LESSON Fight Scenes: A Compilation

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Apr 26, 2014.

  1. We have many wonderful resources on writing fight sequences, etiquette in role-play fighting, various forms of combat, misconceptions about combat and weapons, and I'm sure there's a few I'm forgetting as well. The goal of this guide is to take the information from all of the resources (with credit) and create an all-in-one go-to tutorial for writing a fight-scene.

    For brevity's sake, the information is paraphrased and condensed; links are provided should you want a more thorough explanation on a certain point.

    Writing Combat:

    Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of fighting, let's talk about the actual writing process for a moment. Namely, what to include in a fight scene, what to leave out, and what to think about while you're writing them.

    A note on etiquette:
    It's important to remember that role-play is not a competition of who kicks the most ass. It's okay if your character takes some hits, or even gets knocked out of commission! In fact, if your character loses a fight, or takes a lot of damage it can set up story elements like wanting vengeance, or feeling like they need to regain their honour, or having to improvise their abilities because they dislocated a shoulder or their hand is in bandages. That last one even opens up the door for some comedy!

    Fight scenes are also not a competition of who looks the coolest. It's fine to have your character look cool while they're fighting, but it's usually a good idea to keep it within reason. For instance; one liners are cool and fun ways to put down your opponent while displaying your character's confidence and style, but it's usually a good idea to keep them limited to before and after the fight itself. A serious battle takes a lot of effort; have you ever tried to work out while keeping a steady conversation, or while laughing? You end up out of breath a lot sooner. In addition, it's a good idea to cut out unnecessary back-flips, twirls, and other acrobatics. Most often they only serve to leave the character exposed to attacks or trip-ups, or to put the opponent out of sight. Remember that the longer you let a fight go on, the more tired you get and the more opportunities your opponent gets; any practical fighter attempts to end the battle as quickly as possible. If you want to show off how acrobatic or agile your character is, it's usually a good idea to save the flashiness for when they're travelling over obstacles, or simply bored and goofing around.

    Ask yourself; is your character fighting to win, or to look pretty? (last point in the list). If they're not the only one being attacked, the other characters are probably too busy defending their own lives to sit back and gawk at your character anyway, so go ahead and work up a sweat! Fights are dirty! You get sweaty, dust gets kicked up, you get scrapes and bruises (even if you're wearing armour, a direct or heavy blow will still hurt!)

    Keep in mind also that unless you're fighting a tree, your character's opponent will be moving around and changing strategies; they want to win, too! If you're writing your own opponent, remember that there are benefits to giving your opponents strength and strategic skills: it makes the fight more suspenseful and dramatic, and it's a more important victory if your character defeats an opponent who seems more formidable. If you're fighting with another character, remember to wait for their reactions between moves; most roleplayers will prefer a short post that lets them get their fair share of the fight in than a long-post with unnecessary description that slows the pace, or worse, when a player decides their partner(s)' move for them! Keep track of where the other character(s) are and what they're doing. Be objective and practical when deciding if a blow would hit and - if it's the kind of thing the target could potentially see coming - leave room for their reaction instead of deciding the outcome by yourself.

    Collaborative posts are really helpful to keep up the fast pace of an action scene, too. Converse with the other involved players in the OOC, so that you can include their characters' actions and reactions in your post without hijacking. Ask if your shot will find its mark, what will happen after your character knocks against someone's shield; will the opponent stumble, fall, or do something completely different if your character socks them in the jaw? If you can get this information from the other player(s), you can add it into your post, making for a post with more information and action instead of fluff, which is more exciting to read and preserves the atmosphere of the scene

    Further reading:

    Jorick's guide on collaborative posts

    Sladelius talks about turn-based combat and its code of conduct

    Rubix provides a workshop on descriptive and active fight posts

    Ozzie Chanter helps you visualize fight scenes to write your character's actions more believably

    Sakura provides some food for thought on things to consider when writing a fight scene; an oldie but a goodie

    Diana's exercise explores how your character feels about violence; keep it in mind when they're participating in violent scenes!

    Diana also helps you explore how your character responds when the tables are turned against them; like when a gun is pulled

    Iliana explores writing scenes where things get bloody

    And then Zen helps you write scenes that are even gorier!

    Combat Weapons:

    To write a good fight scene, you need to be knowledgeable about the weapons involved! Don't worry, most weapons are fairly simple, here's some combat tricks to keep in mind for any weapon: keep circling and changing your opponent's position by circling or advancing and look for openings. Pay attention to the position of your own character and ask; is there a place my opponent could strike that my character would not have time or mobility to protect?
    • Knives
      Knives in close quarters combat require staying very close to your opponent. If your character uses knives as their primary weapon, instead of as a 'plan B', they should have decent armour, or some other means of blocking attacks as they approach and their enemy moves around. Don't forget to make use of the butt of the knife, too! You can use the butt to disarm and knock things and limbs away without risking the blade getting stuck. In a knife fight, you need to pay extra attention to your opponent's movements, because if they push you away, their longer-reach weapon will put you at a serious disadvantage. Throwing knives will require a steady place to stand, and time to aim. Even a sharp-shooter will have a hard time hitting a moving target while moving around, themselves!
    • Swords
      Swords come in all lengths, weights, and styles, so decide ahead of time what kind of sword your character carries. Make use of the reach of your sword, and especially if your weapon is two-handed you need to pay attention to openings; are their arms and hands positioned in such a way that they could not block a blow to a certain area in time? Armour will only do so much. If the character is wearing chain or leather armour, a good solid blow can still knock the wind out of them, or bruise them badly. If your character has a one-handed sword, it's advisable to make use of a shield. Where the sword is sheathed will also impact how quickly the character can draw it when they need to. It may look cool to have the sword sheathed on the back, but if the character is against a wall, or can't stand up straight, it makes it unnecessarily difficult to draw. The hip-sheath is popular for a reason; it's far more practical.
    • Bare-Handed
      Forget pro-wrestling, this is life-and-death! Fight dirty, grab hair, kick the groin and stomach, make use of the density of your bones and bash with elbows. Wear rings or iron knuckles. If your character is a hand-to-hand fighter, they should keep this in mind with their wardrobe; avoid piercings and long hair that could be grabbable, consider using oils on the skin to prevent a good grip. No capes! Since hand-to-hand combat also requires getting up close and personal to enemies who may have weapons with better reach, take consideration for how they protect themselves while they get there; they could use something to distract the enemy, like a flash-bomb or illusion spell, or they could have a distance weapon just in case.
    • Axes
      Axes were fairly common in medieval combat, most people were already used to wielding axes from everyday woodcutting (as opposed to swords, which required training), and hatchets could easily be carried almost anywhere, and even used for throwing! In addition, some axes may have hooks (like bearded axes) which you can use to grapple your opponent's weapon away while you go for the face >=3
    • Pole weapons
      Quarterstaffs, pikes, halberds, and spears, were all very common in the medieval ages, as they were easy to use and cheap to manufacture. They had great reach and could even be thrown from a height. The ninja of ancient Japan used to store caltrops or blinding powders in the shafts of their pole weapons; a pole with a grapple on the end could be used to control the enemy's weapon, or outside of combat, to climb over obstacles! Use your pole to an advantage, and keep the enemy at a distance.
    • Guns
      Look up the specifics of the gun your character carries. Keep track of their ammo, and check out how long it takes to reload, and if they could feasibly do it while engaged in combat. Pay attention also to the kind of bullets they're using, what kind of spread does it have? How does the bullet behave when it hits its target?
    • Improvised weapons
      Anything can be a weapon if the character really needs it to be. Just because your character has been caught without their weapon, doesn't mean they're completely vulnerable! Use broken bottles, rocks, sand in the eyes, a hair curler, a fork!
    Further reading:
    Ozzie's visualization resource videos feature tips on the use of various weapons as well as showing you what they look like in action!

    What REALLY happens when you hit someone on the head?

    Iliana invites you to make your character's sword more specific and unique!

    Iliana also helps you explore a down-and-dirty hand-to-hand brawl!

    Swords are not as heavy as you think they are - by Drakken!
    #1 Minibit, Apr 26, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
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