LESSON The Art of Combat in Writing

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY SKILLBUILDING' started by Dipper, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. What's up my dudes? I'm Dipper and, like you, I like to write. To get into specifics, I like to write combat. Why the lesson? you may ask. Well, some folks don't always fare so well in written combat, or struggle to keep it clear and focused.

    With that out of the way, let's get started.

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    -- > Painting a clear picture

    It is imperative that your partner(s) knows and clearly understands your actions, how your character is fighting, and a good amount of smaller details that can enrich the fight and open up new paths in your roleplaying experience.
    • Weapons. Armor. Location. Readers and roleplayers need to know this so they can properly react. There's no need to spend a paragraph describing the design of your sword. It's a weapon and ought to be treated as such; that is, give it a brief description then throw it into the fight.
    • Understand your choice of weaponry. A rapier isn't a broadsword. A gun isn't a crossbow. Spend some time reading up on these weapons and you'll be fleshing out your fighting style in no time.
    • On the topic of styles, a fighting style can be determined by how a character hold themselves. Are they nimble? Are their blows heavy but slow? All this information can contribute to writing an exciting fight. Opponents will use this knowledge against you. Do the same to them!
    • In roleplaying, describing the site of the fight isn’t always necessary, as your partner(s) will likely already have an idea. However, things like a character’s personal effects, potential weapons nearby, or tools, can make the fight flow smoothly and allow your partner/reader to better understand what’s going on and be able to anticipate. Is your character going to go for that dagger? Make it clear your character is considering it (perhaps have them glance at it) so your partner can properly react.
    Anticipation is a huge part of roleplaying combat; in many real fights, anyone is capable of anticipating their opponent’s next move and either countering or meeting it full force. Giving them an idea of what you’ll do next gives the fight more realism, and who doesn’t love a bit of that?

    Use your senses! Your characters undoubtedly have ears, eyes, a nose, and a mouth. If not, well, maybe they have something else. Regardless, your character has to interact physically with the world in some manner.

    For example: humans sweat when active. Briefly describing how that feels from your character's POV gives readers or partners the idea that this is a tough fight. Notice the blood in their mouth, the pain in their shoulder, the stench of burnt leather if it applies. Have fun with it without landing yourself in the land of purple prose. Keep it nice and clean and easy to understand.

    Bonus: Writing a fight with another player can be an excellent way to develop or introduce your character. How they deal with the situation, their armor or clothing style, what weapons they prefer, whether they are merciful or merciless-- it can all be determined in combat.​

    -- > Active writing

    The pacing of a fight and how active each player is can have a huge impact on its intensity.
    • Easy to understand sentences. Don't drag out a single action too far to the point where your sentence becomes convoluted. Stringing multiple actions into a properly comma'd and organized sentence can speed up the fight.
    • Try out some different sentence structures. Instead of "Her arm was grazed by the blade" try "The blade grazed her arm". Add in whatever wound descriptions you want if you're into that.
    • Get in there! Don't wait around for your opponent to attack first (provided your character is fully engaged, and not trying to end the fight). Combat between two players is a back-and-forth game that needs you both acting and reacting. A one-sided fight is a bore, and nobody wants to write for a boring roleplay.
    -- > Pacing

    Most fights have a few simple steps.

    1. Beginning of the fight.
    2. Wow, things are getting pretty serious.
    3. Either both are evenly matched and relatively unharmed, or sporting a few new scars.
    4. Realization/Victory. It's always wise to discuss a fight beforehand if you intend to name someone the winner. The winner gets to bask in their victory. The realization that they are evenly matched is a good alternative. Both are frequently used to move a plot forward.
    5. End of the fight. Maybe someone's dead, seriously wounded, only slightly wounded, or unmarked. Settle down, tend your wounds, contemplate what you've done. The fight is over, and your characters and story have gotten a bit deeper.​

    Now that you've got those steps in mind, it'll be easier to avoid a never ending battle. Use it to outline your fight in a plot discussion if you choose to do so.

    -- > Things not to do
    • Magically avoiding every attack thrown at you. Don't do this. It's cheap and ruins the excitement, so unless you want to get kicked out/your roleplay ended, take it seriously and handle the action realistically.
    • Getting too deeply into a character's emotions. Not much beyond action, strategy, and instinct are running through your character's head in the majority of cases. Save the inner-feelings stuff for after the fight.
    • There's this little thing called powerplaying/godmodding, and unless your partner gives you explicit consent, taking control of their character is not acceptable, especially not in a fight. Leave people's characters alone.
    ___​

    Combat can be a tricky yet rewarding thing. Keep your writing cohesive, make your readers or partner feel the action along with your character without becoming overwhelmed. You can do it-- it just takes time.

    That's all for now, folks. If you have any requests or questions, you're absolutely free to fling them at full speed into my face.

    Happy writing!
     
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