Fight Scenes

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by QuietKnight, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. QuietKnight

    QuietKnight Apprentice

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    Alright guys, so I'm working on a story with multiple fight scenes and I am hoping to get some feedback on them. After reading tips on writing a good fight scene, which said to be vague and leave the fight up to the readers imagination, I am worried my scenes are too detailed. I prefer them that way, but I am wondering how others feel about them. Thanks in advance! Here are the scenes.

    Taryn took in a deep breath through her nose and blew it out between tight lips, then took up a stance that put her feet shoulder width apart and raised her sword defensively. The swordsman swung the sword in a figure eight, starting towards his left hip and around his shoulder, then towards his right hip and up around his right shoulder before hesitantly bringing the sword down on Taryn. She quickly sidestepped to his left and made her own attack towards the man’s back, but he spun with incredible speed and blocked her blade before it could connect. They continued to grapple like this, neither able to land a blow and both becoming increasingly frustrated, until Brogan intervened.

    ***

    It only took her a moment to recover, and by then the mouse-haired man had drawn a knife and was rushing toward her again. He faltered a step when her hood fell back and revealed her face, but he didn’t stop. She readied herself for his attack, brandishing her own knife and raising her left hand in defense. His first strike was obvious and she sidestepped him easily, punching him in the back of the head, the knife adding weight to the strike. He stumbled a few steps, then turned and instead of running at her again, he began to circle her, looking for a weakness. She faced him, waiting, but when her back turned to the wagon, his father grabbed her from behind, one arm around her neck and one around her wrist, keeping her from stabbing him.

    Seeing that his father was holding her, the younger man smiled and made his way toward them, but before he could get there, Taryn stomped on her captor’s foot with all of her might and threw her head back into his nose. He howled in pain and grabbed his bleeding nose with both hands, while she ducked under the younger man’s slashing attack and jammed the butt of her knife in the soft spot on the side of his thigh as he passed under his arm. He went down on one knee and she kneed him in the side of the head so that he fell down on his side. The older man had recovered and was stepping toward her, somewhat gingerly, and she rushed to meet him, landing a punch to his gut, then grabbed his grey hair and forced his head into contact with her knee.

    ***

    She drew her own blade and braced herself for his attack, which came at her from above. His blow hit her with surprising force – she had been under the impression he might take it easy on her. Gritting her teeth, she gripped her sword with both hands and shoved him backwards with everything she had. He stepped back, slightly unbalanced, before swinging at her again, which she danced out of the way of before returning the favor. Milo stopped her blade with his bracer, where it slid right into the hook designed exactly for that purpose. Without giving him a chance to twist the weapon out of her hands, she abandoned it and drew her knife instead, slipping around him and jumping on his back. She put the point of her knife to his throat.
     
  2. QuietKnight

    QuietKnight Apprentice

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    Oops, didn't mean to post this on the introductions page. Still getting used to this, Sorry!
     
  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Article Team

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    How we write fight scenes, we keep the language in the meat of the fight short and sharp. Details are great, but like an actual fight, you want your words to dart and dance, not drag on. Also, in an actual fight, time can slow down and some details stand out in stark relief while others fade into the background.

    One resource we highly recommend is Violence: A Writer's Guide. The author really knows what he's talking about and it's saved more than one scene for us. https://www.amazon.com/Violence-Writers-Second-Rory-Miller-ebook/dp/B00CWGH46I/
     
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    The choreographies in your fights work fine, but there’s no feeling, no emotion to any of them.

    As a reader, I want more than a knowledge of what happened. The events themselves are less important than how they impact the characters.

    How do your characters feel?
     
    Malik and Night Gardener like this.
  5. QuietKnight

    QuietKnight Apprentice

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    So, using the first scene as an example, would this be a bit better?

    Taryn took in a deep breath through her nose and blew it out between tight lips, her stomach churning with apprehension. She took up a wide stance and raised her sword defensively. Her opponent swung his sword in a wide figure eight before hesitantly bringing the sword down on her. Quickly she sidestepped to his left, making her own attack toward his back. He spun and blocked her stroke before it could connect. They continued to grapple like this, neither able to land a blow and both becoming increasingly frustrated, until Brogan intervened
     
  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    First, it's a bit difficult to advise without more context. Are these two evenly matched? Is this a practice fight or life and death? So there's that.

    Second, emotions are good, but let them be consistent and evolve naturally. First, her stomach churns with apprehension. So we figure she's facing a superior foe, or is somehow unsure of herself. She has an anonymous opponent who makes an elaborate move ... hesitantly? That seems odd. Why is he hesitant? Again, maybe this is teacher and student, or student against an older student. There are emotions here, but they don't feel like they fit. That may be a problem of context. Also, just saying they both became frustrated distances us. Show them becoming frustrated. Let one curse. Let one sweat. Let them snarl at each other. And let us decide it's frustration.

    Third, the more you describe specifics, the more you draw attention to them. So make sure they stand up. We have apprehension and hesitancy in the opening moves, followed by a quick move into what could be a fatal stab in the back, countered by an even faster spin coming out of a huge figure eight move. So we move from uncertainty to quick competence.

    Fourth, and this may be the most important: purpose. What is the purpose of the paragraph. Is it to show competence? Has she learned a new move we need to see? IOW, why the detail?

    Finally, a small matter of word choice. We have big swings and fast counters. That's not grappling. Wrong word there.
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    In the second example, the details for the most part fit, to me. She's in a tight spot and it would be unsatisfying to say something like "using her skills, she captured them both." We want to see how she does it.

    That said, there are a couple of small points. A knee to the head could break the kneecap or cause other injury to the attacker. Is that really the right move? Again, if you give that level of detail, you'd better be sure of your fighting.

    This again may be context, but I twice asked myself why she hit the other fellow with the butt of the knife. Hit 'em with the pointy end! Is there a reason she's willing to break a nose (and possibly kill with such a move) but won't stab them?

    Also, if you're going to go for the detail, make sure your language is suitable. That last move is vague and limp. "... forced his head into contact with her knee."
     
  8. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Third instance. Here I found a clear example of unnecessary detail.
    "Milo stopped her blade with his bracer, where it slid right into the hook designed exactly for that purpose"
    The first clause is fine. That it slid into a hook is not needed, and saying "designed exactly for that purpose" is not only unnecessary it's distracting.

    So, to reiterate what others have said, if you are going to go for detail, make sure you know your business (human anatomy, weaponry, the physics of fighting, the physiology of fighting), because you are inviting the experts to critique you at that level. If you manage that, then great.

    But also find a good editor. Any and all of us, regardless of how well we know a topic, are going to get it wrong, or get it clumsy, or overlook a necessary detail, or simply go on a bit too long. Editor or beta reader, you'll need someone who knows fighting.
     
  9. pmmg

    pmmg Shadow Lord

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    I think this portion is better than the original above, and rather than pick on all of the examples, I would like to just stick to this one. Usually, I don't comment on the actual prose, but it seems that is what you are asking for. So here goes...

    Taryn took in a deep breath through her nose and blew it out between tight lips, her stomach churning with apprehension.
    --I like this addition, I like knowing she is apprehensive, but I might go on to say, that she does not really appear that way in the course of this short fight.

    Her opponent swung his sword in a wide figure eight before hesitantly bringing the sword down on her.
    --I don't like the word hesitantly here, and the 'on her' is a tag on.

    Quickly she sidestepped to his left,
    --To his left is not needed

    They continued to grapple like this, neither able to land a blow and both becoming increasingly frustrated,
    --Well, in fact, they are not grappling, so this word does not fit. Given the detail above, this is kind of a rush to the end. Why did it go from a blow-by-blow to all summed up in just a half sentence?

    I understand this is out of context, if I had read the events leading up to and surrounding this fight, it might provide some detail I think is missing, so I don't know how to usefully comment on that.

    I think things I might do with this, and understand no one writes the same, is 1) bring it to the girls POV, and 2) show more of her apprehension and fear at the whole encounter. If in fact fear is what she really feels, cause from this, I get that she is more likely a skilled fighter than a reluctant one.
     
  10. QuietKnight

    QuietKnight Apprentice

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    Wow, thanks for all the input. It has given me a lot to think about. I agree that I need to find an editor - I have sent it to a few people but none of them really edited it, just read it and told me they liked where it was going. I think I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do on this piece before its presentable.
     
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