Does Your Fight Scene Pack a Punch?
Long ago, movie directors mastered the technique of creating a convincing fight scene. Bodies crash to the floor.. chairs are upended... viewers are treated to closeups of terrified or furious faces... and the punches thrown are enough to make us wince and close our eyes. (No more of those prissy punches that fooled nobody in the early films - sneaky camera angles to hide the fact that the fist didn't really connect; loud thuds to suggest a knockout punch when anybody could see it wouldn't knock a gnat out of its flight path.)
Movie-goers are treated to multiple camera angles and sophisticated sound effects. We feel as though we're right in the middle of that fight.
Authors have it a lot harder. How can you throw the reader in the middle of the scene and feel every punch? How can you show the action without falling into the trap of sounding like a school kid enthusiastically detailing a fight, punch by punch; kick by kick?
There are just two things to keep in mind.
What does a choreographer do? Plans a series of movements, step by step. He/she teaches the people performing the movements how to perform each one, and then how to put them together into a smooth routine.
Too many fight scenes in books look like a choreographer's notebook. You'll see something like this:
Briggs planted a right hook on Smith's chin. The other man reeled backwards, his arms windmilling. Briggs followed up his advantage, breathing hard. In quick succession he landed several more punches on Smith's body.
Smith fell to the ground and rolled away. "Bastard!" he grunted, and rolled again to avoid a well-aimed kick from Briggs. Cat-like, he leapt to his feet and circled Briggs, not taking his eyes off his nemesis.
"Come on!" Briggs taunted, darting in to land another punch then ducking back out of reach. "Is that the best you can do?" He feinted and laughed.
Infuriated, Smith attacked. Briggs danced back and around Smith, and in two deft moves had him on the ground, one arm up behind his back.
"Had enough?" he panted.There are so many things wrong with the above scene it's hard to know where to start. In brief:
You forget (for the most part) the physical punches and add emotional punch. Get deep into the viewpoint of one of the characters - preferably the main character; the one the reader really identifies with. This way, readers look out through the eyes of that character. They desperately want him to win; they feel every punch. Therefore, there's a lot more emotional investment in the outcome of the fight.
Most writers seem to feel that fight scenes have to be filled with fast movement, grunts and moans and shouted epithets to telegraph the action. They feel that if you stop to tell the reader what's going on in the head of the main character, this slows things down too much.
That certainly can be the case... but in the hands of a skilled writer, tension actually builds when the action is slowed down. You need to remember that time-on-the-page is not the same as real time. Since you can't actually show the reader what is going on in real time as you can in a movie, you have to compensate by spending some time in the mind of the main character. Show us the character's thoughts. Show us the character's emotions. Help us to "feel" our way into the fight.
The easiest way to show how this works is to use an example from a published book. Here's a fight scene from ECHO BURNING by Lee Child (Bantam Press, 2001). The hero, Jack Reacher, tries to avoid the fight... and the tension builds beautifully until he is forced into a confrontation.
The guy was wearing a white tank-top shirt and he was eating chicken wings. The wings were greasy and the guy was a slob. He was dripping chicken fat off his chin and off his fingers onto his shirt. There was a dark teardrop shape right between his pecs. It was growing and spreading into an impressive stain. But the best bar-room etiquette doesn't let you linger on such a sight, and the guy caught Reacher staring.
"Who you looking at?" he said.
It was said low and aggressively, but Reacher ignored it.
"Who you looking at?" the guy said again.
Reacher's experience was, they say it once, maybe nothing's going to happen. But they say it twice, then trouble's on the way. Fundamental problem is, they take a lack of response as evidence that you're worried. That they're winning. But then, they won't let you answer, anyway.
"You looking at me?" the guy said.
"No," Reacher answered.
"Don't you be looking at me, boy," the guy said.
The way he said boy made Reacher think he was maybe a foreman in a lumber mill or a cotton operation. Whatever muscle work was done around Lubbock. Some kind of a traditional trade passed down through the generations. Certainly the word cop never came to his mind. But then he was relatively new to Texas.
"Don't you look at me," the guy said.
Reacher turned his head and looked at him. Not really to antagonize the guy. Just to size him up. Life is endlessly capable of surprises, so he knew one day he would come face to face with his physical equal. With somebody who might worry him. But he looked and saw this wasn't the day. So he just smiled and looked away again.
Then the guy jabbed him with his finger.
"I told you not to look at me," he said, and jabbed.
It was a meaty forefinger and it was covered in grease. It left a definite mark on Reacher's shirt.
"Don't do that," Reacher said.
The guy jabbed again.
"Or what?" he said. "You want to make something out of it?"
Reacher looked down. Now there were two marks. The buy jabbed again. Three jabs, three marks. Reacher clamped his teeth. What were three greasy marks on a shirt? He started a slow count to ten. Then the guy jabbed again, before he even reached eight.
"You deaf?" Reacher said. "I told you not to do that."
"You want to do something about it?"
"No," Reacher said. "I really don't. I just want you to stop doing it, is all."
The guy smiled. "Then you're a yellow-bellied piece of shit."
"Whatever," Reacher said. "Just keep your hands off me."
"Or what? What are you going to do?"
Reacher restarted his count. Eight, nine.
"You want to take this outside?" the guy asked.
"Touch me again and you'll find out," Reacher said. "I warned you four times."
The guy paused a second. Then, of course, he went for it again. Reacher caught the finger on the way in and snapped it at the first knuckle. Just folded it upward like he was turning a door handle. Then because he was irritated he leaned forward and headbutted the guy full in the face. It was a smooth move, well-delivered, but it was backed off to maybe half of what it might have been. No need to put the guy in a coma, over four grease marks on a shirt. He moved a pace to give the man room to fall, and backed into the woman on his right.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said.
The woman nodded vaguely, disoriented by the noise, concentrating on her drink, unaware of what was happening. The big guy thumped silently on the floorboards and Reacher used the sole of his shoe to roll him half onto his front. Then he nudged him under the chin with his toe to pull his head back and straighten his airway. The recovery position, paramedics call it. Stops you choking while you're out.
Then he paid for his drinks and walked back to his motel...Of course, this scene just shows a quietly escalating fight and it shows a hero who has the ability to take a fight to a quick conclusion. You're going to have to use a slightly different approach if you have several people involved and if you have a fast and furious fight with two more evenly matched aggressors. But the principle is the same.
Don't let the reader watch the fight from a distance. Get them into the skin of the main character, privy to his thoughts and his emotions. Let readers feel the impact of fists and feet; let them experience the adrenaline (or irritation, depending on the level of provocation). Then your fight scenes will pack the kind of punch you want.
(c) copyright Marg McAlister
Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/
Ten Tips To Get Started Writing Your Book
You are far more likely to successfully write and publish your book if you follow these tips before you write a single chapter.
Story Structure - Final Conflict
Beyond three and four act story structure, lies the Hero's Journey.
Screenwriting, Screenplays, Screenwriters ? Good Ideas for Stories
The principle for writing good screenplays begins with good idea generation and then the use of structure to extrapolate that idea into a coherent story.
Focusing Your Reading and Finding Ideas
Many experts recommend reading as a way to get ideas, but usually do not offer more specific suggestions, such as pinpointing and identifying areas that you can select from and write about. From my own experience, I know how frustrating this can be. I took endless notes and saved countless newspaper clippings, only to discard nearly all of them a few years later.
The Psychology Of Effortless Writing
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener
When Getting Stuck Goes Amuck
Many of us have always wanted to write. We have all gotten writer's block. What happens when we are stuck? Can we go to a doctor for having writer's block? Are there any "writing doctors" that prescribe medication to overcome what to write about or how to stress our premise?
Is The Theme Reinforced In The Ending?
Creative Writing Tips ?
Whose Story Is It?
Whenever you sit down to plot a story (or even to think about a story) one of the first things you have to ask yourself is this: "Whose story IS it?"
Building a Character Wall
For any great novelist, defining your cast of intriguing characters is the key to the success of your story. So how do you maintain the image of your characters―both their physical attributes and their personality? It's easy! Build a Character Wall?paper by paper.
Become an Instant Author by Playing Well with Others
You wrote a tips booklet. Maybe more than one. Oh wait, are you one of the people who still hasn't done one yet? Not to worry. This is not leading up to any kind of guilt trip for you. This article is going in a completely different direction. Stay with me on this.
The Heart of the Delay: Harnessing The Wisdom of Procrastination (AKA Writers Block)
I am sure that at in some era, at some desk, with some kind of paper (and perhaps some very special ink), some writer has breezed through a lengthy and challenging project from beginning to end with no delays. No one in her household has suffered, she's felt pleased at each step of the process, and her shoulders have never cried out for massage. I'm sure of this.
Hero?s Journey ? The Herald
Beyond three and four act story structure, lies the Hero's Journey.
Should You Hire a Ghostwriter?
Have you heard the term 'ghostwriter' and wondered what they do or who they work with? Although it sounds mysterious, ghostwriting is actually a very simple agreement where an individual or company hires a writer to create a work that will be owned outright by the buyer. The buyer is not required to give credit to the writer and is even allowed to claim authorship.
How I Became a Syndicated Columnist -- And You Can Too!
Real Estate has "Location, location, location," and writing has "Clips, clips, clips."
A Writers Tools
If you are like most writers, you're constantly searching for tips on technique that will help you to increase your chances of publication. You eagerly pounce on articles that tell you how to plot better, write better and sell better. In addition, you occasionally buy books on writing, or do a writing course, or attend a seminar.
Learn to Talk on Paper: The Art of Effective Business Writing
Rudolf Flesch, a specialist in writing skills, ran classes for over thirty years for civil servants, lawyers, bankers and the like, on writing business correspondence.
Water to Swim In
Not long ago, I took stock of my unrealized desire to be a published writer, or maybe I should I say ‚??Writer‚?? with a capital ‚??W.‚?? For some reason it always seemed a lofty goal, to want to see my byline in print. I found this trepidation totally uncharacteristic to every other area in my life. For twenty years, I have ministered to women both in small home group settings as well as conferences. Especially in conference settings, friends would ask, ‚??Are you nervous?‚?? Almost every time I could answer truthfully that I was not. I could easily stand up in front of hundreds of faces and feel quite confident in my own abilities. Yet, to put an article or query in the mail, or to push the send button to some unknown editor elicited in me, absolute, consuming insecurity.
Understanding Editorial Guidelines
Editorial guidelines, also known as writer's guidelines, are the rules set forth by publishers for contributing authors. In order to have your article taken seriously you must review the guidelines prior to submission. It is also recommended that you review previous editions of the publication to get a better feel for the types of articles favored by the editor(s).
Griselda spent hours polishing up her resume. No detail was too small: type face, layout and spacing. She weighed each word, counted each comma. She sent out 200 resumes and received no responses.
5 Easy Steps To Writing Your Appealing Letter
You must write a hypnotic persuasion letter to help you achieve all your goals! Get the boss to give your a raise, induce that beautiful blue-eyed girl to be your lover and persuade your mother to buy a BMW Z3 for you this summer.
|© Athifea Distribution LLC - 2013|