1. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2017
    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    43

    Making combat interesting

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mayarra, Sep 15, 2017.

    My story happens during a war, so conflict and combat is inevitable, it would be unrealistiv to have my character never get in any form of combat.
    I have noticed however, that combat generally seems to be rather boring when reading about it in contrast to actually seeing it, like in a movie.

    What have you noticed is effective in making moments of combat interesting to the reader?
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,419
    Likes Received:
    3,882
    Location:
    SC, USA
    I think utilizing setpieces is helpful - rather than just hitting swords together or shooting at each other, have something in the environment for characters to interact with and get creative with how they can interact with it.

    That said, imo, combat just isn't very interesting to read anyway, so I'd try to keep fight scenes to the bare minimum. In my wip they're only there to a) prove that a character's combative abilities aren't solely informed, and b) introduce a weapon that helps worldbuild. Even then, I'm considering pulling them out.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  3. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    431
    The best thing you can do is keep it short.

    For whatever you do choose to include, however, here are the tips I have to offer:

    First off, most of us have never seen "combat" or anything like it, so try to give the audience descriptions they can understand and identify with. There are things that happen in combat that only people who are there will ever understand, but there are other things that all of us get. World War I was an excellent example of this: the Western Front was a special kind of hell that has never been equalled, and yet it's possible to convey a few things about it that most people will understand.

    1. The smell of rotting corpses, piled in their thousands, is unimaginable to the vast majority of your audience, but everyone has vomited, so tell us that the stench is nauseous.

    2. The obscene devastation wrought by thousands of heavy caliber artillery pieces firing for weeks and months on end is incomprehensible, so tell us about how exhausting it is to have to walk through miles upon miles of endless mud: tell us how the body is bone tired after just an hour's walk.

    3. The feeling of claustrophobia one might get from sitting in a trench and knowing that standing up entails an absolute certainty of death is completely alien; you could instead compare it to standing in a room with a low ceiling for hours at a time, or even days.​

    It helps to be visceral. Make your descriptions vivid, emphasizing the senses, and don't waste much time describing actions carried out by the characters. We don't care that Johnson executed a parry three followed by a perfect remise. Describe the jarring impact that shoots through his hand, a shock of pain not absorbed by those thick gauntlets, and then tell us about the sparks that explode from his opponent's brow as the sword almost finds its mark, but is turned aside by a helmet.

    But, again, keeping it short is most important. We don't want that much detail through most of the scene--only in the very, very important parts.
     
    Lifeline and Simpson17866 like this.
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,870
    Likes Received:
    24,211
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    you basically have two options you can do it through the eyes of commanders and talk about the tactics, manoeuvres etc involved in 'the great game' , or you can do it through the eyes of an ordinary soldier and show the gut wrenching fear giving way to the burst of adrenalin and the lack of humanity until the lizard brain subsides and he has to live with what he's done ... if you want to do both you need a broad cast of characters because you can't really do it all through the eyes of one character unless you are dealing with very small unit engagements.

    I'd suggest reading some military fiction - James Webb, Harold Coyle, Antony Riches , Simon Scarrow etc to see how its done
     
    Lifeline and Simpson17866 like this.
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,290
    Likes Received:
    5,807
    Location:
    On the Road.
    To add to @big soft moose , non-fiction also makes chilling reading. Depends on which time you're writing about of course.

    General advise (for close or 1st POV): show it in real-time, and keep the descriptions short to what the character actually would notice/think during the fight. Use active and to-the-point verbs. Don't go down memory lane. Be careful of action-reaction. Be crystal clear what's happening after what. Vary pacing before/in the fight, that means use short and even abbreviated sentences during (my take). Be careful of using comparisons and things happening at the same time. Don't give the reader time to dwell and think, because your character has none as well.
     
  6. Cave Troll

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

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,918
    Likes Received:
    27,156
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Well since I write in first, how the feel in such situations plays a factor.
    Also I get creative. Throwing an empty rifle at a guy. Or attaching a
    war-frame combat knife like a bayonet, then using the sheer power
    of the piloted machine to cleave soft squishy people like gummy bears.:p

    In a war story it depends on how much actual fighting takes place from your
    MC(s) POV, not the peripheral things. War is a nasty no holds barred free
    for all (at least in my WIP), with very little in terms of 'rules'. And you can
    depict anything you want from a guy getting blown in half from artillery, to
    the sympathetic mercy killing of a dying comrade. It just depends on your
    approach to the situation, and how the characters handle it. Not everything
    is going to be a rage filled slaughter fest. Even in the aftermath of a battle,
    there will be psychological effects on them that may not be in their favor.
    The less exposure they have over hardened veterans will also play a factor
    in how they react to the situation. Many emotions will come out, and not
    all of them are going to be bitterness and hatred. It just depends on their
    persona, and how well they can handle it.
     
  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    20,870
    Likes Received:
    24,211
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    Also be careful of Hollywood clichés like the guy who gets shot in the body armour and is running around blowing shit up 5 minutes later... I got hit by a ricochet once and I can tell you it hurt like a bastard even through a chest protector - I had a bruise about the size of a saucer and that wasn't even a direct fire round... with a load of adrenalin in your system you might still be able to scramble to cover, but you won't be running about like nothing has happened.

    Also you can find a lot of stuff on line about how being shot doesn't knock you over because the weight of the projectile blah blah blah, in my experience it's bollocks - you won't get blown off your feet like films sometimes show, but it feels like being whacked with a bat and the shock alone will put most people on their arse

    (I've included this experience in my book where one of the MCs is shot in the body armour , his mate drags him to cover, and later tells him " you'll be okay boss, you're going to have a bruise only slightly smaller than my dick, but there no lasting damage")
     
    Cave Troll likes this.
  8. Cave Troll

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

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    17,918
    Likes Received:
    27,156
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    I agree with @big soft moose on the getting shot thing. (Though I haven't been shot personally).
    Body armor is not going to dispel the kinetic energy of the bullet, just keeps it from going through
    your body.
     
  9. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    431
    I hate this advice because I think it's too general. One of the most action-packed things I ever read was an after-action report written almost entirely in passive voice and in an entirely dispassionate fashion. It was by a British cavalry officer who actually participated in legendary Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, during the Crimean War.

    Passive voice doesn't prevent something from being interesting, but it does completely change the impact on characterization and tone, particularly when applied to combat. Usually, the effect is to make your point of view character seem fucking invincible, which is very handy at times--like when you're writing about a British cavalry officer. That is to say, when you're writing about one of the men who gave us our modern meaning for the word cavalier: showing a lack of proper concern; offhand.

    "What's that? We're assaulting a heavy artillery position with a long, uninterrupted field of fire? That's interesting. What are you having for tea this afternoon?"

    - James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, Commander of the Light Brigade (probably)​

    Other examples include Admiral David Beatty's quote, "There's something wrong with our bloody ships today," after a pair of battlecruisers exploded at Jutland, killing more than two thousand officers and men in total. For a famous American example of terse badassery, see Admiral David Farragut's quote at Mobile Bay: "Damn the torpedoes!" For an even pithier option, there's also the time that General Anthony "Nuts" McAuliffe said, "Nuts!" at Bastogne, in the Battle of the Bulge.

    This kind of restraint and apparent disregard for personal safety, is usually more easily expressed by the use of passive voice.

    Edit:

    Since I have been researching French military actions for my latest work, I'll throw in some of their options. Actually, it's the same option twice, because the second guy is quoting the first. General Pierre Cambronne was asked to surrender at Waterloo and responded with, "The Old Guard dies and does not surrender!" When pressed again to surrender, he is supposed to have responded with, "Merde!"--literally translating as "Shit!" in English.

    Sergeant Vincent Morzycki (who does not sound very French but was a member of the Foreign Legion and so may not have been--don't ask me) quoted Cambronne at the Battle of Camerón, where sixty-ish Legionnaires held out against a Mexican army until only three were left standing, and these three only "surrendered" when the Mexican commander allowed them to leave still bearing their weapons.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
    izzybot likes this.
  10. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2016
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    61
    Location:
    West Coast of the US of A
    I'll let the other offer advice on writing combat, but it isn't unrealistic to have them avoid battle unless your character is forced into an army.

    Even in battle, not all men came to blows. Medieval battles seldom had a casualty rate over 10% for the losing side, meaning 90% of people survived a battle they lost. Moreover, most deaths happened during a route. Thus a side winning a medieval battle would expect no more than ~3% casualties most of the time. To be fair, other time periods tended to have higher casualty rates, and there are exceptional battles where casualty rates for the defeated reached 100%, for example Hannibal's victory over the Romans at Canae or Alexander Nevsky's victory over the Mongols at Kulikovo. However, even during those time periods many units would be kept in reserve and not see any fighting during an entire battle.

    I would recommend writing battle scenes though if you think you can do it.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice