Fight Scenes 101: Writing The Fight

By Mark Kamibaya

 

You’ve got your fight scene all figured out. You’ve followed the five basic scene planning principles and have made sure to keep character at the forefront. Now for the hardest part: writing the fight scene.

A picture is worth a thousand words (or so the saying goes). So if a picture is worth a thousand words then how many words is a movie worth (24 frames per second and about two hours long)? Movies fightscenespost2seem to have supremacy over books especially in the area of fight scenes. Action is very much a visual journey. Would you rather read:

John turned left and punched the man with his right hand, but the man dodged the punch and returned that punch with another punch straight to John’s face.

or see it happen? Movies even have the advantage of hearing the sound of things we’ve never heard before supported by the greatest emotion mover, music. But if movies reign supreme, then why do we always hear that the book is better? There are only two advantages that books have over movies. And we need to use them to turn something visual, like action, into something experiential.

First, character connection.

The power of this is in the reader. Books can show the reader the thoughts of characters. Their internal choices and battles. Readers step into the shoes of the character and join them on a journey at the same time. This is why the book is always better than the movie. You can never be closer to someone other than yourself than with the character of your favorite book. The depth of the relationship is so close it cannot exist off the page.

Note: Actually it can exist off the page. But only divinely. [Read more…]

Fight Scenes 101: Planning The Fight

By Mark Kamibaya

 

More often than we would like, we read fight scenes. And more often than we would like, we read boring fight scenes.  Fight scenes that don’t keep us on the edge of our seat, but make us flip pages to see when it ends. So how can we make gripping fight scenes that engage and enthuse our audience? It takes both careful planning and considerate writing.  fightscenespost

Planning the Scene

A fight scene is a fight scene. Therefore, you should plan it in the same way you plan all your other scenes. So approach it using thesefive simple scene planning principles.

First, every scene needs to advance the plot.

This isn’t easy. It’s hard to cut scenes you’ve worked hard on. Some scenes are there just to show your great writing skills. Cut them. Some scenes don’t exactly advance the plot, but give great characterization moments (like showing a protagonist has awesome fighting skills). Cut it. Worst case scenario is the reader will put down your book because she’s always losing the plot. Any scene that doesn’t advance the plot needs to be cut.

Second, pace your scenes.

Two big secret reveals in a row? Hinges on melodrama. Two character deaths in a row? Too much angst. Two major fight scenes in a row? Boring. This applies to fight scenes even more because some authors (usually guys) love action so much they just stick it in at every opportunity for any excuse. “Well, I’ll put a fight scene in here because it will show that Bobby likes kittens so much he literally fights for their rights!” (Also a great characterization moment) Please, no. [Read more…]

Realities of War

Swords flash. Shields clash. Spears glint. Horses thunder across the plains. Grim lines of soldiers advance and retreat. Flags flutter and trumpets blast amid the glittering glory of battle.Realities_of_War

This is what may come to mind when the word ‘war’ appears in a fictional or fantasy setting, but it’s a far shout from the bitter, slogging endurance of a real campaign.

A war builds up long before the first battle lines clash.

How many details actually appear in the story depend on the writer’s choice and what time the book starts, but there are many things which should be known about the ‘pre-war’ weeks, months, or even years.

Are there tensions between the two nations (assuming, of course, this isn’t a civil war)? War is a grave matter, not to mention expensive, so what has led two or more nations to such a confrontation?

And are both sides at various levels of fault, or is there definite division of evil and good?

The most common story-line is for one nation to invade another. The invaders, of course, are bad while the outnumbered and battered resisters are on the side good. (But what if the stereotype was reversed? Hmm…it’s worth a thought. But back on topic).

Is the attack a complete surprise? The invading nation has had to gather troops and supplies, so have such signs been noticed? And if not, is it because of laziness, carelessness, or expert security on the invading side…any one of which could be yet another obstacle in the way of the ‘good’ army?

In either case, whether with months to prepare or mere hours, organizational networks need to be set in place.

How many men sign up or are drafted into the army? Depending on the size of your country, this could be a considerable percentage of men. At this point, many of the younger men may think of war in terms of glory and heroics, while their elders remain silent and serious. And, as the army’s numbers swell, the villages and towns change. A quarter of the men may be gone. Or half the men. The mothers, daughters, elderly, and young children must now tend to the fields to keep life going as before…and more.

Logistics

For there is bustle on the home front as well. Weapons must be supplied for all soldiers. Food, tents, clothes, medicines, boots, bandages…the list of supplies could go on and on. Someone has to make and transport these things. And that someone isn’t going to be the steel clad soldier now lining up to give his life, if need be, in defense of those he loves.

And, of course, the armies of both sides must meet before the first battle takes place. An army moves an average of 10-30 miles a day depending on many things, such as seasons, roads, weather, number and formation of troops, and their condition. The Roman army regularly traveled 15-18 miles a day, and then stopped in mid-afternoon and set up camp, complete with trenches, a solid wall surrounding orderly tents, and roads laid out regularly throughout the whole. The next morning they tore up the logs, burned what they didn’t carry with them, marched another day, and rebuilt the fortress that evening.

However quickly the army moves, they need to protect their baggage train. Supplies of all kinds must be carried along for the army’s well-being, but this baggage train can be quite troublesome for an invading army. And the further they move into an enemy land, the longer supply lines will stretch and the more vulnerable it will be…unless they can get all the supplies they need from their defeated enemy. Relying solely on the enemy’s land can be a risky proposition however…especially if the invaded decides to retreat, burning fields and stopping up springs as they go. This is known as a “scorched earth policy,” famously employed by the Russians on multiple occasions, much to the chagrin of Napoleon and Hitler.

Non-combat casualties

Just as preparations for war starts long before the first battle, so many lives may be lost without a blow being struck. Disease does not spare victors from vanquished, but strikes everywhere with a heavy hand. In many wars, the number of soldiers who succumb to sickness are several times greater than those who fall in battle. In the American Civil war, dysentery, typhoid, and pneumonia were among the top three killers, with two out of three deaths due to disease of some kind. The number was even greater among English troops in the Napoleonic era.

If your story takes place in the future or present, sickness might not be as great a problem. Even a fantasy-style medieval army could cut their losses by basic protocols which, obvious though they may seem, can be overlooked…such as camping on dry ground away from swamps and making sure latrines are downstream of wherever the army’s drinking water is drawn from. While all these details may not even be referenced in a book, it is something to keep in mind. And, if you need another challenge to throw at your characters, a deadly epidemic is in no way unrealistic.

Battles

Finally, one day, both armies ‘see each other in the face’. They may or may not attack the first day. Roman armies would sometimes march out and face each other for several days before the battle took place. Sometimes one general would draw up his soldiers, taunting the other in an effort to draw them into an attack. Positions may be shifted and secured. But, eventually, one or both sides will move and the battle will be joined.

Battles are not necessarily won by one glorious (or not so glorious) charge. Sometimes one army will charge the position of the other, while other times they meet at the center of the field. A running charge is for the practical purpose of closing the distance between armies and so escaping javelins and arrows as quickly possible. All too soon the flying projectiles are exchanged for the dubious security of hand to hand fighting as both sides meet and the battle proper begins. And the soldiers, now fighting for their lives amid the heat, screams, and blood of battle are quickly disillusioned to whatever thoughts of glorious combat they may have had.

A battle’s length varies. Some battles last two or three hours. Others are fought from dawn and into the night. In the Bible, some battles were fought all day with the victors pursuing the enemy all night. Others battles are fought for several days in a row before one side conquers the field.

As the battle progresses, there are many minor details that should be kept in mind to add to the feeling of reality. For example, what direction is your army facing? Is the sun behind them or in a position to blind them (or to the side where it could do either)? Keep in mind that if the sun rises behind your troops, it will eventually set before them and get in their eyes if the battle progresses into the afternoon. What is the weather like…sunny, overcast, windy, stormy? Weather is very important and can be used as a help or hindrance. And the geography…are there hills to retreat to, forests to ambush from, or a solid anchor for the flanks?

Most of all, what of the soldiers? Many of these men are probably killing for the first time. They are horrified and terrified. Men, comrades, friends are dying about them. Some are struck down. Others are wounded and, unless they can move, run the risk of being trampled underfoot. Yet the soldiers fighting must ignore the cries of their comrades and struggle on.

And, no matter what weapons your army is using, death is never pretty. Swords don’t just stab cleanly through the heart and neither do bullets. Blood. Severed limbs and bodies. Raging thirst. The stench of battle. Screams of the wounded. Vultures, perhaps, circling overhead. You get a portion of the picture. Choosing how graphically to portray the battle is another topic, but what the men are seeing is something that will affect them mentally and emotionally for months and years to come.

The end of a battle rarely ends in the complete destruction or capture of the vanquished army. And sometimes, if the battle ends in a rout, more men are killed as they flee than were cut down in the fight itself. The pursuit, either on horse or foot, can last the whole night and into the next day.

Aftermath

Many books and stories close with the victory of the hero and his army, but that is hardly the end. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dead from both sides cover the ground. And, mixed with those who gave their life for their cause, are the wounded. Depending on the situation, a truce might be arranged so the opposing side can carry away their casualties. Or it might be the task of the weary victors to clear the field, tending to the wounded and dying as best they are able and quickly disposing of the fallen. This gruesome task can drag on for several days. There’s also spoil to be gathered and perhaps riotous soldiery to control. On top of this, there are still normal mundane things to attend to, such as watches on the camp, care for prisoners, and the steady supply of food. Weather and animals, such as the aforementioned vultures or wild dogs, can also complicate matters.

And that’s just the first battle. Some wars are completed in the spring or summer of the campaign season. Others drag on for years. Armies march and counter march, taking passes, holding cities, and trying to starve each other by cutting off supplies. More men are drawn into the ranks from back home and eventually another battle is fought, and yet another, and another until one side surrenders, is defeated, or a treaty of some kind is worked out.

The length and ferocity of any war has long reaching effects. Quite often, famines are coupled to war due to the shortage of men to raise crops, as well as the destruction of fields by the armies on both sides. With many men being cut down, there will be numerous families living without the head protector of their home, and many children growing up without a father. A shortage of young men of marriageable age may also be a real possibility in some parts of the country.

Quite often, in books, a single crushing defeat repels or destroys the enemy. This is theoretically possible, but after a nation has braced itself for war, they normally won’t back down after a single battle. Even if the ‘good’ army, who is normally outnumbered, manages to completely defeat and conquer the invading army, the belligerent nation can probably raise another army to send against the now battered conquerors. So make sure the ensuing peace is realistically brought about, perhaps by a wiser leader who’s risen after the fall of the main villain, or by the combined outrage of the people of the opposing nation who never wanted the war in the first place.

But no matter who wins the war, the land has changed. Things will never be exactly as they were before. Hundreds and thousands of men are dead, their families shattered and mourning. Others come home, wounded or with sights they will never forget emblazoned in their mind. Young men are now old in the horrors they’ve seen. Treasuries are drained, villages are burned, fields lie fallow.

Though war is sometimes necessary, and in books is commonly part of the plot, it isn’t pretty, it isn’t glorious, and it isn’t to be desired. Heroics consist of normal men doing what needs to be done in the face of fear and death. In the place of the glorious feats the young soldiers once dreamed of, there is a comradeship and strong love among the troops. A love for those they defend, and a brotherly love among themselves. For no greater love has any man, than that he lay down his life for his friend.

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legend of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can find out more about her at: http://writinginthelightpublishing.com/

5 Ways Writing is Like War

      By Amy Bohannan

 

We all know the old adage, The pen is mightier than the sword.  As we ponder the events of history, literary works versus wars fought, which has the greater, lasting impact?

 

While the sword or bullet cuts deep into the flesh, the works of literature cut deeper, penetrating the very depths of the soul.  While one may be injured or even mortally wounded by the stab of a weapon, an entire life can be turned on its head by simple words.

Writing_is_Like_War_Pinterest

 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. ~Ephesians 6:12

 

The art of words is as the art of war.

 

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12

 

 

The words of the Bible, the most famous work of literature, have cut deeply into the hearts and souls of the people of two millennium.  Providing a message of hope to a starving people, the writers of the Bible, like warriors, battled bravely for the words that they penned.  Many of them were killed for the very words they wrote in that sacred book, unwilling to recant the hope lighting their pens.  They went to their graves having fought valiantly for the truth.

 

Courageous writing.  The kind that changes lives.  The kind that does not apologize for the truth.

 

Here are five ways that writing is like warfare:

1. The Enemy is Real

 

God’s enemy is our enemy.  Satan does not want God’s messages to make it to the hearts of His people.  He will do everything he can to thwart the telling of stories that will cause a person to think about the things of God.  Writers block, distractions while writing, discouragement about your story—these things could very possibly be an enemy attack on your writing.  Your pen is a weapon: wouldn’t the first enemy tactic be to disable it?  To keep you from even starting?

2. It Takes Training

 

Nobody can send a soldier into battle and expect him to win unless they train him first.  Take time to learn your craft.  Be trained to be excellent in your writing.  You can’t expect to be perfect (win a battle) and get published right away unless you have been trained in the art in the first place.

   

3. It Takes Practice

 

So you know how to use the weapon.  Great!  Now put it to work.  Write.  And write.  And write.  And…yeah, you get the picture.  Keep practicing your craft.  The enemy particularly likes to thwart the trained but unpracticed.  He does this by pumping up their pride, telling them they know what they are doing, they don’t need to practice.  But that’s completely untrue.  Practice, as the other old adage goes, makes perfect.

 

In a battle, to win, you must be excellent.  If we are to be warriors for the Kingdom with our pens, we must stand out from the others.  We must be the very definition of excellence in our craft.

 

4. It Can Hurt You (Yes, Even Physically)

 

How many of the Christian forefathers actually died for their written works?  How many were persecuted?  Think of the disciples of Jesus, the early church leaders, revolutionaries, reformers.  Men like Martin Luther—imagine as he stood before the Diet of Wurms, as they tried to force him to recant his writings.

 

Writing the truth is dangerous.

 

But it’s worth it.  Which leads into the next point…

5. It Changes Lives, Even the World

 

The Bible has had the most sales out of any book in the history of the world, and yet many of the men that wrote it (under the inspiration of God) were killed precisely for what they had written.  Our perseverance in telling the stories God has given us in excellence is the weapon that we have been blessed with in the battle of the ages.

 

Jesus told parables to reach the hearts of the people.  Storytelling is a powerful tool.

 

Storytelling, unlike standard preaching, provides scenarios for the mind to mull over.  It gives us the opportunity to see into another perspective.  It helps us to learn to empathize with others as our hearts feel for the characters of these stories.

 

 

Stories have a unique way of reaching down into the human heart to stir.  We read, we write, we listen to know that we are not alone.  As humans, we are desperate for camaraderie.  We want to know that someone else understands.  Someone else knows.  Someone else has felt it too.

 

How many stories have you read that you thought to yourself, “Wow, yeah…that’s exactly how it feels”?

 

God has given us a gift.  He has given us the ability to take part in this incredible thing that He does every day.  As He tells the Story of Mankind, He gives us a stage and whispers Create!   As we were designed to do.  He calls us to do as He does.

 

Even though it’s hard.

 

Even though the enemy would stop us.

 

Even though it takes work to learn.

 

Even though it’s exhausting to practice.

 

Even when we can get hurt in the process.

 

He wants to use us to tell the stories that will prick the hearts of men and pave a way for His grace to come flooding in.

 

What a glorious mission!

 

Theme of The Month: July

 

Hello Kingdom Pen! It is a new month and that means a new writing theme! This month is warfare in writing.

 

July Theme BlankIf you write adventure novels, odds are, there is going to be some combat. This month is dedicated to articles focusing on this subject matter.

 

To give you some ideas for articles you could write:

 

  • How do you write a fight scene
  • What is the deal with military hierarchy?
  • Equipment, weapons, logistics
  • Common mistakes
  • Ethics of warfare

Can’t wait to read your submissions!

 

For those of you that still have submissions waiting to be published, we will try to get all of those published this month as well!