Reply To: Battle Scenes

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Joelle Stone

I love fight scenes. XD

First, try acting it out. In person. With your body. This will help you get a feel for how your balance is, or what muscle is pulled when you make a quick movement, what it is like to have to suddenly adjust direction mid-strike. You might even try hitting something with a stick to get the feels for the vibrations up your arm. You can use the literal, physical way that you feel in your scene.

Second, make a goal. Why is this fight scene in the book? Does someone need to be injured? Die? Does it make logical sense? A lot of one-on-one fights last under five minutes IRL – and many street fights last under a minute. Is your fight too long? If your scene doesn’t really have a goal that is critical to the plot, you might consider just cutting it.

Third, keep your pacing even. A lot of people suggest using short sentences to structure the “heartbeat” of a fight scene and, while that makes sense, I kinda disagree. It could be because I’m a writer and notice these things, but when people have a lot of short, choppy sentences, it yanks me out of the story until all I can see is the tedious sentence structure. Try varying it a bit. Maybe even try the opposite – add some long run-on sentences with a lot of “and”s to imply the rapid-fire thoughts and actions of that kind of a scene. You don’t have time to stop for a period. (Tho probably don’t do that too much… heh… XD)

Also, (last one I promise XD,) anchor your fight scenes to one character. This can help keep readers engaged – like how in films, instead of getting too many aerial shots of the battle, we see specific people that we know in action and the emotions playing out on their faces – determination, disgust, complete numbness. (You could try acting out emotions in the mirror, too, to give you an idea of what that kind of a face looks like so you can describe the emotion without telling it.)

As for some books/movies that have great fight scenes, I highly recommend the LOTR films and 100 Cupboards books. LOTR does a great job of handling all the many, many fight scenes by anchoring to certain characters, throwing in a dash of humor here and there to lighten things up a tad, and making sure the scene matters to the plot (i.e. the fight with the Uruk-hai does a lot – it kills Boromir, fractures the Fellowship, allows Aragorn to go to Gondor, and gives Frodo the needed opening for him to make his escape with Sam. Same with Helm’s Deep – the stakes are high. If Rohan falls, Gondor falls and the world falls (plus, some of our favorite characters happen to be there, and we’d rather they stayed alive). Even verbal skirmishes have their usefulness. Meanwhile, N.D. Wilson (author of 100 Cupboards) has always done a FANTASTIC job of keeping you immersed in the character during the fight scene. It’s not the action that matters – it’s how the action affects the character that matters.

So. *shrugs* For what that whole saga is worth. That was probably way longer than it needed to be. XD Best of luck!

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