Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: writing a fight scene

I've spent two brain-melting evenings sprinting in a chat room with other writers. I'd gotten out of the habit of writing any amount in the past month that I've been without my own computer. However, I churned out nearly 5-K words in the past two afternoons. Not much else has gotten done, though. As I get ready for bed tonight, a niggling thought takes hold... Blog post tomorrow. I sigh, leave the jammies in the bathroom, and trudge back out here thinking, what am I going to write about?

Then I thought about an article some writer peeps are encouraging me to write because I seem to have some expertise, or at least a gift, in writing violence and realistic fight scenes. Has does tips on writing fight scenes help create an Oasis of calm? No clue. But I never clip a gift tip in the mouth. (see what I did there? worked in a couple fighting terms)

First, you ned to know what you want to get out of your fight scene. If it's violence for violence's sake, for the shock factor? Then ax it. Don't write anything that doesn't move your plot forward.

So, this fight has to happen, huh? Okay, then. Next we need to consider there is always a winner and a loser in a street fight, unless someone stops it artificially. Who's winning this fight of yours, and why? And please don't just make it so the hero looks like a tough guy, and proves to his girlfriend he can kick butt. A reader may have that "Yeah!" feeling, but the scene will be hollow of impact. Do you intend to show a certain trait? Show a certain flaw? Think about it and jot it down.

If your hero throws the first punch, he's automatically cast as an aggressor, and that may be a negative to your character construction. However, having your character 'reel from a punch' or 'take a hit to the jaw and drop in a jumble of bones' is not necessarily showing weakness. Figure out the 'why' to the fight and you'll know better how much hurting to let your character dish out and take.

My best advice? WATCH MMA. It's a fantastic mix of different martial arts styles and disciplines, and the closest to a true fisticuffs, street fight. My hubby is a martial artist and now an MMA instructor. Most of my knowledge comes from years of watching his classes. And we are big UFC fans.

Basically, you're going to have an aggressor throw the first punch. The opponent will be hit, or dodge. If the fighters are inexperienced, there will be back and forth, awkward punches, maybe hair pulling if they're girls, probably some cussing, maybe a trip and some ground scuffling. Give it balance, let them dance a bite, but skew it toward your winner. Let them land the bigger hits, but show it in the opponent's reactions don't tell us how hard they flung that punch. Eventually, one will get the better of the other. If the fighters are experienced, the real fun begins. Same basic rules apply, give and take with the winner giving the better strikes and kicks, though he should take some damage too--unless he's a roboninjasuperfighter. Best part about experienced fighters? You can show more aggression, more intent and more damage, and use fancier fight terms! ^_^

How about some fight terms to give your scene more realism? I can do that:
Punch: closed fist strike, very generic term, great for a bar fight or a straight-shooter type of character.
Jab: more definied term, more of a straight punch driven forward.
Upper cut: kind of an upward hooking motion to a punch, the fighter usually turns slightly down and into the strike giving it more power, but also slightly telegraphing the move. An upper cut is very effective when hitting the corner of the jaw for a knockout.
Hook: a punch thrown with more of a curve to it. Great for more of a sneaky character to throw.
Inside kick: hits the inner thigh, great for damaging a fighters stability, also risky in a sanctioned fight due to the close proximity of certain delicate parts.
Ax kick: used by more trained fighters, usually MMA, tae kwon do, etc. it originates above the target and chops down into.
Heel kick: a turning motion used to drive the heel in, instead of the ball of the foot, or side.
Guillotine choke: most often used applied from behind, cuts off a fighter's blood flow to the brain and air in take.
Arm bar: often seen in MMA/cage fighting, usually applied on the ground during grappling when one fighter pins the other's arm in their legs over the waist and applies torque with hands and hips. Can strain, sparin, or break the elbow.
Clinch: When two fighters tie up close, usually one has an advantageous position, or they will struggle to get it. Some fighters tie up their opponent in a clinch as a way to steal a little breather from hits.
Grapple: involves the clinch, is tight body to body action often on the ground and ends in a submission movie like a pin or joint lock/bar.
TKO: Technical Knock Out. Means the fighter would have gotten a Knock Out if the hits had continued. TKOs come by way of referee stoppage.

Some common MMA/Cagefighting slang: throwing leather (throwing a punch with a gloved fist), dropping bombs (throwing punches from above), ground and pound (utilized often in a ground fight when one fighter gets the advantageous top position, straddles their opponents chest and punches relentlessly).

If you want more, please comment and let me know. The lessons can continue!

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  1. Very helpful. I HATE writing fight scenes because it always sounds cheesy to me. Maybe these terms will give my fights a bit more bite now. :)

  2. Excellent post! I have a fight scene to do at some point today. *evillaugh* This should be fun!

  3. Great post! I LOVE writing fight scenes! Love them! And this is amazing advice!

  4. Now this I really liked!! Nicely done.

  5. Oh, yeah, this is a great post! I totally needed this. (My MC has a few fights coming up.) ;)

  6. In fight scenes you need to include grunts, spitting of blood, cuts, aches, so the reader can feel it too. Love fight scenes! it's my strong points, because i have a black belt in MA and we did a whole lot of sparring. in the beginning it was pads then it was raw with just mouth pieces and some gloves.

  7. your post makes me feel like such a girlie-girl & I've never really thought of myself like that before... although now that I think about it, I don't like dirt, or bugs, or pain. Yeah, fight scenes = not my strong suit.


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