Tag Archives: writing reference

Tip: It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re going to hurt tomorrow.

The first rule of fighting is:

1) Don’t Get Hit

The second rule of fighting is:

2) You Will Get Hit

Here’s a fact of life: real fights start cold, your character will have zero time to warm up their body or prepare their muscles. They won’t have a chance to get their body into perfect condition before the first attack comes, so the chances of them pulling or straining a muscle is high, even if they win the fight. They will be bruised, they will be battered, and their injuries will stay with them for weeks, if not months.

One of the hardest truths of combat is that no injury ever really heals. Even with medical attention, the injury will stay with the character. For an example: Go watch some of Jackie Chan’s earliest movies and then one like “The Karate/Kung Fu Kid”. You’ll notice that even though he is still an amazing fighter, he cannot really walk straight anymore. And Jackie Chan doesn’t even actually fight, he just practices martial arts and occasionally jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Fighting puts constant stress on the body and wears it out quickly, even if your character is taking fewer hits and isn’t stupid, they’re still going to hurt in the aftermath. Whether or not your character takes pride in their bumps and bruises is up to them, but the body will wear out. If you as a writer ignore that, then your characterization and story will suffer.


Fight Write: Don’t Underestimate the Slap

Women get a bad rap sometimes from men because of the way they fight. Sometimes men are stupid, this is one of those cases.

The slap is not the most powerful attack in a fighter’s arsenal, in fact, it’s rarely in a fighter’s arsenal at all. Let’s talk about why:

1) It’s a very visible strike

Much like a haymaker or a roundhouse punch, a slap winds up from within an opponent’s field of vision, because it draws back inside our peripheral vision and the motion behind it is so large, the opponent knows it’s coming. A strike that takes a long time to wind up takes more effort from the fighter but is easier to block. This is why the roundhouse punch and the wild haymaker come at the end of the fight or are delivered when the opponent is off balance.

2) Slaps are low damage

The open palm strikes sideways, across the face, it aims for the cheek as opposed to the eye, the nose, the upper lip, or the temple. Slaps are stunning blows, they knock the opponent off balance and force them to back up. They hurt, often causing swelling in the cheek, but the chances of bones breaking are low and the chances of the attacker harming themselves with the strike is much lower than a punch.

One of the main reasons why the slap is a favored tactic of wife beaters (other than it being easy to deliver) is that while most of them are interested in punishing their wives, they are not interested in damaging them long term, thus it’s easier to hide from others so long as their victim acquiesces.

So, what are the advantages of the slap?

1) It’s a fast strike


2) For the untrained it can be performed with minimal risk to themselves

Because the force of the blow is distributed across the palm or the back of the hand, it’s unlikely that the blow will break the smaller more sensitive bones in the hand.  The bitch-slap allows someone to use their knuckles without risking them to a break.

3) If the strike succeeds, it can be used to create openings in the opponent’s guard to open the way for a strong follow-up

Pain is a method of distraction, pain induces usually a fear response in the opponent, giving one fighter an advantage over the other. Distracting an opponent with pain in one part of their body, leaves them vulnerable to being struck somewhere else. Remember, fights are as much about tactics as they are about speed and power. Block, distract, finish.

4) It carries a fairly low energy cost, allowing a fighter to fight longer with less effort

Yes, it’s a low damage strike that won’t finish the fight fast, however, a feint that saves your character energy is energy they can apply later or use to get away. In the realm of strikes, a slap is cheap and it can be performed many more times in short succession than a punch or a kick.

Protip: Don’t confuse the slap with a more traditional open palm strike. The palm strike hits with the lower meaty portion of the palm and they come in straight to the nose, throat, or solar plexus. A palm strike can crush the throat or connect with the nose and force the broken cartilage up into the brain. This is a killing strike, but one that is often overlooked. The palm strike rarely appears in movies for this reason, it’s also not very cinematic.


Tip: Fights Start For A Reason

Often in novels and television shows, it can seem like fights start for no reason at all. The author bases their fights around a moral stand point, the other character is a bully, they are a bad person, or evil, and there are often no follow up consequences.

It’s actually rare in life to find a living person who wanders around randomly spoiling for a fight. Now, they do exist, I know people who’ve met a few, but the amount that they actually appear in fiction is actually rather ridiculous.

Someone who’s planning to start a fight will actively assess several different factors. Here are some basic ones:

-They will weigh their chance of injury and death versus success

-They will look at the numbers advantage (does their opponent have more people than they do)

-What is the target’s social connections

-What fallout will occur with victory and defeat

-What they can gain from the fight versus what they will lose

-The cost of victory

Even if your villain is a minor character, spend some time with them, and examine what their motivation is. The same is true for your hero. Most victories are won in combat without ever firing a shot and someone trained and untrained will notice (sometimes subconsciously) the difference between a character who is pretending they know how to fuck someone up and a character who really does.

What one character knows about another will change the underlying reasons for why they are fighting and remember, no fight  is free. There are always consequences.


Tip: It’s necessary let your character be afraid.

Fear may be the mind-killer, but it’s a very necessary component of any character. For an action hero or any protagonist who deals with power (physical, psychological, spiritual, supernatural) how they approach fear will be the deciding factor in whether or not they will fall into the category of a bully.

For any true combatant (who isn’t a psychopath) overcoming the instinctual fear of harming themselves and causing harm to someone else is a key part of their training. How they handle the prospect and reality of causing harm to another, especially if that person falls into the category of “us” as opposed to “them”, will be a defining part of who they are. Combat is a terrifying, brutal, and uncomfortable place that is as much based in psychological willpower as it is a physical action.

Remember, fear is much more important than anger. Does your character face their fears? Do they run from them? Or do they inflict their fears on others?


Tip: How do you know when the actor in the show is an inexperienced fighter?

You watch their feet.

Hollywood Action Movies can fake a lot of things when it comes to actors and combat. The one thing they can’t is footwork.

You want your character to be an experienced fighter? Learn to watch the feet.

Reference for Writers: When you need to do a lot of research on something

reference for writers: When you need to do a lot of research on something