Discussion in 'Descriptive Development' started by trevorD, Aug 21, 2022.
These are harder to write than i would have thought. Anyone with experience in such matters?
The late western writer, Louis Lamour, was (among other things) a professional (or semi-professional) boxer. Several of his books have fairly graphic descriptions of fist fights. Check 'em out. He wrote those scenes from a perspective of someone who had been there.
Most of my published stories involve some kind of melee combat, so this question is right up my alley. Some general tips:
Don’t get bogged down trying to describe every single blow in exacting detail. Focus on the strikes that actually impact the narrative, like by inflicting an injury, disarming one of the fighters, or destroying a piece of equipment.
On a related note, avoid excessively technical terminology. Most readers aren’t looking for a fencing or martial arts lesson.
Maintaining a sense of movement really makes fight scenes sing. This is especially true when you have fights involving a group.
Include visceral sensory details. Steel shrieking against steel, cartilage crunching beneath your knuckles, the metallic taste of blood, flashes of color when you get punched in the face, the stench of death all around you…engaging the senses is a great way to enhance immersion, especially if you can engage smell, taste, or touch.
Break up the action with bits of internal monologue. Hints of a plan, anticipating their opponent’s next move, remembering what’s at stake, despairing as the battle turns against them, etc.
Short and simple sentences lead to a quicker pace.
Much of what I learned about writing melee combat comes from reading the work of Robert E. Howard—especially his Conan stories—and applying his techniques to my own work. You can read a lot of his stories for free since they’re in the public domain. The Phoenix on the Sword is a particularly good one to check out, as it executes what should be a very complicated fight scene flawlessly.
You might consider checking out the two The Best of Robert E. Howard collections published by Del Rey. His body of work is very diverse, from sword & sorcery fantasy to westerns and boxing stories to historical fiction, so they might be helpful if you’re trying to write different kinds of action sequences.
If you have ever wanted to take fencing classes this is a good excuse to do it.
Saber especially, it's all slashy and fun. Even a LARP with goofy bopper weapons would probably give you some material to use. I remember reading a detail where the author has the MC notice bruises on his forearm from the handles on his shield the day after his first battle. He was too adrenaline fueled to feel it during the fighting. It made me think the author must have experienced it himself somehow.
I've got to finish some Solomon Kane, but then it looks like I have some Conan to read.
There are some old threads on this topic that are amazing. Try a search for Fight Scenes or something similar.
If you don't mind the over-the-top and exaggerated fantastical fight scenes, try reading Jin Yong novels! He makes writing fight scenes sound easy. Legend of the Condor Heroes has been legally translated to English.
yeah I always thought those scenes were written pretty well.
Think about it like this - imagine you were writing an athletics race scene. You don't want to describe every step the POV character takes. You write a more summarised version of the action, probably focusing on the POV character and his thoughts. The action can be limited to key sections, such as when he's about to be overtaken.
Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.
It'll be the next bestseller for sure!!!
It’s mostly been said now
the things I’d add based on having written a lot of action are
a) appropriate verb choice that imply violence. Crashed crunched smashed rammed chopped sliced slashed etc
b) most fights are over very very quickly the long drawn out exchange is a Hollywood thing
c) blows to the head are serious people who are hit with chairs and crowbars and such don’t get up and keep fighting
The Hardy Boys got knocked out at least once per book and they're fine.
You need to decide where your story falls on the balance between realism and fantasy. Is it like those old Hong Kong action movies, where realism usually doesn't even factor in (because they were basically legends about great heroes who were better and stronger than normal people)? Or more like Kickass, where a normal guy tries to become a superhero in the normal world?
I had this problem.
I looked at books on "stage sword fighting" because they had step by step pictures for moves.
Then there is this sword fighting youtube channel (ill link it when im at my laptop). The host specializes in medieval sword play and he and his partner give you the move name, walk you through it, then do it in slow motion,and lastly, perform the move in realtime.
Im a visual writer... So with those visuals, i write what i see (an added bonus is that he verbally walks you through the moves... So now you have the verbiage)
Learn Sword Fighting 1: Basic Attack
Handwork: Sword disarmaments
When I wanted to write fight scenes I started watching a lot of MMA. I also looked into sword fighting and busted out The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, the ones made in the early 70's with Michael York, Racquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Christopher Lee and Charlton Heston. World renouned for having very well-researched sword fighting (though it's a comedy). Totally different from the swashbuckler movies that came before, where they just bashed their swords together and shouted "Hah!" and "Take that, you vile brigand!"until somebody buried his sword in the other guy's armpit.
The fight choreographer worked from the idea that in real swordfights, people would include elements of street fighting as well as clashing swords. In the movies they'll sometimes take off their coat and hold it in one hand and use it to swat away the opponent's sword when necessary. They would also punch and kick each other, or try anything else that might give an advantage. Plus I remember reading something (or was it in the special features for the movies?) where the choreographer said he attended a fencing match and got up close and was amazed at how loud it was. Stamping and sweating and breathing hard—he said it reminded him of the horse races if you get up close to the horses afterwards. Or a boxing match. So he included all that noise in the scenes.
Hopefully this link will open the playlist:
The Three Musketeers
The playlist contains some of the fight scenes from both movies, The Three Musketeers and the sequel The Four Musketeers.
I finished editing the chapter. I decided to have a large battle scene that was broken up by a bird's eye view showing generals from afar. After, there's a boss fight between the MC and one of the BGs. I put the opposition in body armor that makes it impossible to penetrate, but the character spots leather straps on his shoulder and hip and makes these his primary targets. There's lots of breaks in action as they talk smack between one another. Overall, I'm pleased how it turned out. I'll let the beta readers tell me what they think of he realism.
I am sword fighter and you would think that would make me good at writing sword fighting scenes. No, it's a crutch.
DO NOT DO OR WATCH MARTIAL ARTS OR SWORD FIGHTING TO LEARN TO WRITE FIGHT SCENES!!!! Sure, studying martial arts can help you write, it just won't help you write fight scenes. Like, at all.
There I said it.
The reason I say this is because fight scenes benefit far more from a "less is more" approach. Remember the question: Why do we write? To express an idea. What makes writing interesting? It's reliability, of course. 99% of my audience aren't going to have any experience in fighting. So what good is it for me to describe a zornhau, when people aren't even going to know what the heck that is?! So I'm neither expressing an idea in a very effective way nor am I making it relatable. So, if neither of my criteria is being met by my experience in fighting, then why draw upon that?
What I do draw upon with my experience are things that people would relate to, but not necessarily think of with a sword fight. An audience may not know all the technicalities of a perry, but they will relate to the sound of metal hitting against metal. So I might choose to focus on the sound instead of the action. Sometimes blades spark when they hit. It's rare, but it happens and it's cool to see. If you're fighting and that happens, you'll smell it not see it. So I might talk about that smell of ozone. I might talk about how sweat is rolling down my face, or the pounding of my heart before a match.
In other words, I'm using adjectives. I'm describing the feel of a fight more than the techniques of a fight. I'm bringing the experience to my reader in ways that they would understand and relate to. Instead of trying to control their imagination, I'm letting them use their imagination and see what they want to see.
I agree with the latter point but not the former
watching fights helps you write better fight scenes because you know what you are trying to evoke
I hear ya, man! The first time I wrote these scenes I tried to be as detailed as possible. The guy stepped forward and twisted his hips to throw an upward volley using the muscles of his shoulder, etc., etc. I did it to try and add realism, but it just didn't sound right no matter how many times a scrubbed it in editing, so i flushed the whole thing down the bilge. The second time around I pulled back and made observations, added some dialogue between combatants, formulated a strategy, and then tried just a VERY limited amount of fast-paced action. Going back and reading it after, it sounded MUCH better.
It helped me to recognize I wasn't writing a story on martial arts - it's an urban fantasy novel with a fight scene or two. The scenes needed to be entertaining and check the box for being realistic without sounding over the top. Beta readers are tearing the thing apart right now, so we'll see how I did..
Read Wuxia and Xianxia novels. Those are novels that focus primarily on Chinese martial arts, so there are plenty of fistfights and swordfights. They will give you ideas about how to write action scenes.
Avoid technical terminology, but don't be afraid to describe the fight (punches, kicks, etch).
Be sure to mention how your character feels during the fights (sweating, dizzy, clenching teeth, pain, etch) and their emotional state (grinning, fearful, angry, etch).
...and trying to write about an actual fight scene from Youtube can help a lot too.
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