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Noclevername
2015-May-13, 09:30 AM
I have no combat training or fighting experience. How can I write a good, convincing fight scene without making that obvious?

Tog
2015-May-13, 09:57 AM
Be vague.

When I write a scene where my PI gets into a fight, I'll include little things like seeing his opponent's shoulder roll back and drop which makes an uppercut from that side a good bet.

There is a "radio" program that has been running on Decoder Ring Theater called Black Jack Justice. It's a podcast series in it's 10th year, and it alternates with The Mask of the Red Panda, which is similar to the pulp superheroes of the thirties. Jack's shows feature two main characters and they trade off the point of view a few times each episode. In one of them (Episode 32, "Stormy Weather"), a woman comes to them for help in getting away from a guy she fell in with who won't let her go. He's a scary stalker type, and Jack realizes that she doesn't need a detective, she needs a thug. They confirm the guy is the rat she said he was and Jack follows him down the street until the guy turns to confront him. From there, I have to paraphrase, but the feel was basically like this.

I laid one fist upside his head to get his attention. Not hard enough to drop him. I needed him awake to get the full message. When that one blow staggered him I decided I'd better stick to the body. I spent thirty seconds or so on his ribs, then paused long enough fo him to notice I'd stopped.
"Mary Lou Arden says 'hello'."
That's the moment they get it. That instant when I'm not just a thug in an alley, but a messenger who sought them out. That instant when they know it's personal and that won't end with handing me a wallet or a watch.
I sunk another hand into his stomach and doubled over and threw up.

It was all narration, which by definition is telling, not showing, but when you listen to it, it works. It works really well.

You don't need to have all the details. One of my peeves is when someone researches something, then crams every bit of what they learned into what they wrote. It's obvious they don't really understand what they're saying, but it's got all the right words.

I'd suggest finding a movie or TV show that has a similar style you want to write, then transcribe the fight in your own words. There were some awesome fight sequences in Troy, but they were really complex. Jackie Chan's movies are good for a generic, over the top martial arts scene. Two of the Van Damme films, Bloodsport and The Quest, had some great scenes with some really skilled people in them. Daredevil on Netflix, especially the end of episode 2, where the fight takes place in the hallway and lasts for a long time in a single take, is a great depiction of the way a more realistic fight would go.

The more detail you try to force into something, the greater your odds of making a mistake that people who know more will catch. Write it below your own knowledge level and that won't be an issue.

A side issue about those Black Jack shows. His "partner" is Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective. They hate each other slightly less than they hate everyone else, and they work well together. The bickering and banter is awesome, and several of the episodes are far more focused on comedy than the one I mentioned above. When they do a darker one, they tend to be really good.

jokergirl
2015-May-13, 12:16 PM
Depends on what kind of fight you want to write, but it helps at least talking to some who train, maybe go and watch a class or two, or ask them why they think fighting scene x in book /movie y didn't work. You get much insight from that, especially in what to avoid.

If you just need general brawling, "he punched him out" or "she stopped the oncoming blow with her arm" vagueness should work. If you are doing military , you might want to go deeper into of the period you are writing about.

But generally, most importantly, how to *think* fighting is more important imo than how to do a specific style (much like the MC example in the other thread)!

More later when I'm back at the computer.

JohnD
2015-May-13, 04:41 PM
Write from the POV of the first to be knocked out, and make it quick.
JOhn

Noclevername
2015-May-13, 06:09 PM
I'd suggest finding a movie or TV show that has a similar style you want to write, then transcribe the fight in your own words.

How do I tell the realistic fights from the Hollywood fights?

Solfe
2015-May-13, 07:01 PM
Download Army manuals.

Sword Fighting - http://www.thearma.org/manuals.htm#.VVOeeJI4nTY

I can't suggest Defense of Duffer's Drift enough. http://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/199th/ocs/content/pdf/The%20Defence%20of%20Duffers%20Drift.pdf

Also keep in mind that 99% of what soldiers do has nothing to do with combat and everything to do with lugging heavy equipment around, drinking enough water and trying to get sleep. If your character isn't a soldier, remember that combat is about gaining objectives. It isn't necessary to wipe out the other guy if your goal is something else. Shoving someone down the stairs and locking the bedroom door is remarkably effective.

Tog
2015-May-13, 08:21 PM
How do I tell the realistic fights from the Hollywood fights?

Well, technically you don't have to. You can make it as Hollywood as you want. There's clearly a following.

As far as the actual difference goes, you may have heard the expression, "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy." That's pretty much true of small scale fights as well. Given two remotely equal people or sides, it will probably end up in a brawl. Anything that stays "cool looking" for more than a few seconds starts to lose realism fast.

I'm a big fan of well choreographed fights scenes, and there have been some shows that had great ones. In a book, it's harder to follow the action and too much detail slows things down. I don't think I've written a fight that lasted more than a few seconds of real time. That's mainly because I can't see myself pulling off a longer one.

Noclevername
2015-May-13, 10:03 PM
Well, technically you don't have to. You can make it as Hollywood as you want.
I don't want. That's the point of asking for realistic tips.


As far as the actual difference goes, you may have heard the expression, "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy." That's pretty much true of small scale fights as well. Given two remotely equal people or sides, it will probably end up in a brawl.
So how do I write a brawl?

Delvo
2015-May-14, 05:35 AM
Do what professional TV & movie writers do: don't write it.

In TV & movies, the writer (screenwriter) is just the first step, and leaves fleshing out details to others in later steps. It then goes to a director who is responsible for figuring out how to get the writer's story onto a screen. The director, in turn, will summon specialists for certain technical parts of that process, including costume designers, visual & audio effects artists, translators, and fight choreographers. Be the screenwriter, or at most the director, not the fight choreographer.

All the writer needs to write for a fight is its importance to the story: what it means for the characters, what it changes in the plot, and such. I'll use an example that most people who are into this stuff praise for getting so much of the technicalities of battle correct, in order to show that it didn't need to and can be written with almost none of that in it. This is the first scene in HBO's "Rome". The description is mine, but I'm putting it in a form you can imagine being used early in development & planning before shooting anything.


As the scene begins, a battle is just about to begin. Roman soldiers are standing still in rows and columns, silently facing a chaotic mob of barbarians. When the barbarians finally rush and the battle starts, a difference in the two sides' styles is immediately obvious, with the Romans being organized and disciplined, calmly moving in unison at their commander's orders, while the barbarians randomly charge and wildly swing at them with no sign of coordination or planning... until Titus Pullo runs out of formation and starts attacking any barbarian within his reach in all directions around him. The Roman commander, Lucius Vorenus, shouts at him twice to get back in formation. When Pullo continues without answering, Vorenus has the formation move forward to reacquire him. Face to face, Vorenus says "Get back in formation, you drunken fool", Pullo hits him, he hits back, and two other soldiers grab Pullo and drag him away. Vorenus immediately turns his attention back to getting his formation back in order. Cut to a short time later; back at the Roman camp, Pullo is being whipped while Vorenus talks to his other men, using Pullo as an example of the importance of staying in order. (Vorenus hadn't extracted Pullo from the barbarian mob because he cared if Pullo got hurt or killed; he just wanted Romans to be the ones to do it.)

The battle scene only exists in the story for a few certain purposes: introduce us to the main characters, and at least begin to introduce a bit of the attitude of the culture they live in. All I wrote above was the stuff that directly relates to those purposes. Notice the lack of any details about how the fighting happened. The very same description could just as well have been for a scene that got all of the technical details wrong, instead of for one that got them right. In the actual scene on TV, there WERE a lot of details; before shooting, the cast including extras spent weeks drilling in Roman maneuvers under the guidance of historical consultants (and I think modern military officers), and historical consultants also were rather careful about choosing what they would wear and carry. But the story-teller doesn't need that stuff in order to tell the story, and in fact it can easily accumulate too much and get in the way of the story. I or some others here could probably write multiple times as many words as above about that stuff just from memory, but at the end of reading it, a reader would still not have been introduced to the characters or seen anything of how they related to each other or to their own society, or know why the story has this battle scene in it.

Delvo
2015-May-14, 05:48 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrQpjToEgxk&t=60s

Noclevername
2015-May-14, 05:50 AM
Big, set-piece battle scenes are not what I had in mind. If the character is, say, a knight or an adventurer, close-in fights are going to be a pretty regular and important part of their existence, and I don't want to just say "And then we skip over the action part and the next thing you know Our Hero is nursing his wounds."

Tog
2015-May-14, 12:29 PM
Fights are only important if they do one fo a few things. They need to show something of the main character, the villain, or they need to move the plot forward. A fight for nothing more than the fight is just filler intended to appeal to a specific type of fan. The same goes for "love" scenes actually.

It's possible to gloss over a trivial fight by skipping to the aftermath. How many shows have you seen where the hero goes off to do "the thing" and the next time we see him he's battered and tired and talking with someone about what he learned?

I can't really think in terms of fantasy, but say the job is to recover the queen's favorite tiara. It's not the actual crown, just a trinket, but it means the world to her. We might see Sir Fightsalot go into the first den of thieves and wipe the floor with them. This establishes him as a guy who can wade through minions and cannon fodder at will. After a scene break, we see him at his local hangout, beaten, cut in a few places, having the tavern girl tend to his wounds while he grouses about visiting fifteen places and none admitting to playing a role in the theft. He's clearly been fighting all day, but we don't need to see it.

As for how to write a brawl, I'd go with just not making it clean. Have the fighters grab onto each other. Pick someone up and physically hurl them into a rack of halberds. Bite. Never let one stop hitting long enough to ask if the other has had enough. Kick them when they're down. Grab a handful of horse droppings and distract the other guy with the taste.

The opposite of that would be describing the delicate dance-like moves as the main character whirls between foes like a dervish, lashing out with sword and dagger.

Legolas was not a brawler. Gimli might have been. Steven Segal mostly isn't. John McLaine from the Die Hard movies is.

Unless you're writing historical fiction, which is known for having fans who are very unforgiving of technical errors, how you write it won't matter a whole lot.

Noclevername
2015-May-14, 10:52 PM
Fights are only important if they do one fo a few things. They need to show something of the main character, the villain, or they need to move the plot forward. A fight for nothing more than the fight is just filler intended to appeal to a specific type of fan.

And I must be that type of fan, because I want to learn how to write fight scenes, not how to avoid writing fight scenes.



Unless you're writing historical fiction, which is known for having fans who are very unforgiving of technical errors, how you write it won't matter a whole lot.

It matters to me.

Solfe
2015-May-15, 04:19 AM
I have a rather embryonic theory that may be of use to you: Combat is an environment, not a situation.

Basically, the side that obtains it's objectives despite obstacles wins, individual events don't really matter unless they are critical. It isn't so much that someone is trying to take your head off with a sword, it is the fact that you know and don't let them do it that is important. You might have all kinds of scrapes and cuts that you don't remember happening, but since you still have your head attached you don't care.

Describe it like the rain. Who counts the individual drops?

Hypmotoad
2015-May-15, 06:26 AM
Three words for you...Ender's Game. The book. Toss in some Tsun Tsu then imagine what it felt like to get beat up.

All the ingredients are there, is up to you to make the salad.

SkepticJ
2015-May-15, 07:06 AM
I don't want. That's the point of asking for realistic tips.

Then you'll need to know how people actually fight. You'll need to know techniques, why they work, and what they do to people.

Short of training in a no-nonsense martial art, or interrogating people who do, you could pick up good books on the subject.

I recommend those by William E. Fairbairn. Among other things, he helped train special forces in combatives during WWII.

Tog
2015-May-15, 07:15 AM
And I must be that type of fan, because I want to learn how to write fight scenes, not how to avoid writing fight scenes.
This is where that old saying "write what you know" comes back into play. When I was nine, I won the state championship in a long range pistol competition. I went all though jr. high shooting in bowling pin matches. Those are a game where you have to clear 5 bowling pin from a table 7.5 yards away before the other guy clears his. I think I only won the night once, but I was usually one of the last to go out. One night, I used a submachine gun in the unlimited round. I was about ten for that one. I also spent a lot of time shooting rifles at the 200 to 400 yard ranges.

When I turned 20, I got interested in martial arts. In the years that followed I studied at least some of the following: Kenpo, Aikido, Tomari-te, Wing Chun, Shinobi Bushi Tao*, Monk Palm boxing**, Muay Thai***, Tai-chi****, and Taekwon do. In addition to those, I researched about 50 other styles to see how each approached fighting. Weapon training included just about everything in some form or another. Just about the only semi-common weapon I wouldn't feel comfortable writing about is a three-section staff. I never managed to pick one up with getting the stuffing knocked out of me by it.

*This is what he called it. It was a hybrid style that was about equally Chinese and Japanese in influence. It's main focus was ensuring the opponent would never be a threat again for as long as he lived. There are a lot of nasty breaks and things like tearing a rotator cuff.
**This was my favorite, and one I wish I could have learned much more of. There were no fist strikes at all, and the attacks were unlike anything I've seen in any other style.
***We learned the moves, but barely touched on the conditioning.
****It was an older form that didn't hide the combat applications of the movements. I learned the first third of the form and the first 10% of the breakdowns, but some of the core ideas were very simple to implement into other things.

When I write a fight scene, all of that comes into play. That means I can be reasonably sure that my fights will play out realistically as long as I state things clearly. it also means I can't bring myself to write those long, epic battles that Harry Dresden finds himself in all the time.

This is why I suggest watching a movie and transcribing a fight scene. To actually learn it will take years, and really isn't necessary. I think a great pair of films to use for these are the new Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. The fights are not a big part of them, but they break down what will happen with each move, and why he expects that move to work as you watch it in slow motion. Then, they play through the exact sequence at speed so you can see how it plays out. The style used in those scenes is Wing Chun.

I still think pace is more important that technical detail though. Use short paragraphs to make the pages go by faster. This gives more of a sense of a frenzy. If there is something you know you can describe in graphic, bullet-time detail, and it won't be out of place, do it. The example I like here is getting a broken nose. You can have the MC hear the crunch and feel the blood begin to flow, or you can drag it out over several paragraphs, breaking down each millisecond to get the full, horrific effect. I've had a lot of broken noses, so I know how that slow one actually plays out.

Another thing to keep in mind is that someone in a fight is probably going to focus on just the opponent. They won't hear friends approach. They may be aware of other threats coming in. They might trip and fall over a table they forgot was right behind them at the start of the fight. They might forget how to fight when confronted with something new. I saw this happen twice.

Once was actually several times, but the situation was the same each time. When sparring at the Kenpo school, everyone learns to react to the same moves. I'd change things up from time to time and dive at one of the teenagers like a monkey boxer. I didn't really know anything other than what I picked up from watching Bloodsport and reading a book on it. But, as I rolled across the ground like a kickball, every one of them would step back out of their fighting stance, unsure of how to deal with what was happening. I'd then either sweep thier leg with mine, or rap them on the top of the foot and go for a take down when their weight shifted.

The other was a guy at the grocery store who was a member of some sort of LARP group or SCA. He had a number of weapons made of PVC and foam rubber that he brought in so we could spar. He was a lot better with a sword than I was, and beat me soundly. Then, I took a length of knotted rope I used as a practice chain whip out of my pocket. He squared off and I lunged in, using the rope to push his "blade" up over his head and pin it to his back. It never occurred to him to let go of the handle, so he stood there, arms high above his head, his sword strapped to his back, and me with a rope around his torso throwing knees into his midsection like a Thai boxer. I had the chance to land about a dozen knees before I stopped and he never took his hands off that sword.

Another movie with good fight scenes, and little else going for it, is Rapid Fire with Brandon Lee. There is a scene early on in an apartment where he makes great use of his surroundings during a fight. Later, there is a fight against Al Leong (better known as that sinister Asian actor in everything) that made enough of an impression on me that I used a move learned from it during a belt test.

Shows like Arrow are too fast and pretty to be of much use. They look really good, but the detail of the moves is lost in the action. The bar fight from Serenity was a great Hollywood fight. Everyone was right were they needed to be to get hit or kicked. It was fast enough to be impressive and slow enough to see what was happening.

Other than that, get books on the fighting styles of the era you want to emulate. I don't know much about European fighting forms, so I don't have any titles to suggest. You might also want to get props to block out the scenes. Stage weapons, or even Nerf swords. I've got a drawer with a few GI Joe action figures with a collection of ninja and modern weapons that I've used for situations with multiple participants.

Delvo
2015-May-15, 03:21 PM
People actually describe (and read) fights in mechanical detail in text (for entertainment rather than study)? Weird. I never would have imagined that the "fight scenes just for fun" fan base extended outside of video.

Tog
2015-May-15, 04:13 PM
People actually describe (and read) fights in mechanical detail in text (for entertainment rather than study)? Weird. I never would have imagined that the "fight scenes just for fun" fan base extended outside of video.
You've never heard of Mack Bolan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mack_Bolan)?
The detail Larry Correia puts into gun battles could double as a manual of tactics. At least in the four I've read.

Noclevername
2015-May-15, 06:18 PM
People actually describe (and read) fights in mechanical detail in text (for entertainment rather than study)? Weird. I never would have imagined that the "fight scenes just for fun" fan base extended outside of video.

Not "fight scenes just for fun", no. As a form of action scene? Yes.

Would Indiana Jones be any fun if they skipped over the action? "He snuck up on the artifact... and then ran out of the temple." Whee.

Anyway, I'm dropping the "why write the fight scene?" altogether. If you don't know how to do it, or object for some other reason, please don't post anything else.

Solfe
2015-May-15, 08:24 PM
If I could make a book suggestion, The Mordant's Need series has a series of epic sword fights that have some incredible ups and downs. The combatants meet several times and each of them duel as if it was a singular event.

I would also like to suggest Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber. It is available on Google Books.

I am suggesting a lot of fantasy, but what era are you aiming for?

Noclevername
2015-May-15, 11:59 PM
If I could make a book suggestion, The Mordant's Need series has a series of epic sword fights that have some incredible ups and downs. The combatants meet several times and each of them duel as if it was a singular event.

I would also like to suggest Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber. It is available on Google Books.

I am suggesting a lot of fantasy, but what era are you aiming for?

For my writing in general. Fantasy helps, I do have swordsmen. I also have Neolithic barbarians, Iron Age mercenaries (who mostly can't afford swords: they get by with spears and axes), various modern era people in a variety of situations, "flying brick" superheroes, and a space opera Super-Soldier, among others.

Solfe
2015-May-16, 12:07 AM
For my writing in general. Fantasy helps, I do have swordsmen. I also have Neolithic barbarians, Iron Age mercenaries (who mostly can't afford swords: they get by with spears and axes), various modern era people in a variety of situations, "flying brick" superheroes, and a space opera Super-Soldier, among others.

That is wild!

I would use the Forever War and The Postman as an example of Super-Soldiers fighting. Don't let the Kevin Costner film fool you, the novel was very good. If you ever have a chance to see the movie, try to die* because you can't unsee it. I had read the book several times and it doesn't even attain the lameness of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Pages".

*Edit - This is harsh, perhaps not harsh enough. I used to go to the movies with my grandmother and this was the last film I saw with her. She was sharp as a tack her whole life, but I have nightmares that she died befuddled and confused because she watched the whole film muttering: "I don't get it. What's happening now?"

Noclevername
2015-May-16, 01:33 AM
That is wild!

I would use the Forever War and The Postman as an example of Super-Soldiers fighting. Don't let the Kevin Costner film fool you, the novel was very good. If you ever have a chance to see the movie, try to die* because you can't unsee it. I had read the book several times and it doesn't even attain the lameness of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Pages".

*Edit - This is harsh, perhaps not harsh enough. I used to go to the movies with my grandmother and this was the last film I saw with her. She was sharp as a tack her whole life, but I have nightmares that she died befuddled and confused because she watched the whole film muttering: "I don't get it. What's happening now?"

Ugh, that movie.

I read the book long before I saw-and-can't-unsee that movie. What a hatchet job they did on an interesting story!

The one bit of moderate cleverness in the film was turning Nathan Holn from a survival-cultist fanatic to a self-help guru who got misinterpreted by post-nuke barbarians. The anti-cleverness came from naming the sidekick kid "Ford Lincoln Mercury". I wonder how much the car company paid for that bit of product placement, and how much they regretted doing so when the film bombed.

The total annihilation of all cleverness came from cutting out the bulk of the story, the Augments, the AI, and basically all the elements that separated it from any trashy b-movie about post-apocalyptic survivors.

Solfe
2015-May-16, 02:04 AM
The funny thing is, had it been it's own story, I would have been fine with it. But I was expecting AI and cyborgs and all the cool stuff. If I had been told it was a spin off, reimagining or a heavy adaption, I'd have been fine with it.

The whole bit with Tom Petty was pure genius. There were many, many worthy parts of the movie. It could have stood on it's own but what we got was a lampooning the novel.

JohnD
2015-May-16, 09:20 AM
The Matrix Reloaded was on TV last night.
Watch the fight in the school yard between Neo and Agent Smith and, excepting all the bits that could only be done in CGI, I think you have sequences of every possible form of fighting.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLXaRtc1f4I

John

Solfe
2015-May-17, 01:57 AM
I will throw out another movie that seems plausibly realistic: The Karate Kid, the one with Ralph Macchio. I understand that there is this element of surprise, because Daniel doesn't believe he is being trained to fight at all until he realizes he is very capable as a result of his experiences.

(I don't want to slam the remake, but this sort of storytelling technique can only fool you once. The remake seemed a little busy to me, too many angles to follow and a slightly different message.)

One interesting thing about fighters is, they come in flavors. Professional, unprofessional, cool, quiet, hotheads, etc. For an author, that creates a natural break from reality, because character may do something wildly unexpected which is a deviation from the "proper thing".

Police themed reality TV might be a good source of combat techniques. Pay attention to the unarmed stuff. A lot of times you will see a lot of police offices out of sight predicting the suspect will do A, B or C. Then the suspect actually does the first and is apprehended very quickly by a minimum number of officers. Usually this is the comedy portion of the show, but it does demonstrate why and how certain tactics work.

Noclevername
2015-May-17, 12:20 PM
OK, so "watch fighting" is a good start, I've got that part. Now to the meat of the OP: actually turning that description into prose without it becoming a boring blow-by-blow.

swampyankee
2015-May-17, 02:14 PM
Download Army manuals.

Sword Fighting - http://www.thearma.org/manuals.htm#.VVOeeJI4nTY

I can't suggest Defense of Duffer's Drift enough. http://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/199th/ocs/content/pdf/The%20Defence%20of%20Duffers%20Drift.pdf
Shoving someone down the stairs and locking the bedroom door is remarkably effective.

A college friend did something remarkably like that to a prospective mugger: he kicked him down the flight of stairs at an el station, then scampered onto the train just before it left the station. His goal was to avoid being mugged, which he did, without the emotional baggage of killing or crippling him (it was a good thing the train left the station -- the guy reached the top of the stairs as the train was leaving).

SkepticJ
2015-May-17, 06:08 PM
OK, so "watch fighting" is a good start, I've got that part. Now to the meat of the OP: actually turning that description into prose without it becoming a boring blow-by-blow.

If you keep the fight short, IMO this shouldn't be too hard. Real fights, not sports like boxing or MMA, usually last less than a minute. Why? Because in real fights, anything goes. Techniques that can permanently injure, or kill, are used.

Seriously, get those books I recommended. They don't cost very much, or you can find them online for free at places like scribd.

Weapons (some quite fiendish) are employed. You should research street weapons; some of them look like something straight out of a horror film, or Mad Max movies.

swampyankee
2015-May-17, 08:48 PM
SkepticJ, I've got to agree. My brother got into one fight in high school. It wasn't one of those "let's beat on each other for a while"; he was swung on with no provocation. The guy who swung -- a football player -- missed. My brother didn't. The entire thing took less than 20 seconds, ending with a football player layinglying on the gym floor.

grant hutchison
2015-May-17, 09:37 PM
OK, so "watch fighting" is a good start, I've got that part. Now to the meat of the OP: actually turning that description into prose without it becoming a boring blow-by-blow.Someone needs to have a stance with regard to how the fight is going. It needs to be a story about a fight, rather than a description of a fight.
Tog's example works that way: the first-person narrator has a purpose to what he's doing and talks us through it.
Elleston Trevor, who wrote the Quiller books as Adam Hall, had expertise in martial arts and wrote some excellent fight scenes - not because he loaded the narrative with technical detail (he didn't), but because his first-person narrator would give a dispassionate account of how the fight was going: how his opponent is intially confident because he has a gun, and then the opponent's mounting fear as he realises the protagonist has moved in close and is preventing the gun coming into play, and so on.
In The Paradox Men, Charles Harness narrates a sword fight between an expert and a panicky amateur. His omniscient narrator contrasts the sweaty overactivity of the amateur with the calm unhurried behaviour of the expert - the sword fighting detail is essentially secondary to the narrative, and I suspect largely spurious. There's a line about the expert making "a parry almost philosophical in its ambiguity" - it doesn't seem to mean very much, but it conveys a strong picture of the way the conflict is going.

Grant Hutchison

Delvo
2015-May-18, 11:14 AM
OK, so "watch fighting" is a good start, I've got that part. Now to the meat of the OP: actually turning that description into prose without it becoming a boring blow-by-blow.Have you written fight descriptions before and been unsatisfied with the results? Have you tried but not been able to come up with anything but ablank page/screen? If you've done either of those, was it with a scene you imagined yourself, or trying to describe a scene you watched in a movie or TV show?

marsbug
2015-May-18, 02:07 PM
Then you'll need to know how people actually fight. You'll need to know techniques, why they work, and what they do to people.

Short of training in a no-nonsense martial art, or interrogating people who do, you could pick up good books on the subject.

I recommend those by William E. Fairbairn. Among other things, he helped train special forces in combatives during WWII.

If I may, I would personally add to that list the works of Geoff Thompson, and Peter Consterdine. To draw on some regrettable experiences from my twenties:

It's over very fast

It's usually decided in the moments preceding the fight; Surprise, awareness levels of the combatants (including things like body language, the other party's awareness level), aggression, physical strength, weight of numbers, positioning, all those are things that can decide the figth before a punch is thrown, and that experienced fighters will use with a view to start the fight with an overwhelming advantage - to the point where it is not a fight but a beating if possible. lots of well trained but inexperienced martial artists have fallen foul of this

Training in something effective, no frills, and based heavily on empirical experience rather than theories can make difference. But only if the training has been fairly hard and sustained.

A big chunk of what happens is dependant on the mental state of the combatants, and their ability to handle fear, stress and other negative psychological factors.

Read up on 'Adrenal dump', tunnel vision, getting the shakes, fight-or-flight syndrome and the effects of adrenaline and fear on the fine motor skills (like, for example, excitement leading to someone blowing their advantage by missing the first punch). Lots of trained fighters have fallen foul of this as well.

Ignore all and any of the above if it improves the story, and remember this is just my opinion based on some reading and some experience in both martial arts and street fights.

Noclevername
2015-May-18, 05:17 PM
Have you written fight descriptions before and been unsatisfied with the results? Have you tried but not been able to come up with anything but ablank page/screen? If you've done either of those, was it with a scene you imagined yourself, or trying to describe a scene you watched in a movie or TV show?

I have experienced both. The scenes are from my own imagination.

I am not so good at following details of a realistic fight scene or an actual fight, things happen too fast. Unrealistic scenes generally either bore me or do not come across as a "fight" to me, but stylized reality, a la the sword fights in The Princess Bride or the carefully choreographed matches in a Kung Fu movie. Those kinds of fight scenes work (when done well) in some kinds of fiction, but that's not what I'm aiming for.

Solfe
2015-May-19, 01:47 AM
You could slow the action down with dialog or thinking.

I have a sandbox world where a Roman, a Housecarl and two Egyptians are fighting with weapons. It is a hideous mismatch. Two guys have khopeshes, one has a spatha and of course, the Housecarl has an axe. The Housecarl takes a single swing at the Roman and misses. The counter strike is the flat of the spatha to the Housecarl's head. The Roman sweeps up the remains of the helmet and uses it to parry a swing from a khopesh. Ultimately, the Roman realizes his opponents have disarming weapons and uses the helmet to sweep one their weapons away. The disarmed Egyptian acquires the axe, but they decide to leave the scene before something else goes wrong.

Actually, the real reason they leave is that this is the Roman's dream and he spies something more interesting to him in the background.

The whole thing is one part fantasy, one part Doctor Who and mostly what I write when I can't think of what to write. There is a story in it someplace, but I have lost the trail completely. It does make a fine "journaling piece" because it's full of goofy dream logic that allows me to write something that simply doesn't work, then adapt that writing to a story where it does fit without feeling too bad.

Tog
2015-May-19, 06:31 AM
The whole point I was shooting for is that the how of writing a fight scene depends a lot on the writer's understanding of them. I think that got lost in there somewhere. Let's try something different.

Can you point us to an example of a fight scene you thought was good? Maybe we can break it down.

Noclevername
2015-May-19, 07:13 AM
Can you point us to an example of a fight scene you thought was good? Maybe we can break it down.

Hmm, I'd have to search for one. I'll try to find a good example.

jokergirl
2015-May-19, 01:06 PM
Back on the computer, and procrastinating actual writing...

There is a lot of characterization and mood going on in writing that is a lot more important than the actual fighting style. Is the POV character/the main contestant treating the fight as a show? Or do they just want to end the fight quickly? Are they the kind of person to fight dirty, fight efficiently, or have a lot of flourishes? Is their style brutal and direct, or refined and stylish? Are they a master of a martial art, or bumbling and untrained, or perhaps only trained by experience and street fighting? Do they relish in causing pain, or do they shy away from the possibility of death and/or permanent injury of the opponent? Do they plan five steps ahead in the chess game or do they react spontaneously?
Such things are, in my opinion, the actual reason for describing the fight rather than the depiction of a flawless action scene.

Think about the fights in Ender's Game, and how much there is said about the psychology of the contestants. This, rather than any specific style, informs their actions and the cause of their success or downfall. If you can logically think what your character would do in this specific moment, then you can write a realistic fight even without specific techniques (Well, unless your character is supposed to be a master of their art, then it pays to read up on names of techniques). The fight will make sense even if you aren't naming specific styles.

;)

Tog
2015-May-19, 02:04 PM
Here's something that popped up on my G+ feed this morning. It seems relevant to you r interests.*
How to write killer action sequences. (http://theauthorsnook.com/how-to-write-killer-action-sequences/)

John Mendenhall
2015-May-19, 04:56 PM
Several authors have achieved wonders with understatement. Harry Turtledove and Alan Dean Foster come to mind immediately. From ADF in The Damned trilogy, Molitars are large, strong, bad tempered, single minded humanoid enemies. Thimk any NFL defensive lineman. An alien militery officer allied with us muses "You know, I once saw an unarmed earthling take on three Molitars at once. He won."

Hey, have fun. It's your wriring. Good luck.

Noclevername
2015-May-20, 03:54 AM
Back on the computer, and procrastinating actual writing...

There is a lot of characterization and mood going on in writing that is a lot more important than the actual fighting style. Is the POV character/the main contestant treating the fight as a show? Or do they just want to end the fight quickly? Are they the kind of person to fight dirty, fight efficiently, or have a lot of flourishes? Is their style brutal and direct, or refined and stylish? Are they a master of a martial art, or bumbling and untrained, or perhaps only trained by experience and street fighting? Do they relish in causing pain, or do they shy away from the possibility of death and/or permanent injury of the opponent? Do they plan five steps ahead in the chess game or do they react spontaneously?
Such things are, in my opinion, the actual reason for describing the fight rather than the depiction of a flawless action scene.

Think about the fights in Ender's Game, and how much there is said about the psychology of the contestants. This, rather than any specific style, informs their actions and the cause of their success or downfall. If you can logically think what your character would do in this specific moment, then you can write a realistic fight even without specific techniques (Well, unless your character is supposed to be a master of their art, then it pays to read up on names of techniques). The fight will make sense even if you aren't naming specific styles.

;)

Those are good ideas, thanks.


Here's something that popped up on my G+ feed this morning. It seems relevant to you r interests.*
How to write killer action sequences. (http://theauthorsnook.com/how-to-write-killer-action-sequences/)

That's a useful page, I read it then bookmarked it for later re-reading.

Solfe
2015-May-21, 10:06 PM
I like that article.

Just the other day, my family watched both Annie films back to back and it occurred to me that the action is continuous and consistent, but might be physically impossible. (Visually striking but on paper it wouldn't work.) Every year, my daughter's dance studio does at least one dance from movies/plays like Annie and they use tricks to keep the motion going without killing the dancers. In film it is editing, but live they hide some of the dancers with props or immobility and let them "pop" into view at the correct time.

Maybe on paper, you need to hide and shorten description to move forward.