A good fight scene is difficult to write. For those of you struggling with this hallmark of the fantasy tradition (and Forgotten Realms novels in particular), Iâ€™ve sorted fight scene writers into three basic types, explored their symptoms, come up with diagnoses, and written up some advice that should help you cure your sword-swinging blues in no time.
Type: The Passivist
The Symptoms: Fight scenes scare you. There are so many people involved, and so many weapons, and you donâ€™t know how to keep track of everyone, or what everyone is doing, and thereâ€™s so much pressure to make your fight scenes awesome but yours wonâ€™t be awesome, and in some books, the last battle takes up multiple chapters, and in some trilogies, the last battle takes up a whole book, and you are really the least aggressive, most nonviolent person you know, and youâ€™ve never really understood the appeal of fight scenes (you tend to skip them in books), but you really need a fight scene because your character is not the least aggressive, most nonviolent person in the world, and because it fits the plot, and, and, and â€¦ Youâ€™re hyperventilating just thinking about it.
So when you write fight scenes, you have fantastic access to your characterâ€™s emotions. Unfortunately, you also end up writing â€śhe swung his swordâ€ť an awful lot. And you still donâ€™t get what people find cool about fight scenes.
Diagnosis: While emotions and character are the most important aspects of a fight scene, if your characterâ€™s fighting is repetitive or lacks description, the fight scene will read as though you donâ€™t really care, and if you donâ€™t really care, why should the reader? You need to find what it is you love when it comes to fight scenes, and then channel it.
Cure: A little research will go a long way for the Passivist. Watch some movies that are known for gorgeous fight choreography until you find something you like. In a fight scene, the way a character fights is really an extension of their emotionsâ€”itâ€™s another way for characters to express themselves, much like dialogue.
What kind of weapon would your character wield, and why? Do they like to keep their distance, or get in close? Are they all aggression, or do they wait for their opponent to attack, and then counter them? Do they fight by the book, honorably, or are they street-taught, using the environment and whatever advantages they can get? Why do they fight? Is it for survival, for power, for fun, or to defend someone? What lines wonâ€™t they cross when fighting? Do they fight like the wind, fleet and darting, or like the earth, solid and immovable?
Fighting is simply another aspect of character, and as soon as you start thinking of it like that, writing a fight scene will be as easy (or as hard!) as writing dialogue!
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