1. Akarevaar

    Akarevaar Member

    Aug 31, 2015
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    Gold Coast, Australia

    Writing a Fight Scene?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Akarevaar, Dec 2, 2015.

    So I've mostly written short stories and novellas up to this point, most of which focused on 'real life' and were largely character driven, so I've never really had to write a fight seen aside from a couple of half hearted punches. Now that I'm writing an alt-history novel set in roman occupied britain, things obviously need to get a whole lot bloodier.

    I was just wondering if any of you had advice on how to write an action scene, for someone who's never really done it before?
  2. Siena

    Siena Senior Member

    Jun 3, 2012
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    The best way is to look at some similar novel or screenplay and see how it's done there.
  3. uncephalized

    uncephalized Active Member

    Mar 11, 2015
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    My general advice: real fights are short, and confusing, and messy. Real fighters do not wear long swords behind their backs, nor do they do spin kicks and flying leaps while beheading three foes midair.

    Fights are decided in split-second, subconscious decisions and turns of luck. They are influenced just as much by situational awareness, ferocity and initiative as by size, armament and skill. People who win fights still get hurt. They just don't get dead.

    I do historical fencing (longsword, arming sword, saber, messer, etc.) as a hobby. You would not believe how fast everything is until you experience it. Bouts rarely last more than thirty seconds total, and if they're that long it's usually because we spent twenty seconds circling and feinting before we engaged. 10 seconds is a looong exchange once blades meet. A fight between two very experienced fencers may last longer because 1) they are better at defending and don't die as easily 2) they are less likely to charge in, preferring to wait for the right opening and 3) they move more efficiently and know how to conserve their energy, thus don't tire as fast.

    Which brings me to another point: fighting is utterly exhausting. With or without weapons you are using every muscle in your body to maximize your power and speed. Plus your brain is working overtime to react quickly and correctly to the opponent(s)--and your brain burns 10-20% of your total calories! If you are not in excellent physical condition a few minutes will leave you drained.

    Enough about fighting, though--you asked about writing the fight! My advice is not to drag the scene out. Any introspection or careful thought should be happening before or after the actual fighting--during an exchange the whole attention becomes focused on the fight and there is nothing on the mind but action, reaction and bodily sensation. The character will not be consciously aware of everything that actually happened until the action slows down and (s)he has a moment to think.

    I try to convey a quick beat through short, simple actions without a lot of extra description. The priority of the senses is vision, then touch, then hearing when the fight is not closed into wrestling distance; when bodies are entangled touch becomes primary and hearing can go right out the window.

    Visually a fighter will be concentrating most on posture, position and movement, not on details. Hearing is for warning of threats outside the field of vision. Any speech aside from short, simple words in a loud voice will probably be heard as background noise and ignored rather than understood.

    So I guess to boil down that long rant: 1) don't have characters doing crazy acrobatics if you're going for realism 2) during an exchange keep the pace high with short, action-oriented sentences and relevant sensory detail 3) real fights are confusing and terrifying and exhausting, and don't forget it!

    So yeah. Hope that helps.
    Sam Frost and Viridian like this.

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