Category Archives: Q&A

Q&A: Blood in the Eyes

Hey! Is it possible to take both of an opponent’s eyes out with a single swipe of a sword without amputating the nose? Thanks so much in advance!

Not exactly what you’re asking, but cutting someone’s forehead so that they’ll get blood in their eyes, temporarily blinding them, was a real tactic. That does work.

Actually taking out the eyes in a single, linear strike, without hitting the nose? I don’t think so. To be fair, even a fairly deep cut to the bridge of the nose wouldn’t amputate, and a slash across the face that would sever the nose wouldn’t connect with the eyes, because of how they rest in their sockets.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious, in which case, I’m sorry. Still, if you want to blind your character temporarily, in combat, cuts to the forehead will do that.

-Starke

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Q&A: Monster Hunting with Polearms

Do ya’ll have any input on weapons (Maybe a polearm type) against beasts? (Nothing that would be larger than a XL Draft Horse, so no house-sized dragons or bus-long wyrms) I’ve been considering a halberd for my MC, and he’s going to be faced with various types of beasts on foot.

That is one of the uses of polearms. Not fighting monsters, but dealing with potentially dangerous animals. Within that context, the halberd probably isn’t the best option.

The only thing that I’d be concerned about is that the halberd is a variety of poleaxe. Usually, they had a spike or piercing blade on the end, which would allow you to poke something, but the primary blade was used in chopping strikes. So your character wouldn’t be getting much use out of that. In turn this adds more weight out on the end of the weapon, making it harder to maneuver. I don’t want to say, “more ponderous,” because it should still work, and is a legitimate selection, it’s just that there are better options out there.

Specifically, weapons like the boar spear or spetum would probably do the job slightly better than a halberd. Possibly with an axe as his sidearm. Though, nearly any polearm will allow him to attack without being disemboweled, which is the important part, and why polearms were historically used as hunting tools.

Some of this is speculative, and would depend on exactly what he’s facing. I’m sitting here thinking of something like a bear or werewolf, but if he’s fighting some kind of cephalopod, and needs to lop off pieces, then a halberd may make more sense.

-Starke

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Q&A: Followup: Amnesia

beezelbubbles:

Wait… Can we get some love for Long Kiss Goodnight for amnesia spy who doesn’t know they’re a spy? A lady spy at that?

Yes. Yes, you can. I’ll admit, I don’t think of it often, but The Long Kiss Goodnight is a good action film. If you’re wanting something in the genre with a female lead, yeah, watch it. This film deserves a lot more attention than it got.

Also, True Lies comes to mind, in a similar vein. Though there’s no amnesia plot in that. In theory it’s a Schwarzenegger film, but Jamie Lee Curtis does a pretty good job of owning it whenever she’s on screen.

-Starke

Q&A: Anti-Material Rifles

Hello, I don’t see a lot of resources for sniper gun injuries, especially that of .50 cal rounds. I have a character that had the bone at her lower leg (near the ankle) shot by a .50. How bad would the damage be when compared to the same bullet actually hitting the ankle bone or the leg muscle?

So, there’s a weirdness with the .50 round: It’s not supposed to be used for precision shooting. It is used that way. There are many precision rifles chambered to various 12.7mm cartridges, including the .50 BMG. But, they’re not really intended for use on people.

(To be clear, every time I’m talking about a .50 from here on out, I’m referring to the 12.7x99mm rifle cartridge. Incidentally, if you were to simply search for .50 wounds, you would probably get a mix of rifle and pistol wounds, since there are many distinct 12.7mm rounds in circulation.)

The .50 BMG was originally designed during the First World War, with the intention of use as an anti-aircraft round. These entered service in the ‘20s and saw extensive use during WWII as an anti-vehicle round. This is it’s intended role, even today.

In the early 80s, someone got it in their head to build a precision rifle around these things. The result were firearms like the Barrett M82. This 30lb monster is, probably, the rifle you’re thinking of.

Thing is, these rifles fire a round that was intended for taking out vehicles, not people. As a result, they’re designed to deliver a terrifying amount of force to the target. The point is you put one of these into a truck’s engine block to kill it. Which doesn’t work 100% of the time, but a few extra hits will usually get the point across. You put one of these into a person, they’re done.

I don’t have hard data on what these things will do to a person. There is an inaccurate myth that near misses can kill from the atmospheric shockwave alone, which isn’t true. There’s also stories about these things taking limbs off on a hit. Based on what I’ve seen with these rounds and ballistic gel tests, that seems credible. Put one into someone and you could easily end up looking at an eight inch exit wound.

Connecting with the ankle probably means the foot is gone. I don’t mean damaged irrevocably, “we’ll need to amputate.” I mean, anything below the point of impact is missing.

Traditionally, precision rifles used against living targets is chambered somewhere around .30. The classic examples are .308 and .30-06, though there are others, and I’ve heard good things about 6.5mm rounds. Even then, a shot to the ankle means your character probably isn’t walking again without reconstructive surgery. A shot to the bone will break it. A shot into the meat can cause some serious tissue disruption, but assuming it doesn’t nick something important, and the impact didn’t fracture their leg, they should be able to survive.

The use of a .50 rifle as a sniper’s rifle is for extremely long range shooting. These are the guns you break out when you need to hit something over a mile away. If you have a character that needs to put assassinate someone riding in an armored Limo, a .50 will do that. If your character needs to put a bullet in someone from the dark side of the moon, then the .50 is the right choice. Because, if it connects, there’s very little risk of the target getting back up.

-Starke

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How viable is muscle memory that it trumps amnesia? Say, Jason Bourne who doesn’t remember a thing, but still knows assassin-fu? Thanks for your advice!

Bourne isn’t running on muscle memory. He suffers from a variant of retrograde amnesia which affects his ability to remember who he is, but doesn’t affect his skills. From what I’ve read on the subject, it’s entirely possible for an amnesiac to retain basic knowledge, in isolation from specific memories. Which is to say, this can happen.

There are details about exactly how Bourne’s amnesia manifests itself that may be unrealistic. An individual can retain general knowledge, and skills, but that doesn’t mean they’re not impaired, and when you’re talking about something like tradecraft, being in full possession of your faculties is a little important.

For whatever it’s worth, the only time I’ve ever interacted with an amnesiac, they were suffering from anterograde amnesia. This is the inability to form new memories after a triggering event. (You can see this one demonstrated in Memento, if you’re wanting a point of reference.) So, I can’t really speak to how accurate Ludlum’s work was when it comes to that element.

In a 1986 interview, Ludlum claimed that he came up with the idea
for the Bourne trilogy after suffering retrograde amnesia and losing
about 12 hours. The old advice is, “write what you know,” and apparently Ludlum did, in this case.

I know I’ve recommended it before, but if you’re thinking about writing spy fiction, The Bourne Identity is a book you really should read. The 2002 adaptation is also good, but it uses the same premise to tell a very different story.

Normally, I would strongly caution writers against using
amnesia in their stories, unless they have something fairly creative
they want to do with it. This has more to do with amnesia plotlines
being run into the ground, and becoming horribly cliche over the years. Memento uses it as a jumping off point for an interesting narrative format. Bourne uses it to play around with the spy as a character archetype. Bourne also uses it to play up the traditional mystery of a character who doesn’t know who they are, or who they can trust. That’s one of the approaches you probably want to avoid.

Because amnesia works so well for establishing a blank slate, and giving the audience a point of view character who is exactly as unfamiliar with the world as they are, it’s become cliche. I fully believe there are methods to use amnesia as a useful narrative tool for your work, but a lot of the more obvious approaches have already been done to death.

-Starke

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Q&A Personal Credibility Limit

What’s your personal limit on fight-related bullshit in books/movies/tv/etc? At what point do you put it down or turn it off? Can you tolerate the occasional flaming arrow, or…? What are your absolute turn-offs?

I’ll be honest, my limit is excessively low. I mean, I was watching Fate/Zero the other day. I love the 80s Transformer’s Movie (who doesn’t?). I watch Vikings. I genuinely love some incredibly terrible B-action movies, including G.I. Joe. (Ray Park and Byung Hyun Lee are amazing, and G.I. Joe 2 is where I discovered Elodie Yung before her stint as Elektra.) My tolerance is high. So, if I’m put off it usually isn’t the violence itself.

Here’s the three things that turn me off:

1) Not What It Says On The Tin

This is perhaps the biggest turnoff for me. When a movie, book, piece of entertainment establishes itself as A and then does B. I don’t want to sit down with a movie that bills itself as a “hyper-realistic” thriller and get The Mummy. Now, I love The Mummy, it’s a fabulous movie but it’s billed as a wild and wacky summer action flick. It’s big, goofy fun in the best way. It is not, however, a “hyper-realistic” thriller. It’s even worse when the film is trying to be a “hyper-realistic” thriller using an action style pulled from The Mummy. These two could be fantastic together, just drop the “realistic” from the description.

Basically, the piece of entertainment needs to give me what it promised or I’m taking my ball and going home.

2) Sheer Stupidity

This is the bad writing category, when a piece of entertainment is trying so hard to be serious that it doesn’t leave a justification open for balls to the wall style, throw our hands up and throw down, type action but goes there anyway.

It’s not so much that it’s dumb, it’s that the narrative is breaking its own rules and removing the possibility of consequences. Usually this is the classic “Sue” curse, but it can happen to any character in a piece of fiction. I don’t have any patience to read about a character running around knocking out everyone in a castle if there isn’t going to be a pay off for it later.

I’m not against self-congratulatory action sequences that show off how awesome a character is, I just want some narrative consistency to go with it and the scene to have a purpose beyond just that. I like cool fight scenes, but I also like to invest in the characters.

3) Fucking Around With The Audience

I don’t like being played with, tricked, or lied to by a piece of media I’m consuming. There’s a difference between a plot twist and actively fucking around with the audience. I’m not here for movies, novels, comics, or television shows that waste my time.

When the writer is more invested in tricking their audience than they are with telling a good story then that’s when I’m out. It gets worse when the plot twists are nonsensical.

Watching nonsensical fight scenes that exist to pad out a narrative after its run out of ideas is about as fun as watching a five year old slam their action figures together. Actually, the five year old slamming their action figures together is more interesting and the story behind the battle is often coherent.

4) Some In Universe Logic Is All I Want

Mortal Kombat is a very silly movie based on an arcade fighting game, but at least I know what the stakes are and what the participants want. The gratuitous battles make sense in the narrative, even when they don’t.

This is a companion piece to Fucking Around With The Audience but my brain checks out around the time the writer stops caring about justifying a character’s actions in universe. Or, acting in a way that goes against a character’s stated goals. If the character’s decision making cannot rise to the level of a 90s antagonist in a shounen anime then I don’t have time for them. I don’t need the reason for the fight to make sense to me, or to the other characters, I just need it to be in sync with the one starting the violence.

If a character has decided to take the most difficult path to success like knocking out every soldier in a building just to extract one person, then I’d really like that logic explained. Or, the plan was to jump in and save one guy from being attacked by a gang of seven so the protagonist decided to put the whole group into submission holds… one at a time.

However, if the stated goals of these characters are different then I could definitely see it happening.

Q: “Why did you beat up every soldier in that fortress?”

A: “Man, you know, I really hate those guys so I decided to fuck with them! Think about how stupid they’ll feel when they all wake up!”

I really can’t argue with that logic, you know.

Here’s the thing, a character doesn’t have to make the best choice or the right choice or the smart choice. They can be really goddamn dumb, and supported by their setting. The issue is when the writer tries to pretend the decision was brilliant, strategic, tactical, or anything else. That action was their character taking a hammer to a screw. It worked, but it wasn’t smart.
For example: Son Goku is not the brightest bulb in the box, but the masses all over the world love him anyway.

All I’m asking for is this: “I wanted to prove myself the strongest fighter, but you dismissed my challenge. Now, I kidnapped your girlfriend and I’m threatening to kill her if you don’t give me what I want. Fight me in an acceptable duel of previously agreed upon terms, coward!”

That’s a character taking a hammer to a screw and watching characters take hammers to screws can be a lot of fun, when its
supported by the narrative. Its a combat train wreck. There are entire genres built on it.

My issue is don’t try to lie to me.

The motivations don’t need to make sense to me or be what I’d imagine doing, or act as any kind of insert, I just want the character’s motivations, desires, and combat style to make sense to them and be in sync with who they are.

After that, it’s all good.

-Michi

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Q&A: Fight Scene Sentences

Based on my reading, fight scenes tend to be best written with shorter sentences and use sluglines to help avoid it from becoming a wall of text. The writer should add details of what happens, but focus more on giving the desired feel of the scene than an list of every strike.

Sure, that’s one way to go about it but I’d hazard though that it is possible to have a fascinating fight sequence which is a wall of text. (And, actually, I’m sure there are in The Lord of the Rings and probably War and Peace or the more downright confusing translations of Father’s and Son’s, I’m just too lazy to go digging.) A scene is defined by how successfully it manages to keep the reader’s attention so they remain invested in the action occurring on the page.

The issue with writing advice of any kind is that any ground rules laid down will be broken in fairly short order by a hundred other books. The other problem is that the vast of advice majority depends on the styles of the times rather than the writing itself. A fight scene can be anywhere from a single sentence to five or even ten pages long, or longer. There’s no clear metrics for creativity.

The only rule is there aren’t any rules. Not even when it comes to grammar. The only metric for success is based on what you can get away with, and how well you hold the attention of your audience. Many of the best writers we remember were people with enough confidence to look at the rulebook and throw it out the window. Writing is mostly trial and error, and figuring out what works best for us as individual creatives. The best thing to do is throw out the shoulds and learn to trust yourself. Take the Barbossa line from Pirates of the Caribbean to heart, “the Code is more what you call guidelines than actual rules.”

The great secret of every creative you admire is that we’re all mostly making it up as we go along. The only quality you truly need is the willingness and courage to leap off the platform without looking back, and see if maybe you’ll fly. 99% of writing is learning how to nor give a crap about what other people think. Or, what we think other people think. The voices that whisper we’ll never do it right and that we’re not good enough.

Don’t listen to the voices.
Go with your gut.

 

Besides, talking sentence is almost pointless because everyone’s writing style is different and their narrative structure is also different. The best fight scenes are like dessert or a topping, they serve as a means to enhance your narrative and build it up rather act as a full course meal. Each scene and sequence are a dish to go with that meal or just an ingredient. Sometimes, they might be able to function as meals unto themselves but are excellent when consumed together.

The best fight sequences are the ones which maintain the audience’s suspension of disbelief. They can go about doing that in a number of ways, from utilizing the five senses to the author making excellent use of their set pieces, but usually come together when the author has a solid grasp of what they want from the scene and understand how to go about getting it.

The how is usually what trips people up, how to translate what we’ve envisioned in our minds to the page. The more you understand about a subject, any subject then the better you’ll be at figuring out how to get what you want. This may involve some reevaluation of what, specifically, you wanted to begin with in order to start asking the right questions.

The more you understand about warfare, and how warfare has grown, changed, and transitioned throughout history then the better you’ll be at writing magical, fantasy battles.

If you want to write Rurouni Kenshin anime fight scenes, starting with research into Kendo, Iaido, Budo, and that specific historical period in Japanese history will ultimately help you parse through where inspiration was drawn.

Sometimes, we need to ask the wrong questions before getting to the right answers. You want to write in a similar vein to what you’ve drawn inspiration from then start with understanding how it works.

It may suck when looking for a quick and easy answer, but the truth is that good work isn’t easy. It’s difficult. It takes a lot of investment, both mental and emotional. And there will never be anyone who can get to the bottom of what you want better than you can, because you know what you’re looking for. You just need to figure out how to get there. Investigation, essentially, is key to writing good fight scenes.

When you understand basic concepts like distance and the order of operation in a fight, moving between different zones until we end up on the ground, then the fight sequences won’t feel like just a static listing of techniques. Instead, they become interesting due to the fight actually moving. (The issue with many fight scenes is lack of progression.)

The second issue is choreography. When writing fight scenes, the writer’s closest relation is a film’s stunt choreographer. That’s a different set of priorities beyond just “realistic or no?” because a novel, like a movie has its own setting rules that it abides by outside the realm of the real world. The key issue for many writers is they either don’t know enough about martial arts or have a ready grasp of various techniques to choreograph a fight. Then get down on themselves, forgetting that fight choreography is a craft in and of itself. The best scenes we see in movies are often choreographed by seasoned, if not master, martial artists. 9/10 when you’ve got someone asking for a fight scene, they’re asking for choreography. They want to know how to structure a fight so it’s interesting to read/watch.

A fight scene that utilizes it’s environment, laying down the groundwork and foreshadowing objects like staircases as the fight progresses will create a sense of catharsis for the audience when a character finally throws another down those stairs. Or grabs a frying pan off the counter. Or starts throwing plates. Or is out numbered against a group of bullies, and maneuvers their way around the hallway to pull the fire alarm. (They see the fire alarm before they get jumped, or when they’re trying to figure out what to do, then try to get to it.)

Fight scenes work when we understand a character’s needs, desires, and wants rather than focusing on a need to “show, don’t tell” their fighting ability by making them fight.

Poor fight scenes aren’t just badly written, they serve no purpose other than “proving a character’s fighting ability to the audience” and often feel out of place in the narrative. They are a violation of the character’s stated goals and needs, and often work under a different setting rule set which has no interaction with the main story itself. Poor fight scenes are boring, the illusion breaks and the characters are just paper dolls being mashed together.

After that, the sentence structure is just structure.

In fiction writing, we use sentence structure, grammar, word choice, and even white space on the page as a means of crafting tension and tempo. Tempo in fiction is manipulating the speed at which someone reads. An easy solution is to use progressively shorter sentences to build a sense of tension and imitate the feel that events are actually moving faster. Long sentences feel slower because they take longer to read. That’s the basics, anyway, it becomes a great deal more complicated than that once we get into the inner workings of a single sentence. There’s also beat, rhythm, and rhyme schemes.

If you want to learn how to manipulate emotional experiences in very few words then poetry is what you should be reading.

Basically, all these require various skills. There’s no easy way to develop these skills beyond hard work, practice, and trial and error.

The first step is: get over the fear of failing.

You’ll try, you may fail, it may not work the way you want on the first go. You’ll probably have to go back to the drawing board multiple times, and that’s okay. You’re not alone if you sit at your computer watching a single fight sequence you love on repeat a few hundred times trying to figure out how it works. That’s normal.

It takes work to gain knowledge and then figure out how to apply it contextually. You’ve got to learn about the subject then learn how to make that knowledge work for you. The process is often embarrassing, sometimes clumsy, and we may feel like we suck because we’re unfairly comparing ourselves to experts in the field. A writer is a perpetual student seeking out new knowledge and new information. Whatever we’re digging into will always be more complicated than we initially thought.

TLDR: It’s difficult to write fight scene involving guns if you don’t know how guns or bullets work. That follows for everything else.

-Michi

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Q&A: Scriptwriting

Im having a huge problem that you might be able to help with, I’m writing a fantasy film script for my university coursework, but they’ve never taught us to write fight scenes in any context and I’m totally lost. Have you got any advice or tips for fight scenes in scripts?

Unfortunately, I don’t know much about writing film scripts but, as an English Major, I’ll give you the advice that has always helped tremendously in the past when I didn’t know where to look especially when it came to specialized structure. Start with the source material.

The best place to learn about the proper structure for describing a fight scene in a film script is from other film scripts. Look at film scripts and you’ll figure out what the format is whether it’s for a fight scene or just regular direction. Usually, if I remember right, it’s similar to stage direction. So, if you can’t find scripts or get stuck waiting for one your professor or the university’s librarian could procure for you, you can find dozens of plays available at the university’s library. Shakespeare is generally helpful, especially the dueling scenes.

The second thing to do is ask your professor to see if they have any ideas, or go down to the drama department. Someone there will have experience with stage fighting and may be able to show you a mock up on what stage directions for the fight scenes look like. The theatre people are going to be the ones with the most experience for putting fight sequences on stage.

What you want is to find reference material, as much as you can get your hands on. Once you know what the structure and format are, then it’s going to work much the same as every other type of written fight scene. Keep in mind the film time is equivalent with length, and go from there.

You can write the sequences you have in mind first and restructure them later, full in the knowledge that whatever you put down would eventually be torn apart by the director and fight scene/stunt choreographer as they built on the idea or substituted their own.

Don’t freak out. Write it. Think about the imaginary actors who’d have to perform it, and work from there. A lot of figuring out fight scenes is going to be self-taught, that’s just the nature of the business. The worst thing for a writer is to be stuck second guessing themselves, and writing fight scenes is just like writing anything else.

Personally, the best films to watch for figuring out how to write, structure, choreograph, and film fight scenes are Jackie Chan’s. He’s the best. For large scale battles, I’d start with Lord of the Rings and then expand into historical films known for their accuracy or film scripts known for their fight scenes.

If any other screenwriters want to take a crack at this, be my guest.

-Michi

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Iron Sights Sniper

Is it conceivably possible for a character with enhanced eyesight to shoot a rifle with iron sights as accurately as with a scope? Or are there inherent limitations getting in the way?

Not, “inherent limitations,” but you would be giving up some functionality that isn’t common on modern iron sights.

Long range marksmanship isn’t about putting the cross hairs over someone’s head and pulling the trigger. There are a lot of factors which can affect the trajectory of a bullet.

Bullet drop is the simplest example of this. As a bullet travels through the air, it is also affected by gravity, and falls towards the earth. The further you fire, the father the bullet will fall until it connects with something. Some iron sights include rangefinders, which will elevate the rear sights to account for drop.

Because the bullet is a lightweight, physical object, it is still affected by things like wind. Again, this isn’t much of an issue at short range, but at longer ranges, wind can play a significant role in where the bullet finally comes to rest. When calculating wind in long range shooting, it’s not enough to know what direction the wind is traveling where you’re positioned, but also what the wind is like at the target. In situations like this a scope can be helpful for determining what the wind is doing over there. As with drop, some iron sights are designed to be adjusted for windage. It’s not incredibly common, but these do exist.

We’ve talked, before, about how most rifle rounds are hypersonic, and that the signature crack of a rifle is, actually, a small sonic shockwave caused by the bullet breaking the sound barrier. At extreme ranges, over 2,500 yards (if I remember correctly, this value is affected by atmospheric density, which is calculated based on altitude and humidity), friction will bring the round back down through transonic speeds (around 600-700mph), at this point the shockwave will usually overtake the bullet destabilizing it and severely affecting accuracy.

When you’re talking about a sniper, the least important part of their equipment is, ironically, their rifle and scope. Those are both useful, and high quality equipment will offer the best results, but the difficult part of their job are things that have nothing to do with the hardware itself.

Beyond that, the scopes are just optics, they help a marksman hit their target, but they’re not necessary. However, the benefits they offer do go beyond simply providing a firing point.

So, the short answer is, no, your character wouldn’t need a scope, but they would still be better off with one than without. The one exception I could think of is if the have some cybernetic augmentation which provides firing solution data to the user, which is more accurate than simple optics.

-Starke

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Q&A: Fire Weapons Followup

so i saw your post about fire weapons and you said flaming arrows don’t work bc of totally logical reasons. i was wondering why they’re so common in tv shows and movies if they don’t actually work? historically, were they ever actually a thing people used?

It’s called Rule of Cool. They look good, they look neat, they look dangerous, and they make the audience go “oooh”. Hollywood is a terrible place to look if you want reality, Rule of Cool is the decision making process behind 90% of all combat in all movies ever made.

The most important thing you can ever learn when looking at and consuming any entertainment media (or any media, really) is that unless specifically stated it’s relationship to reality is tangential at best. Real violence, for example, is fast, brutal, confusing, often boring to watch, and provides little in the way of entertainment value. They just aren’t fun to watch. You know what is fun to watch on screen though? The crazy ass Flynning duels from the Errol Flynn movies. Those big, huge, wide sword movements which make zero sense from any rational combat perspective but are easy for the viewer’s eye to follow.

Television, movies, and even books are about creating an entertaining experience, that is their primary goal. Any relationship to reality they have is at the direction of whoever is in charge of production and dependent on how much they cared about being faithful to what they’ve drawn inspiration from. This isn’t just combat either, the vast majority of ships seen in science fiction would be unable to function in space because they’re relying on rules that require either liquid or an atmosphere.

Movies want to convince you that what you’re watching is real, so you embrace the setting. They want cool fights, not real ones. That’s their stated goal: entertainment. Never trust entertainment to show you reality.

However, that doesn’t mean these movies and television shows and novels are lacking in value. They have entertainment value.

There are entire subsets of weapon categories fabricated wholesale by Hollywood purely because they look good on screen. See the swords wielded during the Golden Era of Hollywood for reference. They aren’t “real” weapons, they’re fabricated. This doesn’t change the fact they are perfectly suited to their purpose which is to look good on screen.

Audiences have become obsessed with “realism” and “realistic” more as a means of pointing out why one piece of media is superior to another when in reality neither of them are connected to a world that actually exists. In fannish conversations, “realism” has about as much weight as “chemistry”, it’s a vague definition used to discourage conversation or alternate approaches that violate a specific worldview.

Unless the creator has specifically stated an intent toward historical accuracy (and is backed up by historians), you can assume nothing you see on screen is “real” or has a basis in reality. Outside, you know, the stunt team and the specialists they hired to put on the performance.

Entertainment is built on being enjoyable and fun with just enough basis in reality to convince you to buy in and suspend your disbelief. I just happen to like knowledge because the more I know, the better I am at creating and choreographing convincing falsehoods.

Writers are liars. Our primary purpose when telling stories is to entertain, and a flaming arrow to the neophyte’s eye seems a lot more deadly than a regular arrow. Also, flaming arrows mean the prop team gets to figure out how to “safely” set thatch roofs on fire.

The director gets an epic fire filled scene of rampant destruction to sell to the audience and the prop team gets to have lots of fun.

Win, win.

-Michi

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