Realistically, say a character was knocked unconscious for around ten seconds or so, would they be able to get up and get back to whatever they were doing (like: running, fighting, etc.) and also what would they be feeling when they woke up? Basically if my character is knocked out and wakes up, can my other characters pull him along until they’re out of harms way or would he be too fucked up to move?

I’d go with too fucked up to move. Remember, getting knocked out, even for a few seconds, is still a very serious concussion, and by extension a life threatening injury.

Off the top of my head, the symptoms should be: nausea, vertigo, (I think) blurred vision, and difficulty tracking (so, carrying on a conversation is also out).

This is actually what that “how many fingers am I holding up?” cliche is based on, it’s one way to judge if someone’s suffered a concussion, another is looking at pupil dilatation (by shining a light in their eye).

It’s also worth pointing out, because concussions are cumulative over time, these symptoms will actually get worse, and characters can’t learn to power through them. If your character’s getting clocked over the head repeatedly, they’ll end up dying from a blow to the head fairly quickly.

As a quick aside, there isn’t a safe way to render someone unconscious. I’ve been assuming a blow to the head, but tranquilizers require very specific doses (which vary based on weight and metabolism), and if you misjudge it even slightly, you can end up having no real effect, or outright killing the character you’re trying to tranq.

-Starke

kickassfanfic said: You say ‘cumulative over time’ – is that indefinitely? Like if you haven’t been concussed in, say, two years, or TEN years, I dunno, and you get whonked upside the head again, is it just as bad as if your first whonk was the day before?

Not completely. Here’s the thing, when you suffer a concussion, what happens is your brain gets bounced off the inside of your skull. This results in bruising on the brain itself.

Someone who’s suffered a concussion is at substantially greater risk of suffering another, and any concussion they suffer will be more dangerous to them. This diminishes over time, but it never goes away fully. In other words, no, your brain never fully heals.

I’m sorry, I am oversimplifying things here. This is a really complex topic, and I’m not a doctor; but, from a writing standpoint? Yes. If your character is getting knocked unconscious, it will always be worse than the last time, regardless of if it was yesterday, or twenty years ago. If your character is getting clocked on the back of the head more than once or twice, they’re going to die.

-Starke

Hi! I’m trying to write a mecha story, and the mech fights with a lazer scythe. I realise it would be hard to apply real life training to a mecha situation, but is there any advice you can give on how a human would use a scythe-type weapon even semi realistically that I could then apply in larger scale for the mecha? Even if its something that the pilot himself trains in or something. I love this tumblr! Thank you :)

Honestly? Not much. The scythe isn’t, and never has been a weapon. It can be used as an improvised weapon in a pinch, but, to the best of my knowledge there’s never been a formalized combat style involving one. Real scythes were designed around a simple, horizontal swiping motion to, well, scythe down grain. The blade was on the edge facing the user, meaning to use it as a weapon you would have to strike past your foe and pull towards you. When you’re dealing with grain, that’s useful, when you’re dealing with someone wanting to remove your internal organs, it’s a bad thing.

The only thought on the scythe I can think of would be to treat it like an axe or pick. You could look at some forms of axe combat, particularly the bearded axe, which involves building momentum in a crossing figure eight motion.

For writing a mecha story in general, I would suggest taking a look at the GURPS Mecha book by David Pulver. Like most of the GURPS supplements, it spends a lot of time talking about considerations for world building and how to pace a longer story or series. I’m not an expert, but the material it presents looks solid enough at first glance, and should give you some help with your story. A few caveats: it spends almost no time talking about melee combat in Mecha, and it does assume you have the core GURPS book and Compendium I, though, from a writing standpoint, those aren’t actually necessary.

-Starke

wetmattos said: I’ve seen, once, a video of a scythe fighter, and according to him the most difficult thing on wielding it is to maintain balance – but it seems viable (even if really risky) enough. Sending the video! youtube.com/watch?v…

That’s actually a pretty good suggestion, at least on a visual level. What you’re seeing there looks like a form of Wushu staff technique.

It’s not a practical way to fight with a scythe, but, given we’re talking about Mecha fighting, it doesn’t need to be.

-Starke

Some Thoughts on Tension

 Hi there! Your blog is a plethora of helpful information, so thank you. I have a request–do you have any tips on writing tension? I think tension is 100% crucial to every story, but it’s hard to perfect and easy to under- or overdo. Thank you!

-beowulf-is-cooler-than-you

Thanks so much!

My advice for tension is that you always need to have your characters in some kind of real peril. There needs to be a possibility for them that they won’t win or else the tension in the scene and even for the overarching plot of the story will fall flat.

I always tell my characters both hero and antagonist that it’s an open race, whoever works the hardest will win. While I do plan my endings, I tend to get better results out of my villains if I give them the possibility of winning. I also get more worry and fear out of my heroes because they don’t know what’s going to happen next if they haven’t figured it out for themselves. One of the major tension killers in stories that I’ve seen is when a character is cheating through the author or the character isn’t facing resistance from other characters in the story and everything is going their way. A great way to build tension is to tell them ‘no’, slam doors in their face, and don’t have everything negative that happens to them somehow tie back to the villain.

For tension in fights, start building the tension before the actual combat occurs. You can build it in the way you describe the scene, what they notice about their opponent, what they know or don’t know about their opponent going in, letting the reader know that things can go screwy and actually having things go screwy in the scene itself. If they’re doing something stupid or getting into a fight because they’re angry, upset, or acting out, punish them for it. The other characters can get there too late, even if they don’t die, they can be injured. If they’re the best fighter in the group, how will the story change if they’re going into the ending on a broken arm or a broken leg? Who will be there to pick up the slack?

For example:

In The Hunger Games, how would the story have changed if Glimmer had broken Katniss’s bow and her arrows? How would it have changed if she’d broken it in front of Katniss, like when the Careers had Katniss caught up a tree and were planning to kill her? Katniss may have gotten out of the situation, but she would have lost what the novel sets up to be her greatest chance of survival and in a way, it would have been her fault as much as Glimmer’s because she abandoned the bow for safety when the Hunger Games started. Her opponents know that she’s the designated favorite to win because of that bow, again, her chances hinge on it. So, why not destroy it or get rid of it in some way?

One great way to build tension is to show your character’s greatest strength (if they’re super good at anything) and then take that away from them. The skills they’ve built their whole lives and taken pride in are no longer useful, helpful, or they’ve been cut off from the resources that allow them to make use of those skills. Suddenly, the favorite becomes the underdog and even the jaded reader is given a reason to worry.

The more real you make your story’s world, the better the tension you can create will be.

1) Always have some sort of active villain or antagonist in the story (it doesn’t have to be a person) with supporting circumstances that’s working against your character.

2) Make sure you give your character weaknesses and flaws that are useful to furthering the plot. Force the character to somehow be put into situations where they’re forced to deal with those fears and flaws. This will create great tension. Remember, a character can fail themselves.

Example: In Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, we’re introduced early to Indy’s fear of snakes. We know he’s afraid of snakes, so when he’s trying to recover a clue for the Ark and he’s faced with a whole lot of snakes, we the audience worry whether or not he can overcome that and thus we have another source of tension in the story outside of the physical antagonists to worry about.

3) Never be afraid to ratchet up the tension and run your characters ragged if that’s the kind of story you end up telling. Just remember that a story where the tension is constantly high can become boring if the character’s don’t have some kind of stress valve, the valve doesn’t have to be pleasant like most kinds of humor. There’s nothing wrong with ripping your characters apart, so long as the themes, the events, and the plot somehow support that. If it’s not, then a stress valve might be needed. A time for everyone to stop and breathe between the different bouts of action, for the tension to be released, and give the reader a chance to relax.

Think of tension like a roller coaster, you wind up, the brief gasp as you see the plunge before the bottom drops out and then the car races downward. The best rides always leave a few loops where the car has to slow down, the riders pause, laugh, and wind up again on another go before the ride completes.

I hope this has been helpful. I think that’s the best I’ve got at the moment.

-Michi

Hi there! Your blog is a plethora of helpful information, so thank you. I have a request–do you have any tips on writing tension? I think tension is 100% crucial to every story, but it’s hard to perfect and easy to under- or overdo. Thank you!

Thanks so much!

My advice for tension is that you always need to have your characters in some kind of real peril. There needs to be a possibility for them that they won’t win or else the tension in the scene and even for the overarching plot of the story will fall flat.

I always tell my characters both hero and antagonist that it’s an open race, whoever works the hardest will win. While I do plan my endings, I tend to get better results out of my villains if I give them the possibility of winning. I also get more worry and fear out of my heroes because they don’t know what’s going to happen next if they haven’t figured it out for themselves. One of the major tension killers in stories that I’ve seen in stories is when a character is cheating through the author or the character isn’t facing resistance from other characters in the story and everything is going their way. A great way to build tension is to tell them ‘no’, slam doors in their face, and don’t have everything negative that happens to them somehow tie back to the villain.

For tension in fights, start building the tension before the actual combat occurs. You can build it in the way you describe the scene, what they notice about their opponent, what they know or don’t know about their opponent going in, letting the reader know that things can go screwy and actually having things go screwy in the scene itself. If they’re doing something stupid or getting into a fight because they’re angry, upset, or acting out, punish them for it. The other characters can get there too late, even if they don’t die, they can be injured. If they’re the best fighter in the group, how will the story change if they’re going into the ending on a broken arm or a broken leg? Who will be there to pick up the slack?

For example:

In The Hunger Games, how would the story have changed if Glimmer had broken Katniss’s bow and her arrows? How would it have changed if she’d broken it in front of Katniss, like when the Careers had Katniss caught up a tree and were planning to kill her? Katniss may have gotten out of the situation, but she would have lost what the novel sets up to be her greatest chance of survival and in a way, it would have been her fault as much as Glimmer’s because she abandoned the bow for safety when the Hunger Games started. Her opponents know that she’s the designated favorite to win because of that bow, again, her chances hinge on it. So, why not destroy it or get rid of it in some way?

One great way to build tension is to show your character’s greatest strength (if they’re super good at anything) and then take that away from them. The skills they’ve built their whole lives and taken pride in are no longer useful, helpful, or they’ve been cut off from the resources that allow them to make use of those skills. Suddenly, the favorite becomes the underdog and even the jaded reader is given a reason to worry. 

The more real you make your story’s world, the better the tension you can create will be.

1) Always have some sort of active villain or antagonist in the story (it doesn’t have to be a person) with supporting circumstances that’s working against your character.

2) Make sure you give your character weaknesses and flaws that are useful to furthering the plot. Force the character to somehow be put into situations where they’re forced to deal with those fears and flaws. This will create great tension. Remember, a character can fail themselves.

Example: In Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, we’re introduced early to Indy’s fear of snakes. We know he’s afraid of snakes, so when he’s trying to recover a clue for the Ark and he’s faced with a whole lot of snakes, we the audience worry whether or not he can overcome that and thus we have another source of tension in the story outside of the physical antagonists to worry about.

3) Never be afraid to ratchet up the tension and run your characters ragged if that’s the kind of story you end up telling. Just remember that a story where the tension is constantly high can become boring if the character’s don’t have some kind of stress valve, the valve doesn’t have to be pleasant like most kinds of humor. There’s nothing wrong with ripping your characters apart, so long as the themes, the events, and the plot somehow support that. If it’s not, then a stress valve might be needed. A time for everyone to stop and breathe between the different bouts of action, for the tension to be released, and give the reader a chance to relax.

Think of tension like a roller coaster, you wind up, the brief gasp as you see the plunge before the bottom drops out and then the car races downward. The best rides always leave a few loops where the car has to slow down, the riders pause, laugh, and wind up again on another go before the ride completes.

I hope this has been helpful. I think that’s the best I’ve got at the moment.

-Michi

Quick question

the-right-writing:

What made you want to be a writer?

When I was little, I figured the only way somebody under sixteen could make money was by writing a book. After I turned sixteen, I decided to stick with it so I could get my ideas out.

What about you?

Michi: My Nana used to tell me stories, but she would have me make up the characters that were in them. I loved it and reading so much that I decided telling stories was all I ever wanted to do. Then, I got older and realized how much impact those stories and some of the ones I’d read in my teens had on me, how important they were, and what I’d learned from them. I wanted to give back to those authors and to the other potential people like me out there by building off those values and ideals in my own work.

So, that’s why I started writing.

Starke: I don’t know, I don’t remember.

Everything’s in boxes!

We moved, mostly. There’s still some stuff left at the apartment that needs to be hauled out and the place has to be cleaned and life will be a mess for a while. Plus, some of our computer plug in stuff ended up with the parents and they are now four to five hours plus a ferry ride away.

Life is hectic!

We’ll try to get back to posting and answer all the questions in our inbox soon, though how soon is anyone’s guess. Maybe this weekend? I don’t know.

I do know I’m going to be having nightmares about boxes well into next month. I hope everyone in the U.S. is having a happy fourth celebration! If you’re not, I hope you’re having a great day and an even more lovely weekend.

Happy writing!

-Michi

You talked about getting hits in the groin, on men and women, and also how women can be just as good in fighting as men. Though for a women, what is it like to get hit in the breasts? Is it just as painful as anywhere else in the chest, more so, less so? Do martial arts fighters have smaller boobs from their training (that may sounds weird, but as opposed to before they started their training)? Does the size of your breasts have anything to do with how painful hits there will be?

This is an interesting question. I’ll be honest, if the breasts hurt every time they got hit then women would be doubling over every time they ran into a wall and bras would contain much more protection and padding than they do so women could get through their normal everyday lives. Since they don’t, the answer is: not that much.

The first notion to dismiss is that a woman getting punched or kicked in the chest is anywhere near as physically painful as a knee to the groin. Getting kneed in the groin hurts so much because of the high number of nerve endings there, since both men and women have those with a similar level of easy access. Still, the groin is a fairly well protected area as regions of the body go, it’s protected by the legs when standing and sitting and can be easily hidden by curling up into a ball. The breasts are just out there and despite their importance for feeding babies and arousing sexual pleasure, if they were extremely debilitating the body would protect them better.

Now, if you’re not wearing padding or some kind of binding (like a sports bra, regular bra, or a breast band) it can be somewhat painful to be hit there. Just as it would be in any region that’s protected by a fair amount of fat. A female character will probably be wearing some sort of binding or bra just for general comfort. A sports bra binds the breasts down very tightly because it’s specifically designed to inhibit movement, but any type of binding that essentially crushes the breasts together will work. This provides some measure of protection, but it’s important to remember that bras are designed for comfort and the breasts jiggling and jostling around while you’re moving can be anywhere from annoying to marginally painful. So, the woman will attempt to limit their movement as much as she can, but not because it hurts to get hit there.

The best way to hurt someone on their chest region (assuming they’re not striking to the breast bone or between the breasts for the heart) is twisting the nipple (this will work for most men too), but because of the bra, getting to the nipple through the clothes would be difficult. The pain also won’t last long enough to be debilitating.

I’ll be honest, there isn’t much reason to strike to the chest as opposed to the stomach or the neck. It’s something of an intervening space that’s well protected by both muscle and bone. A woman’s breasts don’t change that equation much, other than providing the chest with even more protection than it had before and a nice guiding line for where to drive a knife. (Which is why you should never have your characters wear boob plate.)

On the subject of small breasts: I’m not a doctor, so don’t expect me to give you a full biological breakdown for how the breasts work. But here’s a simple answer: the breasts contain the mammary glands, those glands are protected by fatty tissue. Essentially, a large portion of what decides the breast size is fat. When the body is looking for stuff to eat while a workout is burning up it’s energy, it starts chowing down on the body’s fat. Any normal kind of sport activity will shrink breast size to smaller than it was before if they are expending energy regularly. I’ve had plenty of female students and workout partners complain about their breasts getting smaller, this can be incredibly disheartening for those women who start working out as a means of increasing their attractiveness.

So, yes, they do. Though, the information I’m giving you is if the woman in question hasn’t had children. If she has, then her biological makeup will change.

Breast size has more to do with how annoying dealing with them in training is as opposed to how much hitting them hurts. But look at it this way: more fat = more protection, less fat = less protection and closer to the muscles. It’ll probably hurt more, but not enough for it to really matter.

Think about it this way: if it was debilitating or even just hurt a lot (enough to provide a useful advantage) for a woman to be hit in the breasts, people would do it more often. The myth about the testicles versus the clitoris exists because it’s so much more difficult for an untrained fighter to knee a woman there as opposed to men. Men wear cups for a reason, the testicles are ridiculously easy to unintentionally (or intentionally) clip.

I hope that answers your question,

-Michi

Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry

jazzylittledrops:

So this video started going around my facebook today, with about a dozen of my female friends sharing the link with comments like, and “Everyone needs to see this", and “All girls should watch this,“ and “This made me cry.” And I’m not trying to shame those girls! I definitely understand why they would do so. And I don’t want to be a killjoy. But as I clicked the link and started watching the video, I started to feel a slight sense of discomfort. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, exactly, but it continued throughout the whole thing. After watching the video several more times, I have some thoughts… 

Read More

This piece of criticism of the Dove video was sent to me by Wetmattos, so thanks to them and you should look them up. This is a very good counterpoint. I’m going to leave the Dove video up, but I’ll go back and put in a tag to tie the two together “dove video”. Watch the video, read the article, and decide for yourselves if you haven’t already.

It’s true that the video does do a roundabout job of reinforcing conventional norms about weight, female perception, and body type. The beauty industry is utterly fucked, there’s no denying that, nor is there any denying (not in any sane light) that the standards for conventional beauty all land undeniably under a “white” label. One that is so narrow it actually excludes the mass majority of women the rest of the world would term as white. It’s one of those tragic continuing echoes that have come down to us from colonialism and we combine that with an industry that feeds on negative self-perception and self-hatred to sell products. Dove isn’t any different.

But, I’ll leave the video up on the blog (though I’ll go back and link this commentary in there) for two reasons:

1) Any and all examples of skilled marketing is a very educational experience. I love and hate advertising, but as a writer I find it invaluable, both in the ways it manipulates it’s viewers into buying products and in it’s greater effect on media. Advertising feeds the beast. One day some of you may be going out to sell your own books, any head start you can get from this (admittedly) very manipulative art will help you. Just be aware of what you’re watching and try to find the connective tissue of what the Dove marketing team is trying to inspire (brand loyalty) along with how they’ve chosen to get there.

2) It’s almost a strange kind of victory, but one that is much the same as the Jimquisition video floating around out there that praises Sony’s business decision on the PS4 for sticking with the status quo while Microsoft raced off the cliff towards DRM. The Dove “real women” campaign has done something, even if it hasn’t done much. It’s wedged open the door, just a little bit, just a crack. If it truly proves successful, more companies may follow it’s lead using their products on women off the street instead of supermodels to appeal to the average buyer. It’ll be hard to get in there and wedge it wider, but nothing about changing the status quo is ever easy. It’ll also be easier if we can convince the women around us and the companies who produce this stuff that we don’t want it. That so many women have already shared this commercial tells us just how narrow and insidious these standards are, when such a little handout can win so much gratitude from so many.

Now, I’m going back to moving and we’ll return this blog to it’s regularly scheduled program in a few days. Have a good one guys!

Hey there! I saw you sharing the Dove advertisement, and got curious to know if you saw the criticism for that ad, about being racist and sexist in a covert way. Luv to ya!

No, I actually hadn’t seen that. I’ll see what I can find on the subject or you could point me to it maybe?

From what I saw, personally, I thought the overall idea of the ad was good. The part where it was trying to point out the underlying issues with the overly negative aspects we see in ourselves and the way media particularly the beauty industry gears women to see themselves as deficient. The beauty industry is definitely both a racist and sexist beast that feeds on generating consumer hatred for their body, I don’t think any ad, no matter how it attempts to be well meaning can fully escape it. We’ll have to take a sledgehammer to the entirety of advertising and Hollywood in general (plus a major reworking of the country’s entire social structure) to get rid of it entirely.

On the one hand, I appreciate Dove trying, though I know it’s more about sales and consumer satisfaction than it is about promoting more healthy body types. On the other hand, we’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’ve still got to keep pushing to try and normalize body image and relax beauty standards to be more inclusive. There are so many beautiful women out there of every size, ethnicity, race, and creed. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful and confident in what she looks like and find that inner beauty in herself without being held to a ridiculous standard, (Men too!) especially when it’s one that the even the female models and actresses themselves can’t reach.

A sledgehammer is the only real solution here.

But I appreciate you pointing it out! Have you ever seen the documentary Good Hair by Chris Rock? It’s a fascinating look into African-American hairstyles, the beauty industry and it’s message for African-American women (and men), and the entirety of that fucked up mess. If you haven’t seen it, watch it!

Thanks!

-Michi

Dove hired a forensic artist to draw how women see themselves versus how others see them – the results are moving.

http://jazzylittledrops.tumblr.com/post/48118645174/why-doves-real-beauty-sketches-video-makes-me

This is an excellent counter commentary to this video. It’s probably already been posted, but take it anyway. Multiple views on every issue are always good.

Advice and suggestions for writing fight scenes.