Tag Archives: writing examples

Hi there. the majority of stories I write are in first person which makes it even harder for me to write action or fight scenes. I’m always afraid of using words like “then I” or he/she” and so on. Like say if it’s just a fist fight. How could I make it interesting without being too repetitive?

First Person is the most interior of the different writing perspectives, which means you’re almost entirely inside out and can only rely on your character’s experiences. One aspect that you can do in First Person, which you can’t in Third is put the entire focus on the sensations the character experiences, their emotions, their fears, their feelings as they’re trying to sort through what is happening and what they’re going to do. You can make it extremely unique, personal, and immediate. Try focusing on intimacy in the sequence. Establish what exactly is going to happen in the fight, the setting, the characters, the surroundings, then put your narrative blinders on and see through your POV character’s eyes. Limit yourself only to that.

Here’s an example:

Ronald walked toward me, his head lifted. I watched as his chest puffed up, and he cast a glance over his shoulder to where his friends waited at the bar. He grinned and so did they. All of them grinning at me.

I took an automatic step backwards, bumping into the chair. I stumbled, but my hand found the table edge. Heart hammering in my ears, I raised my chin defiantly. I made a show of bumbling about, fingers scraping the table’s stick surface until I found the beer I’d ordered. Cal, the bartender hated me, so it arrived still sealed. Just over eighteen meant, I could totally drink around here. Still, Cal was old fashioned. When the law said eighteen, he still felt girls should drink only at twenty-one. Boys? Boys he let drink at sixteen. Fifteen if they were big. Bastard. Still, Cal hated guy on girl violence. Felt it was dishonorable, or something. If it came down to it, maybe I could make his old fashioned values work for me.

Slowly, tucking my bottle into the shadow of my left leg, I turned back to face the boys.

Ronald arrived in a few short steps, his body looming over me as he blocked out the light. At six foot four, he was way bigger than my five foot seven. I liked to think myself pretty big for a girl, but Ronald? Ronald blew all my confidence right out of the water.

“Hey, Ron,” I said. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Cal straighten up off where he slumped on the bar.

“Lizbet,” Ronald spat. His fingers clenched into a meaty fist. “I want my money.”

“Well, now,” I grinned and tossed my head, “there’s a problem.”

He grabbed the chair, setting it in front of him. He leaned down on it, and the chair groaned beneath his weight. “You lost it.”

“I didn’t. I spent it.”

Ronald snorted. “You got cheek.”

“I try.” I glanced back to Cal, saw his hand sneaking under the bar for where he kept the twelve gauge. Just need Ron to take a swing. Then, I could make a run for it. I let my gaze slide, casually, back to Ronald’s buddies. They were getting up too. Or, worst case, I wouldn’t be fighting alone. My eyes went up to the ceiling, to the hundred black dots embedded in the wood. Or, at least, I could hope I wouldn’t get shot.

Ronald’s head dropped and he glared into my eyes. “I want what’s mine.”

“Well, I don’t have it.” My fingers clenched around the bottle’s neck. “Take it up with Cal.”

His jaw clenched, molars grinding to together. Cheek twitching, tensed all the way up to his ear.

Our noses came close. Super duper close, the closest we’d ever been. Best shot I’ll ever have, I thought. With nowhere to run, it probably be a good idea if I hit him first. Bottle rolled over in my hand. I whipped it up, swinging it right into the side of Ronald’s head.

Remember:

Active verbs are your friend.

“I ducked behind a table.” “My foot found the table and I kicked it over, dropping behind it in time to hear bullets impact the wall behind me.”

Describe body language.

Describe the actions that lead to other actions. “I raised my hand.” “My arms tightening, I rolled my fist back, and slammed it right into Gerald’s face.”

Try to picture it in your head rather than focusing just on fists, go with feet, with the upper body, lower body, and the environment. Please, use the environment.

Use the environment.

Your set pieces are your friends and key to making your action sequences feel unique. In first person, it’s tight corner view. We’re experiencing what the character feels about their environment. How is it helping or hindering them? What do they do about it?

It’s hard to have a fist fight in a bar when you’re worried about running into a table, tripping over another patron, or getting caught in the back with a chair.

Don’t be afraid to get silly.

You may go, “I don’t want to be embarrassed or my characters to be.” Well, tough. Violence is messy, muddy, dirty, and interspersed with the seriousness we also get the ridiculous which is part of human nature. Terror is offset by humor. You may end up with your protagonist fleeing down the hall or hiding under a bed, beating themselves up about their life choices while they run for their lives. So long as you don’t forget that they’re running for their lives, it’s fine.

Honestly.

Screw ups happen, they have consequences. No one is ever going to get it 100% perfect the whole time.

Never forget you’re on the clock.

One of the rules we put forth for writers new to fight scenes is to try to limit your sequences to eight moves or less. Fighting is like sprinting. It’s high energy output and it’ll leave you exhausted at the end of it. A lot of fights make it feel easy to go on forever, but most are fast and over quickly. Throw in more stumbling, rocking, and describe what it’s like getting hit.

You’ve only got a certain amount of time before these people can’t fight anymore. Limit yourself. Make the most of it. The more self-imposed limits you have then the more creative you’re going to get within them.

Define your options

Your characters’ personalities slamming together are usually the defining factor on how a fight is going to go down, so take a good look at who they are as people. Violence is primarily about problem solving. It is not always about the most successful means of solving a problem, but rather how a person has chosen to solve it. Is this person direct? Do they like to have fun and play with their defeated foes? Are they prone to “RUN AWAY!!!!!”? Who are they? How do they perceive violence and it’s uses?

In the example above, we see Lizbet trying to plan how she can get the bartender on her side in the fight against Ronald, even though she is very clearly the one at fault. Think about it, is your character the type who involves other people or who fights alone? How do they feel about the people/bystanders around them? What if those bystanders decided to join and not with them?

All fights are an exercise in character development, but First Person fights are personal. Not necessarily in the events themselves, but for the character whose eyes we see through.

-Michi

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Can we see some of your writing? I’d love to see what these tips look like when properly applied.

Sure, I guess. I’ll throw a bunch of little snippets under the cut. Some is original fiction, some is not. None are the full stories, which will hurt a little bit because properly applied theory affects everything and build up is important. But. You know. Take what you can get. Some of these characters aren’t human and they play by different rules. Not all of these will actually be fight scenes and some of them are rough drafts. So, forgive grammatical errors.

A couple of these are original fiction and some are fanfiction, I’ve linked to the stories of mine where they originate from so you can check for context. My stance on fanfiction is always that while it’s not necessarily an end goal, it is a great way to practice writing a variety of different characters and practice exploration within a rule set you understand. When it comes to writing violence, understanding detail and the actions themselves are half the battle.

So here’s a piece with a non-human character:

He stalked across the deck, the soft soles of his boots silent on well-oiled wood. As Arlick stepped towards the rigging, Garret stepped forward and seized him by his sensitive neck, just below the base of the skull. A simple closing of his right fist was all it took to collapse the vertebrae. Arlick slid, eyes rolling back in his elongated skull. Garret shoved him forward. Tumbling over the side, Arlick’s body dropped into the stewing mix of black clouds below.

Easy come, easy go. Garret didn’t bother to track the naga’s fall. Instead, he dropped over the side and circled back toward the window. He had no fear of heights, not even while lacking wings in his human form.

If he knew Asra, she’d still be fighting with Wilks or taking her time putting him squarely under her thumb.

There’s this:

The stallion pawed the ice, snow spraying beneath its hooves. Nostrils flared as the creature snorted, turning on its hind legs. Its rider sat up in the saddle, pointing the tip of his blade at her chest. Black eyes pitted with amethysts gleamed behind the faceless white mask.

“All right,” Katie whispered. Flipping the spear’s tip up, she settled deep into her stance. Katie’s fingers squeezed, her grip on the shaft tightening. “Come on.”

The rider dug his heels into his beast. The stallion charged.

Obsidian hooves flashed across white snow.

Katie waited. Eyes narrowing, she watched the world flicker. A twisting pattern connected their souls. One guided by the threads of their lives, the passage of interweaving moments had led them to this. A battlefield far from here, he had lain crushed beneath the body of his fallen mount. All around the air smelled of blood and smoke, churned blackened earth greedily swallowing up his life. A finger twitch, fractured shells buried in his skin. Torn through one eye, burned, a single gaze focused out of the mud to a far off wall of barbed wire, to sense the lives of other men, of humans bleeding out their last breaths.

He had not died there.

The blade came down.

She lunged to the side, letting it sweep past. Turning, Katie launched forward and drove the spear into the rider’s side. Knocked free of his saddle, a friendly, buffeting wind carried them across the snow to slam into the ice.

Cracks broke like spider webbing on the white-blue surface, exposing the familiar gray-black of asphalt. Black blood bubbled through the rider’s armor, dribbling out in waves of ink. Leaning forward, Katie pressed the spear deeper. Down, down into his soul, down until she pierced his Mark. Her eyes locked on the amethyst pits, locked on the lip-less white mask.

Then this:

A crunch lingered in her ears, ball of a foot digging into sand and gravel. Preparing to lung.

Katie spun, bringing her right hand up and out in front of her. Flattening it, she shoved her palm forward. Eyes meeting the wide gray-greens of a hulking seven foot catman, she stopped centimeters from his nose. “Enough!”

And this:

Her steps carried her across the stones, the soles of her boots barely more than a whisper in the long, black hallway. Framed by the inky darkness, a single guard stood illuminated in the warm, orange glow of a torch. His back was facing her, a green cloak sweeping down off his wide shoulders to disappear into shadow. Kerilynn’s fingers clenched, exposed nails biting her leather clad palms. Carleon, it had to be. He always forgot to wear his helmet on midnight patrol.

Her legs moved forward with a mind of their own. Her pace quickened. If Carleon was here, then the only other guard between the Fallblast and herself would be the one covering the east exits. There were the guards watching for invasion by the underground dwelling Melwich, who made a new try for the Fallblast every eight years.

The knife slid from its sheath.

Carleon had yet to turn. A glance in Kerrilyn’s direction and he would alert his skyfel early.

Her free hand snapped out, wrapping the flat of her palm across his mouth, pulling his head back. Orange light flickered off the silver blade. It drove up into the back of his neck, through the base of the spinal column, and into his brain. Carleon slumped. The weight of his body slammed into her chest. She caught him before he hit the floor.

If you’re really interested, the one below belongs to my long-fic On the Wings of Ravens, which you can read online.

Her head lifted. Summer blue eyes gleaming like twin stars inside her head, her pupils alive with an inner green flame. Slowly, she drew the blade forth. It slid free in a blaze of light. Tiny runes flared beneath the cross-guard, shining on crude steel. Valefire licked down its edges, fanning across the surface in flickering green fire.

The Templar’s blade came crashing down.

Eirwen whipped hers up.

His angled down, swept, and went right through her. The ground rocked, exploded in a spray of red and brown. Tiny bits of grass and leaves flew into the air.

A single leather sheath hit the earth. Cleaved cleanly in two.

Light flashed through the Templar, ghostly green slashes and cuts. Faster than the eye could follow. His body jerked, silver armor rippling. He buckled. Then, the last passed through his neck and the helmet spun off into the clear blue sky. Bloody sprayed up out of the headless body, drifting down in a hot red mist.

Simultaneously, the second, left facing Templar and the third one on her right both detonated.

She shot through the Behemoth moving in behind them. Rotated her blade and slashed down, a diagonal cut. Like the others, the giant slid to the ground in two massive pieces.

Red bladed hands flashed, another Templar leaping forward.

Eirwen swung away. Her body shifting and turning with each lunge, with each cut. A minute turn here, another there, not bothering to lift her blade. She simply danced back, real body sliding away between the after images. Her bright blue eyes locked on her enemy. Each of the Red Templar’s hits landed, missed. Valefire glittered, flashed. The blade spun in her hand, a clean stroke carrying through above the right arm’s elbow. Then, the left.

Whipping up fast enough to halt an incoming overhead strike, it spun round and the enemy blade whirled away. She twisted, leg drawn up and driving out to knock the next Templar back.

Gone again as yet another enemy rushed through a lingering phantom.

This was part of an example I wrote for the blog about picking improvised weapons:

As the door slammed shut behind them, Ella, Beth, and Serenity came skidding to a stop. Ella’s fingers gripped the knob. Music pounded through the wood, loud even this far from the gymnasium. It drowned out the sound of following footsteps.

“Okay,” she said with a slow exhale. “We should be safe, for the moment. Kick off your heels and grab a weapon, girls.”

“Gotcha, boss,” Serenity replied and she started across the room.

“Weapon,” Beth mumbled. She patted down her chest. Black silk and chiffon tickled her thighs. Not much there, she thought. She had her belt, but it was a cheap chain. And I left my purse back in the gym. Biting her lip, her eyes dropped to the silver sandals still strapped to her feet. The heel was only three inches, but… Better than nothing. Well, she thought, at least they were cheap.

With a regretful sigh, she undid the straps and stepped out of them. Picking up the left, Beth gripped the base of the heel and gave a wrench. The shoe buckled, silver plastic biting into her hand. Beth gritted her teeth.

And, after another grunt, it popped free. 

Rolling it around in her palm, Beth loosed a relieved sigh. “I know it’s not much,” she said. “But…” Her gaze rose, then it stopped.

Both girls stared at her. Their pair of matched expressions could only be categorized as chagrin.

“What?”

The other two chuckled.

Ella lifted a pair of finely plucked black brows. Then, she shook her head and turned back to the door.

“Really?” Serenity asked. There was something in her hands. Long, thin, pipe-like, it rolled between black fingers. A set of perfect, pearly white teeth flashed between ruby lips in a brilliant grin. “You sure that’s the best you could find?”

Frowning, Beth shook her head. “Sure,” she said. “I… I mean…” her eyes moved back to the smooth tool in Serenity’s hands. For the first time, she glanced around the dimly lit room.

It was big. Much larger than their normal classrooms. In the center, a small silver car lifted up on some kind of steel platform. It had no wheels and was more than a little rusted. Tall moveable steel cabinets stood beside her. Red doors. Like the ones her father kept in the garage. Large wooden desks were set up all around the room. Plenty of long tables – no, she thought, not tables, work benches – mostly clean with a few exceptions.

“I…” Beth swallowed. “We’re in the machine shop, aren’t we?”

Ella’s lips twitched as she stepped away from the door and to some sort of desk next to it. A rattle followed. She produced a pair of thick brown gloves, work gloves, from inside the shelf. Pulling them on, she strode past Beth and snagged a small rotund canister off one of the shelves.

It looked, Beth decided, like a blow torch. Or a blow horn.

“Coach gets a little lax after he’s had a few beers,” Serenity said. “Leaves a lot of this stuff unlocked. Accidentally, of course.” She turned back to Ella and Beth thought she saw a wink. “Right, Elle?”

“Yup,” Ella replied. She didn’t look up. “Toss me the tire iron?”

“Catch!”

The hand extended, twisted, caught the spinning steel object in a single sweep, and the girl set it on the table next to her. A warm orange light burst in the darkness. It turned beneath Ella’s calm hand and she pointed it at the knob. Firelight flickered off her hair, illuminating a cold expression in her eyes.

Beth’s stomach twisted. Ella’s my friend. Sometimes, even though they’d only met three weeks ago, it felt like they’d known each other all their lives. But this Ella? This wasn’t a girl she knew. “What’s she doing?” Beth whispered.

“Prep,” Serenity said. Her navy dress swirled around her, silver bracelet jangling on her wrist. Crinkling brown-black hair bound back in a small knot on the top of her head. Bare feet padded on checkered tiles. A second weapon, another like the one she’d tossed Ella, rested in her hands. “We don’t have to just sit around and wait, you know.”

Right, Beth realized. Tire iron. This place probably had plenty of those. A warm hand gripped her shoulder and she glanced up.

“You should grab a weapon,” Serenity said. Her dark eyes glimmered in the moonlight, their expression not unkind. “Then, find a good place to hide. Fight only if you have to.” And she gave Beth a good squeeze. “We’ll take it from here.”

“Like a hammer?” Beth asked.

“Or a screwdriver,” Serenity laughed. “Since you seem to like stabbing things.”

“A wrench would be best,” Ella said. “And pipe down, they’re getting close.”

This one is from another fic you can read online and it’s just one long gratuitous sparring sequence. A Kiss With A Fist.

Eirwen’s fist whipped up, plunging into Abelas’ stomach. Stepping forward, her hands rose and slammed into both his ears. The older elf stumbled. Cranking her knee to her chest, she rammed the ball of her foot into his gut.
“Yeah! Herald!”

Abelas flew backwards. Hitting the wooden fence surrounding the practice yard, his back to the cheering soldiers. His bald head gleamed in the noon day sun, dappling across the new fuzz of fine, white hair springing from his scalp.
Someone in the crowd slapped his bare shoulder.

“Get her, Abelas!”

He lifted his head, yellow eyes gleaming. A smile yanked hard at the side of his mouth. Wiping his lips with muddy knuckles, he stepped forward. “You have been practicing,” Abelas said.

Lifting her hands, Eirwen reset her position. Fingernails brushed her cheek, the other hand low and guarding her waist, she kept both loose and open. Settling back on her left leg and dropped into her stance. “Oh, yes,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t want to shame my teacher!”

Kinetic Force, A Fight Scene Must

Kinetic force is a must in every fight scene. You need to get a sense of motion going, so the audience feels it. There’s weight to hand to hand strikes, the generation of cause and effect between the force of motion and the reaction to being hit. Whether your character is using soft or light techniques, movement is going to be involved and as an author you need to get a sense for it.
Once you have that, you need to be able to both incorporate it into your story and communicate it clearly to your audience.

In
this post, we’ll offer up an example (written by me) and discuss some
ways in which you can start incorporating this into your writing.

The Example:

Eirwen’s
fist whipped up, plunging into Andras’ stomach. Stepping forward, her
hands rose and slammed into both his ears. The older elf stumbled.
Cranking her knee to her chest, she rammed the ball of her foot into his
gut.

“Yeah! Go Woodsy!”

Andras flew backwards. Hitting
the wooden fence surrounding the practice yard, his back to the cheering
soldiers. His bald head gleamed in the noon day sun, dappling across
the new fuzz of fine, white hair springing from his scalp.

Someone in the crowd slapped his bare shoulder.

“Get her, Andras!”

He
lifted his head, yellow eyes gleaming. A smile yanked hard at the side
of his mouth. Wiping his lips with muddy knuckles, he stepped forward.
“You have been practicing,” Andras said.

Lifting her hands,
Eirwen reset her position. Fingernails brushed her cheek, the other hand
low and guarding her waist, she kept both loose and open. Settling back
on her left leg and dropped into her stance. “Oh, yes,” she laughed. “I
wouldn’t want to shame my teacher!”

“Kick his ass, Wood Girl!”

The hand by her cheek tightened into a fist and she raised it, gave it a shake. “Without a doubt!”

Laughter rippled through the surrounding crowd.

“Ah,” Andras chuckled. “I see you again overestimate yourself, little one.”

“Today is my day, old man.” A smirk twisted, lopsided, on her mouth. She held up a hand, fingers twitching. “Bring it.”

He lunged.

Catching
the first kick with her shin, she whipped it out and knocked his leg
away. Foot planted in the mud, her body twisted, right foot lifting as
she wheeled. Her knee swung up, tight in a chamber, and then her hips
rolled over, kick sweeping through the air toward his temple.

His elbow tucked tight against his ear, violet-blue barrier flickering.
The top of her foot slammed into him. Her energy rolled against his, shimmering, quivering, shaking.

Andras
shoved her away, sweeping her left leg. His ankle hooked hers, his palm
flat against her chest. He yanked his foot back in time with a hard
shove, and she went down. Back crashing into the mud, Eirwen slid back.
Cold water clung to her neck, tickling her scalp, splashing over her
chest in a spray of black-brown sludge.

Andras’ heel struck downwards.

She rolled, springing to her feet.

Another splash of water hit the air, his foot connecting with a vacated puddle.

She
swung away, circling. Eyes flicking over the curvature of his bare
chest, his pale skin, the rippling abdominal muscles, his muscular arms
toned by over a thousand years of dedicated training. Swallowing, Eirwen
let her fists tighten up. His legs aren’t so bad either. Nice to see the tight armor wasn’t just for show. She nearly shook her head. Focus.

“You continue to surprise me,” Andras said. Yellow eyes followed her, his smile pulling wider.

“I know,” Eirwen replied.

“You adjust well to our training.”

“As you have said.” Eirwen leaped forward, launching a flurry of blows at his chest and head.

Rough
calluses of his palms and fingertips slid over her skin, her knuckles,
her wrists, tingling. “Still.” He knocked each punch away. “This path is
not for those faint of heart.”

She slid beneath a return strike,
fist hammering his ribcage. “And?” She gripped the back of his head and
drove her knee into his stomach.

His barrier sparked. Crackled. His head flew forward.

Their gaze locked.

Eirwen grinned. “Is my heart faint?”

Andras
caught her, whipped her around, arms wrapping across her body.
Squeezing. Her bare back pressed to his equally bare chest. The cut of
his muscles rubbed against her, left a warm, tingling sensation running
up her spine. He lifted her high. His voice murmured in her ear, “We
shall see.”

“Oh, ho!”

“Andras!” Elves in the crowd chanted. “Andras! Andras! Andras!”

Rocking, she tucked her legs to her chest. They sprung out. Head knocked back. It clashed with his nose.

His barrier cracked. Failed.

Grin widening, Eirwen hit him again.

He stumbled.

Her feet hit mud. Her leg lifted and struck out, heel driving deep into his abdomen.

Andras grunted. Blood dribbled down his lip, slipping off his chin. Fingers sparking, blue energy rippled over his shoulders.

Head
turning, Eirwen spun, wheeling, her right leg whipped toward his skull
and… went through him. Off balance, she slid on the ground’s slimy
surface. Andras’ fist struck out, slamming into her diaphragm. Air
hurled from her lungs, she staggered back. Gasping, gulping, she tried
to straighten. Saw the second hit come. His fist caught her under the
jaw, the third slammed into her chest, and she flew back.

Her barrier shattered.

Hitting a fence post, Eirwen slid into the mud with a groan.

Andras
strode through the mud. He came to a stop, his broad back blocking out
the sun. She half-expected him to grab her by the hair but, instead, he
extended a hand.

With a smile, she took it and let him haul her to her
feet.

So, I wrote this for *gasp* a fanfic. I
changed the names, but the full thing is posted somewhere else on the
internet (also on my personal Tumblr page and AO3 account, along with
some of my other writing assuming you want to go there…).

Some
people would tell you action words and you should learn as many of them
as you can. You’ll hear a lot that you can cheat on fight scenes by
using shorter sentences to make the action flow faster. You’ll also hear advice suggesting
you use more active words, more verbs while cutting out adjectives. Cut out metaphors. Create images without relating them to another object.

This is good advice and you should learn it. However, both avoid the heart of the issue. The true
key to when it comes to actually writing a good fight is learning to be
efficient with your language. Focusing on details to convey a sense of weight, where objects
and characters within the text actually begin to feel like they are
moving.

What you want is the movie playing behind your eyes, where the audience can see everything that happens.

How do you do it?

Physics
are key. To be able to write about objects in motion, you must first
understand how objects move. What happens when they do? Even if your
story involves magic or superpowers, all your characters will be subject
to physical laws.

In discussion of this, we will be using
Newton’s Three Laws of Motion because to talk about physics in fiction,
we must remember that physics exist and your characters are affected by
them.

1.) Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Writing
combat is give and take. There’s what one character does and how the
other character responds. If a character gets hit, they’ve got to fight
against it or be stopped by some other object. They can’t just fly
forever, they’ve got to fall into something.

Keep in mind
that an uncontrolled fall can be as dangerous as the hit itself, more
because you never know what someone will fall into. A hit might break a
bone, but cracking the skull on concrete can cause a concussion just as
easily. Falling down can scrape the skin, it can break bones, getting
knocked into a wall can cause injury. If your characters are bouncing
off objects, they are going to get hurt.

This is part of why
fighting to keep control of a person is significantly more difficult and
significantly more taxing than simply killing them.

2.) The relationship between an object’s mass m, it’s acceleration a, and the applied force is F is F= ma.
Acceleration and force are the vectors (as indicated in their their
symbols being displayed in slant bold font; in this law the direction of
the force vector is the same as the direction of the accelerated
vector.

Do you actually need to do the math to
know how hard your character is hitting? No, of course not. The trick to
remember is that your character can’t simply hit with the power of a
mac truck on a whim. More importantly, as you write hand to hand, you
need to remember that different parts of the body generate more force
than others.

A kick is more powerful than a punch. A spin kick or a
jump kick are more powerful than a regular kick. Why? They use motion
to accelerate faster and generate more force to hit the object with. The
trick being that the faster you go, the less control over your body you
have. If you miss, then the body will keep going and that creates an
opening in which the other person can strike.
This happens in the sequence above when Eirwen throws a spinning kick at Andras.

Head
turning, Eirwen spun, wheeling, her right leg whipped toward his skull
and… went through him. Off balance, she slid on the ground’s slimy
surface.

Because she expects the kick to land (the
muscles tighten up in the seconds before, because of the equal and
opposite reaction), she’s thrown off balance by the fact she didn’t
touch him at all. This leads her to slip, she can’t entirely control her
motion and thus it creates an opening for Andras to exploit.

Andras’
fist struck out, slamming into her diaphragm. Air hurled from her
lungs, she staggered back. Gasping, gulping, she tried to straighten.
Saw the second hit come. His fist caught her under the jaw, the third
slammed into her chest, and she flew back.

What do
you notice about this? Andras uses his fists. Earlier in the piece,
you’ll see that the kicks cause more damage than punches. Where Eirwen
could send Andras flying with a kick to the gut, he needs three separate
hits in order to return the favor. One to destabilize her (the gut),
the second take advantage (uppercut), with the third as the finisher
(chest).

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Eirwen also reacts to where he
hits her. Stomach/diaphragm controls breathing, hitting someone there
will stun/destabilize them by forcing an exhalation of air from the
lungs and cause the entire body to roll forward as it tucks inward to
protect the damaged core. She staggers in response to his first hit and
starts sucking down air.

We’ve established how hard each character
can hit utilizing the different limbs as striking mechanisms. Which
part of the body the character chooses to use will dictate how hard they
can hit, where on the body they hit their opponent will govern the
resulting reaction.

This is why combination hits are important.
Most of the time, you can’t simply power through another fighter’s
defenses. Combatants use rolling hits to generate more momentum and thus
more force. Strikes build into each other.
Instead of thinking about your hand to hand fight scenes as a wrecking ball, start imagining it like dominos.

3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

When
you hit somebody, something happens, some result will occur. It may not
be the result the character wants, but something has to and should be
documented.

Hitting a fence post, Eirwen slid into the mud with a groan.

She
hits the fence post, she makes a sound. It tells the reader, “Ouch.
That hurt.” She also slides down into the mud, the language denoting she
is not entirely in control of her movement.

Rocking, she tucked her legs to her chest. They sprung out. Head knocked back. It clashed with his nose.

His barrier cracked. Failed.

Grin widening, Eirwen hit him again.

He stumbled.

First
time his barrier fails, the second time he stumbles. It takes two hits
to get the result she wants. Later, he wipes away blood because his nose
is bleeding. This bring us back, to lesson 2: creating force. You’ll
also notice, he lifts her in the bear hug, she begins to rock in order
to create greater force. It is not enough just to slam her head back,
she uses her entire body to reach him.

The human body acts like a spring, start loose, tighten up, and then explode out. Loosen up again, tighten up, and boom.

Reaction is what creates a good fight scene.

However, writing reaction requires keeping an eye on detail and that means you need to start learning to look for them. Which means, either A) people watching or B) movie watching. Preferably both.

This also means, if you’re new and aren’t in the habit of watching martial arts, you need to start with slow combat over fast combat. Remember, the point of watching isn’t to learn to fight, it’s starting to figure out how people react to when in action.

Movies like the first Matrix, for example, where the stunts are predominately performed by the actors are going to be better as a starter than Jet Li films, Jackie Chan films, or the whole Wuxia genre. Keanu Reaves is slow enough for the average viewer to follow, whereas Jet Li moves fast enough the camera loses frames.

Youtube videos, particularly of sprinting, gymnastics, dance, field hockey, discus, and other sports will also help you. Whether it’s football or horse racing, your study is the human body. Kinesiology. What does it look like when someone speeds up? Slows down? What do they do? When do they start to breathe more deeply? Take that second wind? Understanding the body in motion will help you understanding the body in combat.

If you throw a ball at the wall, what happens? It bounces back. When a roundhouse successfully connects (or even when it’s blocked), it also starts to bounce back which is a major reason why a martial artist learns to “stick it”, to tighten up in the few seconds before impact so they connect more strongly and keep their force instead of losing a good percentage when the leg bounces back off their opponent’s body.

This is true of all hits and a major reason why beginners can sometimes wail on someone for several hours without doing that much damage.

Science is great, isn’t?

Imitating reality requires understanding reality. Writing fiction that feels like a movie means recognizing those basic details of everyday life we normally don’t look for. Your mind knows physics even if you don’t totally understand them, it looks for them within a work.

If you can’t see your fight scene in your head after you practice writing, don’t say, “I didn’t do it right.” Say instead: “What’s missing?” Sometimes, all you need is a few more passes. If you still can’t imagine it, look up similar examples of what you’re going for.

Learning to notice new details in the world around you takes time.

Don’t give up.

Happy Writing!

-Michi

Want more articles from us:

Cause and Effect: Fight Scene Examples

Seven Deadly Fight Scene Sins

Five Simple Ways to Write Convincing Fight Scenes