December 13, 2019, 05:27:38 AM

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Re: Fight Scenes... I was reading an article today about the importance of tactics and strategies in combat, which reminded me of a flaw most fight scenes in books and movies have. Most fight scenes can be reduced to "they fight until one side is dead". And that's not how fighting and war works.

People in a combat situation have multiple goals. And usually the very highest goal is "don't get killed". If the enemy is dead, he can no longer kill you, so that's one way you could achieve your goal. But unless you're out for revenge, seeing your enemy dead is usually not on your list of goals at all. Instead you have "prevent the enemy from doing something I don't want him to do". And since your enemy also does not want to be killed, it's really about getting your enemy to give up before you give up. Grossly oversiplifying here for narrative reasons, but when you die and it's not from a freak stray bullet or arrow out of nowhere, it's usually because you missed the point at which you should have given up.
When animals fight for a mate, it is very rare that anyone gets seriously injured for almost all species. And even when predators fight over a dead animal they both want to eat, it usually ends with one side giving up the fight before they get seriously injured. When you give up only just before you're dead, you won't be able to heal your injuries and be fit enough to hunt again before you starve to death. Even if you win a fight to the death, you might get this meal, but it also might very well be your last, because the injuries from your victory are too great to ever get back to strength. Both sides really don't want to fight, but there is also the goal "get food or starve". So what you usually see is lots of barking and roaring and intimidation and one side running away with minor injuries. There is no reason for the other predator to pursue, because they already got what they want: The food.

When writing fight scenes, you can easily do a lot better than "enemies show up and they fight until one side is dead". A fight is not a goal. A fight is the means to a goal. And the goal determines the strategy.
Consider for each combatatant what their goals are. Guards don't have to kill or chase away an intruder. Their goal is to call for help and stay alive until reinforcements arrive, and if possible keep the intruder from running away at the same time. Their strategy would be to just stall time, even if they make no progress in "defeating" the intruder. Not dying means they win, so there would be lots of parrying and blocking with the shield, with very little attempts at cool moves.
Bandits don't want to kill, they want to steal. If some of the bandits can keep the defenders occupied while one of them grabs the box with the gold, they don't need to kill anyone. Once they got the box they just can run away. And they should run away, because continuing the fight will accomplish nothing but might get them killed. If, on the other hand, they need to leave no wittnesses because they are part of a conspiracy that must not be uncovered, things are very different again and they can not allow anyone to escape and tell what happened. But again, this does not mean they have to kill everyone, and taking the witnisses prisoners might also be an option.

In short, consider for each side in a fight what kind of outcome would be acceptible for them right now.
Once the other guards arrive to help the one who raised the alarm, his goal would change from "stalling time" to "apprehend the intruder". And then think what the best way would be to accomplish that goal. Killing the enemy is often one option, but one that is very difficult to do. So if there might be other options, the fighters should try to include those into their strategy as well.
Say you have a group of conscripts who don't really want to fight, but are kept in line by their overseers. Their goal is not to defeat the enemy, but to stay alive, and that means they have to keep fighting or will be punished. They will fight, but with an emphasis on defense with only as much effort in killing their enemy as absolutely neccessary. But once their enemies have killed three of the four overseers, their goal of staying alive can now be accomplished much better by running away and hoping the last overseer will also be killed before he can come after them. Even though the conscripts and overseers are both on the same side in the fight, they actually have completely different goals.
Always keep in mind what the fighters want to accomplish with the fight and what way of fighting will serve them best in achiving that. This immensly improves the quality of any fight scene.

April 05, 2015, 05:56:23 PM
Re: Fight Scenes... Did I talk about fighting having consequences, yet? Because that also becomes a factor. When you kill someone, there will most probably be a large number of people who feel very upset about it. Rarely happens in books and movies, where the villains are some kind of faceless organization that ceases to exist once the leader is defeated. But we know well enought that this is not what really happens. With every enemy you kill, you just make some more, even if you have never met before. And as a commander, people will have oppinions about you when any of your soldiers die. You can't just lose hundreds of soldier and write it off as lost equipment.
At the same time, not killing someone when you can also has consequences. It might improve your reputation in later situations, but you also might have to deal with the grudges of people you defeated in the past. The question whether to fight or not is not at all the same as whether you can win or not.

I like myself a good villain, but very often I just think that someone of his "allies" should just shot him in the back, and probably none of the other henchmen would feel very bad about it. Just because a group of characters are all on the same side and are all villains doesn't mean they will support each other in every thing.
One of the very few exceptions I can think of is Record of Lodoss War (which really subverts pretty much all overdone cliches of fantasy).

April 05, 2015, 06:44:11 PM
Re: "The Triumph of Fantasy Fiction?"
What annoyed me was the condescension of the article and the implicit assumption that we, as readers, or fantasy authors in general would actually care or consider it an honour to be accepted in the so called "literary mainstream", just because ASoIAF is a raging success?
If you get accepted into the literary mainstream, I think you seriously have to question yourself as a fantasy writer. Clearly you'd be doing something terribly wrong.

April 05, 2015, 08:43:58 PM
Re: Highly Regarded Books that You Have Struggled Through I read 80 pages or so of Gardens of the Moon. Since nothing happened by that point and even people who read the whole series didn't really know what it was about, I just stopped it there.
April 05, 2015, 09:20:53 PM
Re: Highly Regarded Books that You Have Struggled Through Make it "Garden of a Goat", which then would be abbreviated to GOAT.
April 05, 2015, 10:14:58 PM
Re: "The Triumph of Fantasy Fiction?" The worst would be claiming that Name of the Wind isn't really fantasy but serious lierature.
April 06, 2015, 12:28:35 PM
Re: Fight Scenes... That is because most strangers who might threaten you have a goal that has nothing to do with harming you. Their goal is to get your money and to avoid an actual fight breaking out (because they might get hurt as well, even if the win). By giving them your money, you have successfully avoided harm.
Unless "keep my money" is a higher priority for you than "stay unharmed".

April 07, 2015, 11:02:18 AM
Re: Fight Scenes... (wrong button)
April 07, 2015, 11:03:07 AM
Re: Sword & Sorcery - Recommendations and Opinions My relationship to Leibers books is a complicated one. I really wouldn't call them good, but I do often come back to them.

I think reading Leiber is like watching Schwarzenegger.  ;D

It is stupid, with one-dimensional characters, and terrible dialogues. But it's really fun. And I think you can really feel how fun seems to be the most important thing for Leiber in his stories. Fafhrd and Mouser are both stupid idiots, but they have the gigantic mirth of Conan, and even surpass him. Many of the other writers I've read seem to have almost entirely forgotten that aspect and are all doom and gloom. Moorcock does it and King, and as much as I love Kane, Wagner too. They all seem to take themselves and their stories way too seriously and try to be highbrow art, forgetting about the fun in the process. Leiber also tries to be funny, which doesn't really appeal to me so much, but like Howard there is some real joy in his stories which many others just don't have. The only other writer I can think of whose stories are fun is Sapkowski.

And in that aspect I think Leiber stories are like Schwarzenegger movies. They acknowledge that they are silly and are content with it, and from that base give it all they have. And it's fun!

April 07, 2015, 06:22:14 PM
Re: Hugo Awards 2015 Controversy & Sad Puppies It seems that the problem is really mostly that the voting system is designed in a way that can easily be broken and manipulated. That the first ones to really exploit those vulnerabilities are right-wing white men makes it seem more ideologically charged then it is, but the way to manipulate it is open to everyone. And to counter them we're most likely going to see another group exploit the vulnerability even more next year to "prevent manipulation".
Arrys second link goes into detail on that.

April 08, 2015, 04:30:27 PM