Category Archives: Articles

Q&A: Character Motivations

Do you have any advice on subtly guiding readers to villainize a character so that they dismiss the character’s legitimate concerns over another person’s trustworthiness? I am hoping the perceived personalities will help, but I don’t want to rely on them alone.

Well, you hit on the answer: Make the concerns legitimate. Not just the concerns you want to discredit, but also the reasons your other characters have to discount their observations.

When you’re writing it can be very easy to get tunnel vision and view the world through the lens of your protagonist. Your audience will gleefully follow that cue in turn. It’s part of why there are a lot of novels with the protagonist acting in egregious ways, but fans will (and do) disregard it, because the protagonist thinks that behavior’s fine.

This is how characters like Harry Potter function. The character operates from a limited perspective of the world, makes snap judgments based on their perspective, and as a result, devalues legitimate advice and insights from people who know what they’re talking about. I’ll stress, there’s nothing wrong with a character having this kind of an approach, so long as the author understands that this is a flaw.

There is nothing wrong with having a character say, “yeah, but that’s just Steve, and we all know what an idiot he is.” So long as you remember, as the author, that Steve may have a point, and licking that light socket was probably not a great idea.

So, let’s step back for a second and start over: As the author, you control the game board. That’s your job. You set up the characters, the arena they operate in, and direct them. You know that the sky is going to fall in six minutes, and that poking the toad over there is a spectacularly bad, idea. But, your characters don’t.

In a story told from the position of one character, you’re presenting the narrative from a limited perspective. You need to understand the entire situation, but your character doesn’t, and shouldn’t. They see and react to the information they have access to.

Now, the hard part, staying within this weird little metaphor, every other character in your story is another piece on the board. Looking at the information they have, and acting accordingly. Everyone has their own goals, and perspective. Just like your character, their perspective is limited. They may have more information. They may have less. What they know shapes their opinions and perspectives.

AND. THEY. REMEMBER.

The simple answer is to go back and ask how does your protagonist feel about the character. If they like them, and have had positive experiences in the past, they’re more likely to accept that character’s viewpoint. If that character has betrayed them in the past, or worked against them, then they’ll discount the value of their advice.

Past actions are incredibly important factors if you’re dealing with characters who’ve changed loyalties. It’s entirely plausible your protagonist would hold a grudge against a former foe, who’s switched sides and is working with them now. Conversely, if the protagonist has had a change of heart, then they’re more likely to face distrust and opposition among their new allies.

Okay, so, maybe someone does know that the sky is going to fall if you poke that toad. Maybe they didn’t make that information clear because, “NO! AREYOUOUTOFYOURGODDAMNMIND!? DONTDOTHAT; THEFUCKINGSKYWILLFALL!” Maybe they’ve cried wolf before. Maybe your protagonist thinks poking the toad is a key to immortality and Steve just wants that for himself.

You’re correct, personality does matter. It affects prejudices, and how we weight information. Some of this is subconscious, but it works. Consider which you find more credible, some Rasputin looking homeless dude raving about the end of the world, or a composed academic? Personality and presentations matter, particularly during first impressions. Even if the Rasputin looking fellow comes back, shaved, with the crazy toned down, they’ll still be weighed against their previous iteration, by characters who originally met them in that state.

Confirmation bias is another relevant factor. This is the drive to actively seek out information that supports your understanding of the world while actively discounting information that contradicts it. If your protagonist really wants to believe that toad will give them immortality, they may very well ignore the advice of people they respect, and normally agree with, when they’re told it’s really an amphibious button to initiate the end times.

The really important thing to walk away with is the idea that you don’t need to vilify other characters’ positions. If your character has a legitimate reason not to follow it, then that’s all you need. Trust your audience make their own decisions on who they should be listening to.

-Starke

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Nine Steps for Training Techniques

So, we get a lot of training questions on this blog and, personally, they’re almost always hard to answer. Not only is training a very involved process, it’s also fairly difficult to break down even when you’ve been on both sides of the teacher/student relationship before. There is no set way to do it, and every technique varies in complexity. However, let me lay down the steps of learning a new technique.

Step One: Explanation

After warm ups, your instructor calls you over and gathers you together. They tell you what you’re going to be learning and, often, why you’ll be learning it. The “why” trends towards programs that focus on practical application (military or self-defense) or a simple basic explanation of what the technique is. Explanation is often coupled with demonstration.

The point is to get the intent behind the concept down.

Step Two: Demonstration

After they’ve finished, they’ll usually call on the assistant instructor or (depending on safety) a favored student from the audience. This student is usually one of the ones who have excelled in their training. The teacher is comfortable with them experiencing the technique firsthand without seeing it, and trusts them to follow instructions without questioning or putting up a fight.

Teacher then proceeds to demonstrate the technique. First, they show it fast and at full speed for effect. The student will rarely be able to follow fully, because they don’t know what they’re looking at. Then, they break the demonstration down step by step and run through it slowly so the students can follow while explaining each step in technical detail.

Then the teacher will perform the move again, so the student will get a better understanding and better conceptual idea.

You will always see the teacher demonstrate first before practicing yourself, even for very basic techniques like stances or footwork. Step by step demonstration, or call on a student who knows the technique to demonstrate before the class while they explain.

All combinations will be broken down step by step first before they’re brought together. A student will not learn the cross-step axe kick or slide front kick for example until they’ve learned the cross-step and the axe kick separately, and never will they begin with a partner unless the situation calls for it. (Exemptions being: grappling, chokeholds, joint locks, and others that require hands on for practice.)

Step Three: Step-By-Step Practice

Unless the technique (like some grappling or throws) specifically requires practice with a partner, this practice will be done without a partner. The student will begin performing the technique in its broken down form, step by step as their teacher calls out the number or name associated with each part.

For example, when you’re first learning to kick it’s often broken down like this: (from the beginning fighting stance) chamber, kick, recoil, plant. Each step pauses and holds, this serves a double purpose of not only teaching the student how the kick works but also building strength in their legs and allows them to work on their balance. Some kicks like the sidekick require a full foot rotation of 180 degrees on the stability leg that is simultaneous to the kick itself in order to remain balanced and to turn over their hips. Slow reduces strain on the muscles and limits chance of injury.

While the student might prefer to rush, the step by step practice is where they gain the fullest understanding of the technique and where they will come back to when they want to tweak or correct mistakes they’ve been making at full speed. It does a better job of building up their strength and flexibility due to forced full second holds, ensuring they are less likely to injure themselves when moving on to the next stage.

Step-by-step comes before you get to hit anything or swing in the direction of your partner. Sometimes, step-by-step can be the entire half hour practice.

Step Four: Put It Together, Slowly

What was practiced in pieces is now put together, and still usually performed in lines and on a count. The student practices the technique, sussing out the new problems that come from acting in a single smooth motion. The beginning stages are practiced slowly, and how fast a student grasps the technique will define how quickly they get to move on to the next stage.

Again, slow reduces the risk of injury and allows the student to get in tune with their body, finding out where in the technique they’re having trouble putting thought into action. They may understand the concept, but whether they’re body can follow is another question entirely.

Step Five: Put It Together, Quickly

Now that the student has gained understanding and can move with relatively less chance of hurting themselves, they get to go at full speed. Whee! Practice over, and over, and over again.

Step Six: Practice With A Partner, No Touching

Then, the students pair off and practice their new techniques together. This helps the student get a better grasp of distance between themselves and an opponent. The other student gets practice watching the techniques, memorizes the pattern, and grows more comfortable with fast moving objects coming near their face.

Step Seven: Hit the Pads

Hitting pads can come before partner practice. (And there are many different kinds. Big shields, handhelds, etc.) The point of pads is to allow the student to go full out without risking injury to themselves or someone else, they get a sense for what physical resistance and impact feels like so they can suss out the other problems they have with their technique or inside their own minds.

This is also where practicing with wood or other dummies comes in. You want to get around to punching or blocking hard objects, you’ve got to learn how to punch first.

Step Eight: Spar

A free spar is different from only being allowed to spar with specific techniques. There are many different kinds of sparring, all with different rules. The point of sparring is not just to simulate a real fight, but also to get the student used to the feel of physical resistance in a less tightly controlled environment. The point of sparring is practice.

Step Nine: Conditioning

I’m kidding, this isn’t a step. This is built in at every step. We’re taking a break. Time to… RUN WIND SPRINTS. Pushups. Situps! Burpees! Perform front stances around the track. Go jog it out. Come back, now when you’re body’s nearing exhaustion, to practice all over again.

Trust me, it’s harder when you’re tired.

Rinse lather repeat for every single technique in the character’s arsenal, and rinse, lather, repeat for when they practice them together as combinations.

Some Myths and Misunderstandings:

“Best In Class”: this is what that status earns you, by the way. You get more responsibility and taking a turn at being the test dummy getting thrown around the room. This is who the most popular kids in the dojo are, what their popularity gives them, and why they’re looked up to. If you just paused and imagined a couple characters squabbling over who sensei’s going to throw this week, congrats. That’s it.

I’ve been on both sides; the one who looked up at the school’s shining stars, and eventually became a star others younger than myself looked up to. A person whose skill they envied and who they wanted to be like. Status in a martial arts school isn’t like high school. Popularity is based on respect, and that’s decided by time, effort, and investment. Usually because you’re the “last man standing” i.e. still here after everyone else quit.

Often times, the most popular members of the school will be those out of reach. These are the older students who work as assistants for the instructor on the floor, or are seen practicing while waiting for their class to start. What draws attention to them is their enviable skill, and how easy they make advanced techniques look. I suppose we’ve all dreamed about beating up the seniors as freshman, and eventually came to realize how silly that was. If you want a rival for your character, this is the wrong place to look. You want a contemporary who is good but still at the same level they are.

Talented? Let’s Work You Harder: It doesn’t matter how talented a character is, they still have to go through the same steps as everyone else. They might move through them a little faster and get more frustrated with the process when their instructor takes them back to basics, but it’s worth knowing that the more talent one has then the more responsibility they will given both for their own training and that of others. There will also be higher expectations. Status is earned on the floor through the acquisition of skill, dedication, and effort. The one who persists and keeps at it will come out on top in the end. Talent offers a leg up on the competition, but it doesn’t secure victory.

My Master is Sadist: It is not uncommon to feel this way, though it’s usually only true in the same way as your well-intentioned gym teacher or coach. Physical exercise sucks all around. It’s messy, it’s sweaty, and at some point (no matter how good you are), you’re always going to feel like your arms are giving out. Huffing and puffing up and down the hill, freaking out about missing a step when climbing bleachers, etc. There are masters who are sadists, but this is not what they look like. We don’t attain skill or endurance through osmosis. The truth is our biggest barriers are in our minds and we often don’t know ourselves or our capabilities as well as we think we do.

Understanding Violence Makes One More Violent: Not in those who gain a real understanding of it, when you’ve proven your ability to yourself then you don’t need to with others. Demystifying violence is on the same level as demystifying sex, once you understand how it works it’s a lot less magical. The idea of punching out the high school bully is a lot less appealing when you know the consequences (and the bully is a lot less terrifying), just like waking up to an electronic baby squalling at one in the morning reminds us that safe sex might just be the best way to go.

-Michi

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Splinter Cell is Unrealistic

 How DARE you say that about Sam Fisher! It’s made clear in Pandora Tomorrow that he uses Subsonic Ammunition, and his FN2000 and FN5.7 Suppressors are custom made too!

muesliforbreakfast

I realize this was probably a joke, (and also that it’s now been several months since it was posted; I’m working on clearing out the draft pile), but it’s probably worth fleshing this out a little. Also, if it sounds like I’m being a little harsh on Splinter Cell here… there’s actually a reason.

Tom Clancy was an American novelist who died in 2013. He wrote thrillers focused on the US intelligence community, starting in the early 80s, and on through the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the rise of terrorism. Politically, his material leaned hard conservative, with an almost fetishistic obsession on the American Military Industrial Complex.

I’m just going to say it; I don’t like Tom Clancy’s writing, on an aesthetic level. It’s not to my taste at all. However, if you’re writing about the US special forces (and can get past his politics), he is a fantastic place to start. Just, be careful, even before his death, his name was slapped on a lot of books he wasn’t involved with. This includes almost all of the tie in series like Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell, Netforce, and a bunch of others I’ve forgotten.

The games? …not so much. The first game based on Clancy’s novels (that I’m aware of) was Red Storm Rising, a detailed strategic simulator of a potential Third World War between the US/NATO and the Soviet Union.

The second (again, that I’m aware of) was Rainbow Six, a first person shooter that focused on controlling an entire team of hostage rescue/counter terrorist operators, and featured combat with (in the context of contemporary games) very fragile combatants. (One or two shots was enough to down any combatant.)

Splinter Cell was probably the first game that really started wandering off the reservation, and the second that wasn’t based on one of Clancy’s novels (Ghost Recon was the first).

By 2002, Tom Clancy’s name had become a brand which expanded beyond just his novels. There were multiple video games, a TV movie that failed to launch a show, and multiple adaptations of the original novels to film.

Almost immediately, Splinter Cell gets into the exact kind of world building problems that Clancy’s work tried to avoid.

While I like Fisher as a character, he does not fit within the flavor of Clancy’s setting. His personality is right, having someone who engages in that kind of ghosting infiltration isn’t the problem (not really). It’s the skin-tight wetsuit, the thermal goggles, a pistol and rifle that weren’t available to civilian purchasers (at the time). All of this screams, “government sponsored,” which is the last thing you want when you’re sending a cyberninja into a foreign country.

As I’ve said before, the idea of sending someone in, to sneak around and hang from ceilings isn’t exactly how infiltration actually works. Being invisible 100% of the time is an unrealistic goal. Dressing up in a black bodysuit, with a massive array of high end hardware means that when someone does notice you, they’ll notice, and remember. Once spotted, there’s no option to escape, no way to blend into a crowd, no way to disappear. Aside from leaving a huge trail of bodies in your wake.

Also, the Five-Seven really is the wrong gun to give him. It’s a neat, high-tech pistol, but for what Fisher is doing, it’s the wrong tool for the job.

The FN Five-Seven is a modern semi-auto pistol. It entered production in 2000, and is one weird handgun. The strange part is the 5.7mm round that gives it its name. These were originally developed for the FN P90, and are much closer to a rifle round than something you’d usually consider loading into a pistol.

I’ve joked that the only reason for the Five-Seven to exist is to classify the P90 as a submachine gun instead of an assault rifle. Though, I’m honestly uncertain that’s not the real reason.

Unfortunately, the reality is, you really can’t silence a handgun by simply attaching a suppressor to it. The gunshot you hear is caused by ignited gasses expanding and escaping into the atmosphere. In order to fully silence a gunshot you need to capture all (or nearly all) of the escaping gas. With most semi-automatic pistols, one of the venues for that is when the slide cycles open. You can deaden the gasses venting down the barrel, but you’ll still hear a noticeable gunshot. A suppressed handgun will make, roughly, the same amount of noise as an airsoft pistol. Something you’ll hear if you’re in the room with it, but might not notice on the other side of the building. The gentle “fipping” noise from Sam’s Five-Seven… and most media, really, it’s a standard sound sample, just doesn’t occur. (If I remember correctly, the common sound sample comes from a .22 with a locked bolt.)

There’s also a second problem with the Five-Seven that most pistols don’t have to deal with, 5.7mm is a hypersonic round, though that’s something that Splinter Cell directly addresses, it does make Fisher’s weapon choice a little odd. Especially in a setting where .45s are easily available. (And, I want to say Conviction defaults to giving him a USP an H&K Mk23 fairly early in the campaign.)

Most rifles (and some pistols) fire rounds that are hypersonic. Meaning they have a velocity above 343 meters per second. When you hear a rifle from a significant distance, you’re not hearing the escaping gasses, the crack you hear is actually a sonic boom created by the bullet. For most applications, this isn’t really something anyone cares about. But, when you’re trying to suppress a gun, you will want to find a way to remove that sound. The only way (I’m aware of) to deal with this is by using what are called “subsonic rounds.”

These are low velocity cartridges designed to keep the speed of the round under 343m/s. The problem with this is that you’re now trading a whole lot of ballistic factors, including accuracy and flatness, to keep the gun quiet. On a pistol, there’s really no reason to do this.

The reason being all .45 ammo is subsonic. This stuff has a muzzle velocity of around 260 to 300 m/s.

When the first game came out, the Five-Seven was still new, the first game is set in 2004. It’s (from what I know) a fairly solid service pistol. But it is a bad gun to be giving to your NSA cyberninja. The Five-Seven is a Government and Law Enforcement only item. Fabrique Nationale doesn’t sell to private buyers or retailers. (There are a number of used guns on the market now, but that wasn’t true 13 years ago.) So, if you’re writing a character who’s supposed to be some kind of clandestine and deniable agent, giving them a gun that says they work for a government somewhere is probably a bad idea.

Also, the entire “custom suppressors” line bugs me. I can’t remember if that’s exactly what the games call them, but I think you’re remembering correctly. The problem is, commercially produced suppressors exist for both weapons. Again, a Five-Seven suppressor is going to be more traceable than an aftermarket .45 one. A high end 5.56mm suppressor can run you over a grand, but, it’s aftermarket, and easy enough to hide if you’re part of a clandestine operation.

Incidentally, factory produced Five-Seven threaded barrels are exceedingly rare on the secondary market. Not many of these were produced. Giving someone a Five-Seven today wouldn’t say nearly as much as it did back then, but giving them one designed to accept a suppressor would still be pretty suspicious. An aftermarket modded one, with a replacement barrel would raise fewer eyebrows (but that’s the kind of detail people wouldn’t catch until they were picking over your character’s corpse.)

That said, pointing out that you’d need to use subsonic ammo for his weapons is the kind of attention to detail that the Tom Clancy games (and Clancy’s books) really nail. This is also really important if your character wants to suppress a rifle. Arguably, if your character is a sniper, and intending to fire from long ranges, subsonic ammo is actually more important than sticking a suppressor on the gun. However, this isn’t a panacea, subsonic ammo suffers from severe drop, to the point that it’s noticeable at medium range. For a sniper, this is a really serious consideration. They need to decide between having far less range and power, or having the bullet produce a massive cracking noise when fired.

The entire Five-Seven thing probably bugs me more because this is a solved issue. Pistols designed for clandestine use exist, including some of the weapons that show up in the series. Hell, give Sam something like a Makarov PB while operating in Europe, and no one would suspect that he’s an American if he was caught and killed.

In contrast to the pistol, the FN F2000 is a much better pick. It’s a solid assault rifle that entered service in the 80s, though there’s not really that much special about it except the appearance. It has a rubber seal in the magazine well, which would help a little with suppressing it, but the benefit is basically trivial. What it’s actually there to do is keep dust and debris out of the action, but it also means that you might have issues loading aftermarket magazines in it. (This is all second hand, by the way. I’ve never handled a F2000 personally.) There may have been better choices available, but it’s a legitimate choice. Unfortunately, as with the Five-Seven, there were no civilian versions available, (a semi-auto only version hit the market in 2006), so we’ve still got that, “my cyberninja is government sponsored,“ problem.

Ironically, I know the game doesn’t get a lot of love, but Conviction’s approach to Sam’s loadout is probably more realistic. It’s (mostly) a mix of commercially available weapons and street clothes.

If you’re writing a character who’s supposed to be this kind of a sneak in, and hang from the ceiling kind of black ops agent. The best options are to put them in locally purchased clothes (this will help them blend in, even if they’re from a different ethnicity). Weapons that are readily available on the local market (or black market). Hardware that can be easily adapted from commercial products. If you absolutely need a PDA or something similar, use a smart phone. For a hands free unit, get a bluetooth headset. If the phone needs custom software, then that’s something your character’s agency can produce. (Preferably with some kind of remote kill switch, because forensic analysis of software can provide clues to its origin.) What you don’t want to do is gear them up with a lot of very specialized equipment that says, “hey, this guy worked for a foreign government.”

-Starke

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Death Threats

Well, Christmas has come early this year. We have an actual, fake, death threat.

I’m going to throw a TL;DR in the front of this. Usually, I’ll just type something snarky in these, like, “go back and actually read it,” but in this case: TL;DR: don’t make death threats on Tumblr. Or any social media, for that matter. Don’t make them in general, because it is illegal. But, the anonymity on social media is illusory. Just because I can’t see who wrote it, does not mean you’re magically invisible to the world. I say this as someone who has administered forums before; staff can see a lot of data you, as a user, don’t have access to. Using these venues for this kind of content is phenomenally stupid.

If you’re wondering why I’m not taking this seriously, there’s a few reasons. One: I know who wrote it, and yes, all five of those posts are from the same person. Two: No one cares about superheroes. Three: It’s less intimidating than the very bouncy dog that lives above us, because unlike the author, that dog both knows where we live, and could (theoretically) cause us harm. Finally: If someone were to decide to do horrific and unspeakable things to us, the original messages would give the police an immediate place to start searching.

So, let’s unpack how to actually make a death threat, if you ever need to create one for your writing. Because, if you’re going to do something, let’s do it properly.

Hilariously, the first cue that this is all from the same person is that their writing is terrible. I mean their actual writing, but also this. The thing about writing is, it’s actually substantially harder to identify the author when it’s in the median. Proper punctuation, grammar, and capitalization go a long way towards masking who you are. Word choice will betray you, and even within the US there are substantial dialect changes, depending on where you are in the country, which can give away who (and where) you are.

For example: if the sentence, “The Hamburger’s all,” makes sense to you without further context, you’re probably in Pennsylvania, or somewhere thereabouts. Or, if you refer to an ATM as a Cash Station, there’s a pretty good chance you’re somewhere in the Chicago sprawl. Though, if they weren’t trying to write like someone who was just paroled from 4chan, it might be more apparent. Seriously, there’s thousands of these little tells in regional dialects, and they’re worth learning about, if only for your writing.

As it stands, it does tell me the second post (reading from the bottom up, because Tumblr’s like that), was typed in on their mobile phone. Autocorrect will “fickle sick” you every time. So they were bouncing around between multiple devices, while typing. At that point, I do have to give her a little credit, because that’s a lot of effort to go through while still hiding behind an anonymous label.

If I was an asshole, I’d probably say something about how the anon icon is a weak attempt to look cooler than they actually are, with those dated Ray Bans, so I will. I mean, this is a death threat, so a little fun is in order.

At this point, I should probably also rabbit track and remind her that “your” is the possessive. “You’re,” is the contraction of, “you are.” As a writer, it’s one of those little annoyances you need to keep in mind at all times, especially if you want to be a professional some day. To be fair, this could be autocorrect striking again. Though, I can’t remember “talking about kill yourself,” so maybe more punctuation was in order. Also, turns out, due to the amount of coffee I consume, I’m immortal. So, there’s that.

The second thing is, no one cares about superheroes, especially not the author of the death threat. Now, before you try to correct me, I don’t mean individual characters. We all have our affectionate loyalty to various characters. But, no one cares about them as an aggregate. It’s easy to find someone who will get pissed off because you badmouthed Batman, or Spiderman. It’s a lot harder to find someone who’s really pissed because you made a crack at Nightman, or Raver.

Everyone’s got a few superheroes they despise. Sometimes it’s going to be big controversial picks, like Wolverine, or Superman. Sometimes it’ll be safer picks like third tier X-Men. Sometimes it will be the truly bizarre, like Dogwelder. Sometimes it’ll be characters you’re really not supposed to like, such as Elite, The Holy, and Mr. Payback. Everyone’s got a few superheroes where you step back and go, “nope, not that one.”

So when I say, “no one cares about superheroes,” what I mean is, the death threat lacks specificity. This is actually a problem for a lot of writers. Always be specific when you’re writing. If you’re talking about a dog, talk about the dog, not the idea of a dog, out there somewhere, but this one. If you’re talking about a death threat, make it an actual goddamn threat. It helps ground the reader into the world you’re creating. Even when that world is just an idle threat to, “do stuff,” to someone you’ve never met.

A real death threat is going to be specific. It’s not, “how dare you impugn the concept of the superhero,” it’s, “you said untoward things about this character I am emotionally invested in to a profoundly unsound degree, prepare to die.” If it was the former, then you’d need to line Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Frank Herbert (necromancy may be necessary for this), and (possibly) Grant Morrison up against the wall ahead of us.

We occasionally get questions about how to threaten and intimidate characters, so let’s bring that topic up again. For a threat to work, it needs to be credible. You need to articulate actions your intended victim believes you’re capable of. I’d say, “actions you can actually do,” but there’s a little bit of wiggle room here. The threat also needs to create an image in the victim’s mind. This is, really, like any writing; if you’re not conveying an idea coherently, you need to start over and redraft it. To be fair, this is a problem the author struggles with, so I’m inclined to cut her some slack.

She wishes she could find us, because… you know our real names aren’t hidden, right? I mean, we post under pseudonyms here, but our actual names have been published on the site, and on our Patreon page. And, our mailing address is available online, as a result. Again, the purpose is to instigate fear, but, because the author didn’t do any research, it really misses the mark.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a death threat, you need to do your research. Learn what you can on the subject. You need to keep your audience engaged with the material. When it becomes blindingly apparent that you haven’t done the research, and the facts don’t mesh with reality, the suspension of disbelief breaks. Your audience has disconnected from the piece, and the best you can hope for is that they sit back and riff the hell out of what follows.

The second part, actually fails research. I’ve talked about taking people’s eyes out with your thumbs, and been in a situation where I seriously considered doing that for about half a second. We talk about horrific, disfiguring, injuries on a weekly basis. You only need to dig up the Starke Is Not a Real Doctor and The Only Unfair Fight tags, if you want to see discussions on this kind of material. So backing out and saying, “the most painful way possible,” is making threats you can’t deliver on, and failing to do the research.

The fact that I’m sitting here, trying to remember if I’ve done a post on pouring molten metal into wounds, should speak volumes about where someone would need to go to actually deliver on the, “most painful,” phrase.

Now, if you’re coming to something like this, and setting concrete goals, like, “I’m going to take your eyes out with a rusty grapefruit spoon, hope you’ve had your tetanus shots,” that’s a much more realistic goal, and a more credible threat. (Also, tetanus shots are their own flavor of torture, so that’s a perk.) It’s something you can actually do. Threats can be vague, like, “no, Mr. Bond, I have other plans for you.” But, a threat needs to be coherent, articulatable, and plausible.

I mean, sticking someone in an industrial microwave is a pretty painful way to die, but it requires that, you know, you have access to an industrial microwave.

Finally, if you read the TL;DR at the beginning, this should be familiar information, but don’t make death threats, especially not on social media. It’s profoundly stupid. Criminals, it should be noted, aren’t usually known for their intellectual prowess, but this is dumb. Florida Man dumb.

Social media isn’t like the US Postal system, or calling from a payphone. It is, absolutely traceable. There’s a very simple reason for this, if you could get true anonymity from the platform, it would rapidly find itself under scrutiny by law enforcement agencies like the DEA. You may wonder why, but the answer should be self evident. There are many people out there who make their living breaking the law. Just like you or me, the internet is a major boon for them. A truly secure and untraceable communications network buried on an easily accessible, and overtly legitimate site? Yeah, that would be way too good to pass up.

Now, the anon tag will conceal who sent the message from the recipient. At least it would, if the author’s writing style wasn’t instantly recognizable. That’s the point. It will not, however, shield your identity from law enforcement agencies.

At this point, it’s probably worth it to bring up a very brief discussion on The First Amendment. If you’re in the US, you’re probably vaguely aware of this. This is usually abbreviated as “Freedom of Speech,” and that’s accurate so far as it goes. But, what it really means is freedom from government retaliation over speech. It does not protect you from private response. To borrow a phrase, invoking the First Amendment is simply stating that whatever you said was not so incredibly stupid as to actually be illegal. It’s not a shield from criticism.

So, why am I bringing this up? Because it is also not absolute. There are exempted types of speech which do not enjoy First Amendment protections. You can dig the full list up online, if you really want, but one of the excluded groups is credible threats. If, the author had said, “I will find you, torture, and kill you,” well… actually, first I’d complement them finally finding their comma, but that could be construed as an actual threat. As a result, they could actually face criminal charges over it.

Historically, law enforcement has been pretty lax on these kinds of threats. However, it’s entirely possible that could change at any moment. Especially with increased attention on cyberstalking, online harassment, and internet bullying making the evening news. So, when I say, “don’t do this, it is illegal,” part of the reason is, you don’t want to be the poster child for a crackdown on internet threats.

If you’ve been the subject to this kind of behavior in the past, here’s the good news. You’re actually safer from your anonymous harassers than if they simply acted without warning. The reasoning is above. They said what they would do, before following through, and (figuratively) signed their name to it ahead of time. Any investigation of a physical attack against you will lead back to your harassers.

You can also avail yourself of the cyberbullying help organizations that have been getting press in recent years. You should also probably read this list. (And, yes, I am breaking the first couple rules at the bottom.) Granted, that list assumes the bullying is happening in a school environment, but things like site terms of service do still apply, after you’ve escaped into the real world. If you’re someone who sees a post like those pop up in your inbox, report them. Click the ellipsis next to the pencil icon and select “Report.”

Yes, people can and do use sockpuppet accounts, so blocking won’t always work. But, always remember, anonymous strangers on the internet only have the power you give them. Someone posts hateful, hurtful shit, directed at you personally; don’t try to understand, don’t make sense of it, just feed it to a grue, and find people that are supportive. They’re out there. Alternately: “If you’re getting death threats, you must be doing something right.”

Finally, if you ever want to be a professional writer, don’t stoop to this shit, seriously. This is the kind of thing that can come back, without warning, when someone with an axe to grind and access to old information wanders in and turns it into a huge mess.

-Starke

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Character Critique sumbittion: Eleanor

characterandwritinghelp:

  • Name: Eleanor Mark.
  • Age: In this part of the story, starts off as 16 and ends at 21.
  • Gender: Female.

[Pleased to meet you. -H]

Read More

Well, since we got mentioned… say the devil’s name and, “oh, why hello there.”

TW Savaging A Character Concept

(The original post had an actual TW for Abuse)

There’s actually more issues on the drinking, smoking, and generally not eating subject. If you’re fighting, or even just very physically active, you need to eat. That’s just non-negotiable.

We’re talking about a character that might be able to make it about 24 hours without a serious hit of protein before it starts to affect her. By three days, she’s going to be lightheaded after physical exertion, and might actually faint mid-fight.

As a quick guide, malnutrition will result in feelings of lethargy, which will get you killed in a fight. It slows down healing, and makes you more vulnerable to infections. Difficulty concentrating. Depression. Irritability, and difficulty staying warm, though the cigarettes would help with those two.

Staying warm might seem a little weird, but, remember, just like every other mammal, you (and your character) need to burn energy to maintain a constant body temperature. It’s actually a big part of why we have to eat as frequently as we do. If your character isn’t eating, over a period of time, her body will decide that’s less vital than maintaining a pulse, so she’ll have to work harder to stay warm.

And, make no mistake, if she’s not getting enough to eat, she is malnourished. For teenagers, persistent malnutrition can impair bone growth, meaning she’d actually be smaller than she would if she’d just eat a cheap burger every day. 5’10” is possible, but without malnutrition, she would have been huge.

Also, and I’m making an educated guess here, but if she’s suffering injuries that will result in scarring, she’s probably going to suffer a fatal infection long before her 5 years are up. Because her body simply won’t have the resources to fight it off.

Smoking isn’t automatically a deal breaker, but anything over a couple cigarettes a day is going to start cutting into her ability to fight. Now, nicotine does work as an appetite suppressant, but it won’t let her continue going after her body starts shutting down from malnutrition.

A habitual smoker will suffer impaired respiratory functioning, that means, once she starts fighting, she’s going to have to choose between fighting, and breathing.

Seriously, go look up smoking symptoms online. This does not mix with a highly active street fighter.

Also, smoking is expensive, a pack of cigarettes today (well, the last time I checked) is around $4 – $5 a pack, with 20 cigarettes per. If you’re smoking a common brand, a pack a day smoker will be going through roughly $120 to $150 a month. For a runaway on the streets, that is four to five months of burger money.

The problem with alcohol is a little different. When you fight, or are otherwise physically active, you sweat. For most people, this will never be a real issue. They’ll do something, sweat, stop doing the thing, and rehydrate. But, if your character is in prolonged combat, and an alcoholic, this will rapidly turn into dehydration.

So again, the symptoms to keep an eye out for are: weakness, dizziness, confusion, sluggishness, and fainting. As with malnutrition… in a fight those are all going to be an effective death sentence.

Also, because the body will try to generate a fever to deal with an infection, she’ll actually be losing even more moisture from sweating, leading to dehydration.

Some other fun stuff associated with an alcoholic combatant:

Habitual alcoholics develop a form of anemia, they face longer clotting times, and reduced healing. When combined with the malnutrition, your character will bleed for longer, and take a lot longer to heal her wounds. It might not be scars, it might actually be open wounds that just refuse to heal.

The anemia also results in easier busing, so, that will make her even more of a mess.

Dilatation of blood vessels which results in a loss of body heat, when combined with the malnutrition difficulty regulating body temperature… while I’m not sure exactly what would happen, it would be deeply unpleasant.

Alcohol dries out respiratory tissues (the sinuses and lungs), making them more vulnerable to infections, which she can’t fight off, because she’s malnourished.

Muscular atrophy, and myopathy (cramping, muscular pain, muscular degeneration, and weakness.) These are all chronic symptoms.

Two long term symptoms that, I’m not 100% certain of. Amenorreah can result in women skipping their menstrual period. I don’t know what that will do to a teenager. But, it’s just this side of possible she could completely shut down her ovaries. Also, I remember reading that, in a teenager, alcohol induced anemia will impair bone formation, resulting in weaker bones, though, I can’t find anything on the subject at the moment.

And, of course, as we’ve said before, combat takes a toll. I’m in my early thirties and there have been several points in my life where I’ve had to use a cane. My knees are beyond shot, and on a day to day basis I can feel bone on bone grinding. That’s without fighting every day. For someone who’s in constant combat every day, she’s going to be wrecked before she hits 20.

Also, if she’s malnourished, she’s going to slip into depression. That’s just her brain flipping her off and storming out of the room.

Okay, after all that, I almost don’t want to rake over the rest, but, here’s a few quick things:

In the words of Law & Order’s Lenny Briscoe: “You’ve got the flaw of most basically honest people. You’re a lousy liar.”

Honesty and lying don’t really work out well together. Someone from an abusive or dysfunctional family can easily end up as a fantastic (or terrible) liar, but they’re not going to be a basically honest person. For them, the truth becomes something that they’re punished for, so, more often than not, they’ll actually find lying more comfortable than telling the truth.

Car accidents that are severe enough to total a car (and kill someone) suck. Realistically, you’re going to keep finding new aches and pains for about a year. Even when you can walk away with a few scratches.

So, honestly, you probably need to ditch the malnutrition. Even if she’s getting enough to eat, while being highly active, she’s going to feel like she’s starving constantly anyway.

The alcoholism needs to go as well, that just wrecks the body in too many ways. When you combine it with malnutrition, you set up a vicious cycle that will kill your character.

Like I said, smoking isn’t a deal breaker, particularly if she’s scavenging for cigarettes when she can get them. It’s not healthy, but, it’s (ironically) a lesser evil here.

Finally, she can’t fight all the time. Well, she can, but realistically “all the time” means between 2 and 4 fights a week. Anything more than that and her body would just break down too fast for her to stay functional for more than a month.

-Starke

Fight Write: On Hair Pulling

Where the head goes, the body follows.

This is one of the most important tenants of self-defense and it’s why every combatant, male or female, should keep their hair either short or bound to their heads in a braid that is so skin tight the fingers cannot seize it. The fighter who does not risks having the back of their head grabbed in the middle of combat by providing a decent, easily accessible grip for their opponent. Regardless of what television will tell you, the ponytail is not good enough.

The hair is a much easier target than attempting a headlock or grabbing behind the neck. Once an opponent has their target in their grasp and control of their head, they can take them almost anywhere they wish.

Your hair may be dead, but beneath the skin it is very much alive. Wrap your fingers in your own hair and pull, you’ll find it to be fairly painful, then, imagine the pull from the hands of someone who doesn’t care about your feelings or maybe your hair was pulled by someone when you were younger. It can hurt a great deal and pain has a way of locking us up when we are unprepared or it or when we haven’t been properly trained to deal with it.

It’s important to remember, no matter what folks say about hair pulling, that it is a real, acceptable, and commonly used tactic, especially against women. It will also work against men with hair long enough for a good grip. Honor has very little place in real world combat, remember that an advantage taken is an advantage gained and the only true imperative is survival.

Hair pulling is very common in fights among groups, such as in clubs, mobs, etc as a means of taking someone down. The best advice for when someone takes you or your character by the hair or by the head is to go with them, not politely, but in the same general direction by ramming sideways, forwards, or backwards in the direction of their grip and to keep going until they fall or are driven into a wall or another individual. This will keep you from being injured or having your hair yanked out, it will also save on the pain because it releases tension.

Women Are Not Weaker Than Men

Divorce yourself from this idea right now, author. While I’m sure it is the narrative you’ve been presented with your entire life, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t true. Women do find building up muscles in the upper body more difficult than men, but since power does not come from the arms, it’s actually a superfluous distinction. Women build up muscles in the lower body and in the core muscles (abdominal) very rapidly.

Skill in combat is not a matter of biology, but in training and dedication. Remember, if your female character fights, she’s neither unique nor special. In my experience as a martial artist and a martial arts instructor, there are on average per class 2 girls to every 10 boys, with the female number either remaining constant or doubling as the class goes up in age. While there are fewer female combatants around than male, it’s not hard to find 20 women to every 100 men. Extrapolate that out and think about it, women who fight are not as rare as you might have previously imagined.

Here are a few things to consider:

Power comes from the hips.

I will harp on this until the end of time until everyone shakes the myth of punch strength being decided by arm muscle strength out of their heads. The strength of the strike comes from the pivot of the hips and guess what? Women have wider hips than men, thus a greater opportunity to generate more power and hit their opponents harder. Combine this advantage with a low-center of gravity and the ability to push that center even lower  and you have a fighter capable, not just in power, but able to topple much larger opponents.

Women have a lower center of gravity.

This is the advantage of the short fighter, it’s the same for short men and short women, a tall woman fighting a shorter woman will encounter the same resistance as a tall man fighting a short one. I list this as a female advantage because most women will always find themselves facing larger opponents. So, it’s important for an author to keep in mind.

So, how does this work? A center of gravity is the height difference from the ground to your core, around the belly button. The shorter the fighter, the lower their center of gravity, the lower the center of gravity the closer they are to the earth, the closer they are to the earth the better their ability to generate a stable base and the harder they are to knock over. A fighter who knows where to put their feet and weight to make use of their center is a hard one to take to the ground. This is one way for women to overcome the height and weight disadvantage.

Women are naturally more resistant to pain and fatigue than men, have a greater potential for stamina, and can fight harder for longer.

It’s important to note: it’s not just that men cannot biologically carry a child to term and survive the birth, but if they did with their current make-up, they would die. So, you may call it the miracle of childbirth, but a woman’s body is gifted with a much greater level of resilience than their male counterparts. While these abilities must be honed and improved through training, the natural talent is already present in every woman’s body.

The only combatants who ever actively terrified me were women.

I’ve met a great many master martial artists from a great many different styles, all of whom I deeply respect, and can trust in their ability to utterly annihilate me. But the female black belt sparring division, my first thought on encountering those women as a teenager was: “I want to spar with the boys.”

Women live in a very different world than men do, they live in a world that is comprised of dangers even in places that are supposed to be safe. A woman cannot walk down a street alone, never mind if it’s at night, without wondering if an attack will happen. Rape and other acts of violence are very real, every day threats, and women live with the knowledge that the places they have been told to go to for protection will disregard them, laugh at them, and judge them on their worth for “allowing” these acts to happen to them. Every woman, even the ones like me who began at a young age, will eventually be faced with the realization that they may have to use what they know against another person one day. This is not fantasy assessment full of wishful thinking, but a cold reality. What if one day I have to hurt someone else? What if one day I have to kill them? The women who practice and prepare through forms of combat do so with that in mind, with the knowledge that they are the underdogs and that one day, they may have to use that training to fight for their lives.

The ferocity with which they beat on each other in sparring matches is a reflection of that. Remember, these are women who have shaken off the socially ingrained idea of ’I can’t hurt anyone’ and moved on to ’I will break you if you hurt me’. They follow that up with: you will never walk right again.

Unless your character comes from a very different society, this attitude will be part of who they are. Women who are trained and dedicated have the capacity to be terrifying, especially in a patriarchal society. Why? It’s not the behavior that most men expect.

-Michi

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reference for writers: Female Serial Killers

reference for writers: Female Serial Killers

“‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” by Kameron Hurley — A Dribble of Ink

“‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative” by Kameron Hurley — A Dribble of Ink

Fight Write: A Basic Upper Body Primer (Fists)

In this post, I’m going to talk about basic strikes using the upper body. I’m breaking up blocks, kicks, and the body strike zones to make the information absorption easier. My major caveat here is that all the techniques I’m going to talk about are based from my own Tae Kwan Do/MMA/Muay Thai background and therefore not always applicable depending on which Martial Art you plan on using. While they are similar, all Martial Arts techniques are unique to each individual style, so research the Martial Art you plan on using, even if it’s just a trip to Wikipedia.

Okay?

Good.

The basic strikes I plan on talking about in this post all relate to using the fist. These strikes are: the punch, the hammer fist, the backfist, the uppercut, and the hook.  While it’s common for martial artists to list all these strikes underneath the punch header, I’m separating them out as distinctively different for writers because movements of the body (arm position, hand position, hip pivot, and striking range) while performing them varies depending on the individual strike.

Always remember that there are more than just these and extensive variations of each, so research, research, research. But the basics are the building blocks of any solid Martial Artist and they will save your character’s life when all the fancy tricks fail. And as tempting as it can be, the most important thing for any good writer to realize is this: there is no “best” in the world of Martial Arts, only what works best for you/your character’s physiology, style, and personality. If your character’s mind is not prepared to do what the style is asking them/training their body for, then it’s no good. If the style is meant/built around a different body type and is difficult for your character to modify to the point of them being subpar then it’s no good.

Onwards!

The Punch:

The punch is the most basic technique of any fighter’s arsenal. Every martial art in the world has some variation of the punch and because it’s simple, it’s easy to use. So, let’s talk about it.

The punch involves pulling all five fingers into a fist, with the thumb acting as a bracer for the others. When it strikes, it drives the two front knuckles into the opponent’s soft tissue. It’s actually a common fallacy that the punch involves the whole hand. Practice forming a fist and you’ll notice the knuckles on the fore and index fingers extend forward while the others pull back. The rest of the fingers brace the hand. The reason why the punch is often taught first is because it’s a basic builder for training someone to make a fist and teaching their muscles how to tighten properly in conjunction with the blow.

A punch always drives forward with three variations: the face (the neck, the upper lip, the nose, and sometimes (in boxing) the eyebrow), the solar plexus (the midpoint in the chest), and the stomach itself (around the belly button). The height of the character and the height of their opponent will dictate their comfort level in striking to these areas. The punch is commonly taught to beginners from the waist, standing or in a horse stance (feet facing forwards, both knees bent to a 90 degree angle), or from a fighting stance (one foot forward, one foot back the length of the shoulders, shoulders and hips on a 45 degree angle). There are several variations on the punch for the more advanced writer and I will detail them in a post dedicated to them.

Common Advanced Technique: It’s not really an advanced technique, but in boxing the punch is broken up into two separate categories: the jab and the cross/straight. The jab is performed by the leading hand in the fighting stance (usually the left), it’s a fast strike that pivots off the front foot with minimal shoulder cranking, in a boxing or UFC match it’s usually the first punch thrown to test the opponent’s guard. Because of its speed, the strike is designed around stunning the opponent when it connects, thus disorienting the opponent and leaving them open to a follow up strike: usually the cross. It can also be used to keep the opponent on the defensive. The cross (right or left) is the secondary strike that follows the jab. It’s performed with the rear hand in a fighting stance, the one by the cheek that’s guarding the face, and uses the back foot to pivot the hip and create power. The cross is the power punch. Together, these two strikes create a basic combination that’s known as the double punch.

Common Beginning Mistake: When most beginners start out, they stick their thumb inside the fist in order to protect it. This will break the hand when it connects; always keep your characters fingers tight in a punch.

So, how do you write it? Here’s an example:

Alex lunged forwards, his right fist striking high. Knocking the hand away at the wrist, Anna stepped in, her back foot pivoting as she slammed her own fist into her opponent’s throat.

The Hammer Fist:

This is one of those attacks that works exactly as the name describes.

No, really.

The hand tightens into a fist, but instead of turning over to punch, it remains vertical and strikes downwards to the center of chest in the same manner as we would use a hammer to strike a nail or an anvil. This strike comes in two flavors, direct, to the nose, the wrist, the back of the head, the sternum, the groin/testicles, and the collarbone. It also works on a forty-five degree angle to the neck, usually the soft pressure point underneath the ear or the occipital bone, the mandible, or slightly lower to the carotid artery. The hammer fist does not risk the bones in the hand to a break and it spreads the force of its strikes more evenly across a small surface (the size of the fist or a small golf ball).

 Common Advanced Technique: The Hammer Fist doesn’t really have one, it can however be performed on a diagonal for easier access to more sensitive areas.

Common Beginner Mistake: The hammer fist is a fairly safe strike, so long as the beginner remembers to keep their fingers tight with their thumb bracing their fist and their wrist aligned with the hand. Also, because of the hammer fist’s wind up, the beginner often forgets to keep their free hand up, protecting their face. The hammer fist is a powerful strike, but it leaves openings that can be exploited by a clever opponent. Remember, because it’s slow, this strike is not an opening move unless the opponent is already prone.

Example:

Alex came in low, shooting forwards with his arms spread wide. He’s going to tackle me, Anna thought. He had the height and weight advantage. If he got her on the ground then the fight would be over. I can thrash all I want, but it won’t do much good. Still, going forward also left him vulnerable. He’s expecting me to attempt a sprawl, but why risk the timing? Swinging her leg sideways, she turned her body completely one hundred and eighty degrees to his. By the time he was able to stop, it would be too late. Drawing her arm back, she struck downwards with the bottom of her fist. Her hand slammed into the back of his neck, into the vulnerable point where skeleton joined with skull, with the force of a hammer.

The Backfist

 As the name suggests, the backfist uses the back of the hand, specifically the knuckles, to strike the opponents softer regions. Like with the above punch the backfist strikes with the tops of the front two knuckles, pulling the leading arm back diagonally across the body and striking outward to the temple or the throat. The advantage of the backfist is that it’s fast. When it lands, the backfist disorients the opponent and like all strikes to the head, it may cause them to stumble.

In Tae Kwon Do, this strike is also commonly used as a distractor to create an opening in the opponent’s guard by striking within the opponent’s outside field of peripheral vision, thus tricking the brain into attempting to block high while simultaneously striking low with a punch to the gut or ribs. The backfist/cross combination is one of the most basic techniques taught to new trainees. It’s also useful, in sparring circumstances, by instructors who wish to remind a lazy student to guard their head.

Common Advanced Technique: The spinning backfist. Using a technique similar to spin kicks such as the wheel kick, the fighter spins 360 degrees to either the right or left and strikes their opponent with their leading hand (the side they spun to the left or right with). This increases the power of the strike by including the extra momentum of the spin. However, it is very easy for the beginner to become disoriented and for the user to be knocked off their feet by their opponent’s counter.

Common Beginner Mistake: If the student is wearing hand-guards (brass knuckles, UFC fiberglass gloves, handwraps, wrist-wraps) the backfist is very useful in a real world situation. If they’re not, they risk breaking their knuckles on their opponent’s skull when they miss the temple. The backfist is one of those attacks that requires a higher level of accuracy than most of the other strikes on this list for that reason. It’s a powerful strike, but carries with it a greater risk versus reward.

 Example:

The instructor dropped his hand in front of them. “Go!” He yelled.

Anna lunged in. Her opponent, Regina had strong legs, but like all those new to sparring, she had some bad habits regarding the protection of the head. Drawing her left hand back to the side of her face, Anna struck out with the back of her fist. Landing an easy, visible hit to Regina’s head, she slammed her right hand into the other woman’s chest pad.

“Three points!“

The Uppercut

 The uppercut is a very specific strike most commonly seen in variations of boxing and kickboxing. This technique involves driving the fist upwards, usually to strike under the opponent’s chin and knock the head back. The uppercut can also be driven forward on a diagonal into the stomach and solar plexus, also though more uncommonly to the nose and eyes (though only when wearing hand-guards). Unlike the backfist, the punch, and the hammer fist, the uppercut requires the wielder be within fairly close proximity to their opponent.  Like most punches in boxing, the uppercut can be thrown with either hand.

Common Advanced Technique: Like the Hammer Fist, there really isn’t one.

Common Beginner Mistake: The most common beginner mistake with the uppercut is a timing failure, knowing when and how to use a technique is a matter of practice. Like all strikes, the uppercut can leave the user open to exacting counters when used improperly or when they miss. If your character is new and decides to use this technique, do not be afraid to punish them for it.

Example:

It was supposed to be an easy follow-up to the hook, just drop her weight low and pivot her back foot while thrusting her left arm and hip upwards. If she was lucky, well, she’d score a knock out and the round would be over. But Alex’s hand came down and knocked her arm sideways, his other fist slammed into her nose. She heard the crunch of cartilage ringing in her ears as blinding white hot pain shot through her brain. Then, his knee drove forwards into her belly. Knees hitting the floor, she grasped her stomach.

It hurt more than she thought it would.

The Hook

The hook is another specialized strike that’s common mostly to boxing and kickboxing. It’s a horizontal blow that comes in sideways, swinging around to connect with the ribs or the jaw. When it connects to the occipital bone in the jaw it’s a knockout strike. It can be performed with either hand.

Common Advanced Technique: The check hook. The difference between the check hook and the regular hook is entirely a matter of footwork, much like the spinning backfist, it’s what the feet are doing that makes the difference in the attack. The check hook is performed in boxing when the opponent lunges, the boxer pivots their left foot and swings their back foot 180 degrees sideways, driving the hook  into the opponent’s jaw as they rush past.

Common Beginner Mistake: A failure to connect the lower body with the upper body. Please remember: always think about the feet and the hips in conjunction with the upper body.

Example:

 When his right-cross came, she slipped underneath it. Stepping sideways, head low, she twisted her front foot and swung her left fist around, driving it straight into his ribs.

 Fist Strikes and Damage:

The hand is full of many small, delicate bones and the front of the face (the forehead and the cheekbones) is the most heavily armored part of the human body. The brain is the most important part of keeping us alive, so it makes sense. So please, unless your character is some variant of a boxer or UFC fighter don’t have them punch to the face. If their hands are unprotected or unarmored, they’re going to break something. When most martial artists talk about punching to the face, they usually mean it in a “sport” capacity, not a self-defense one. Always make sure to research the martial art you are using and modify it appropriately if you mean to use it in a self-defense context.

It’s often a misnomer of non-practitioners that the boxing gloves, fiberglass gloves, or handwraps seen in most professional boxing/kickboxing sports are there for the safety of the opponent. They are not, they are there to reinforce a fighter’s fist and minimize the risk of a metacarpal injury.

When striking with any fist strike, the wrist must be aligned with the hand to prevent injury. Your fighter must keep the muscles of the fist and the wrist tight.

I’ll link the other primers on the open hand strikes and elbows together for easy viewing when I get them up.

As always, happy writing!