Pick any 1980’s vintage or earlier, for that matter, T.V show or movie and there will inevitably be a scene with someone sneaking up behind their nemesis and hitting them on the head to ‘knock them out’.
Though this is very convenient with commercials and time slots for shows, we all know it’s completely silly.
Today we think, “Oh massive head trauma mmm spinal injury, brain herniation and Death.”
Of course to day we have our own over the top highflying scenes where 5’2 girls in mini skirts and heels toss three hundred pound bikers through windows. “Go girl power!”
SO what about books?
When I write physical fight scenes I try to keep it simple, short brutish and real. I recently read a book where the protagonist charged up a hill and did a spinning back kick to knock down his armed assailant. I don’t even think Bruce would do that.
I follow these three rules when I write a fight scene:
- Know your character: an ex-con, barista at Starbucks and a Navy SEAL are all going to have different energy, motivations and techniques in a struggle. Stay away from the fancy stuff, fight to win or fight to run for your life. A physical altercation is not a usual occurrence in most people’s lives (unless you’re a professional fighter) and should evoke deep very primal emotions in your character. How a character fights for their survival or doesn’t speaks volumes on who they are.
Example: Sara snapped. She channeled every once of pent up hurt, frustration and resentment buried deep within her soul into her attacker. She had never hurt any one before. He became an object, which is how she knew he viewed her. She grabbed a loose beer bottle broke it and grinded it into his face, “Get off me!”
Example two: Frank narrowed his eyes and smirked. He put his back against the wall, “Which one of you two wants to hurt your selves on me first, huh?”
Two different approaches, their actions tell you who they are. I do not randomly make fight sequences for the sake of hurting people, this can be pointless to moving a story.
- Physics: If your writing a super hero story, do your thing. If your not, make your character subject to the laws of gravity and physics. People don’t survive extreme beatings without damage, and there is some one who can beat any one. Chuck Norris said that, so it must be true. A character that barley wins, or gets beat up a little will be seen as more human than lets say Bill Jack. The ‘70’s is over let the cheese go.
- Chaos: When I write a fight scene I like to mesh extreme emotion, some dialogue and lots of clumsy struggle hindered by an un predictable environment.
Fights happen fast and so brutally that often they are over before you know it. Leave lots to the imagination. Not a lot of thinking goes on.
All writers have their ways of describing action. I shy away from long drawn out scenes without a purpose. If a fight scene does not move the story along, ring the bell and kick it out of the ring.
I would love to hear your comments and ideas on what makes a good action scene. Be sure to check back for my next blogs: Writing about the Military for civilians, and Things writers need to know about weapons.
IN the mean time keep your hands up and keep moving!