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Red Robin
05-26-2007, 09:26 AM
I've just read a post in another thread by Chris Grey wherein he says:

This is the end of your book, right? The most important thing is that your ending can't be cheap.

So I'm pondering the final showdown in my fantasy novel where the MC confronts the bad guy who he feels has caused him all his troubles. My MC is a bad ass fighter, but so is the bad guy, and certainly more experienced. The MC has also been starved, frozen to the brink of death, shot by an arrow, and abused and tortured in prison in the weeks before the fight. Thus, I can't have my MC win in a straight one on one, even though it must end in a one on one duel.

My plan was to have the MC pretty much defeated, and ready to eat an axe, when he manages to roll out of the way. The axe shatters on a stone and a shard of steel flies into the baddy's eye, giving the MC a chance to stab him.

The shattered axe is supposed to represent (to the baddy's tribe) that their god abandoned him, because of his past treachery.

Is this too cheesy? Too Deus ex Machina? I do like the symbolic aspects of this ending, but I'm also worried that the dagger in the boot thing is cliché.

Storyteller5
05-26-2007, 09:50 AM
I think it really depends how you write it whether the scene will be brilliant or cheesy. (The Achilles Heel has brought the hero down before. Different twist here!) One thing I can tell you would make me nuts about your ending is if you state the god-treachery theme instead of leaving it up to me to figure out. (Do you deal with that point through the book or is the God connection a completely new point cropping up?)

Have you written the last scene yet? One approach I've read and agree with is get the story down in the first draft and use the second draft to polish and reinforce your themes. The Share Your Work forum here is useful for feedback if you want to post your final scene for feedback. :)

Red Robin
05-26-2007, 10:47 AM
The scene is as yet unwritten. I'm still pondering it. The god-treachery theme will not be thrown out from some omnipresent perspective. I'm considering having an antagonist turned protagonist character state that their god betrays leaders who betray their men. It's his perspective only.

I have a running theme hinting divine intervention. Is some god messing with the protags fate? Did he screw everything up on his own? Is there some divine purpose or is the protag just melodramatic.

The axe shattering and blinding the antag is an unlikely yet plausible event that hints that divine intervention might be taking place, but I never want to make it to clear. A god never shows up in person or even in a dream to declare this or that.

brer
05-26-2007, 11:48 AM
I've just read a post in another thread by Chris Grey wherein he says:

So I'm pondering the final showdown in my fantasy novel where the MC confronts the bad guy who he feels has caused him all his troubles. My MC is a bad ass fighter, but so is the bad guy, and certainly more experienced. The MC has also been starved, frozen to the brink of death, shot by an arrow, and abused and tortured in prison in the weeks before the fight. Thus, I can't have my MC win in a straight one on one, even though it must end in a one on one duel.

My plan was to have the MC pretty much defeated, and ready to eat an axe, when he manages to roll out of the way. The axe shatters on a stone and a shard of steel flies into the baddy's eye, giving the MC a chance to stab him.

The shattered axe is supposed to represent (to the baddy's tribe) that their god abandoned him, because of his past treachery.

Is this too cheesy? Too Deus ex Machina? I do like the symbolic aspects of this ending, but I'm also worried that the dagger in the boot thing is cliché.
That type of ending sounds cheesy. imo.

What if you have stuff happening in the climax that involves a third person (a minor character)?

Like, what if a 3rd person either aids the protagonist or hinders the antagonist?
e.g.,
The 3rd person is doing this because earlier in the story this person was either befriended by the protag (maybe in jail or the protag befriended a friend or relative of the 3rd person), or the antagonist happened to make enemies of the 3rd person.
I'm thinking of something like what happened in "Shaka Zulu."

Now this 3rd person can either maybe give a "new metal" sword to the protag (like steel vs bronze), or a ceramic-edged dagger that literally cuts through everything due to its sharpness (but it is very brittle). Or a new plated shield, or protective clothing made of mail or made of strange cloth (pseudo-silk fibre).

Or this 3rd person could, out of his own personal reasons against the antag, bushwack him before he has his fight with the protag. 3rd person could beatup or injure or poison the antag, or something. So the antag ain't in too good shape when he arrives to battle the protag.

And then touch up a few earlier chapters to have the protag or antag interact with that 3rd person, and to show the background of this 3rd person, a person from a faraway, misunderstood tribe of metallurgists.

Yeah, "minor characters are a writer's best friends" ...

Just a thought.

- brer

TrickyFiction
05-26-2007, 12:05 PM
Mm... I kinda think that ending sounds too unlikely. I've seen it before (where the blade shatters and a shard of it hits the person who wielded it). The only reason it worked was because the story had a device in operation that caused that sort of thing, something like an improbability drive. :)

Anyway, I still think it's possible for the beat-up hero to take the baddy down. I like brer's idea of adding another element. I don't think it even has to be a person. It could be anything.

This reminds me of a movie I saw once. The main character was in bad shape and it looked like he was going to lose. But, another character got in the way just before the antagonist struck the finishing blow. The antagonist stopped because he didn't want to kill the person who got in the way, but the hero had blood in his eyes and couldn't see. He went right through the girl and killed the antagonist along with the her. Sad, but yeah. Kinda like that.

kristie911
05-26-2007, 05:56 PM
I think it would be far cheesier to have a bus come along and hit your character...but it does reek just a bit of cheesiness. :) I've seen worse but I've seen better...write it well and it will work. But write it poorly and it'll suck.

Good luck!

zornhau
05-26-2007, 06:10 PM
I've just read a post in another thread by Chris Grey wherein he says:



So I'm pondering the final showdown in my fantasy novel where the MC confronts the bad guy who he feels has caused him all his troubles. My MC is a bad ass fighter, but so is the bad guy, and certainly more experienced. The MC has also been starved, frozen to the brink of death, shot by an arrow, and abused and tortured in prison in the weeks before the fight. Thus, I can't have my MC win in a straight one on one, even though it must end in a one on one duel.

My plan was to have the MC pretty much defeated, and ready to eat an axe, when he manages to roll out of the way. The axe shatters on a stone and a shard of steel flies into the baddy's eye, giving the MC a chance to stab him.

The shattered axe is supposed to represent (to the baddy's tribe) that their god abandoned him, because of his past treachery.

Is this too cheesy? Too Deus ex Machina? I do like the symbolic aspects of this ending, but I'm also worried that the dagger in the boot thing is cliché.

Axes, unless flint, don't shatter. Also, it doesn't take much to hurt an unarmoured downed man, so the antag won'tbe taking stupid swings at him, unless he things the hero reall has had it, and he's trying to be flashy.

Red Robin
05-27-2007, 12:16 AM
Axes, unless flint, don't shatter.
Narsil shatters in LOTR. That doesn't mean it's true to life, but shattered weapons have good pedigree. :)

I would be willing to re-invent the whole climatic scene. The story is that the MC is questing to kill the baddy, whom I am calling Ulfarr (yes, he's based on Vikings), after Ulfarr reneged on his word to fight the MC to the death ina duel, with disastrous results for the MC. The critical plot elements of the chapter are that the MC fight and kill Ulfarr in a fair manner, and that after his success his 'curse' is not lifted, showing that his adventure was vainglorious.
I would just like the final fight seen to be tense, interesting and have a little twist. I'm thinking this-

The two fight, the MC falls and loses his sword, Ulfarr swings his axe, missing the MC and shattering a rock (rather than an axe shard), and is momentarily blinded by grit. The MC pulls a dagger to strike, but is threatened by one of Ulfarr's men (maybe with a bow). Another (the antag turned protag) steps in and threatens Ulfarr's man because he is dishonourably interfering. Afterwhich, the MC and Ulfarr can fight barehanded. The MC height (he is very tall) and Ulfarr's eye injury swing the advantage enough over to the MC's side that he can believably win.

Better?

I fear that might introduce another cheesy element (the famed Mexican Standoff), but hey, it seems every conceivable fight device has been used a thousand times.

Thanks for the input.

justpat
05-27-2007, 01:34 AM
Its hard to come up with something that has not been done before, I know. You certainly do not want a third party to come along and assist. The MC must be the victor, not some third party.

You may have to back up even further if you want to find something original. The protag on the ground about to be run through by the bad guy has been done so much, that finding an original way out may not be possible.

Chris Grey
05-27-2007, 02:28 AM
If you want the axe to shatter, for reasons mentioned above, then it has to shatter as a direct or indirect result of the MC's actions. You might not know it, but Dumb'Luck is the Elven name for God.

I've seen something like this happen before actually, and believably so. MC has a great sword, enemy has a great axe. Both are steel. Both characters swing with all their might and their attacks stop each other, but the sword's sharper and cracks the axe. On the next attack, the enemy swings his axe horizontally into the MC's helmet and the MC attacks the enemy's torso. The crack in the axe causes it to break on the helmet rather than cut through, and the MC still cuts his enemy in half. I don't know if this is kosher with the laws of physics and metallurgy, but it worked.

If your MC weakens the axe to the point where it's almost going to break, then it's plausible. If it just up and breaks, then it's a little cheap.

There's another rule of cheapness, by the way.

Don't weaken the enemy mid-encounter to make the fight winnable.

Making him go blind as anything but a direct result of the MC's actions makes the fight cheap. The epitome of a heroic battle is that the MC, at the brink of death, defeats the bad guy at the height of his power. Your MC's battered and bloodied, he's probably breathing hard and losing blood. This is the perfect opportunity for your bad guy to pull out his Secret Weapon, because it makes your hero that much more heroic to win against such odds. Nobody's proud of beating up a blind dude.

Novelist in Paradise
05-27-2007, 04:12 AM
Why not investigate the possibility of MC defeating the baddie by a bit of treachery of his own? Some sort of trick (there's a great scene in Pullman's first book in Dark Materials Trilogy where the polar bear defeats the bear king by a trick--and Pullman has obliquely referred to this trick earlier in the book, so it didn't come out of the blue).

Chris Grey
05-27-2007, 04:24 AM
Why not investigate the possibility of MC defeating the baddie by a bit of treachery of his own? Some sort of trick (there's a great scene in Pullman's first book in Dark Materials Trilogy where the polar bear defeats the bear king by a trick--and Pullman has obliquely referred to this trick earlier in the book, so it didn't come out of the blue).

IMO, that's a perfect fight. The win isn't just physical, and the trick isn't just a trick-- it's established early on that bears can't be tricked, so Iorek doesn't just defeat the bear king, (by tricking him) he destroys him.

Gillhoughly
05-27-2007, 04:27 AM
The axe shatters on a stone and a shard of steel flies into the baddy's eye

Send this one to Mythbusters! I wanna see if it's possible. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon10.gif

Cath
05-27-2007, 04:31 AM
I don't like the fluke ending. I don't like it because it means the antagonist triumphs from luck, not endurance, or strength, or whatever else his battle is. If he wins by his own means, there's a chance to complete the antagonist's story - overcoming odds etc etc. If he wins through luck, there's no change.

Personal preference, but I wouldn't use a fluke as the climax of the novel.

zornhau
05-27-2007, 02:13 PM
In the duel: Did you say that the hero was knackered? Have him take a fall and go flump due to fatigue/exposure/starvation.

Bad guy assumes protag is concussed or more wounded than he seems. Hauls him to his knees in order to give him a humiliating death.

Hero gets knife out of boot - for god's sake plant this earlier, and make it earned, e.g. a gift.

Evil Sidekick 1 notices and makes to intervene, but other 3rd party swiflty punches him out (as long as this loyalty or moral change is earned by the main protag)

Bad guy takes hero's hair, and swings back sword in order to behead him....

Hero whips out dagger, slashes the chap's wrist, collapses clear of the blow and stabs BG in the groin (if you want a symbolic wound)

dmytryp
05-27-2007, 10:20 PM
This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but I suggest taking a look at the duel between the Red Viper and the Mountain in the "Storm of swords" by George Martin.
The Viper is weaker physicly, but faster and he basicly overcomes the Mountain, but when all that is left to finish the job he gets to close and the Mountain tackles him and kills him.

Red Robin
05-28-2007, 03:06 AM
Good ideas all around.

The heart of it is that any form of fluke will lessen the impact of the scene.

My original intention was that Ulfarr rules not only by might but by trickey and betrayal, which does not fit the tribes viking-esque moral system. Thus his actual weapon fails him, just as his metaphorical weapons fail him. I was worried that being soooo symbolic might cause readers to groan. Instead I see it has other problems.

As I have not yet started writing that chapter, I have time to rework things in my mind. It's good to see where potential faults lay though.

Lindo
05-28-2007, 03:50 AM
I would completely put all the symbolism out of your mind. For good.

Regarding the ending, stripped of the mumbo, it comes down to three choices: good guy wins fair and square by his greater strength and smarts, good guy wins by playing dirty, good guy wins because of some outside break not under his control.

Personally, I hate co-incidences and lucky breaks. Hell, it might as well be real life if you have that stuff. I have NO problem with the good guy winning by cheating or dirty tricks. (Or course that's real life, too.) The fights in the Chamberlain/York/Reed Three Musketeers are instructive.

Red Robin
05-28-2007, 10:22 AM
Well, I'm stuck. I'm just going to write it in the original way for now, and rework the scene in a later draft if necessary.

GF thinks the original might work, as the whole story has a fairy tale quality to it.

Mr. Good guy can't win by dirty tricks, because the whole novel is about him trying to recapture his honour. He die rather than cheat in a duel. Should I let him die? My instinct is to say no, because this doesn't happen in fantasy. I think the intended readers would get pissed at that. Also, the book is open to sequels :) although that's really getting ahead of myself.

Chris Grey
05-28-2007, 11:28 AM
Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

There are more than three ways to win. Good guy wins by sheer perseverence and determination. Let the other guy, who's got the upper hand, beat the hell out of him. Even though the bad guy is stronger when the fight begins, your MC has more experience in taking a beating. Starved, frozen, shot, and tortured? No matter what the bad guy does to him in this fight, he's been through worse. That's one possible advantage. The fight's not over until one of them falls and doesn't get up.

How do you define honor? How does your MC define it? What about heroism? It seems to me that if your MC's opponent's axe breaks then he's unarmed. It's one thing if it breaks by your MC's sword cutting through it and him in one swing. It's another if it shatters on a rock and then your MC stabs him.

justpat
05-28-2007, 06:16 PM
He die rather than cheat in a duel.

Thats not a bad idea. What if he defeats the bad guy, but has to die in the process. One last defiant suicide attack, he kills the bad guy, but receives a fatal hit himself. This works best if the protag realizes during the battle that he can't win, sees the opening but knows the antag will have time to get off a fatal hit as well, but does it anyway.

zornhau
05-28-2007, 07:03 PM
Thats not a bad idea. What if he defeats the bad guy, but has to die in the process. One last defiant suicide attack, he kills the bad guy, but receives a fatal hit himself. This works best if the protag realizes during the battle that he can't win, sees the opening but knows the antag will have time to get off a fatal hit as well, but does it anyway.

Have him cheat. Morality is more important than honour.

justpat
05-28-2007, 08:52 PM
Have him cheat. Morality is more important than honour.

I think you mean mortality. But from what I've read about this character so far, I would say the opposite is true. Death before dishonor is his motto.

Red Robin
05-28-2007, 10:37 PM
Actually, a suicide attack isn't a bad idea. I'd have to give Ulfarr a sword instead of an axe as axes are more all or nothing weapons, but that's no problem. MC could be stabbed, but get in one last hit. He could even be healed afterwards, as there is a there is a crazy snow witch who has already healed him after he was nearly frozen to death. Hmmm... that wouldn't be a total cop out, as the witch would make some very heavy demands on him, if not demand to keep him forever.

Well... last chapter now has twenty directions it could go in. That'll be fun.

justpat
05-28-2007, 10:56 PM
It loses some of the punch if he gets healed. But then its hard to have a sequel otherwise. Tough decision.

Bartholomew
05-29-2007, 02:41 AM
I've just read a post in another thread by Chris Grey wherein he says:



My plan was to have the MC pretty much defeated, and ready to eat an axe, when he manages to roll out of the way. The axe shatters on a stone and a shard of steel flies into the baddy's eye, giving the MC a chance to stab him.

The shattered axe is supposed to represent (to the baddy's tribe) that their god abandoned him, because of his past treachery.


It depends entirely on how much emphasis you placed on the bad guy's tribe's god abandoning the bad guy.

zornhau
05-29-2007, 02:14 PM
I think you mean mortality. But from what I've read about this character so far, I would say the opposite is true. Death before dishonor is his motto.

Yes, but one possible twist is that he grows, away from childish honour and into adult morality.

zornhau
05-29-2007, 02:32 PM
Actually, a suicide attack isn't a bad idea. I'd have to give Ulfarr a sword instead of an axe as axes are more all or nothing weapons, but that's no problem. MC could be stabbed, but get in one last hit.


Not really.

A penetrating thrust really will stop people. Muscles lock and spasm and they just freeze and drop (don't ask me how I know this). Also, there is a shove-back effect, which would foul up their dying attack - you need to be properly grounded to make an effective cut.

More important, in most historical combat styles, you "fence securely" - i.e. attack in such a manner as to close off the other chap's attack, or else time your attack to coincide with his winding back to attack.

So, for example, if a two-handed axeman raises his weapon to take a swing at me, I do not nippily stab him in the belly and hope he doesn't side-step and cleave me. Instead, once he commits, I e.g. step in and parry against his wrists, then do something even... nastier*.

This is especially true if viking-style shields are involved. Shields are not just a passive defence. You use them to actively foul up the other fellow's weapon.

In general, with cold steel, one-on-one suicide attacks are implausible because they either won't work, or else are no more effective than a morse sensible attack.


*One authentic technique would be: Slice my edge all the way around his wrists until it's on top, then press his hands down. Finally, step away and cut up with the reverse edge, taking off his face.

Red Robin
05-29-2007, 02:52 PM
Yes, but one possible twist is that he grows, away from childish honour and into adult morality.

This is a big part of the development of the MC. Early in the story he is impetuous in a battle, and his father dies trying to pull his ass out of the fire. He's brave, but almost stupidly so. He is to learn that he isn't the centre of the universe, and he should quit being a self centred jerk. Maybe getting killed will teach him

I am now planning to use the suicide attack. He will be healed, as I have the perfect plot device/character for it*. But if he loses nothing, it will be cheap. So, in exchange for healing, he's going to lose his soul / free will after a six year grace period. That adds tension in any sequels (I'm optimistic :) ) and presents a challenge for him in the future.


*Anyway, mostly dead isn't all dead.

Red Robin
05-29-2007, 02:55 PM
Zornhau-

Thanks. I'll figure something out though.

glutton
05-30-2007, 06:26 AM
A penetrating thrust really will stop people. Muscles lock and spasm and they just freeze and drop (don't ask me how I know this). Also, there is a shove-back effect, which would foul up their dying attack - you need to be properly grounded to make an effective cut.


Maybe most of the time, but I recall reading an article citing a number of instances of people "carrying on" after taking such wounds: http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/bloody.php
http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/kill2.php

So it's at least possible a character could keep going, if he's motivated enough and doesn't suffer anything too instantly debilitating.

Also, since it's fiction it depends a lot on the tone you're going for (ie. how over-the-top it's supposed to be). Fighting on at least briefly after getting impaled isn't uncommon in wuxia, nor some types of anime.

Of course, I'm more over-the-top than most. As a rule, it takes more than one deep stab wound to put down one of my toughie heroines - sometimes more than two or three, depending on who we're talking about (Rose :heart:)