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Old 01-13-2013, 08:23 PM   #1
CrastersBabies
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Fight Scenes in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I know there have been threads about this topic in other forums, but I wanted to start one that deals with sci-fi and fantasy fight scenes. Let's face it, the fantasy/sci-fi fight scene can take on a far more epic feel than your average fight scene in other genres.

There are battles on a grand scale. There can be world-wide ramifications for victory or defeat. There are also elements beyond melee to consider: magic (for fantasy) and technology (for sci-fi).

I wanted to make this thread to see if people wouldn't mind sharing their methods for creating a fight scene. Maybe you have one, maybe you don't. Maybe these scenes make you crazy. Maybe you love them.

Also consider minor fight scenes like scuffles and sparring scenes.

Some guided questions:

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?


Looking forward to hearing some answers. Sorry if this has been done before. I searched for fight scenes and melee in this forum and came up empty. Could be my searching skills are full of fail. But, perhaps this thread is enough to stand on its own?
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:34 PM   #2
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I'll go since I'm making you answer all of these questions:

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
It's hit or miss with me. Sometimes I enjoy it, other times not. The scenes I enjoyed writing were usually well-prepared beforehand (details below). The scenes where I struggled came from an inability to picture or view the scene in my head clearly.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?
I plan them out now as much as I can. The process looks like this:
1. Map it out. As a D&D nerd, this kind of comes naturally. I get a piece of paper out and set up the players with an X or an O or whatnot. Then I place my POV character. I run through some scenarios of movement. "If POV Char goes HERE, what would the reaction of others around him be?" Once I have a good scenario in my head, I begin writing.
2. Write it. I write it in a very matter-of-fact way. No embellishment. I just get it on the page.
3. Go back and flesh it out.
4. Go back and flesh it out some more.

That's pretty much it. One thing that I keep in mind is that I can only write what my POV character sees (with a tight 3rd). He's not going to have a bird's eye view unless he's on a dragon or such. He'll know about that one guy next to him who keeps taking a jab. He'll know where his allies are nearby, etc.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
I like moderate blood and gore. I don't overdo it. Blood splatters. It's warm. It gets in your mouth. Those things are okay. Again, how does it impact the POV character? Is my character going to pay attention long enough for me (the author) to write out 3 paragraphs of steaming, wet, slick gooeyness? Probably not.

Movement and stance is where I struggle. How much do I need? How much do I have to describe what is going on? I try to find a happy medium in there but often over-describe and have to go back and try to find a way to be more efficient. Again, big struggle here.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

I haven't. Yet. I plan to very soon. I'm not sure how I'm going to work that in other than trying to keep to the shoulder of the POV character. I do have a magic-user in one scene (told from his POV), so that will be something new for me. Looking forward to reading others' responses on this one.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

I don't know how much room I allow for this now. When I go back and flesh out a fight scene, I try to play with some internalization, but I'm always thinking that people won't have a whole lot of time to dwell when they're swinging, defending, bashing and such.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?
I've been reading Joe Abercrombie lately and think he does a damn good job in his fight scenes. They're just the right blend of close-up in the character's mind and pulled out when the fighting goes center stage.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:58 PM   #3
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Quote:
1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
Not really, because it's hard to keep clarity up and keep the reader along for the ride.
Quote:
2. How do you execute your fight scenes?
Well, one character wants to kill the other... how else?
Quote:
3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
Enough detail to let the reader understand what is going on. I don't hold back the blood and gore, but I don't showcase it.
I've got a good rule, the reader only cares for what results from the fight, not the actual fight itself as much. So, stance and movement is at the bottom of the list. I don't try to choreograph my character's movements in relation to the environment.
Quote:
4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?
Magic =/= swords. Its just another weapon, but I make sure the reader knows what that magic is before its used in a fight.
Quote:
5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).
Keep explanation to a minimum. Short, simple, straight forward sentences.
I've always found the extended fights with a heavy weight to them to be cliche. As a rule, I keep fights as short as possible, so not much is weighing on them.
Quote:
6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?
The only writer I've found that has good, easy to follow fight scenes is Brandon Sanderson, but then, out of his books, I only find the fight scenes to be entertaining... (ow, Will)


My WIP has practiced killers facing each other. There's no rough and tumble fights, just straight up finding weaknesses and slitting throats, so all my fights are under 500words.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:02 PM   #4
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Interesting questions.

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

Fight scenes are FUN. I enjoy writing them. The flow of the words usually come easily to me. I've always had a clear idea of how things were going to go, yet the writing of the scenes often give me delightful character-specific surprises.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

Fight scenes generally have two to four (or more) POV characters going into them (particularly the bigger battle sequences). The actual fight is built from the individual experiences in the various parts of the action.

For instance, I have a fairly major battle in my present MIP. It takes a full chapter (roughly 7K words). I start with POV1 pre-battle as the armies are lining up. He's a grunt soldier that the others of his company look to for guidance, his first time holding a sword. He receives battle plans from his commander. Switch to POV2, the commander of the opposing army. It's also his first battle, but he's trained all his life for it. He's looking forward to it.

Switch back to POV1, who is in the midst of fighting and comparing it to the serial killing he's done in the past. He's kinda getting the hang of this fighting stuff and liking it.

Switch to POV3, a bystander who has a bird's eye view of what's going on and watch as something unexpected (and magical) wheels in to completely screw up the battle that the people fighting can't see--and the character/reader knows there's no way to get a message to anyone.

Switch to POV4, the commander of our Hero's army as he follows the plan until what POV3 saw completely screws him over, and how he copes with that.

In another book, the climatic battle at the end involves 7 POV characters (several of who die in their own POV) and covers about 4 chapters. It's all structured the same way.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

Virtually none. I don't know stances and stuff and I skim over it when it is there when I'm reading. My focus is on what the POV character is personally experiencing, especially emotionally. That's where the vast majority of the interesting conflict is in my stories, so that's where I keep my attention focused. (FWIW, I have the same attitude about sex scenes.)

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

I write Fantasy, so magic goes where magic goes. If there's magical combat, it's handled just like any other form of attack/counter.

In the battle I detailed in #1, POV4 is a wizard who has to counter the attack magic with something I haven't covered before, so I give a little more detail to what he's doing so the reader isn't wondering. However, the main focus is still on WHY he's doing what he's doing and what he hopes to gain from taking this risk rather than any intricacies of spell work.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

I think that sound be obvious from what I said above.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?


In all honesty, I can't tell you. It's been a long time since I've read a book with a fight scene in it, and none of them stand out in my mind as exceptional or horrible. Which is as it should be. A fight scene is just a part of a story and if it sticks out too much from the whole, then it fails, IMO. No matter how well or bad it was crafted, it still fails.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:06 PM   #5
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Boy! Terrific questions and topic. Thanks Crasters.

I love fight scenes, especially large scale battles where the author includes cleaver military tactics that make sense. I hate it when the day is won by an unlooked for ally showing up in the nick of time. I want to see the good guys win because they do something smart, not because the author saves them.

With that said, as you mentioned above, it's difficult to sustain the flow of MC's POV while also talking about the larger issues of battle that are beyond the view of the MC.

Can anybody recommend books that have really good epic battle scenes?
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:40 PM   #6
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I'll play...

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

No more or less than I do the rest of the book. If a fight scene is needed, I go with it. If not, I avoid them.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

Since I write in close 3rd, its always from the PoV of the character observing, or doing the fighting.

For single combat, I will add more thoughts by the character on what he/she is observing or doing. I show more in single combat that large scale melee's.

Speaking of large scale melee's, I tend to set the stage on what the PoV is observing. How fortifications are formed, defenses set, how the opposing troops are arranging themselves. While I stay with the PoV, I do allow the PoV to tell more than show.

If I have opposing PoV's setting the stage can sometimes take two or more chapters as each PoV shows their side of the story. Then once the grand melee starts, I will switch to the PoV that is important to the melee, be it the winner or loser.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

As much as is needed for the reader to understand the pain, the horror, the outcome.

Again, with single combat, I will show more, including movements of the PoV and what he/she is seeing. With large melee's, nothing outside the PoV's experience. Many times, after a large melee, the PoV will take a moment to reflect on what he sees and more of the battlefield is shown in the aftermath...


4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

Since one of my favorite characters is a magic user, magic plays an important part of his defenses. But he also has been trained in hand to hand combat, though he is not the greatest and gets beat up from time to time.

Guns, cannons, etc, are not a part of my world as I feel the horrors of war or combat are much more frightening when you have to face your opponent with nothing more than swords, axes, shields, spears, bows, etc.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

Within my Tales of Netherron series, the underlying arc is about freedom of choices. My main character hates violence. He has never killed anyone in his life, but is being forced to make decisions that are costing the lives of his friends. In the end, he decides to fight to save the lives of his friends and love interest. Of course that is a simplification of his actions and reasoning, as this is something he has been thinking and acting on the whole book so when the final battle comes, its pretty clear to the reader why he decided to stand and fight against overwhelming odds.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?

Bernard Cornwell, any series, but especially his Saxon Chronicles.
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:46 PM   #7
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Boy! Terrific questions and topic. Thanks Crasters.

Can anybody recommend books that have really good epic battle scenes?
In my opinion, Bernard Cornwell, his Saxon series, Archer series, or even his Arthur series are all excellent at setting up the scenes as well as walking the reader through numerous melees, small and large...

As to setting up the emotions, that should all be set before the melee begins from character PoV's before hand. How they are preparing, what they are thinking, what they think their chances of surviving are, etc etc. Once the melee starts, its all about the actions of the PoV and what is going on around him or her.

OF course, for smaller single combat scenes, like an ambush or knife fight in a bar, well, the PoV does not have a lot of time for forethought, so you just go with the scene and if need be, have the PoV reflect afterwards...

Works for me...
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:08 PM   #8
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I've declared 2013 to be my Year of the Fight Scene. I want to learn how to write really good, technically sound ones. I've got the internal aspects of a fight down pat, but the external aspects are sorely lacking at the moment. Since my characters use divine magic as well as hand-to-hand combat, I want the two to contrast well. The words I use to describe the magic are very cerebral, whereas the martial stuff is going to be very visceral and practical.

I just got the first two books of the Saxon Chronicles in the mail, and am very excited to read them and see what the fight scenes are like. I always struggle to follow along as a reader, and I'm hoping Mr. Cornwell can give me some insights. I want my books to make the SCA and ARMA geeks proud.
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Old 01-13-2013, 10:51 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by thothguard51 View Post
In my opinion, Bernard Cornwell, his Saxon series, Archer series, or even his Arthur series are all excellent at setting up the scenes as well as walking the reader through numerous melees, small and large...

As to setting up the emotions, that should all be set before the melee begins from character PoV's before hand. How they are preparing, what they are thinking, what they think their chances of surviving are, etc etc. Once the melee starts, its all about the actions of the PoV and what is going on around him or her.

OF course, for smaller single combat scenes, like an ambush or knife fight in a bar, well, the PoV does not have a lot of time for forethought, so you just go with the scene and if need be, have the PoV reflect afterwards...

Works for me...
Thoth, I like the setting up approach. I also think it can work in "reverse" (if that's the right word). For example, if a character happens upon some dead bodies that were engaged in a fight (with survivors that obviously escaped and are no longer there), the POV character would probably scan the area and try to piece together what happened in a sense. CSI style! (Okay maybe not, but kinda)
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Old 01-13-2013, 11:20 PM   #10
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Of course hearing about and piecing a battle, ambush, or fight, together after the fact can work, depending on what the author is trying to achieve...
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Old 01-13-2013, 11:23 PM   #11
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

Consider I'm doing a contemporary fantasy/action-adventure story, yes, I love doing fight scenes and other kinds of action scenes. I think I have something like eight action scenes in my book.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

I write in omniscient, so my fight scenes are often with multiple characters. I use the narrator to show all the action going on at the same time, sort of like a camera.

I also try to evolve the scene. It isn't just a fight scene -- it turns into a magic and gun battle and then turns into a pursuit. I'll also show how the characters are after the scene (groaning and moaning about how much everything hurts, etc.).

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

No gore. I want the fight scenes to be entertaining, and I don't find gore entertaining. I focus more on how messy and chaotic the fight is and the reactions of the people.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

Since mine is a contemporary fantasy, there are guns in addition to magic. The magic is more of last resort. The main character only uses it to delay the bad guys; his primary method of surviving is to run from the fight.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

That's a whole story issue and something I build up to before I get to the appropriate scenes.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?

Clive Cussler and Tamora Pierce.
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Old 01-14-2013, 02:43 AM   #12
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
Yes. I think fighting is an excellent way for a character to express themselves.


2. How do you execute your fight scenes?
I avoid thinking in the fight outside of a significant and unavoidable realization. The fight almost always ends (or the person thinking it will end there.)

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
I don't like obsessing over stance details during the fight. That needs established before blows are struck or during lulls.

I'm not a fan of bloody fights because of my disdain for healing magic. Drawing blood should be a sign of death or conclusion. If someone is bloodied I feel there should be real consequence to follow.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?
Too much = too busy and thus hard to follow. If a person fights with magic or a trick it needs to correspond with a game plan or gimmick.

I settled on one for Naida in my novel that went along with the utilitarian edge magic serves. She is able to use fire and water magic like anyone else in her country. The swordsman that trained her taught her how to focus and draw additional power into her swings.

It acts like steam power, a focused burst that fuels momentum. This translates to: She swings really hard without making it excessively complex.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

Most fights are life and death to some degree. Establishing the cost of failure before hand will feed the urgency rather than huge amount of exposition in the fight itself. Other than that, setting and the conditions of the stage before hand. And I don't mean the setting.

A hero suffering humiliating defeat before a weak foe because he has to stay his/her hand. has much more impact on me than an epic sword clash in an epic locale.
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Old 01-14-2013, 03:12 AM   #13
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I'm not a fan of bloody fights because of my disdain for healing magic. Drawing blood should be a sign of death or conclusion. If someone is bloodied I feel there should be real consequence to follow.
Don't want to derail the thread too badly, but the existence of healing magic doesn't have to mean that fights don't have real consequences. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever read a book where healing magic removed the suspense of a given fight. The magic was either limited in such a way that it wasn't a cheap I-Win Button, or the results of the fight resulted in something far worse than death or injury. Sometimes it's more than just your life at stake, you know?
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Old 01-14-2013, 03:30 AM   #14
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I hate writing fight scenes. It's just not my strong suit. I tend to avoid overly-detailed descriptions of movement and go for big, visually stimulating/interesting actions.

The protagonist hurls a bolt of lightning, the villain blocks it with a shield spell and a shower of sparks blinds the both of them causing them to trip and fall. Stuff like that.

I don't like reading overly detailed fight scenes, either, even if they're good. I like fights that involve big, specific, unique attacks/movements/powers and are over very quickly. Almost like a gun fight is in real life, I guess, but with magic or swords, ideally. I like the majority of the fight scenes in The Dresden Files a lot, and that's kinda what I strive for when I write one.
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Old 01-14-2013, 04:17 AM   #15
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Fiiiiiight scenes! I love writing fight scenes!

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

Definitely! (Except for the occasional one that gives me trouble . . .)

The reason? This might sound weird, but I feel competent at it. I do a lot a lot a LOT with swords, guns, different martial arts, boxing, etc. etc., plus a whole mess of other physical athletic stuff, so I feel like I have an excellent sense of (1) what the human body can do, (2) how different weapons handle, and (3) how it feels to be in a fight. Other places in my writing I struggle to drop in the little details that give a feeling of authenticity, but writing fight scenes usually feels easy!

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

Depends on the fight scene.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

It varies, but less rather than more. I want the fight scene to feel like it's moving at close to real time. (The first sword fight I wrote after I started studying swords like . . . ten years ago was HORRIBLE, because I described EVERYTHING, and it dragged like a dragging thing!) I'll pepper in a few details of thought/movement/stance depending on the POV -- for instance, if I've detailed a lot of that character's training, I might slip in a mention of sliding through a certain pattern of footwork, or a throwback to something the instructor said -- but I rarely/never describe everything exhaustively. After all, the character him/herself wouldn't even be thinking about that stuff -- it's ingrained. The much more interesting pieces of the fight are the emotional beats, the moments of pressing advantage or the "oh shit!" moments . . .

A poster upthread made an analogy to sex scenes, and I think that's very apt. I HATE reading most sex scenes, because I find "insert tab A into slot B" descriptions dead boring. But take me through the emotional beats, and I'm with you. Same with fight scenes -- I use my experience to pepper in the authentic details, but they're almost always more about character experience than "parry/riposte/parry/riposte/aim/fire."

(I'm struggling with a certain fight scene right now that needs to include way more detail than I like to make it clear what's happening, because it's . . . an unusual sequence. I'll probably be posting it in SYW soon . . .)

As for blood and gore -- doesn't interest me in particular other than what's needed for the story, but my fight scenes usually move too fast for more than a spray of blood here or there anyway, and more often than not the POV characters don't notice their own injuries more than peripherally until after the fight (with the occasional dire exception).

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

I don't do it every beat -- the reader gets what's happening; I don't have to say "using magic" (or in my current series, "using math" ) every time. I sprinkle it in pretty much the same way I sprinkle in details about the weapons -- enough to be there, but not so much that it overwhelms or slows the fight (at least, I try not to).

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

Again, it depends, but usually it doesn't enter into the fight description unless I'm at an emotional beat where it would come up -- for instance, that moment when the hero knows the villain's about to kill her, and time slows down and the one thought that crystallizes in her head is, "Forgive me, father . . ." . . . y'know.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?


Put me on the spot, why doncha! Umm . . . I can think of a few fight scenes I loved but for the life of me I can't remember what books they were in. As another poster said, I think a lot of times when the fight scene's well done, I don't notice how well done it is because I'm absorbed in reading what's next! I do notice when they're particularly good, though; I'll have to ruminate and think of the examples.

Now, I notice BAD fight scenes all the time . . .
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:03 AM   #16
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

Yes, but I didn't used to. They kind of wear me out and I used to worry a lot about where people's hands were and such. But I think it's a lot of fun. Sometimes I still have to act moves out to make sure I'm describing it right and they still kind of wear me out, but I like writing them., it's fun.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

Someone throws the first punch, usually the bad guy, and my protagonist will retaliate, usually after being thrown on their backs.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

Don't pay attention to stance. I guess however much detail it needs. I'll mention if arms get broken or someone starts bleeding, not in great detail, just enough so the reader knows someone is bleeding, how it happened, how they got thrown to the ground, etc. I write in close third so I focus more on how the character is feeling, what's going through their head, if anything, and so forth.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

I introduce it or mention it beforehand and just...show it. You know, I've never thought this and I use magic a lot. Lol! I have no idea what I do. I guess I treat it like I treat any other normal thing in the story. If someone can shoot fire out of their hands, then I show them shooting fire from their hands or show someone getting hit by a fire ball. *shrug* It's always made total sense to me. Lol!

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

Hmm, I don't know. In my last fight scene, my character thought she was going to die and how she was going to let everyone down, so I guess like that. Just by being close to them and in tune with that they're thinking.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?

I don't ever think about this. Tough questions. Lol! But Kathryn Lasky comes to mind, for action scenes in general.
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:40 AM   #17
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The best fight scenes I have read are in Guin Saga by Kaoru Kurimoto. Among them are also the longest fight scenes in any books I've read. Hundreds of pages(spread among three consecutive books) are devoted to what amounts to a single battle(with multiple smaller skirmishes). The scope of the fights is great, the detail is magnificent and the events that unfold within are glorious. The attention to the small details is what makes the fights so interesting and refreshing to read. Things aren't just glossed over like in many books, but they are given the weight they deserve. What matters is not just the outcome of the fights, but how they are reached and how they change the characters in the story. Would that some day I could write such things. A long road is ahead of me.
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Old 01-14-2013, 05:43 AM   #18
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I hate writing fight scenes. I write literary fiction and most of my stuff is more psychological and subtle, so something as direct and physical as a fight scene is difficult for me.

So far, I've only written one gun fight and one hand-to-hand scuffle, but I have an idea for a novel that will have to involve some magical battles. Not of the wizard vs. wizard variety, but some kind of psychics/astral-projection-type stuff, and I have no idea how I would do it.

Anyone written any mecha battles, or fights between giant robots?
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Old 01-14-2013, 08:51 AM   #19
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
-I enjoy writing them because they're just fun to me. I like it when characters are in danger.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?
-I generally just write the fight as it plays out in my head. I keep the focus to one character and make sure to include emotional and physiological reactions to the fight.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
-I generally include some details. I'll go into specifics on blood and gore, but I don't spend a lot of time on movement and stance because that's not my strength.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?
-I write it the same way I do anything else. "A jet of fire burst from the end of his staff, striking his opponent." I keep it simple and straightforward and aim for clarity.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).
-I'm not really sure. I like focusing on whoever has the most to lose, though. That works well.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?
-I like Jim Butcher's action scenes (both Dresden Files and Codex Alera). Brandon Sanderson also does them well, especially since a lot of magic is typically involved.
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Old 01-14-2013, 12:18 PM   #20
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Oh dear, let's try this...

1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
Yes and no. They're no different thanany other scene but the urgency of fight/combat scenes comes more naturally to me than, say, a dinner conversation. That said, there's very little actual 'fight' even in the big blood and slaughter scenes. most seems to be the anticipation before or the reaction after, with maybe two paragraphs of actual anything resembling fighting going on.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?
Same way I do any other scene, write it down and come back later during editing to think about what does and does not work. Generally, they follow a common formula of POV character either makes, takes, or witnesses the first blow and escalate from there.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
Minimal detail. Blood, guts and the injured are for after the shock dies down. Or for scenes of deliberate body-horror. Stance and movement are described only if relevant to the outcome of the scene (i.e. prone for better firing position or an organized flank attack). generally, if I don't feel it adds to the feeling or further the character/plot, I don't mention it.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?
depends on the technology or magic. If I want a specific piece of magic or technology to come to use, I'll make sure it fits into the scene. Otherwise, I use whatever's been established thus far as they come to mind and time allows.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).
given actual fights are fairly short, the arc tends to fill the time before and after the fight, gets paused for a paragraph or two and picks up as soon as the fight is done with (the big bad escaped - frustration, the village is saved - rejoice).

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?

I couldn't name any off hand but anyone who use them wisely and sparingly to further the plot agrees with me.
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Old 01-14-2013, 12:41 PM   #21
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

I love a good bout of unorganised violence. I like to think I have a bit of a knack for it.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

heh, execute...
I'm sorry, what was the question?

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

I won't spare the gore if that's what happens, but there's no sense in overdoing it. Might give movement some attention when it involves getting into/out of cover, but that's about it. They're usually quick and brutal.

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

Lacking anything beyond guns so far, I don't. Yet.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

Pass. My character's main objective right now is simply survival.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?

Andy McDermott is my current favourite. Joe Abercrombie was also satisfyingly visceral and was quite impressed with James Lovegrove and Neal Asher. That's all I can think of right now.
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:42 PM   #22
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?

That depends. If there's magic involved it's much more fun. If the protagonists is sword-fighting someone who's leagues better, that's also fun to write. The little fight scenes, or skirmishes, are not as fun. Like the MC just fighting random men. Though I tend to just do it quickly. Not interesting.

2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

I don't focus on every blow and all, but if there's magic involved, or again, another man's prowess, I like to describe not the attack itself, but the opponents defense. In terms of magic I tend to go into more detail. Paint a vivid picture.

3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?

I have stance and movement in my mind as if I was watching a movie, but on paper, I don't focus on it. I'm not a fighting master. I don't want to write something wrong about certain stances better for one type of fighting and all. Though I somewhat know sword-fighting more.

I don't think I've ever focused on gore and blood. If someone gets stabbed I don't go into it. When my antagonist died, with a stab, I just focused on his expressions and movement instead of telling that OMG THERE'S BLOOD!

4. How do you weave elements of magic or technology that goes above and beyond swords, guns, hand-to-hand combat?

Dunno. I do what I do, do what feels right. I don't think too much.

5. How do you maintain the urgency of the bigger character arcs during a fight scene? For example, you're writing from a character's POV who has everything on the line with this one battle. He'll get his family back, he'll save his village (your choice).

In the case of my MC he was just tired, cut, bruised, dirty, in agony and so on. I wasn't really trying to remind the reader that if he wins he'll save everyone. The reader knows it. In my WIP, I preferred to focus on the moment and the need to kill the man.

6. What authors do fight scenes well, in your opinion?


I have read too few books in my live to give a proper opinion, but from the ones I have read, and I hate choose a famous novel, but LOTR. I've always enjoyed his writing. It's fast-flowing and I never stumble on the words. Although he doesn't really focus on the fighting very much, I think it's done well. Even Gandalf's fight with that Huge Devil Thing in Moria was awesome. It was short, but I liked it. The words got shorter and shorter until Gandalf fell.
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:51 PM   #23
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1. Do you enjoy writing fight scenes? Why or why not?
I enjoy writing violent confrontations that occasionally have fight-like elements, but not apparently scenes with lots of cutting and thrusting and/or orders being barked and/or elaborate descriptions of weapons and targetting and what-have you.

I can only think of a few cases where I wrote final draft scenes with anything remotely resembling a fight and many more scenes that were focused on hazardous plumbing problems, electical arrangments, various kinds of devouring and/or unorthodox explusions or tampering with guts and bodily cavities and simple highly explosive solutions to complex tactical problems.

Which is somewhat surprising since usually fairly elaborate fighting gets plotted out and even into the first draft only to vanish in the final resolution, the final tally of things that can go wrong and then do go wrong.
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:22 PM   #24
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Interesting questions.
2. How do you execute your fight scenes?

Fight scenes generally have two to four (or more) POV characters going into them (particularly the bigger battle sequences). The actual fight is built from the individual experiences in the various parts of the action.

For instance, I have a fairly major battle in my present MIP. It takes a full chapter (roughly 7K words). I start with POV1 pre-battle as the armies are lining up. He's a grunt soldier that the others of his company look to for guidance, his first time holding a sword. He receives battle plans from his commander. Switch to POV2, the commander of the opposing army. It's also his first battle, but he's trained all his life for it. He's looking forward to it.

Switch back to POV1, who is in the midst of fighting and comparing it to the serial killing he's done in the past. He's kinda getting the hang of this fighting stuff and liking it.

Switch to POV3, a bystander who has a bird's eye view of what's going on and watch as something unexpected (and magical) wheels in to completely screw up the battle that the people fighting can't see--and the character/reader knows there's no way to get a message to anyone.

Switch to POV4, the commander of our Hero's army as he follows the plan until what POV3 saw completely screws him over, and how he copes with that.

In another book, the climatic battle at the end involves 7 POV characters (several of who die in their own POV) and covers about 4 chapters. It's all structured the same way.
wow. Interesting. I haven't thought much about how I fail to get my fight scenes going.

Part of the problem might be is that I plot them out initially in far too much detail. So for example, we hear of problems caused by the MC's defensive surveys from years before the (anticlimatic) climax. And in at least one case the MC is disappointed to find the enemy has not even bothered to map his defenses in detail. And in another case the MC finds the enemy has over-estimated the MCs reconnaissance-in-force and bungled things to the point that the climactic battle is not in the cards any longer.
So my attempted fight scenes often collapse by the accumulation of too much preliminary detail.
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Old 01-14-2013, 10:38 PM   #25
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3. How much detail do you have in your fight scenes? How much blood, gore, how much attention to movement, stance, and such?
I like moderate blood and gore. I don't overdo it. Blood splatters. It's warm. It gets in your mouth. Those things are okay. Again, how does it impact the POV character? Is my character going to pay attention long enough for me (the author) to write out 3 paragraphs of steaming, wet, slick gooeyness? Probably not.
If I ever actually reach the point of mass slaughter and whatnot, then it tends to be pretty messy and relatively detailed. Even very minor characters can get life-threatening injuries if they don't run for it at the right time or otherwise make a point of getting out of the tide of events.
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