Okay, everyone’s advice so far has been great!
Do y’all know of any complex, yet immersive and suspenseful battle/skirmish scenes? Any problems you’ve run into and fixed?
So… none come to mind, except maybe the battle scenes in Skyward, I know you’ve read that one. Brandon Sanderson had a lecture about battle scenes iirc… Something like that, don’t quote me on that XD
It also occurred to me that a long time ago, I wanted to write a newsletter on how sports movies write better battle scenes than actual fantasy writers XD I forgot my main points, but I’ll probably circle back to it someday XD I did have a point…
However, I do have some pointers from the like five times I’ve rewritten my battle scenes, so here goes XD
I know your individual fight scenes are really solid, so I’m not going to expand on that! Everything there still applies to battles.
As for how to handle the bigger scope of things, the best thing that worked for me is to divide and conquer. Break it down into individual scenes and tackle them one at a time.
One caveat is that this works for me, but might not work for someone else. I like a lot of structure and plotting everything, and this technique is informed by that.
It does keep the battle from wandering or dragging.
So, what I usually do is plot a few key turning points, either for the battle at large or the MC specifically. I’m going to use the midpoint battle of Gilded Blood as an example because I just finished writing that and you read it so it’s not a spoiler XD
I think I have two individual fight scenes in that whole battle, but there are a few scenes where Liorah is faced with a problem and has to find a solution.
So, you’re essentially setting up a series of events that all have the structure “catalyst-problem-solution-result” where the result causes the next problem. If you do this, it’ll keep the battle in motion.
For example, you might have a scene where the character is attacked. That’s the catalyst. They’ll die if they don’t do something. That’s the problem. Solution: they defend themselves. Result: The easiest one is ‘they win and move on’ but that hasn’t shifted anything in the battle or for the MC themselves. So, it might be something like ‘they get injured’ or ‘they lose their weapon’ or ‘They’re aided by an ally’.
To keep a view on the larger battle, focus on things the MC can actually see. For example, they might not know the enemy is retreating, but they can see everyone around them is surging forward. They might not notice they’re losing because it’s such chaos, but they might notice there seem to be more enemies.
If you keep up that structure, the emotions will accompany the problems, so they won’t overwhelm the story and make it confusing.
Also, keep in mind your end result for your MC. The battle is supposed to shift something, either for them or for the plot, so make sure that happens.
And to keep everything clear, you can be pretty explicit about the problem and solution. You can pretty much state the problem.
Suspense relies on how well the audience understands the problem and anticipates the solution.
You can have these scenes pretty close together, but in the breaks, it’s a good idea to take the time to throw in a quick description to show if anything has changed in the general battle or any relevant introspection. Though, no need to go too heavy on these, you can get away with neglecting them a bit in a battle XD
Don’t worry about your first draft being really tell-y, battles are like that because they’re complex. Just tell in the first draft, that’s the easiest thing to fix while rewriting.
Maybe, but my brain likes to write everything in order–no filling things in after I write the bare bones. But perhaps I will try it.
I’m the same way, but Cathy’s technique has helped a ton! Something that helped me was to rewrite, so use it as an outline instead of filling in details.
Also, I can give absolutely zero advice on how to come up with good overall battle techniques that are plausible and interesting. Every time I have to do it I pretty much get a headache, I loathe it so XD
Actually I really dislike drafting battles so… take my advice for what it is XD
Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?