C.T. Phipps is an action man. Read this blog to learn why. He gives you the…
THE 5 RULES TO FRAME A GOOD FIGHT SCENE
- THERE IS NO ACTION WITHOUT EMOTION
- USE YOUR CHARACTER’S FIGHTING STYLE TO SAY MORE ABOUT HIM/HER
- DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE SCENE. THE SETTING IMPACTS THE FIGHT
- BUILD UP TO THE COMBAT OFTEN HAPPENS EARLIER IN A BOOK AND THE FINALE COULD BE SHORTER.
- INVINCIBLE HEROES ARE BORING. MAKE YOUR ENEMY STRONG
Over to Charles…
People read my books for the action.
Well, that and the fact my characters as slightly more sarcastic than Bart Simpson, Daria, Buffy, and Harry Dresden all put into a blender before you hit frappe. However, for the most part, all of my books are genre novels with big epic The Matrix lobby scene and Avengers-style action sequences. It’s something I love and I just can’t help but think, “You know what this scene needs? The creature from Alien attacking.”
There’s nothing wrong with fight scenes as they’re an exciting, dynamic, and wake the reader up if nothing else is happening.
Even if you know Spiderman isn’t going to lose to Electro if he’s attacked halfway through the book, it’s something that automatically provides a bit of interest due to danger being exciting. Indeed, one of the oldest adages of genre writing.
Allow me to defer to Raymond Chandler’s “The Simple Art of Murder” essay: This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action and if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. This could get to be pretty silly but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. A writer who is afraid to over-reach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.
You may think this is hack writing as just about anyone can throw a bunch of Michael Bay-esque explosions into a story and call it a day. You are correct.
Action without context is going to be a formless jumble of words that is not going to have the same punch to it as in a visual medium. Even so, I also remind people that someone is seeing Michael Bay’s movies so it’s the case of, “If forced to choose between action and character development, why not have both?”
Indeed, the other side of the coin to writing action because it’s exciting and crowd-pleasing is the fact action -scenes have been some of the most effective tools in my stories for moving along the story as well as developing my protagonists.
When Darth Vader fights Obi-Wan Kenobi and his son twice, the point of the battle isn’t the way the lightsabers crash but the amount of emotion tied up in those battles.
THERE IS NO ACTION WITHOUT EMOTION
- The first piece of advice that I give for writing good fight scenes is always be aware of the emotions involved in the scene.
- Are your characters scared? Angry? Surprised? Do they hate their attackers or fight with a cold professionalism?
- These kind of things will tell a lot about your characters.
- The opening chapter of my novel, LUCIFER’S STAR, is a gigantic epic space battle with millions of ships battling it out in the last battle of a war. The protagonist is worried about his family back on his home world, whether he’ll be able to make it back home, and his squadron. As they die all around, he’s left increasingly traumatized right up until the point he manages to accomplish his mission. For a fleeting second, he’s left with the comfort their sacrifice might have been worth it until he’s informed they’re supposed to surrender.
USE YOUR CHARACTER’S FIGHTING STYLE TO SAY MORE ABOUT HIM
- In the SUPERVILLAINY SAGA, Gary Karkofsky is a wizard who casually blasts anyone who gets in his way and uses intelligent but brutal methods of dispatching his foes. He phases a pair of car keys into someone, for example, and turns insubstantial to pull the pins out of a heavily armed soldier’s grenades.
- My character of Cassius Mass back in Lucifer’s Star tends to use a sword and pistol combination because those are gentleman’s weapons.
- Agent G in the titular series fights like John Wick with a minimum of wasted effort, headshots, and efficient murder as the name of the day.
DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE SCENE. THE SETTING IMPACTS THE FIGHT
- Another quality, which can be useful in framing the fight scenes in a story, is to also to keep in mind the environment as well as possible complications.
- The key to a good fight scene is to make it so the tools/weapons to be used are ready, right there with the protagonists.
- If you’re in a kitchen, there’s the option to use tools like knives and frying pans or even the occasional pot of hot grease.
- If you’re in a public place, creating a panic situation or the reactions of bystanders certainly help.
OFTEN BUILD UP TO THE COMBAT HAPPENS EARLIER IN THE BOOK AND THE FINALE COULD BE SHORTER
- One thing I recommend which goes against conventional wisdom is if the protagonists are fighting to the death then you might want to keep combat short.
- One of the best fight scenes ever was in The Witcher series by Andrjez Sapkowski when two assassins were sent after the protagonist Geralt.
- The assassins were built over another chapter with tension constantly rising until they finally confronted him, only to be immediately cut down.
- While I wouldn’t recommend doing that often, it certainly was memorable and highlighted the dangers of the protagonist.
INVINCIBLE HEROES ARE BORING.MAKE YOUR ENEMY STRONG.
- Finally, I think it’s important that while your protagonists should probably not be killed unless it’s a suitably dramatic moment (albeit I’ve had a few die in “random” events that have their own drama), you should always make an effort to make it seem like your enemies are genuinely dangerous.
- I suggest creating side characters who, can be killed and situations where your protagonist may be forced to flee or letting them be defeated so it’s clear they’re outmatched.
- Invincible heroes aren’t interesting to read about and the more they’re the underdog, the more it’s interesting to read about them emerging victorious.
- Just make sure you can come up with a plausible way for your protagonist to win other than merely the villain’s overconfidence.
C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek.
He’s written books like Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, The Supervillainy Saga, The Towers of Zhaal, Esoterrorism, Wraith Knights, the Eldritch Ops, Straight Outta Fangton in addition to all the other writing, blogging and reviewing he does.