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Author Guest Post: 5 Quick Tips for Writing Fight Scenes By Christine Haggerty
June 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment
From the Dojo to the Page: 5 Quick Tips for Writing Fight Scenes
By Christine Haggerty, author of The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions
I. Love. Karate. For most of my marriage, my husband has referred to it as my religion. I even went to the dojo on Sundays while he took our three kids to church. (Yes, we’re still married.)
I love the dojo. I love the wisdom and centeredness I feel when I’m in that place. I love the mental focus in training.
And I love the fighting. Karate is about depth of character as well as the physical training, but when it comes to applying my knowledge of karate into fight scenes, it’s the physical training and mental focus that translate most directly.
There is at least a novel’s length of things I could say about writing fight scenes, but below is the short version in five quick tips:
1.Stick to Physics
Living on Earth comes with a few rules, including inertia, atmosphere, and gravity. In short, what goes up must come down. If you describe someone being kicked and flying a distance of twenty feet before hitting a tree or landing on the pavement, either you are watching too much anime or you have no idea how far twenty feet is. Start with a realistic fight and then embellish with the characters’ special powers. I recommend measuring fights by body parts, such as ‘within arm’s reach’ or ‘she landed a body length away.’
2.Stay True to Your Characters
A character’s mental make-up affects their fighting as much as their physical traits. Are they tall and shy? Short and spunky? Do they have any experience? How about the other guy? If you plunk an unskilled character in the middle of a herd of trained ninja, they are dead unless they have a magic trick equivalent to a grenade. (Or a grenade, but then your character would also have to be grenade-proof.)
In a good fight, you get bruises and broken bones. You hurt in places you didn’t know you had. Even Chuck Norris would be stiff and sore after defeating Megamind and his army of alien minions. These bruises and sore muscles are how you learn, and the more you train, the stronger you become and the faster you recover. In the scenes following a fight, remember to include these painful reminders of the action.
4.Consult an Expert
If you’ve never done any fighting, get help from someone who has. I’ve trained for ten years and taught almost as long. Spacing, timing, technique—I know these things. I will also know if an author doesn’t. Even if you think you have a good grasp of the logistics, have someone with experience read over your scenes. I also recommend having someone with no experience read your scenes to make sure that the rookies can follow the action, too.
That’s what it’s all about, right? In the end, it’s having a good story that sells. The fight scenes just help. And why do we read books in the first place? It’s to escape reality, so make it a fun escape.
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