Tag Archives: creating characters

Is there such thing as a martial arts disciplines or techniques that “suit” someone? Like if someone is physically on the small, weak side but has good reflexes and spatial judgment would they emphasize techniques that rely on accuracy (or hitting people where you can cause lots of pain without lots of strength)? Or is it less what you learn and more how you use it? Am I making sense? (If the answer to the first question is yes, what’s a good discipline for the character in my example?)

You train your body to your style. In terms of physicality, there’s no barrier for entry. You adapt the techniques to your body as you train. It’s a common misconception that you need a certain body type to be able to fight, or to be good at it. Training takes care of the issue. The kind of physical training you engage in will mold your body. Practice, dedication, attention to detail, correction of errors, and time are all it takes.

There are martial disciplines that will “suit” someone, but those are psychological and philosophical in nature. Learning is faster when you desire to learn, and when the fighting style doesn’t counter your own goals. If you are mentally rejecting your training, then training will be almost impossible and produce poor results. A fast, brutal fighting style that focuses heavily on joint breaks will not suit a character with a gentle nature, who wishes to do as little damage as possible. Someone who wants a more inward focused and philosophical martial art will do better with Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan than they will with the sport focused Taekwondo.

The problem with your example is that it’s incredibly general and focuses on the character’s body rather than the character themselves. There is no good answer to it because the answer is, “all of them”.

Using physical strength as a metric for what kind of fighting your character can participate in or what martial arts they can learn is for stat based games like Dungeons & Dragons. You can take the abilities listed and apply it to any martial art you want. As I’ve said before many times, it’s better to work the other way around by finding your martial art then figuring out what you’re characters physical skills are going to look like as a result of their training. Trying to apply the combat style the other way around ultimately results in window dressing. Especially since, “all of them”.

All martial arts will hone and develop your character’s reflexes. So, the question is ultimately not that your character has good reflexes but rather, how were they developed?

You learn to judge distance through training exercises with your partner. All martial artists need spatial awareness.

You will learn accuracy by practicing your strikes on targets and then against live human partners.

Martial arts don’t rely on physical strength alone for damage, it’s cumulative and a balance of multiple factors that are all developed by training. Speed, accuracy, flexibility, momentum, endurance, learning where to hit and how to hit to achieve your desired results, your ability to move your body together, timing, these are what most people mistakenly refer to as, “physical strength”. Often, genuine effort and hard work are mistaken for natural gifts.

”Who is my character?”

“What do they do?”

“What do they want to be doing when fighting? Their philosophical outlook on the nature of combat? Their morals? What do they believe in?”

“What kind of fighting will they be involved in?”

“What kind of fight scenes do I feel comfortable writing?”

“What is my genre?”

What interests you and your character, who they are as a person, what you’re going to ask them to fight in your narrative, and, of course, how closely you want to hew to reality are what you should use to narrow down your search. After that, it’s gravy.

-Michi

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The might be a stupid question, but other than out of aggression why do people fight? Other than the need for self-defense too? I realize it’s a sport and competitive too but can you enjoy getting hurt and beating other people up? As someone who know’s little self defense I’m unsure who to give someone a reason for wanting to fight.

Yeah, this is not, at all, a stupid question. It’s not an easy one, though.

Yes, some people do enjoy hurting others, but there are a lot of other possible reasons.

People will resort to violence if they feel that’s the best way to achieve their goals. Sometimes their goals require violence, sometimes they don’t see any alternative, and sometimes they have genuinely exhausted their other options. Also, some will abandon their goals rather than use violence to achieve them.

When you’re writing a character, you need to know what they want, and how far they’ll go to achieve it. Once you have that, you can then decide if it’s appropriate for them to use violence.

Actually, let’s step back and look at this as a character clinic. You need to know who each of your characters are before you write a scene with them. There’s a lot of ways you can go about this, but ask yourself, “what does your character believe?” or “how do they view the world?” and “what do they want?” Once you have a vague idea of those answers, you should have a much easier time deciding what they should do in a given scene.

Also, when you’re asking questions like that, don’t be afraid to add more questions. Each answer will give you a better grasp of who your characters are, and open up more options in your writing.

Okay, so, when will a character resort to violence? When they feel it’s necessary, or when they want to. Someone who views themselves as the most important thing might not see anything wrong with harming others. Someone who enjoys control might enjoy inflicting pain. Someone who sees an imminent threat to something or someone they’re protecting. Someone who feels they’ve been marginalized and disregarded might resort to violence to “prove themselves”. Someone who’s afraid, and wants to hide it might resort to violence or aggression to mask their own fear. An adrenaline junkie who gets off on the rush might use violence to get their fix.

And, this isn’t an even remotely exhaustive list. There are a lot more possible reasons. Also, most of these aren’t mutually exclusive. A character could be both an adrenaline junkie and have sworn to protect someone else, for example. A character could see their cause as the most important thing, and anyone who dies along the way is just a necessary sacrifice.

-Starke