a time with replacement fighters stepping in only when one of the multiple attackers is wounded or killed. As far as writing such a scene, illustrate the scene concentrating on one set of combatants at a time.

    Combat theory says that in multiple attacker situations, it is best to select the weakest of the attackers and engage immediately. Why? Because a single defender can not cover his own back. By attacking the weakest link, you can actually position the weak fighter between yourself and the rest of the group for improved defensive position. He is your shield.

    Also, one option during combat may be to disengage. It's better to "run now and kill later" if your opponent(s) have gained a significant advantage. This combat philosophy can be used to show a single defender's choice to disengage with a powerful fighter to enter combat with another, less formidable opponent. Then, through fight positioning, the single fighter can use the weaker enemy as a shield against approaches by the rest of the aggressors.

    Insight about combat tactics can come from narrative or even dialog. For example, a powerful opponent might taunt the person who is "hiding" behind a human shield.
     
  9. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find that varying the levels of tension with a constant rhythm can keep the reader entertained no matter what you write. You need to throw them right into the thick of the fight occasionally, and be a little bit more than suggestive, then pull back for an overview - describe a character's thoughts or plans, perhaps - before you go spinning back in again with growing sentences and fast-paced scenes.

    This might help you get a better idea of what I mean. It's from a fan fiction I wrote:

    That was the rise of tension (obviously) ;)

    A brief but distinct fall, and a sharp rise.

    After the ommitted section, that's the fall.

    Rise again. Get the idea? Read it through as one long block. It works, even if it's hard to notice without actually reading it (unless of course someone points it out to you).
     
  10. Lordluud2
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    Lordluud2 New Member

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    I am writing a combat scene myself, and I like doing them. You can give the reader so much information. It's just fun :p

    Can't give any tips though... Your text looks better than mine!
     
  11. Life705
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    Life705 Member

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    I find that with combat scenes, a lot depends on the length and detail. If your project contains a lot of action, then it's best to save the detail for the important battles otherwise theres a chance it could become repetitive. If you use detail to your advantage, you will find the important ones become very effective and memorable. I liked your excerpt though, very professionally done!
     

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