1. Indigo Abbie

    Indigo Abbie Member

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    Fight Scene Examples or Tips?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Indigo Abbie, Apr 7, 2018.

    I found myself hopelessly stuck on a fight scene last night and I thought it was because of my mood. Today I went back to it and it was just as awful. I've managed to draft it again and it's less bad, but it feels lackluster. I listened to videos and read several articles, all of which mentioned reading other combat scenes to get a feel for the infinite number of ways a combat scene can be done. However, when I went on the hunt for fight scene examples, I could hardly find any.

    Specifically, my scene is hand-to-hand, in a non-fantasy Colonial time, and it's like a scrap as the two involved are unskilled. The context around it was that one man did something that immediately angered the other and he snapped.

    I wouldn't want to exclude things that may help others writing fight scenes that involve weapons or even magic so all advice or examples are very much appreciated.
     
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  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    A few thoughts:

    - Be active
    .

    Eradicate any passive voice. The fight has to be personal for the reader to be invested in the conflict. (Maybe someone has a particularly illustrative example, but can't think of one off the top of my head.

    Use your environment.
    Maybe a character grabs up a bottle on the bar. They're in the desert; have one throw sand in the other's eyes. This can spice up the action a little, and make each action scene feel a little different. It's pretty much essential if you're story is set in a conventional world and historical setting in which you don't have magic or technology at your disposal.

    - don't use 100% action beats.
    Probably the fastest way to bore me. It sounds too wooden to simply describe the swing of every fist in excruciating detail. How do the characters feeling? Are they tiring? Are they planning their next move two steps ahead? Is there any emotional investment in this fight by the two characters?

    Use your senses. Describe the metallic taste of blood in the mouth from being lamped by a left hook to the jawline.

    - Don't overdo it.
    Probably most important of all. Sometimes I've read the same duel going on and on for four, five pages or more. It usually gets quite boring to read. I think we feel as though we need to drag things out, especially if the fight is meant to be climactic, but the fight is meant to be entertaining.
     
  3. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    This makes it easier though, you don't have to worry about believable techniques. Think of two idiots flailing at each other and how often those attacks are going to be futile or even counterproductive.

     
  4. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    A good fight scene can be one of the hardest things to write. It's really easy to write bad fights, especially if your action is supposed to be very fantastical.

    In your case, if it's a scuffle between two normal guys it'd probably go something along the lines of exchanging a punch or two before one of them tackles the other to the ground and they roll around, punching each other and fighting to get on top of one another, if that helps at all.
     
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  5. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    The tools used to write an interesting fight scene will work better the clearer picture you have of what’s really going on, just to build material you can apply your writing and scene building tools too.

    About fighting: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/adrenal.htm

    If you have the stomach for it, this website has a catalog of caught on film fights, between mostly untrained people: https://worldstarhiphop.com/

    I’d caution you against treating untrained fighters as unable to fight well. Many people who played sports can generate more power in a one off hit than a trained martial artist will in a ring fight. Many people who have used violence in the past or seen other people fight will be super committed to a single effective attack.

    Tackles by lifting around the legs and haymaker punches are commonly applied by untrained people and have knockout power.

    Martial arts are largely about defense, endurance, control, tactics, attacking with combinations and so on. It can be difficult and demoralizing to swing on a trained martial artist because they can often weather and endure any attack while you get tired.

    Because untrained people can have fully committed and effective power hitting, they can be exceedingly dangerous to one another. The one who attacks first will have a huge advantage because most people have no effective defense.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2018
  6. Indigo Abbie

    Indigo Abbie Member

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    This was actually super helpful, I managed to redraft the scene and it's so much better than it was yesterday, but given the helpful advice I can add onto it.

    No, I cannot stomach browsing that. In fact, it made me even more self aware about how questionable my computer history has become thanks to writing. None of the content was worth a laugh for me, but how I imagine the people running surveillance on my search history will react... that did get a chuckle. (I'm exaggerating, it's not that bad... I haven't been a writer long enough.) :D
     
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  7. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Very true. Someone once told me the winner of a barfight is usually the first one to decide it's really going to happen.
     
  8. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    One more thing: tell, don't show.

    A subversion of what writers are usually taught, but I think this is important when it comes to fight scenes. The last thing you want is the reader trying to decipher what is happening, and that only subtracts from the immersion in the current action. Here, it's crucial to have absolute clarity at every turn within the fight. If I have to read between the lines what is actually going on, I think that's a problem.

    Okay, this is easier to deconstruct with a short example.
    Have you posted any excerpts for critique @Indigo Abbie ? That might help you better identify your problems, drill down on what your problems are and where you are able to most improve.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2018
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    In addition to the excellent advice offered by the other posters on this thread, I'd add in 'pay attention to your POV character.'

    If your POV character is NOT one of the fighters, they can watch what is happening, worry about what is happening, wonder who is going to win and think about the significance of the fight. If one guy goes home with a black eye, how is he going to explain THAT to his wife? Or one of the fighters hasn't got a chance, because the other one is more ruthless and experienced. Or ...whoever wins will rule the kingdom? If you put emphasis on the significance of the fight from the onlooker's perspective, rather than describing each grunt and uppercut, I think you'll have an easier time keeping the reader's attention focused on the right things. It will also make the fight easier for the reader to follow. I know I simply skim over fight scenes that go on too long, just to get to the end and find out who won.

    If one of your POV characters is one of the fighters, then the focus narrows even more. A person who is being hit (or slashed at) is unlikely to be pondering the significance of the event—unless there are pauses in the fight. He is either doing his best to avoid getting hurt, or he's doing his best to make it stop altogether by defeating his opponent. He is likely to either be slashing and punching furiously without a plan, or he's rapidly formulating one. Try to get and stay inside that fighter's head, and figure out what state of mind they're in. Cool and calm? Hot and tired? Furious? Cautious? Do they think they can win? Do they fear they can't?

    Whatever route you take, I can only second what @Dracon said. Don't let an ordinary fight go on so long it seems choreographed. Or, rather, don't describe it in such detail that it gets reduced to a dance. The emotional content is important as well, unless it IS some sort of ritual. Even then, make it something the reader can relate to.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That - a large part of the training for a properly trained person (not necessarily a martial artist) is to overcome the reluctance to strike first. A lot of martial arts (not so much Krav maga and a few others) are fairly useless in a real fight because they are stylised and have rules - in a real brawl the only rule is to win quickly so gouging, biting, ball shots and weapons of convenience are the order of the day, and you don't find any of that on the average dojo

    Also most fights are over quickly (unless its all talk and pushing and shoving) - Hollywood to the contrary it usually only takes a couple of blows to put someone down, so if its one on one rather than a bar room brawl don't expect it to fill many pages
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    "You must think neither of victory nor defeat, but only of cutting and killing your enemy" Miyamoto Musashi
     
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  12. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, particularly Chapter 26: Israel Hands. Clive Barker does violence really well, so you might want to give his work a try.
    The trick with fight scenes, or just action scenes in general, is to slow it down without it seeming convoluted. That the scene you're faced with is between two men inexperienced in the art of combat you should probably take a more humorous approach.
     
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  13. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is really insightful.
     
  14. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    Speaking from experience as a corrections officer who has witnessed and had to break up fights...
    -Men typically swing first, then grapple around the chest and head. Sometimes they then break apart and circle each other before then going in and grappling again. Inexperienced fighters with a lot of anger seem to almost wrestle with each other with the occasional punch thrown in when they can.
    Adrenaline will be high. When I have to break up fights, my world narrows to the people in front of me and my immediate next steps. I don't always have time to think ahead, or to worry about other people in the room. Sometimes an obvious solution or action will be missed, bc I'm so amped up I don't see it.
     
  15. Indigo Abbie

    Indigo Abbie Member

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    You've been super helpful! I think the rule subversion is actually a pretty good idea, I thought my current draft of said fight scene would feel incomplete to other people because I didn't add in too much internal stuff, but my worries have been eased.
    And... no, I have not posted the scene up for critique. I had another scene in mind to be critiqued but as it will require all the story before it to register properly, perhaps I should just post the fight scene. It's very relevant to the story, but everything the fight needs to make sense is in the scene.

    I thought about a humorous approach, but it would spoil the feelings a bit to have someone start a beat down over a critical offense. However as I have no missed hits aside from a failed stabbing attempt I should probably add at least two. In all other aspects, the MC involved moves awkwardly due to personal discomfort over his height and thin build, so even enraged he'd probably have trouble managing himself in a fight.

    This was super insightful too and even to someone who has never had a real experience watching people fight, it sounds as realistic as it gets. Also props to you, totally couldn't do that job.
     
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  16. Magus

    Magus Banned

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    Magus used punch! It's not very effective...


    I hate writing fight scenes as well, the words never capture my mental image of it. The last book I read that had a fight scene was a Witcher book, The Last Wish. It was entertaining, and I stole a word he used and use it myself often when writing medieval fight scenes. Pirouette! Ballerina sword fighting, son!
     
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  17. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I will share a fight scene I wrote from my first book as example.
    (And I ain't no expert on the matter, just like actiony things.) :p

    Coming upon the fallen enemy units, some are still trying to fight despite being all shot up. The closest to me tries to stab me in the ankle with a combat knife. I prevented it by holding the butt of the rifle, and swinging it into his thrusting arm. He growls back at me in contempt, as he tries to recover from the blow for a second attempt. Slamming my left foot down on his arm, pinning it to the metal floor beneath. His teeth bared like a wild animal, as he aggressively tries to free his arm. Hitting me in the knee with his free hand. Dropping to a kneel from the building pain with each swift blow. My injured joint slams hard into his chest winding him. Slamming the butt of the rifle down onto his throat, crushing his wind pipe. Raising up to my feet once more, only to be pelted by another a few meters down.

    Son of a bitch, that hurts! This new jackass had hit me with a few rounds from a fifteen mil. Staggering as the large caliber bullets hit me hard. Growling through gritted teeth, forcing my battered body toward him. Keeping an eye on my target as he fumbles for a fresh magazine. Throwing my rifle at him since he is still too far away. Barely had the full mag halfway into the heel of the pistol when it hit him. Glancing off of his body with a dull thud. It hits him awkwardly before clattering to the floor. He did manage to reload the pistol, but not prime it before I am upon him. Kicking his hand with my injured leg, sending both is hand and pistol hard into his stomach. Groaning from the impact, he tries to pull the slide back. Kicking the weapon up, the pistol slams into his face busting his nose. Leaning down and grasping him by the throat. I raise the dazed combatant up with both hands. Holding him in midair as he flails at me, fighting to keep his life. It is cut short as a small burst of rifle fire hits him in the back. Bullets intended for me. Using the corpse as a shield. His body absorbs the sporadic fire. Bearing down on the next enemy with my meat shield.

    “Shit, shit, shit”, I hear a female voice frantically spouting off as I approach.

    Using the momentum of the lifeless body over my shoulder. Planting it firmly onto the muzzle of the others rifle even though a moment earlier clicked empty. Shoving the mangled man off of me, hitting the metal floor in a nasty wet thud. The rifle piercing his back. Watching as the woman takes her pistol from her holster to bear down on me. Catching her mid way through the motion with my left hand, bringing a heavy fist to meet her face with my right. The pistol goes off into one of her fellow Confed. I hit her again, and another round fires into the dead. Taking hold of her arm with both hands, unpinning the pistol hand. I break it at her forearm. She howls in pain letting the pistol drop from her grip. I am done being shot you stupid cunt, I glare at her. Twisting around with her arm still in my iron grip. I grapple her over my shoulder, feeling hers dislocate as I propel her over mine. She screams in more pain as she travels to the bloodied floor below. Feeling her grip on my back from her good arm, we both tumble downward. Hitting hard on impact with the unforgiving surface. Static dancing before my eyes from the blow, face hurt from her hard pelvis. Sharp pointed pain in my kidneys as she struck repeatedly into my kidneys. Foreplay is over now. Trying to ignore the sharp pains of her assault on my back. Forcing my left arm between her legs and beneath her as she tears into me. My other arm groping around for some part of her to hold onto in the front. All I hear is her fury and contempt. My hand finds purchase on her soft collar flesh where her neck and shoulder met. Clamping onto it like a vice. Pushing up from her as she struggles to free her tender flesh from my grasp. Forcing myself into a kneel, and raising the woman off the soiled floor. She starts clawing desperately at my hand with her good one. Roughly forcing her spine across my knee, I bend her backwards with all the strength I can muster. She tries to use her legs for leverage. Wrenching her soft tissue, gives me the opportunity I need as she tries to flail her legs in an attempt to free herself. Bending her with all my rage, her spine snaps. A sharp gasp on her lips. I shove her off of me to join her dead companions.

    I hope this helps at least as an idea, or example for you. :superagree:
     
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  18. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    if it's a colonial tavern fight, the space will be cramped and the ceiling low. Swinging or kicking will be caught up in breech-ties and loose coats bla bla...
    Considering how colonials dressed, grasping an opponents lapels or shirt etc to put him to ground or pin him to post, table, wall etc.
    It is mostly about dominance and intimidation, good stuff for literary drama. Knuckles etc had more value to work and such so it would likely be rich with throttling sweating, grunting, swearing, spittle, wet ringlets of disheveled hair, pulling, possibly biting etc. Extremely close quarter stuff.
    Yes, anything to hand would be bludgeoning your enemy. A peg leg from the passed out drunk would be comedy!
    Out of doors, there would be more rolling, grinding, mashing, pining, throwing, wrestling, hands in the face. Once you had someone on the ground, it would likely end quickly, or be broken up quickly. Work needed to get done, and daylight was precious, and people and resources did not enjoy getting disturbed. So probably there would be no square up fisticuffs.
    I'd love to see how the struggle ends!
     
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