Tag Archives: fight choreography

Fight Scene Technicalities

How technical should an author get when describing fight scenes?

The answer may depend on who your readers are. Fans of military thrillers might have a different level of fight knowledge than fans of women’s fiction or YA. An author would be wise to take reader expectation into account when writing.

Regardless of genre, though, I would advise against getting too technical. You don’t want your fight scene to read like a training manual. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will also slow down the action and pacing.

Karate-Kid-CraneIf you want to showcase a particular technique in the final battle scene, explain it or refer to it earlier in the story; perhaps in a training session. For example, in the original Karate Kid movie, we saw Mr. Miyagi practicing the crane technique, Daniel asked about it and we learned that, “If do right, no can defend.” Daniel practiced it on his own, and when he got into the crane stance in the final scene, we knew this awesome move would make him a winner. How about the five-point palm exploding heart technique in Kill Bill? If these techniques weren’t explained until they were used in the story, the pacing would slow, and the significance would be lost.

Fights are fast, so fight scenes should be quick reads. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. This will help elicit the correct emotional response from the reader. He/ she should feel the excitement of the fight, not confusion over the words used to describe it, or boredom from it taking too long.

Do you have any favorite techniques from books or movies you’d like to share? Have you read any books where the fight scene reads like a how-to manual? How about books with awesome fight scenes that were handled flawlessly? I love hearing from you. Please leave your comments below.

~K.M. Fawcett

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Writing Fight Scenes

I’m deep in edits right now so thought I’d share a post I wrote 2 years ago on writing fight scenes. Enjoy! I’ll let you know how the revisions go when they’re over.

A few weeks ago a writer friend asked me for some help with her fight scene. She gave me her chapter, minus the fight, so I could get an idea of what was happening in the story. The chapter was good, but I couldn’t help her with the scene just yet. I needed more information.

To begin with, I had to know what she wanted to accomplish with the fight. Did she want the hero to knock out the bad guy? Maim him? Kill him? What are the hero’s and the villain’s experience and skill as fighters? We’ve already learned from a previous post, Perfection of One’s Character, how important characterization is. Therefore, knowing the Hero’s background is key. A boxer fights differently than a karate man. A karate man fights differently than a grappler. A grappler fights differently from (insert your style of choice here). Do the characters have police or military or combat training? Know your characters!

I also wanted to know what kind of an exchange she wanted to have happen. A quick exchange of a few blows or an all out brawl? If she wanted to knock the guy out quietly, the hero might put the villain in a choke hold until he passes out. If she wanted a lot of action and movement, then she could choreograph a fight scene with punches, blocks, kicks and throws.

Was there a weapon involved? In this case there wasn’t, but remember in a fight anything can potentially become a weapon, even dirt in the eyes to blind the other guy, sticks, garden gnomes, you name it. Just because there is no obvious weapon like a gun or knife doesn’t mean you can’t improvise one. More on improvised weapons in this post.

What is the setting? Is it day or night? Are they indoors or out? What is the lighting? The weather? The terrain? Take all these things into consideration when planning your scene. If your characters are outside a home, they can throw each other into the side of the house, a tree, a car parked in the driveway, the rose bushes, a swing set. This is your chance to create an exciting and unique fight scene. Have fun with it.

Pay attention to the character’s distance from each other. If they are further away, they might use kicks (See Melinda’s post on different types of kicks). When in striking distance, they can punch and block and slug it out (See Melinda’s post on punches). If they are in very close, they can uppercut under the chin, into the neck, into the solar plexus, or into the groin. Maybe a character takes the other guy down and they start grappling (wrestling). Arm bars, locks or chokes can be used either on the ground or standing. The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

Just remember that a fight scene needs to be important to the story, not gratuitous. The fighting must be within character and believable. And if you aren’t sure something will work, get out of the chair, find a willing partner and experiment with your fight choreography together.

~KM Fawcett

TIPS FOR WRITING ACTION

Make sure your action or fight scene moves the plot forward. If it doesn’t, cut it!

Action – Reaction: An action should come before a reaction. The cause is followed by the effect. The reader must see what is happening first so that they can have an emotional response and react to it along with the characters.

Example 1 (Reaction first)  Blood gushed from his nose when she decked him.

Example 2 (Action first)  When she decked him, blood gushed from his nose. Or She decked him. Blood gushed from his nose.

In example 2, the reader experiences the action as it’s unfolding.

Clarity and Pacing: Be straightforward and to the point. Describing your fight choreography in minute detail will slow down the action. You want the reader to feel they are a part of the fight or at least watching it, not reading a commentary. Use short and medium length sentences rather than long, complex ones. However, keep in mind not to structure them all the same, as a lack of variation could lead to choppy, robotic and monotonous prose.

Emotion: Don’t forget to write the emotional aspect of the fight. If the character has no emotional response to the action around him, neither will the reader. Emotion creates more suspense. It connects the reader with the character and makes them root for their success. Be warned. This is a balancing act. Too much emotion or introspection can slow your pacing.

Expressive words: Use strong action verbs to make the scene more interesting and more specific. For example, compare the following sentences:

The drunk walked into the house. (Not very specific)

The drunk staggered into the house. (This gives the reader a better mental picture.)

The drunk crept into the house. (Also a better mental picture with a different connotation. This guy is being sneaky. Is it because he doesn’t want the wife to catch him or is he there for nefarious purposes?)

I hope these were helpful. Please feel free to share your tips for writing action scenes in the comments section.

Remember…Details about how to submit to the action scene critique will be posted on Thursday. Polish those scenes and spread the word!

~KM Fawcett

Writing The Fight Scene

A few weeks ago a writer friend asked me for some help with her fight scene.  She gave me her chapter, minus the fight, so I could get an idea of what was happening in the story.  The chapter was good, but I couldn’t help her with the scene just yet.  I needed more information.

To begin with, I had to know what she wanted to accomplish with the fight.  Did she want the hero to knock out the bad guy?  Maim him?  Kill him?  What are the hero’s and the villain’s experience and skill as fighters?  We’ve already learned from a previous post, Perfection of One’s Character, how important characterization is.  Therefore, knowing the Hero’s background is key.  A boxer fights differently than a karate man.  A karate man fights differently than a grappler.  A grappler fights differently from (insert your style of choice here).  Do the characters have police or military or combat training?  Know your characters!

I also wanted to know what kind of an exchange she wanted to have happen.  A quick exchange of a few blows or an all out brawl?  If she wanted to knock the guy out quietly, the hero might put the villain in a choke hold until he passes out.  If she wanted a lot of action and movement, then she could choreograph a fight scene with punches, blocks, kicks and throws.

Was there a weapon involved?  In this case there wasn’t, but remember in a fight anything can potentially become a weapon, even dirt in the eyes to blind the other guy, sticks, garden gnomes, you name it.  Just because there is no obvious weapon like a gun or knife doesn’t mean you can’t improvise one.  More on this in a future post.

What is the setting?  Is it day or night? Are they indoors or out?  What is the lighting?  The weather?  The terrain?  Take all these things into consideration when planning your scene.  If your characters are outside a home, they can throw each other into the side of the house, a tree, a car parked in the driveway, the rose bushes, a swing set.  This is your chance to create an exciting and unique fight scene.  Have fun with it.

Pay attention to the character’s distance from each other.  If they are further away, they might use kicks (See Melinda’s post on different types of kicks).  When in striking distance, they can punch and block and slug it out (See Melinda’s post on punches).  If they are in very close, they can uppercut under the chin, into the neck, into the solar plexus, or into the groin.  Maybe a character takes the other guy down and they start grappling (wrestling).  Arm bars, locks or chokes can be used either on the ground or standing.  The possibilities are only limited to your imagination.

Just remember that a fight scene needs to be important to the story, not gratuitous.  The fighting must be within character and believable.  And if you aren’t sure something will work, get out of the chair, find a willing partner and experiment with your fight choreography together.

~KM Fawcett

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