What Was That? You Wanna Fight?

When starting this blog I asked friends what they would be interested in seeing from a blog based around writing. One of the biggest requests I got was writing fight scenes. So… how do you write a fight scene you say?

Beats me.

I wish I had some clear advice to give, but honestly I’ve winged every one I’ve ever written. So far what I’ve been told is that they’re good to read, but who knows if that’s a bias. The way I go about it is generally thinking back to other authors, but also what you tend to see in war movies as well as novels based on war.

Yep, I said movies (Good movies mind you). I don’t mean the ridiculous amounts of Michael Bay-esque explosions or the dramatic stunts and heroes who live through wounds that are blatantly fatal. I mean the chaos. You are going to be writing from the perspective of a character, so make sure to keep it that way. Keep the scene to what only they see and experience. They are not going to be aware of who is flanking who if they are in one of the center Companies unless they’re an officer made privy to that information.

A lot of books on the World Wars often tend to relate the horror of war as well. Do not be afraid to get vicious with it. War is not a pretty thing. There will be blood, guts, broken bones, and mud. People get trampled, there is friendly fire, people panic, and others fly into a blood lust.

Of course, how it plays out will vary a lot based on what kind of fight we are talking about. A one on one fight is far different than a soldier on the battlefield. On the battlefield there are mass amounts of information to take in so chaos is your friend. Short sentences to the point tend to create more tension. Focus will constantly be shifting from one threat to the next and the unexpected is expected to occur.

One versus one generally is “calmer”. There is only one target to focus on; one goal. I allow myself more room for observation here. In this situation my character is far more likely to notice a twitch preluding an attack or catch onto a feint than on the battlefield where there is no time for that.

A battlefield is sensory overload where as a duel is all focus. The more opponents the more likely your characters attentions will fray in multiple directions.

I suppose my main goal is not to focus too heavily on just the actions of sword slashes and magic casting, but to give the reader a sense of atmosphere. Does the battle appear to be going well? Is all hell breaking loose? What are the sounds and the sights around? Or is it all coming in so fast the character can only process it in short bursts and flashes?

For a one on one I delve more into the thought process; the calculation behind attack and defense. Character thoughts are allow to stray to something beyond just survival.

Hopefully this is of some aid. I still feel like a novice on such a subject. At the very least I hope this gives the wanted insight into my process that was requested even if it does not necessarily help.

A Little Sympathy Goes a Long Way

So you’ve got a plot all written down or perhaps it’s on a jumble of index cards or floating aimlessly in your head. Now what?

In my earlier post about plot I noted that characters are the driving force behind any story. There is more to a character than simply giving a certain personality type a physical form and letting it run amuck in your plot. That may perhaps get the story moving, but it won’t keep the reader overly interested.

The biggest thing about characters is that they need to be engaging. A reader has to actually care about these people and their lives despite that fact that they are not real people. It may seem simple at first. Make a character, design how they look, give them a name, a little history, and then throw them into a dangerous situation. Instant drama. But that does not mean that the reader will care. Indeed, there are quite a few characters that you could lob off a limb and I would care less. In fact, I might even be pleased that your protagonist just died because I have no desire to care for them.

It becomes infinitely more complicated when you design a character that is actually meant to be hated. How do you create a character that a reader is supposed to hate and yet make them engaging as an individual and not another cut out villain? The greatest key I have found is sympathy. You have to make that character sympathetic.

Now, this does not mean the character needs to have a change of heart; by all means no, make them as vile as you desire. The key is making them hated, but making it so that a person can understand why they are so awful; why perhaps you can pity and care for their past self, but loath what they have become. This in the end all ties into history and motivation.

What does your character desire? Why do they desire it? How did this come to occur?

For me the most profound moment of this was my character Anhur. Firstly, his original name was Vincent. In a world where most people had foreign based names or names that were entirely made up he was right off the bat plain with only that. Since his older brother had an Egyptian name I decided to follow suit with Anhur and give him a name change. Then came his purpose; his motivation. Anhur was designed, simply put, to create tension and frankly to move along certain plot points. Sure, he had a general history and a personality, but he was horrifically flat. I could make him as much as a brat as I pleased, but it had no meaning to it; no substance.

I hated him. He was boring and I did not find much enjoyment in writing him. No main member of the cast should be a chore to write and even small characters should not be a pain. I clearly recall being in my last home when this occurred to me. I was going through my afternoon routine, winding down from work, and suddenly I just needed to change him. I needed to tear out everything but the foundation and just rework his history, his motivation, and his personality.

Oh he’s still a brat all right, and you still hate him, but now you understand him. You can see where he is coming from and you can sympathize with who he was. Suddenly everything about him made far more sense. It was amazing how just altering his childhood development suddenly made everything fall into place. His personality, motivation, and future all were lain out so easily after that.

The ultimate joy was perhaps when receiving feedback from my good friend who is the first to read my novel for me. The way she swung between hating him and feeling sorry for him and then being angry that she felt sorry for him was both hilarious and pleasing. All because I had given a reason for him to be sympathized with there was suddenly so much more emotion, depth, and ‘interaction’ of sorts between the reader and this character.

So, when you begin to write, set time aside to work on developing your characters. You will find it a more rewarding and enjoyable task to write once you do.