Picking Your Battles
Welcome back, loyal listeners! This week, we take a look at how to write fight scenes and battles. Special thanks to Eliza Rickman (elizarickman.com and elizarickman.bandcamp.com) for this weeks intro and outro music. Be sure to check her out. Some hauntingly beautiful tunes on her albums.
This week’s notes follow the audio and video versions below.
Picking your Battles
- PUBLISHING TERM OF THE DAY: Slush Pile — the slush pile is a literal pile of unsolicited manuscripts. Many editors have to filter through this to try to find something they’re interested in. It’s a daunting and exhausting task, akin to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Writers use a variety of means to avoid having their manuscript end up here. Usually, this is through agenting and meeting editors and writers’ conferences. Two good ways to keep your MS out of the slush pile.
- REMEMBER CHARACTER MOTIVATION: Characters must have the proper motivation to fight. Avoid fighting for fighting’s sake.
- KEEP THE OPPOSITION STRONG: An easy fight has no drama. Make the opposition scary.
- SHOW VS. TELL: Don’t forget detail. This is a sensory experience, not a summary.
- A WRITER’S WEAPONS
- SENTENCE LENGTH: Vary your sentence length. Try shorter sentences to keep the action moving quickly when you want to, but also slow it down with a few longer sentences. Think of it like a dance–sometimes it’s fast, sometimes you need to slow down a bit to develop the tension.
- PRECISE LANGUAGE: Maximize specific verbs and nouns to quickly and clearly convey what’s going on.
- NATURAL MOVEMENT AND BLOCKING: Remember where characters are in space. Imagine them on stage. Note important movements.
- SPATIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS: What’s around the fight? How can the environment play a role in the outcome? Is it antagonistic to your character, or does it provide a solution for a seemingly unwinnable situation?
- WHEN DEPICTING MULTIPLE CHARACTERS IN A CONFLICT: Keep them all present. Move from one to the other. Divide by scene if necessary to avoid confusion.