Quote: Don’t be Ashamed about Defeat

 “You should all ask yourself what do you feel when you are defeated. Are you blaming others, feeling depressed, or are you filled with passion, ready to take the challenge again? All those of you who have played on the field will have tasted defeat, there’s no player who has not lost before, however the best players, as a tribute to all their efforts, will give everything they’ve got to stand up again, the ordinary players will take a while to get back on their feet, while the losers will remain flat on the field. Do not be ashamed about being defeated, to be defeated and to not stand up is what you should be ashamed of.”

-University of Texas Longhorn Head coach, Darrell Royal

So, I’ve been getting sick for the past couple of days and since I can barely keep myself up right and out of bed, don’t expect to see anything from me for a little while. (At least today and probably tomorrow while I try to shake out this fever/cold thing.) Anyway, I hope everyone’s writing is going well. I’ve got a couple of articles I’m finishing up, so I’ll post those soon.

-Michi

Welcome New Followers!

This is somewhat belated for some of you and for that I apologize. I’m glad to see the information I’m putting up has been useful! Please remember that my ask box is always open and it takes questions about anything, though I may be slow about responding. I’ll get down to creating a side bar eventually and while this won’t be the most active writing blog out there as I’m working on getting my own work published at the moment, I’ll try to at least put something up once a day.

Happy writing!

Fight Write: The Points Where Weapons Become Useless

Springing to his feet, he bent his bow powerfully and drove his last shaft point-blank at a great hairy shape that soared up at his throat. The arrow was a flying beam of moonlight that flashed onward with but a blur in its course, the were-beast plunged convulsively in midair and crashed headlong, shot through and through.

Then, the rest were on him, in a nightmare rush of blazing eyes and dripping fangs. His fiercely driven sword shore the first asunder; then the desperate impact of the others bore him down. He crushed a narrow skull with the pommel of his hilt, feeling the bone splinter and blood and brains gush over his hand; then, dropping the sword, useless at such deadly close quarters, he caught the throats of the two horrors which were ripping and tearing at him in silent fury.

The Queen of the Black Coast by Robert E. Howard

If you’ve never read anything from Conan: The Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, then shame on you. When it comes to Sword and Sorcery, Howard is still the giant in the genre and the second father of modern fantasy. Honestly, when it comes to fight scenes, Howard is still the man.

Anyway, I’m not posting the above quote here just to fangirl or because the above is really well written. It is, but it illustrates an important point about weapons combat and your characters.

Notice how Conan starts with the bow and when his enemies get into sword range, he discards it. This is because the weapon has now become useless and it will be a detrimental to him to hold onto it, the same is true for the sword, once his enemies get inside its guard. Once his sword is gone, he grapples with his fists and the melee becomes more desperate.

This is a reality to combat that holds true for all weapons and all melee strikes. When I was training in Tae Kwon Do, my instructors referred to these spaces around the body as “hot zones”.

For example: with a roundhouse kick, the opponent needed to be in range of the length of the leg between the foot and shin for the kick to be effective.  If the opponent has gotten close enough that they are above the knee when the leg is extended, then it’s no good. Or alternately, if the opponent was within grabbing distance of the throat and we were nose to nose, a punch was useless and it was time to go to an elbow, a knee, or into a grapple. Most modern handguns are only useful between the ranges of 10 to 50 feet, anywhere closer than that and you can’t aim.

Every weapon has a different hot zone and a point where in truly close quarters they are no longer useful, it requires a fair amount of research to determine when that is.

As with everything regarding writing, the more you know, the better your character will be and the better the fight scene you’ll write.

-Michi

QUERY CONTEST–One Sentence Pitch Letter

yeahwriters:

hsgagency:

Attention writers! If you have a manuscript you’d like us to read please send us a one sentence pitch of your novel. Include the genre as well as the age group it is written for (YA, Adult, Middle Grade, etc.) Make it tantalizing, exciting, representative of your work as a whole. Make us want to read your manuscript. Ends Friday May 24 at 5pm

Little guy doing the dance

Like, reblog, follow—get the word out!

Sounds like a good opportunity, yeah writers!

Fight Write: The Art of Stepping

Learning to fight always begins with the feet, so if you want to write about fighting: learn to start paying attention. It can be easy to get distracted by the hands and start thinking that’s all there is to throwing a good punch, or the feet and think that’s all there is to throwing a good kick. Before a punch is ever thrown, a good martial artist always steps. The step can be forwards, sideways, or on a diagonal, and it can involve the front foot or the back one, but a step is always involved. Let’s talk about why:

A step closes distance.

In a fight, we are normally too far away from our opponent to attack. We need to step forward to reach them. As we close the distance, we bring them (and ourselves) in range for a strike. Each strike requires a different amount of distance from the opponent, so make sure you know how close the character needs to be for them to connect.

A step creates momentum.

The body requires momentum for follow through. Follow through is when a strike connects hard and the arm, shoulder, or leg push farther than they would normally in training. The body uses the step forward to create a driving momentum behind the arm as the hips pivot to strike the opponent, without the momentum the strike is less effective.

A step allows a character to get out of the way.

If someone is charging to tackle, the best option is to get out of the way. The best solution to get out of the way is to step. Even if a character is slipping under a blow, they are going to step first in one direction or another.

So when writing a fight scene, remember to track your character’s steps.

Two verbs, I see a lot in fight scenes are “rush” and “charge”. They are good, powerful, and attractive words. They are perfect to use in a select number of circumstances. However, before you apply any verbs to a scene stop and consider: does a rush require one step? Two steps? Or three steps? Ask: how close will this bring my character to their opponent? Multiple steps, even fast ones, often leave a character open to attack. Rushing and charging both involve running, so a character’s body will be tilted forwards, perfect to be on the receiving blow of a knee, a knife hand, or a hammer blow to the back of their head. Make sure the words you’re using are right for the situation and remember: even tackle isn’t a perfect way of taking someone down. It can be met with a sprawl, which leads to a choke, which leads to a blackout (and death) for your character or their opponent.

Always ask yourself in any scene: where are my character’s feet, what are my character’s feet doing.

Here’s a not at all perfect example:

He came at her, right hand lashing out. There was no room to dodge, nowhere to go other than forwards. So, forward she went. Stepping in, her left hand came up to block. Batting his wrist downwards, she used the force of her momentum to rotate her shoulder and hips back as her right hand formed a fist. Then, she struck. Her fist drove forwards, aiming for the soft flesh of his throat. He gasped as knuckles collided with skin and his windpipe crumpled.

Stumbling back, his hands went to his neck.

Clutching it, he looked up at her as panic spread across his face. She didn’t bother to smile as her knee drew into her chest and her foot struck out, plowing into his belly. When his knees hit the ground, she knew the fight was over.

He wouldn’t be getting back up again.

Tip: If your character is a raw beginner and you want them to learn fast, pick an easy style.

There are styles and weapons that are easy to learn and those that are not. I posted earlier about how to choose a MA that’s right for your character and, in a way, this is an extension of that.

What are some styles that can be learned easily? It might be hard to find them if we don’t know where to start looking. The answer is the kind that were developed for that express purpose. You want the martial styles that are still in use, the ones used (or were used) by military forces to train a large number of beginners for the battlefield. Alternately, take a look at basic self-defense training courses, these are techniques that are designed to be picked up quickly over the course of one or two sessions and without it being necessary for a master to look over your character’s shoulder.

Some occasionally overlooked weapons that are fairly easy to learn:

The Staff – ignoring the spinning, whirling beauty of the Wushu staff, the staff and the quarterstaff are very utilitarian, basic weapons. The strikes are basic and easy to pick up through rote practice, it’s a weapon that can be learned over the course of months instead of years and is fairly dangerous right out of the gate. Stick a metal tip on the end and you’ve got a spear, but that just makes it more deadly.

The Hatchet– The hand axe or the hatchet was one of the primary weapons of the Vikings, it’s more utilitarian and less romantic than a sword, but it’s another one of those weapons that doesn’t require much training to become proficient. It’s not that heavy and it is far easier to explain away to a city guard or a police officer than a sword or a firearm. Since the hatchet is essentially a bladed club, other club-like weapons also fall into this category: the crowbar, the wrench, and the heavy flashlight.

The Crossbow– Much like the Hatchet, the crossbow is less romantic than a longbow, but there’s a reason this weapon overtook it’s predecessor (and why firearms eventually overtook it). It’s a very easy weapon to train someone on, they will learn it quickly and with a surprising amount of accuracy. It and the bow have the distinction of true stealth, unlike the gun they can kill silently.

The Shotgun – this is a weapon that’s less romantic than the handgun or the rifle, but it’s much easier to learn. While most firearms are designed around ease of use, the shotgun’s scatterfire makes it easier operate in an actual situation. The downside, of course, is that you cannot hit a single target with absolute certainty, but buckshot will nail something. For a writer, the shotgun also provides a nice level of unpredictability, because even if the character is sure they’re going to hit what they’re aiming at, there’s a high likelihood of collateral damage in the process. For the audience, it’s a nail biting, desperate weapon and that’s a good thing.

The Slingshot – It’s easy to get a hold of, you can still buy them today, they sell them to children, and ammo for them can be picked right up off the ground. In some parts of America, the slingshot is still used for hunting small game. It’s also worth pointing out that in poor (and not so poor countries) the older version of the slingshot, the sling is still the weapon of choice for young children around the world. With practice, it’s level of accuracy is deadly. Use David and Goliath as a primer and you might come up with something interesting.

Tip: Your character should bounce

The term “bouncing”, often seen in Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Tae Kwan Do sparring in Martial Arts means something different than what we normally think of as bouncing. In MA it’s a very small motion that revolves around shifting your weight on the balls of your feet while lifting your heels off the ground to create a rocking motion as their entire body moves back and forth.

This is important because the movement masks the body’s tells of when an opponent or your character is going to attack and puts them in a position to stay mobile. Mobility is important, because the body’s ability to attack and defend is based on the ability to shift weight quickly, whether it’s dodging, punching, or blocking. No MA starts with the hands, it begins with the feet and training the body to work together.

It’s important to understand that most movies and television shows, we look to for advice on fight scenes will often show the actor as flat footed, instead of in constant motion. Flat footed is when the foot is flat against the ground, leading to stability in stance work but it also means the fighter’s movements are much slower.

This is actually a pretty safe technique, so try it out:

In an open space in your room, living room, or hallway, start by standing with one foot forward and the other behind on the line of your shoulders, the back knee should bend as you bring your back foot up onto the ball. This is called a  “fighting stance” in the non-korean speaking version of Tae Kwan Do.

Now try it flat footed, then go back to the ball. Feel the difference as your body tips forward slightly from resting to active and you’ll start understanding what I mean. If you want to get adventurous try shifting your weight from the back foot to the front foot and then reverse it, do it slowly, then as you get more confident go faster.

Unusual Martial Art: Escrima

This is a martial style from the Philippine Islands. It’s a very useful MA to know about, especially since it’s not one that usually appears in western fiction. You may or may not be familiar with it, if not, then here are some basics to whet your whistle.ery

Escrima is a martial art that focuses primarily on wielding a short bamboo stick and a knife, sometimes it includes two bamboo sticks of similar to varying length, or just one. The style strikes at the hand, the wrist, the upper arm, the head, the knee, and the center (the solar plexus and stomach).

The style basis itself around the idea that the opponent is armed, it focuses first on blocks, disarms, and then attacks. It’s style sometimes resembles modern fencing, but it is far more utilitarian.

The basics of this Martial Art, while not fancy, are fairly easy for a beginner to learn.

Something to remember: This is one of the few styles in the world that makes dual wielding attractive and practical, the bamboo stick functions as both for attacking and defending while the knife follows up with fast, lethal strikes.

Tip: Understand the Basics

Much like understanding grammar is a basic for learning how to write, understanding the beginning tenants of any Martial Art is essential to it’s practice. The basics are the building blocks of technique, any technique, from being a excellent painter to handling a firearm. As a writer, we control everything that happens in a character’s universe, so it’s essential to understand not just how something works but what it does and why it’s important.

It’s tempting to want to just jump straight to the action, but for the sake of your characters and writing believable fight scenes, it’s important to walk before you run. Just as How? What? Where? and Why? are important questions to a story’s plot, they are also important to a punch or a kick.

The basics are what teach us the how, the what, and the why so we can perform in the where. Master your basics and you start mastering your character. There will always be someone in your audience who will know if you don’t put the work in and for those that didn’t, they might learn something new.

Advice and suggestions for writing fight scenes.