Today, I'm happy to present a guest post by Rayne Hall. Rayne Hall has many hats. In addition to being a terrific writer of both genre fiction (fantasy and horror) and non-fiction, she's also a terrific teacher and writing mentor. She runs a writing group which I've belonged to for a couple years now, and has helped me immeasurably over the years with her thoughtful and incisive critiques. She was one of the Beta Readers for Initiate.
Rayne will be giving a workshop on 'Writing Fight Scenes', which starts on 1 June 2011: www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=303 No matter what genre you write, if someone's going to throw a punch, swing a sword or shoot a gun, this is a great class to get the fight scene juices flowing.
Ten Tricks To Make Your Fight Scene Realistic
Your scene will gain realism if you show how the available space limits the fighting: Perhaps the ceiling is too low to swing the sword overhead, or the cop heroine can't risk shooting at the bad guy because he's standing in front of the wall, which could lead to bullet ricochet and kill innocent bystanders.
Inject a realistic flavour with a single sentence: simply mention what the ground feels like underfoot. What's the ground like: Persian rugs? Concrete? Lawn? Uneven planks of splintered wood? Hard, firm, soft, squishy, muddy, wet, slippery, wobbling, cluttered, sloping? The ground may even affect the fighting: the heroine may slip on the rain-slicked asphalt or stumble across the edge of a rug.
During the fight, the point-of-view character sees only what's immediately before him: his opponent's face, his opponent's hands, his opponent's weapon. If he takes his attention off what's immediately before him, he'll be dead. Therefore, don't show the distant sunset and an overview of how the fighting progresses at the other end of the battlefield.
Avoid dialogue during the fight. The fighters need to concentrate their attention on staying alive, and can't spare a thought for conversation. Panting with effort, they don't have breath to spare for verbal banter. Any talking should happen before the fighting starts. If you really need dialogue during the fight, use very short and incomplete sentences, because these convey the breathlessness and sound real.
Your PoV doesn't think while he fights. His mind is totally focused on the action. He can't think about anything else: not about about his loved ones back home, not about the futility of war, not even about fighting strategy. Any thinking would be a distraction that costs his life. Share his thoughts about strategy before the fighting starts, and his profound insights once the fight is over.
The fighters can use only skills they possess. A heroine without martial arts training can't defeat her opponent with an uppercut and a roundhouse kick. Unarmed combat and fighting with weapons requires practice. Establish beforehand what fighting skills the protagonist has, for example by showing her in an earlier scene dusting her shelf of karate trophies.
Mention the noises of the fight: the pinging of bullets, the clanking of swords, the sharp snap of breaking bone, the screams and gurgles of the dying. Sounds create realism as well as excitement.
Make sure your fighters use weapons which existed in that period, and that they use those weapons in plausible ways. Not every sword can split a skull, not every gun allows accurate shooting at a distance. If you invent a weapon, model it on real weapons, and keep it simple.
Fighting hurts. Your PoV character must feel the pain of the blows and cuts. During the fight, the rush of adrenaline may dull the pain, and the real pain kicks in when the action is over. Real fighting also leads to injuries, and your hero needs to sustain some cuts and bruises, at least.
Once the fight is over, add a paragraph describing the aftermath: the survivors assess the carnage, mourn their friends, bandage their wounds, repair their weapons. The adrenaline has worn off and the pain kicks in. The air is filled with strong smells, including cordite in case of a gun fight, and urine and faeces because bladders and bowels give way in death.
How realistic should your fight scene be? Real fighting is brutal and gory, and too much realism may put your reader off. In a hard-boiled thriller, you can use a lot of realism, but in a gentle romance, it's better to play down the gory aspects and create just enough realism to suspend disbelief. From these ten tips, select the ones which suit your reader and your story.
If you have questions about writing fight scenes, feel free to ask. I'll be around for a week and will respond.
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Even if you've never wielded a weapon, you can write an exciting fight scene. Rayne will show you how, in her workshop on 'Writing Fight Scenes', which starts on 1 June 2011: www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=303