Fight scenes are one of the hardest scenes to write. How do you write a scene that requires so much cause end effect and linear sequencing without boring (or losing) the reader?
I start in layers.
Layer 1. Setting, we have to know where we are in order to know what’s going on. A scene in an alley is different from a scene in a warehouse. If the walls of the alley are made of brick and my hero gets pinned up against it, he might be scraped. Sounds will travel differently. The items in the alley are props that act as obstacles or weapons of opportunity for the hero, the heroine or their enemies.
1.a Costume, if my hero is wearing a leather jacket, he’s probably not going to feel the prick of the bricks through it. He definitely will if he’s wearing a cotton t-shirt. Clothing can be tricky, it’s not always easy to remember what you put on your hero. Proof reading for continuity is extremely important here.
2. Blocking, who did what to whom? This should be the easiest part, but making sure actions happen in order is harder than you might think. The hero is hit, then he feels the pain/blood/whatever. Describing each action can also be difficult. Not everybody knows what a side kick is, or any of the other martial arts terms. Descriptions should be as succinct as possible, a move that took under a second, can’t take more than a sentence to describe or the reader may feel bogged down. A scene with a lot of moves may require a simple bushing over like “suddenly the biker was on his knees, his arm twisted behind his back.” Check out this YouTube video of British martial artist stunt man/actor, Scott Adkins doing fight choreography for the movie Wolverine. (Notice he only has a wire on in the very last move:-)) Imagine describing some of these moves! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mog-oC_U4xI&feature=youtube_gdata_player
3.Emotion, this is one of the most critical parts of a fight scene. The reader has to feel something, so the character needs to react and feel, as well. Even if he’s just numb or detached, the reader has to know. When writing alpha heroes emotion can be one of the hardest things to convey during a fight scene. These are strong guys. They don’t feel the fear or pain the way a regular person would. A good way to bring in the reader emotionally is to have the heroine react, or bystanders. Or put the heroine or his best friend in danger, or a child, pet, etc. They won’t worry for themselves, but they have to worry for others. (Even if they cover it really well.:-) )
4. (Plot)Change, a fight scene, like a love scene, should not be gratuitous. When it’s over, something has to have changed, whether it’s the relationship between the hero and the heroine, an elevation in the danger, or a huge plot point. In my book IN LIKE A LION Jake and Anjali get into a car chase on a highway paralleling the Mojave National Preserve. They are driven off the road. Jake fights in almost pitch darkness and in the end they are forced into the vast, potentially deadly desert.
So if fight scenes are so complicated, why do I love them? 1.I’m a total fangirl of Martial Arts movies (ask me about Undisputed III) 2. I do Taekwondo. 3. They can: keep the pace going while raising the stakes, increase rooting interest, advance the relationship of the hero and heroine, and be great fun to read.
And you? Fight scenes, love ’em or hate ’em?