Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Writing a Good Fight Scene by A.P. Stephens

Everyone loves a good dose of action, some more than others. There are many types of action that can add to a reader’s enjoyment, be it a gun battle, chase scene, a clash of swords, or hand-to-hand combat. But as great as an action sequence is, there are things I believe that can make it better.
When I write a scene of action in my fantasy novels, I like to inject a good deal of detail. Given my background with martial arts and being a big fan of Hong Kong cinema, I take my training and inspirations of Bruce Lee and the like and place them into my stories. Some say that a true martial arts film either has a training sequence or a fight every 10 minutes and so I like to follow the same sort of structure when I can. I like to have either a fight or practice taking place every two to three chapters if it fits into the plot and doesn’t feel forced. If I do not have a sequence for four or five chapters in a row, I usually will have two or three chapters in succession that have a heavy hand of action that makes up for the lack previously.
As I write out my fight scenes, I like to add in a few highlighted moments by describing a few detailed movements before falling back into the basics of telling how the rest of the battle plays out. I might have it start out with two characters brawling, trading small punches and kicks, etc. Then if one character executes a nice combination of attacks, I will describe two to four of the moves with greater detail. Example: Tride led in with a pair of jabs, distracting his foe long enough for him to follow with an uppercut that landed soundly on the bandit’s chin. The burly man stumbled back against the wall, his eyes watery from the attack, unable to see and react as the elf unleashed a powerful sidekick into his unguarded stomach.
Then I might say: Tride continued to punch him in the ribs repeatedly, throwing in swift knees for good measure, until his enemy surrendered to the pain and fell to the ground.
Think of it as a television sports show that highlights small pieces of a fight that were the most exciting to see. Another good tip would be not to get too technical with specific terms that belong to certain martial art styles. You can use universal terms such as uppercut, sidekick, front kick, etc, but try to avoid using names such as Raining Steel, Dragon Whips Its Tail, etc that describe self defense moves or katas used by a style you might have taken or researched for your book. Generally, readers will not understand what a certain name like that is unless they have also taken the same martial arts style. But I think most people would know what an uppercut or sidekick is when they read it in your story. 
                The last bit of advice I would like to share is that there needs to be a reason on why the violence in the story is occurring. Even if it is the slightest of reasons, it is important that it is there. You cannot have readers reading about people fighting in the plot just for the heck of it. There needs to be some sort of motivation behind it, something that drives the story forward and makes the readers care about one, two, or all of the characters involved in the violence.
                With a bit of flare and explanation for scenes of action, it is a winning combination for both the writer and the reader.

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1 comment:

  1. Great interview/article - will use some of the suggestions in my current WIP, thanks.