Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Overlord on January 27, 2011, 04:41:47 AM

Title: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on January 27, 2011, 04:41:47 AM
OK... so three questions:

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?
2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?
3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Tiffany Kysis Tackett on January 27, 2011, 05:06:25 AM
I can only answer two of those, sadly.

1) A good fight scene is one where the reader can see everything which is going on without being confused, and is face paced enough to really emulate the quickness of everything happening.  It needs to make the reader's heart pound.  The protagonist should win some and lose some.  If the reader isn't worried about the outcome of the fight, they'll just skip it anyway.  And, if the fight isn't important in some way, if it doesn't set up something bigger to come, it can be told in exposition rather than fleshed out totally.

2) A bad fight scene is so sparse on description that you can't tell where anyone is or who is doing what, OR two heavily described, to the point that it slows down the pace of the prose, making the fight scene feel like it happened over half an hour rather than five minutes.  It is a difficult balance to get right, making it very, very easy to get wrong.  A bad fight scene can also be extremely one sided.  Either the protagonist is completely getting decimated, or the protagonist is pwning the hell out of thirty enemies at once.  Both are weighed too heavily towards one side.  There needs to be give and take to keep the reader hooked, worried, and turning the page.

3) *shrug*  Can't think of any off the top of my head.  If I find one, I'll let you know.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: The Mad Hatter on January 27, 2011, 05:18:23 AM
OK... so three questions:

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?
2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?
3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

1) Quick. You stick a sword into someone, they go down. Oh, they might flail around a bit, but they go down. Most fights don't last long, no matter what Hollywood thinks.
2) Detail. Get rid of the intimate detail of each sword stroke. Zelazney could manage it, he took epee. If you don't, avoid the sodding detail.
3) Glen Cook. He gives the right level of detail, and he gets it right.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter

Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: ganstream1 on January 27, 2011, 06:29:42 AM
1) Simple. A few parry and slash and done. Nothing too detailed.
2) Too long or too detailed. No matter how heart pounding fast it is, if it takes too long, it'll bore me.
3) Heart pounding. With a bit more detail than a good fight scene. 
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on January 27, 2011, 07:51:12 AM
I like the fact everyone likes quick fight scenes... I shouldn't really say this as a reviewer... but... fight scenes over a page long I skim read because there is only so much : I swung, he dodged, he swung, I parried, I stabbed, he jumped back, he stabbed, I moved the the left... etc, etc I can take.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: professional-liar on January 27, 2011, 01:24:48 PM
I think a good general rule would be:  The fight shouldn't take longer for me to read about than to watch.

For extended battles, just the highlights please.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: TankSpill on January 27, 2011, 03:44:11 PM
I think it depends on a couple different variables.  For instance, if we're talking about Large Scale Battles, or if we're talking about Mano-a-mano fights.

Large Scale Battles
1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

Frantic activity, tension, and a little bit of confusion (but not so much that you literally cannot tell what is going on). The right author can nail a battle scene by showing multiple points of view from key characters, with vivid description and imagery of the destruction taking place.  Tension should be mixed with the confusion, so that the reader (and the characters) are not sure who is winning until the last moment.  It doesn't have to be from multiple POVs, but that helps.  If from one POV, it helps if that person is not in God-mode, watching over everything, but rather only hearing and seeing bits and pieces, and not sure what is going on.

Examples:
Dumai's Wells, Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, book 6)
Battle of Armengar, A Darkness at Sethanon (The Riftwar Saga, book 3)

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

Telling the battle from the point of view of an onlooker instead of someone in the battle.  It doesn't matter how tense the author is trying to make the battle, unless you're there in it, I've never seen this kind of battle description done successfully.  Usually it is filled with questions and answers between two people viewing the battle, such as "What's going on now, I can't bear it!" answered by, "On no, the Blockities are ravaging the Bloos, the cavalry charge was horrifying!"

Example:
The main battle between the forces of good and the forces of bad in Enchanter's Endgame (The Belgariad, book 5)
The first part of the Battle of Naglimund, The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, book 1), told from Father Strangyeard's POV.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

So far, in my reading, Robert Jordan has (had? :( ) it down.  I accredit this to his war veteran-ness.  He was great at bringing in combatants few at a time, like trickles of water, until the battle overflowed like water over a damn.

Mano-a-mano, aka Battles Between Just a Few People

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

Descriptions of what is going on without too much sword/axe/staff/whatever-play.  Metaphors.  I like to feel that a fight scene is even - I don't really care when a Champion fights a N00b, unless it's there to advance the plot, but even so, I don't care about the scene itself.  Either even matches, or slightly uneven matches that could really go bad for the hero if he's not careful.

Examples:
Rand taking on Toram Riatin, A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, book 7)
Josua taking on the Thrithingsman (can't remember his name), Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, book 2)

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

Two much description or too little description.  I want to know what happens, so telling me "Bob slew Greg," doesn't do much for me.  On the other hand, I don't need to read seven pages about every flick of the wrist, every angle of the sword, or every breath the fighters take (I'm looking at you, R.A. Salvatore). 

Examples:
Every Drizzt fight ever.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?
Robert Jordan gets this again, Tad Williams does a good job, GRRM is pretty good (though I don't enjoy his writing style), Brandon Sanderson gets the job done (and improves with every book he writes).
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Funky Scarecrow on January 27, 2011, 04:41:14 PM
1. A good fight scene is like a real fight. Nasty, brutal, short, as bloody as it needs to be and won by luck as often as skill.
2. A bad fight scene usually contains at least two of the following qualities. It's either; over described, over choreographed by the writer, uses too many technical terms if swords are involved, the most skilled fighter is automatically the winner, ANYONE indulges in any kind of ridiculous acrobatics. If a character tries to somersault over an opponent's head, I want that character stabbed in the kidney as they take flight.
3. The best fight scenes are written by David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie and, surprisingly, Terry Pratchett, as anyone who's been involved in an actual street fight will attest to.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: professional-liar on January 28, 2011, 02:17:54 AM
Excellent stuff TankSpill.  Can you provide page numbers from your examples?  Just kidding .
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: MTMaenpaa on January 31, 2011, 12:34:00 AM
As a writer I like to keep my fight scenes short and punchy.  It should have an impact, both in the plot and the pacing.  It's okay to have your hero decimate overwhelming odds so long as he loses now and again.  The challenge is that I'm prone toward being extraordinarily verbose and descriptive.  My general rule is that a fight should never last longer than a page in mass-market, preferably kept to just a few paragraphs.

Bad fight scenes or battles come off as some sadist's masturbatory fantasy or some bad Hollywood movie. 

Zelazny wrote excellent fight scenes, and nowadays Brust does a comparable job.  Joe Abercrombie gets a little long-winded for my taste, but they still manage to be brutal and fun.  Of course, he has a lot of violence.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: The Mad Hatter on January 31, 2011, 01:12:01 AM
As a writer I like to keep my fight scenes short and punchy.  It should have an impact, both in the plot and the pacing.  It's okay to have your hero decimate overwhelming odds so long as he loses now and again.  The challenge is that I'm prone toward being extraordinarily verbose and descriptive.  My general rule is that a fight should never last longer than a page in mass-market, preferably kept to just a few paragraphs.

Bad fight scenes or battles come off as some sadist's masturbatory fantasy or some bad Hollywood movie. 

Zelazny wrote excellent fight scenes, and nowadays Brust does a comparable job.  Joe Abercrombie gets a little long-winded for my taste, but they still manage to be brutal and fun.  Of course, he has a lot of violence.

A couple of points for those who haven't read all the background stuff.

Roger Zelazney took fencing lessons - thus his fight scenes are well described, because he knew how to do it.

For a 'sadist's masturbatory fantasy' see Karl Edward Wagner's Kane stories. Wagner really overdid it on the fights.

Can't stand Brust as a person, so I've never read his stuff, and I'd never run into Ambercrombie.

But what about Robert E. Howard? For those who've only been exposed to the horrible movies and TV show, Conan is a joke. And most of the stuff written after Howard died by others wasn't all that good. But... Howard was an incredible writer. He could handle a fight scene without overdoing it. It's really too bad that the Howard estate allowed Dino De Laurentiis to butcher the character and the concept.

Some other writers who I think do good fights:

Glen Cook does incredible fight scenes. Taught and quick.

Fred Saberhagen does fantastic fight scenes too, see the Swords series.

Lois McMaster Bujold does really good fight scenes. The scene in Paladin of Souls where Ista is rescued is a favorite.

Elizabeth Moon does really good fight scenes. The one in Divided Allegiances when they run into the Troll equivalent is neat.
 
Wayne aka The Mad Hatter
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on January 31, 2011, 05:06:17 AM
I think it depends on a couple different variables.  For instance, if we're talking about Large Scale Battles, or if we're talking about Mano-a-mano fights.

Large Scale Battles
1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

Frantic activity, tension, and a little bit of confusion (but not so much that you literally cannot tell what is going on). The right author can nail a battle scene by showing multiple points of view from key characters, with vivid description and imagery of the destruction taking place.  Tension should be mixed with the confusion, so that the reader (and the characters) are not sure who is winning until the last moment.  It doesn't have to be from multiple POVs, but that helps.  If from one POV, it helps if that person is not in God-mode, watching over everything, but rather only hearing and seeing bits and pieces, and not sure what is going on.

Examples:
Dumai's Wells, Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, book 6)
Battle of Armengar, A Darkness at Sethanon (The Riftwar Saga, book 3)

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

Telling the battle from the point of view of an onlooker instead of someone in the battle.  It doesn't matter how tense the author is trying to make the battle, unless you're there in it, I've never seen this kind of battle description done successfully.  Usually it is filled with questions and answers between two people viewing the battle, such as "What's going on now, I can't bear it!" answered by, "On no, the Blockities are ravaging the Bloos, the cavalry charge was horrifying!"

Example:
The main battle between the forces of good and the forces of bad in Enchanter's Endgame (The Belgariad, book 5)
The first part of the Battle of Naglimund, The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, book 1), told from Father Strangyeard's POV.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

So far, in my reading, Robert Jordan has (had? :( ) it down.  I accredit this to his war veteran-ness.  He was great at bringing in combatants few at a time, like trickles of water, until the battle overflowed like water over a damn.

Mano-a-mano, aka Battles Between Just a Few People

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

Descriptions of what is going on without too much sword/axe/staff/whatever-play.  Metaphors.  I like to feel that a fight scene is even - I don't really care when a Champion fights a N00b, unless it's there to advance the plot, but even so, I don't care about the scene itself.  Either even matches, or slightly uneven matches that could really go bad for the hero if he's not careful.

Examples:
Rand taking on Toram Riatin, A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, book 7)
Josua taking on the Thrithingsman (can't remember his name), Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, book 2)

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

Two much description or too little description.  I want to know what happens, so telling me "Bob slew Greg," doesn't do much for me.  On the other hand, I don't need to read seven pages about every flick of the wrist, every angle of the sword, or every breath the fighters take (I'm looking at you, R.A. Salvatore). 

Examples:
Every Drizzt fight ever.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?
Robert Jordan gets this again, Tad Williams does a good job, GRRM is pretty good (though I don't enjoy his writing style), Brandon Sanderson gets the job done (and improves with every book he writes).


Some really awesome advice there and so too is there everywhere else on this thread. Certainly have a lot to take away with me and research now - I've never read Tad Williams - so I will check him out. GRRM I'm reading now, so I'll certainly make notes whilst reading.

One thing I wonder about a fight, is how much emotion should you put into it? Should you put equal emotion with action, should it be all action and emotion only before / after?
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: MTMaenpaa on January 31, 2011, 06:21:15 AM
One thing I wonder about a fight, is how much emotion should you put into it? Should you put equal emotion with action, should it be all action and emotion only before / after?

I think that should really depend on the perspective of the fight as well as the context.  Is it a job?  Is the character a professional?  Or are they a rank amateur fighting for survival?  Is it one-on-one or a bar brawl?  Is it a mass-scale battle with multiple fronts?

I've been spending a fair amount of time writing brawls, gunfights and duels of sword, sorcery and pistols.  Different characters have different fights and have differing priorities.  My main fights quick and dirty, wanting to shut down the fight as quickly as possible.  He errs towards cold and calculating so the emotional content comes after wards.  On the opposite I have a duelist, also a drunken rake, that is usually more skilled than his opponents and takes great pleasure in toying with them.  Writing his perspective, I find myself lingering on his glee and rush of adrenaline.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on January 31, 2011, 08:59:38 AM
One thing I wonder about a fight, is how much emotion should you put into it? Should you put equal emotion with action, should it be all action and emotion only before / after?

I think that should really depend on the perspective of the fight as well as the context.  Is it a job?  Is the character a professional?  Or are they a rank amateur fighting for survival?  Is it one-on-one or a bar brawl?  Is it a mass-scale battle with multiple fronts?

I've been spending a fair amount of time writing brawls, gunfights and duels of sword, sorcery and pistols.  Different characters have different fights and have differing priorities.  My main fights quick and dirty, wanting to shut down the fight as quickly as possible.  He errs towards cold and calculating so the emotional content comes after wards.  On the opposite I have a duelist, also a drunken rake, that is usually more skilled than his opponents and takes great pleasure in toying with them.  Writing his perspective, I find myself lingering on his glee and rush of adrenaline.

I have a rather unique perspective on a fight, seeing as I've actually fought professionally in Mixed Martial Arts and Thai Boxing. Whenever I entered a ring or a cage I always felt a rush of emotion. Fear and excitement basically but as soon as the fight started there was nothing there. It is weird, but all you think about is finish quickly, finish quickly... I don't really think there was anything other than instinct. When a fight was over it was all emotion, if you lost you felt like crying, if you won it was just a surge of happiness and joy.

The reason I mention this is because when my teacher in college had us doing fight scenes he would always comment; 'You need to imagine what it would feel like to be in a fight. Aplin should be good at this' or something along those lines. Actually I found it really hard because to me... a fight was simply about go in, get out. lol. If I had to describe my perfect fight - it would be about 30 seconds long, end quickly and end simply. No heroics, just a simple strike.

Just so you know I'm not lying :P  ::) (http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs083.snc1/4566_85623099374_766789374_1677380_7312621_n.jpg)
(http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash1/hs453.ash1/24949_378844089374_766789374_3482792_6980431_n.jpg)

I guess an unplanned fight or a battle with weapons would be different, but I always found it funny how actually having a fight hindered me writing them! :D
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: The Mad Hatter on January 31, 2011, 03:44:30 PM
One thing I wonder about a fight, is how much emotion should you put into it? Should you put equal emotion with action, should it be all action and emotion only before / after?

I think that should really depend on the perspective of the fight as well as the context.  Is it a job?  Is the character a professional?  Or are they a rank amateur fighting for survival?  Is it one-on-one or a bar brawl?  Is it a mass-scale battle with multiple fronts?

I've been spending a fair amount of time writing brawls, gunfights and duels of sword, sorcery and pistols.  Different characters have different fights and have differing priorities.  My main fights quick and dirty, wanting to shut down the fight as quickly as possible.  He errs towards cold and calculating so the emotional content comes after wards.  On the opposite I have a duelist, also a drunken rake, that is usually more skilled than his opponents and takes great pleasure in toying with them.  Writing his perspective, I find myself lingering on his glee and rush of adrenaline.

Hah! This is a fun one. As an aside, I used to be the one your mother warned you about. Seriously. Bar room brawls, street fights, fights playing hockey. I won, and I lost. So I know a lot about fights.

Do you feel emotion during a fight? Yes. Can you waste time on it? No, not if you want to win. Winning fighters keep the emotion under control. If you let emotion control you, you'll end up loosing.

Again, do you have time for it? I can remember a guy taking a swing at me without warning. I didn't have time to be emotional, all I had time to do was fight. So your character may spend all of their time responding, and then puke their guts out afterward in reaction.

People who do a lot of fighting have to develop a layer of scar tissue over their emotions. If you fight a lot, you can't have doubts. The people who have doubts don't fight a lot, and when they do fight, they loose. Even if you know you are up against someone better than you are, and you know it, and he knows it, you don't have time for emotions. All you have time for is trying to win, because after all, even if he is better, he might make a mistake, or you might get a lucky hit in. I've had this happen, guy was way better than I was, but I hit first, and did enough damage that he couldn't fight properly.

A good way to loose is to go into a fight mad. You don't think straight when you are mad, and do stupid things. If I could, I tried to make the person I was fighting mad as hell. Oh the first bit after he lost his temper might be a bit rough, but someone who's furious makes a ton of mistakes. Making mistakes looses fights.

Cowards loose the fight twice. Once when it starts, and once when it ends. The emotions that a coward has to face can tear them apart in the aftermath of a fight.

Anyway, there's some observations from someone who you wouldn't have wanted to meet in a dark alley.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Tiffany Kysis Tackett on January 31, 2011, 03:54:52 PM
When I do use emotion in a fight scene, ie, the person isn't calloused to it, or something emotionally jarring just happened to influence them, they normally have to get saved, since they aren't thinking straight, and are making a lot of mistakes.  Usually they end up having to get saved from the situation, considering.

I've written a character who is cocky and loves toying with the enemy, and has that kind of thrill from being able to slap someone around like that.  I also wrote that character having too much fun during the fight, underestimating an opponent, and getting demolished because of it.  That also helped for a later battle, because he's sobered up a bit and is fighting seriously for the climax.  I should really pick up writing that book again....
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Dragonmuse on January 31, 2011, 10:56:06 PM
Great advice and astounding insight. Thanks for sharing.
I remember reading one of Janny Wurtz's novels in the Mistwraith series... not sure which one but the fight scene went forever. I think it was over twelve *yawn* pages. I remember searching for the end of the fight and putting the book down. Her English skills are brilliant but sometimes I feel her storytelling lets her down.
Recently I have watched some mediaeval re enactment fights. You are right. They don't last long. They are confused and not like Hollywood at all, but judging from the bruises and the cuts.. they have an authentic feel to them.

Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: The Mad Hatter on February 01, 2011, 02:42:02 AM
I remember reading one of Janny Wurtz's novels in the Mistwraith series... not sure which one but the fight scene went forever. I think it was over twelve *yawn* pages.

I gather it was a great cure for insomnia :)

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Mark Lawrence on March 08, 2011, 08:54:21 PM
OK... so three questions:

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?
2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?
3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

1. You really need to care who wins. (i.e. build your characters first)
2. Clunky mechanical detail
3. I've always been very impressed by David Gemmell's fight scenes.

Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on March 09, 2011, 10:49:06 AM
Probably my favourite thread on the forum - thanks for your insight Mark :)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: UnforgivingMuse on March 09, 2011, 12:07:30 PM
This has been a very enlightening thread.
I've only written three fight scenes in anger. Two are in my current WIP. Having all these insights should give me a better critical approach to editing those scenes.

So thanks.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Libertine on March 09, 2011, 01:16:39 PM
I am in the middle of writing a major battle in my WiP and it kind of stopped me in my tracks. My MC is sassy and cheeky but has had to learn how to use a sword. She's dealing with the emotional side of killing but for reasons I can't reveal is being driven on by a force she can't stop. I was actually worried that it was moving too quickly and I wasn't using enough technical stuff in it but reading through this thread has put my mind at ease. So, here's what I'm going to use, based on these comments:

1 Pace, emotion, reality checks, realism and enough to draw other characters in.
2 Not too much technical stuff, no longer than it currently is (I was thinking about padding it out a bit!) and hopefully make sure the reader isn't detached from the characters during the action.

3 With any luck and a bit of effort, maybe in a couple of years my stuff will appear in this bit   ;D

Thanks for all the information, what a fab thread, more like these please!!
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Overlord on March 09, 2011, 02:17:35 PM
OK... so three questions:

1. What makes a good Fight Scene?
2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?
3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

1. You really need to care who wins. (i.e. build your characters first)
2. Clunky mechanical detail
3. I've always been very impressed by David Gemmell's fight scenes.


Based on Mark's recommendation I purchased 'Legend' by David Gemmell :)

(http://www.zdistrict.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/LegendDavidGemmell.jpg)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Mark Lawrence on March 13, 2011, 12:13:36 PM
> Based on Mark's recommendation I purchased 'Legend' by David Gemmell

Astonishingly he wrote this book in 2 weeks after he had been diagnosed (wrongly) with terminal cancer!
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: The Mad Hatter on March 13, 2011, 03:57:15 PM
> Based on Mark's recommendation I purchased 'Legend' by David Gemmell

Astonishingly he wrote this book in 2 weeks after he had been diagnosed (wrongly) with terminal cancer!

Um, well, talk about motivation to get the book down. And then motivation to kill the doctor who'd messed up the diagnosis!

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Minesril on March 19, 2011, 11:34:17 AM
There's a good article on Derek Landy's (probably my favourite children's author) blog about fight scenes:

http://dereklandy.blogspot.com/ (http://dereklandy.blogspot.com/)

You need to scroll down a bit, though.  It's entitled 'Molly'.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: professional-liar on March 19, 2011, 07:22:24 PM
@ Minesril Have you read any of Derek Landy's books?  How are the fight scenes?
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Minesril on March 20, 2011, 08:43:15 AM
Well, I'm not a fighter.  I would go so far as to say that I'm someone who even tries to stay out of arguments; I'm not fond of causing physcial or mental pain to people.  So it might be difficult for me to judge!

However I absolutely love the Skulduggery books and the action is, as far as I can tell, really well done.  It's a good mix of different types of magic, old school weapons like swords, hand to hand combat, and Skulduggery even has a revolver.  (I think.)  People do get hurt, sometimes killed.  They even have a grumpy old man they go to to get their bones fixed!

Seriously, do yourself a favour and buy the first one.  And then the other four!
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Libertine on March 20, 2011, 07:48:07 PM
Minesril, thanks so much for posting the link, that blog post has just changed the way I think about fight scenes. Just the phrase about the bouncers having to be more violent than the other guy just to win really woke me up.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: professional-liar on March 20, 2011, 11:16:15 PM
Minesril, I'll definitely grab a copy.  I'm working on a combat driven YA work, so your suggestion is well-timed.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on December 10, 2014, 11:00:42 PM
Old thread, timeless topic. Why start a new thread if this one is still good?

I just watched the last James Bond movie for the first time, and once again I had myself thinking many times "people don't die that way!".
I am actually not a huge fan of violence in stories and really don't want to see all the gory details either in books or movies. But what I dislike almost as much as sensless mutilations in great detail is when a story treats fights to the death casually. All to often, we get the hero running into some enemies and he basically just waves his sword at them a few times and then enemies simply cease to exist. Nothing bad happened, nobody was in danger, nobody died.

This falls both under "whats makes good fight scenes" and "what makes bad fight scenes".

There are some cases in which a lucky hit, be it with sword, arrow, or bullet, makes a person drop dead on the spot. But that's rare. If a person doesn't fall dead instantly, dying happens gradually. Getting a thrown knife into the back can very likely lead to death. But a person won't turn around, take three steps, say something witty, and then drop dead. Or get hit by a bullet, run 15 minutes through the night, sit down for three minuts seemingly fine, and then suddenly fall over and be dead 10 seconds later.
If a hit does not destroy the nervous system, the person first needs to lose a lot of blood before death. First he will get continously weaker, then be unable to walk or stand, then fall uncoinscious, and only after some more time has passed actually die. Unless you have someone with healing magic showing up in the next 10 to 15 minutes, there's not a lot that could be done in a fantasy setting. But I really hate it in modern world and especially sci-fi settings when everyone starts mourning the dead, even though they should be using the next 30 minutes they still might have to get an ambulance or a medic or something for the person who just passed out.

And that's not just for the main characters, but goes for bystanders and minor enemies as well. Tapping someone in the chest with a sabre won't make the person die immediately. At that point, it really becomes a tricky game of trying a good balance between being semi-realistic and and sparing the audience the gory details. Having someone sneak up on a guard and silently putting a hand on his mouth and a knive into the chest is completely unrealistic, but I think there are not many people who really would want to know why said character know looks like he's on his way home from a double-shift at a butcher shop. Some degree of abstraction is both desirable and necessary. But I really don't like the idea of killing enemies with a thrown knife or a single arrow, and that guy just falls down without yelling for his buddies for help. There's a good chance he still has a couple of days before he dies from that wound If he dies.

Which brings me to my main point.
Yes, of course there is such a thing of not thinking of your enemies as people and justifying their deaths as deserved. But I think even experienced veteran warriors should at least aknowledge that they are entering a life and death situation in which it comes down to kill or be killed. No hero should be that great that he runs through a castle and "some sword waving to the left" and "some sword waving to the right" until he reaches an enemy with a name or impressive looking armor.
In a chaotic battle or a paniced flight, it's okay to have a character just lash out blindly and hit "someone" and not looking back to check what that strike actually did. But I really would prefer if every enemy would be treated as a major threat. If you have a super big badass hero, he can still be a walking death machine if he kills 10 enemies in a single battle. And that would be enough even for a really big and important battle in the story where the hero really can show off, because everyone else defeated maybe one or two enemies, and most people actually just died or were critically injured before they killed anyone. I think it's better to have a big hero fight fewer enemies and describe each of the fights, instead of just throwing some dozens or hundreds at him who die three at a time in the same sentence. (Movies are quite bad at this, but some videogames can be much worse, with literally over 1,000 kills in just 4 hours of play.)
There is one protagonist, who shall be unnamed here, who is stabbed in the back with a pitchfork by a boy of whom is only known that his name was Rob and that he owed two silverpieces to the owner of the tavern. And of course there are so many classic stories of big heroes who were hit by an arrow in battle or got stabbed in a tavern brawl or in their sleep. Even the greatest warrior hero should not run by enemies without paying them any real attention, unless he has supernatural powers that make him virtually immortal.
I really don't like to see "He ran past the two orcs and quickly finished them off with quick slices from his sabre". Either the hero just died some amazing swordplay or those two orcs are not dead and still behind him. In either case, I think the writer should go into more detail. If it's amazing accuracy, then describe that. If it's violent hacking that requires seven hits on the orcs to drop them to the ground, then describe that.
I think it's necessary because I am such a huge fan of carnage, but actually because I am not. If you have to have your character kill people in your story, then it should have impact and meaning. A character should not have a high body count just to make him look "cool". Killing people without a care is not "cool", that's insane. If the character kills, then the killing of people should be part of his personalty, have an impact on him, and occupy much of his throught. If you don't want your character to have to deal with such things, then make the character not kill.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: JMack on December 10, 2014, 11:31:42 PM
I like Yora's posts.  They always push for better.  A dose of frustarted/unhappy mixed with well-thought-out discriminating taste.

Yes, I agree.  From Star Wars to Bond to the LOTR movies, films and TV are filled with this.  I haven't noticed it as much in books.

While working on my current in-progress story, I found myself faced with an incredibly unrealistic situation if I continued as I'd planned.  All of a sudden, my main character also realized how stupid she was being and she completely RAN AWAY.  And hid.  It was exciting, because I've just not experienced up to now a character who made a decision I didn't expect.

Back to your point, there is a clear devaluation of life when we wave a wand and they all fall down.  The most satisfying stories for me are where it's hard.  (Though Star Wars and LOTR do get a pass.). If memory serves, the Bourne movies did this pretty well.  Bujold's Vorkosigan novels deal with injury, struggle and death quite well. 

Better stories! Let's write 'em.


Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on December 10, 2014, 11:58:24 PM
Star Wars does it quite cleverly with the laser weapons, because they not only cause killing wounds, they cauterise at them at the same time.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Roxxsmom on December 29, 2014, 01:15:36 AM
For me, they're quick (not dragging on too long), vivid without being confusing, and grounded deeply enough in a characters point of view that the emotions and perceptions ring true. Details about the mechanics of the moves tend to knock me out and bore me. Even an expert fighter accomplishes many things unconsciously. I think some writers tend to showcase their research or real-world expertise by tossing in too many exhaustive details sometimes. You can say he/she parried an attacker's thrust without describing the physics of how he/she did it.

I tend to lose interest if the description becomes cartoonish, replete with head butts and superheroish awesomeness. I want the sounds, smells, tastes of the battle, but I also want to feel what the character feels, whether it's fear, resignation, exhaustion, boredom or whatever. I don't really like it when combat is portrayed as amusing or heroic, unless it's a lighthearted, swashbuckling sort of story.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: SarahW on December 29, 2014, 04:51:55 AM
1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

As someone who prefers psychological thriller type stories, one that uses their wits. Such as battles of wills and book smarts.

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

In my humble opinion, one that relies to heavily on action rather than over understanding of the facts. For example I don't find simple good vs. bad with clashing swords satisfying.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

This I'm not sure, as I've mostly read not actioney stories (or the action doesn't rely on fight scenes very much.) Case in point: P.L. Travers, Katherine Patterson, Roald Dalh. Which is strange as he was actually a world war II fighter pilot. Maybe his adult fiction is different.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on December 29, 2014, 11:09:31 PM
1. What makes a good Fight Scene?

As someone who prefers psychological thriller type stories, one that uses their wits. Such as battles of wills and book smarts.

2. What makes a bad Fight Scene?

In my humble opinion, one that relies to heavily on action rather than over understanding of the facts. For example I don't find simple good vs. bad with clashing swords satisfying.

3. Who writes the best Fight Scenes?

This I'm not sure, as I've mostly read not actioney stories (or the action doesn't rely on fight scenes very much.) Case in point: P.L. Travers, Katherine Patterson, Roald Dalh. Which is strange as he was actually a world war II fighter pilot. Maybe his adult fiction is different.
Dahl was also an intelligence officer during WW II. He worked with and for Ian Fleming, and later did the screen treatments for You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, both written by Fleming. His short fiction Tales of the Unexpected has some rather macabre and chilling work in it.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on December 30, 2014, 11:45:53 AM
He also saw considerable action as a fighter pilot and was confirmed to shot down at least enemy aircraft, and probably a lot more. A lot more than an armchair general.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: jacobthomas on January 03, 2015, 09:25:30 AM
This has been a very enlightening thread.
I've only written three fight scenes in anger. Two are in my current WIP. Having all these insights should give me a better critical approach to editing those scenes.

So thanks.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: SarahW on January 05, 2015, 04:10:41 AM
Fight scenes have always been something I've been lukewarm about anyway. Like it's not the scene itself, but rather the why of the scene.

Its somewhat the kind, but the why matters more to me. Like
while not a fantasy, the Phantom had a duel with Clarisse's fiance at in the movie. Not sure if this is the same in the book.

Thus I've always been very leery about fight scenes. I think they could work.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on January 05, 2015, 01:29:57 PM
In movies and TV, most fight scenes actually bore me. But books are not immune to that either.

The reason is that the actual fighting is very often almost all effect but no narrative. With those fight scenes the only part that is important for the narrative and the character development is who wins it and who is still alive at the end.
I just read an Elric story in which Elric and his sidekick want to see the leader of a horde of barbarians. They get their horses, leave their city, and as they approach the barbarian camp, they get attacked by a patrol of a dozen sentries. The super-badass almost-immortal with the most powerful weapon in the world against a dozen unnamed "guards" he encounters on the road. This fight scene was completely pointless, because it was obvious how it will turn out. Elric wins without any trouble. At no point was there any question about who would live or die, win or lose, or how the outcome of the fight would affect either the hero or the plot.

There is an excelent article (http://angrydm.com/2013/05/four-things-youve-never-heard-of-that-make-encounters-not-suck/) on staging and handling fight scenes which adresses roleplaying games, but I think most of the points apply to writing stories as well. The most important one probably being the idea of "dramatic questions". Which are "what are our heroes currently trying to accomplish and will they succeed?"
With the scene I just mentioned, the dramatic question would be "Will Elric survive this fight and be able to continue his journey?". And since we know beforehand that yes, he will defeat them all without getting injured and not be slowed down at all, this is a scene that does not need to be told. In movies, there's always these scenes in which the heroes kill of a huge bunch of random enemy soldiers. The dramatic question is "will the heroes kill these nameless soldiers and reach the main villain?" And of course we know what kind of movie it is and that our guys are the heroes, so we know the answer is "yes". So nothing actually happens except blood and explosions. In a movie, these might at least look impressive, but in a book you don't get even that.

Counterexample: In one of his stories, Conan is fumbling through a pitch black dungeon below an ancient city to find his female companion who had just been snatched away from him. He is getting close to her, but runs into a huge tentacle beast that attacks him. The first dramatic question would be "does Conan survive this fight?" He is Conan, so we know he does. But there is more. "Can Conan kill this beast quickly enough to still be able to rescue the woman?" Now it's getting interesting. Because this is a Conan story and he loses a lot of friends and allies to terrible fates all the time. And as it turns out, this monster is really difficult to kill and Conan takes some really serious wounds from the beast and gets poisoned as well. We can still be sure that he will not die. But will the monster die? And he is still not done with it, how much more time will Conan lose here? And once he gets rid of the beast, will he still be in any condition where he can save anyone?
It's not a spectacular fight scene, but the things that happen during it matter. It's not enough to skip ahead to the end of the scene, when Conan will have won as we know he will. Because during the fight things will happen to Conan and the monster that will be important for the scenes that follow it.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: RaggaDruid on January 06, 2015, 09:14:17 PM
I think a lot about writing fight scenes has to do with understanding fighting... I practised fencing for some years...

Just a quick suggestion, check this youtube channel, it's by a guy that practices and teaches HEMA, and there are a lot of videos that have helped me to understand how certain weapons function, how a fight happens, how it ends, etc...

https://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria/videos
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on January 11, 2015, 12:17:23 PM
I just stumbled upon a really good article On Thud and Blunder (http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/on-thud-and-blunder/) by Poul Anderson. It deals with more things than just combat and some of the things he says are a bit outdated, but I think overall this is probably one of the best "quick" guides to all the most common mistakes people make when writing about combat and transportation in premodern worlds. For writers who are not also history nuts, I would recommend reading at least this one article, if nothing else.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: K.S. Crooks on January 11, 2015, 02:35:07 PM
For me a good fight scene starts with the reason for the fight. It needs to be something more than the people involved wanting to beat up/kill each other. There needs to be something more at stake other than their own well-being. A fight taking place when a bomb will explode in eight minutes has more tension than a fight where they can take all the time they want.

As for pace and length it depends on the type of fighting. For me a gun fight by the nature of the weapons should have a faster pace than a sword fight. Swords don't jam or run out of ammunition...neither do fists for that matter. It is also very hard to kill someone with one punch vs. killing someone with one shot (Indiana Jones vs. the Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark). The number of people involved also has a huge impact on length. Is it one-on-one, five-on-one, or ten vs. ten. Also do you consider a fight between two armies one scene or each individual clash between main characters one scene. Do many scenes together make a battle?

An author I like is Matthew Reilly. His novels have long battles that take place in several places at the same time, with many characters involved. There is always more at stake than the character's lives and the outcomes are unexpected for many of the characters.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: CameronJohnston on January 26, 2015, 10:36:11 AM
This video on reconstructed combat archery is a real eye-opener, and well worth a watch. The guy has some insane archery skills.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEG-ly9tQGk
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: JMack on January 26, 2015, 11:36:28 AM
I recall someone posted some fascinating videos of "real sword fighting" recently.  Nothing like the amazing tricks of archery.  More like: you thought it was Errol Flynn style dueling? No it was hammering and crunching.

Have been trying to locate the video links and the post, but can't find them.  Ring a bell for anyone?
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 05, 2015, 05:56:23 PM
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.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 05, 2015, 06:10:11 PM
Another great post @Yora (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=35236), lots of excellent points. It's been bothering me a little in the book I'm reading - The Legend of Eli Monpress - that one of the main characters' sole motivation is to have as many difficult fights as possible against the best fighters in the world, to prove himself to be the best swordsman alive. Just doesn't quite work for me, more or less entirely because of the points you've made there.

I think it's also worth pointing out that taking those different approaches and options instead of just the "go for the kill" every time can add a hell of a lot more variety to the action scenes of a novel. They can also be a great way to build up suspense, and when the character finally engages in a fight it can feel a lot more climactic. Not to mention it makes the character's actions a lot more intelligent!
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 05, 2015, 06:44:11 PM
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).
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: silvijanus on April 05, 2015, 08:51:15 PM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

Btw, Rome had tactic with replacements, like in basketball or hockey. One goes out, another fighter goes in. After a few minutes they swap again, getting back in bit more fresh while their enemy (most time barbaric or just not so organized) fight without a break.

Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 05, 2015, 09:35:23 PM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

Btw, Rome had tactic with replacements, like in basketball or hockey. One goes out, another fighter goes in. After a few minutes they swap again, getting back in bit more fresh while their enemy (most time barbaric or just not so organized) fight without a break.

Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)
Yep, just read a scene where that character was having a full-on swordfight for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. In reality that kind of fight would last minutes at most before both fighters collapsed in exhaustion... though I suppose you can always just say they have magical endurance  :-\
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: RussetDivinity on April 05, 2015, 09:48:07 PM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

I recently saw an adaptation of Henry IV, Part One that did this exactly right. The battle looked really chaotic, and then, stumbling away, bloody and exhausted, was Hotspur. By the time he ran into Hal for their fight, both of them had dropped their shields (which made me very happy, because a fair bit of the time people don't take into consideration how heavy shields are or how much it can hurt to have someone hit the piece of metal on your arm with another piece of metal), and their fight had at least two instances of both of them backing off to catch their breath for a second.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 05, 2015, 11:49:47 PM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

Btw, Rome had tactic with replacements, like in basketball or hockey. One goes out, another fighter goes in. After a few minutes they swap again, getting back in bit more fresh while their enemy (most time barbaric or just not so organized) fight without a break.

Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)
Yep, just read a scene where that character was having a full-on swordfight for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. In reality that kind of fight would last minutes at most before both fighters collapsed in exhaustion... though I suppose you can always just say they have magical endurance  :-\
I think I know which character you're talking about in the Eli Monpress books, and you need to read a bit further. All is explained. Believe me, it does make total sense.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 05, 2015, 11:58:50 PM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

Btw, Rome had tactic with replacements, like in basketball or hockey. One goes out, another fighter goes in. After a few minutes they swap again, getting back in bit more fresh while their enemy (most time barbaric or just not so organized) fight without a break.

Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)
Yep, just read a scene where that character was having a full-on swordfight for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. In reality that kind of fight would last minutes at most before both fighters collapsed in exhaustion... though I suppose you can always just say they have magical endurance  :-\
I think I know which character you're talking about in the Eli Monpress books, and you need to read a bit further. All is explained. Believe me, it does make total sense.
Yeah I suspected there would be some kind of explanation, but it's hard to be sure sometimes! The thing with these books is that even though a fair few things don't work all that well for me, they're a hell of a lot of fun to read so I don't actually mind that much.  :)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 06, 2015, 12:03:10 AM
Think about fatigue too, fighting is tiresome. Just look at any random UFC fight, those people are top athletes and trained to fight. After 5 minutes they are usually tired. In fights we are interested in the most (ancient and medieval time), battle can last for hours. Through all day maybe... plus armor is heavy, swinging the sword is not easy. If you want to show realistic fight then tiring factor should be considered.

Btw, Rome had tactic with replacements, like in basketball or hockey. One goes out, another fighter goes in. After a few minutes they swap again, getting back in bit more fresh while their enemy (most time barbaric or just not so organized) fight without a break.

Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)
Yep, just read a scene where that character was having a full-on swordfight for somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. In reality that kind of fight would last minutes at most before both fighters collapsed in exhaustion... though I suppose you can always just say they have magical endurance  :-\
I think I know which character you're talking about in the Eli Monpress books, and you need to read a bit further. All is explained. Believe me, it does make total sense.
Yeah I suspected there would be some kind of explanation, but it's hard to be sure sometimes! The thing with these books is that even though a fair few things don't work all that well for me, they're a hell of a lot of fun to read so I don't actually mind that much.  :)
I had a lot of the same feeling at times with them. It was Rachel's debut, and if you read her blog when she was first getting agented and published, she does admit that she made mistakes and she was learning on the fly.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: ultamentkiller on April 06, 2015, 02:59:51 AM
I agree with most of the above, but I think there's a couple things to consider.
While a fight scene may not realistically happen, as a writer, I feel like you have to think about what you gain from adding it anyways. For example, if you're trying to show a character's awesome warrior skills, then you need that scene. Or, if you're trying to show that a character kills first and asks questions later, a fight scene is vital.
While I love for a book to be realistic, if everything in a story was, where would the fun be? Also, if a writer isn't good at making the book exciting while keeping it completely real, then they should probably back up a bit.
Also keep in mind that while both sides have multiple goals, from my understanding, when you're in a fight things get crazy. Sometimes those goals fade into the background, and all you have left is the person standing in your way or preventing you from getting somewhere. For example, if you're a guard, when asked, your goal is not to kill the intruder. But when confronted by the reality of the situation, and the other guy may or may not be trying to kill you, the fear factor comes into play.
Of course, I've never actually been a guard or in combat, so maybe I'm wrong. But to put this in a modern-day scenario, if a guy comes into my house, most likely he's just a thief and doesn't mean any harm. Or, he could be a psychopath. I could try to fight him off until the police got there, or just let him do whatever and stay out of his way, but if he's crazy, I'm dead. So I would like to say I would kill him.
But let's say I don't. If I try to fight with him until the police gets here. What if he followed my above train of thought? He thinks that I'm trying to kill him because I think he's crazy, and so, in self-defense, he kills me.
The issue is uncertainty of the opponent. If you don't want a fight scene where they fight until the death, you have to make your intentions clear. Of course, depending on the character, the intentions that the opponent may be trying to show may not be understood.
In my opinion, a healthy mix of both types of fight scenes may be the better route. But I'm also not an actual writer, so take it for what it's worth to you.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 06, 2015, 03:18:08 AM
But to put this in a modern-day scenario, if a guy comes into my house, most likely he's just a thief and doesn't mean any harm.
That happened to me once...

When I was 14, I was at home alone, playing PS2 in my bedroom on the third floor of our house. Someone rang the doorbell. I didn't want to quit my game, so I leaned out of the window and looked down to see who it was. Some guy had parked his car next to our house and was standing on the pavement. I guessed he was a friend of my older sister—a couple of her friends had just learned to drive and they often came over to pick her up—so I ignored him and and started playing again. Couldn't be bothered going down two flights of stairs just to tell him she was out, he could call her if he was that bothered.
 
 I went back to playing. A few minutes later, I heard a couple of loud bangs followed by a crash. Paused the game and wondered what the hell was going on. Went downstairs, and stopped near the top of the final flight, down just far enough that I could see the front door. The door's window was broken, and it stood wide open. The guy stood a couple of paces into the hall, a brick in his hand.
 
 I said "What's going on?" or something like that.
 
 He said "Errr... someone just robbed your house. I'll get him, he went this way!" then turned around and ran out of the door.
 
 I followed, and the car I had seen earlier drove past. I walked to the pavement and watched it drive away—too far by that point to see the licence plate. I rang my family to let them know someone had broken into the house, then rang the police. Apparently the car was stolen but then returned later that day, the owner contacted the police after noticing that the mileage had jumped during the day (or something weird like that). I was the only witness, but couldn't identify the guy particularly well because he had been silhouetted. He had stolen several plasma tvs that day, the police said they thought he had a device that could sense when one was within a certain distance from him—we didn't even have a tv like that so he'd have been disappointed by our house!

 I wasn't even remotely scared at any moment of that, because there was no reason to be. I was a karate black belt, with lots of experience sparring with fully grown men who had trained for decades, and I had given myself the higher ground by stopping on the stairs. The other guy was clearly terrified by me appearing out of nowhere, and with my habit of jumping down the stairs from as high up as possible I could easily have knocked him out with a kick to the head if he had approached (and yes, those thoughts actually ran through my head at the time!).  :P

What matters to me is internal consistency, so you can get away with a lot if it doesn't contradict itself - though usually I like it more if there's a reason for something. So I'd prefer it if someone who is somehow able to fight for hours without dying of exhaustion has some kind of inner power, rather than that just being the normal way of things. The reason I feel that way is that that level of stamina and strength would change so many things in the world, so unless you've taken it into account people just sometimes have supernatural stamina and sometimes don't.

I think that people have far stronger self-preservation instincts than most people assume, and are much more likely to avoid a fight than jump right in - except when they're drunk of course. I do agree that a mix of the two would be ideal though, better than just one of the two.

Either way it's not a detail that makes or breaks a story for me, but it is something that I notice if it doesn't appear to make sense.  :)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 06, 2015, 11:23:30 AM
But let's say I don't. If I try to fight with him until the police gets here. What if he followed my above train of thought? He thinks that I'm trying to kill him because I think he's crazy, and so, in self-defense, he kills me.
The issue is uncertainty of the opponent. If you don't want a fight scene where they fight until the death, you have to make your intentions clear. Of course, depending on the character, the intentions that the opponent may be trying to show may not be understood.
In my opinion, a healthy mix of both types of fight scenes may be the better route. But I'm also not an actual writer, so take it for what it's worth to you.
Oh yes, that is why it's important to remember what your goal is. Because even in reality, people often forget that and accidentally start a new fight after they already "won". Which of course can make for an interesting story. As a writer, you need to know what the goal is. What the characters than actually do is on a different piece of paper.

There is a website called No Nonsense Self Defense, which I really like because it focuses mostly on understanding the nature and dynamics of violence and how to avoid it instead of telling you cool moves to be an awesome fighter. Types of Violence (http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/violencetypes.htm) is a good starting point. There is a lot to read there which really goes into fine details that probably for most stories should simply be ignored as they just bog things down. But as someone who actually doesn't like fight scenes and gets bored by them, I find it really useful stuff to approach fight scenes from what happens inside the fighters heads. If you want to explore the elements of violence beyond the swinging of swords and shoting of guns, I very much recommend reading it.

There is also lots of interesting stuff when it comes to violence against non-fighters, because that also is a lot more complex than most movies.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: silvijanus on April 06, 2015, 01:51:09 PM
About goals during fight... sadly we had war in my area so I know few people involved in it or just heard stories from random veterans. When it starts you just want to stay alive! All goals drop deep down in your mind... you don't fight for your country, ideals, whatever you just want to stay alive. Of course you try to move forward or flank or whatever action needs to be done, those are mini goals... I wanted to say Character goals are not first thing on his mind during fight. Things above counts for most of the regular people. Realistic but not good story material, I mean...stories love romantic versions of it, specially in fantasy.

On the other hand, few percent of people out there are born fighters. They feel natural and worthy during battle. Fortunately for writers, stories often evolve around that kind of people so you can give them that extra push of stamina, calmness etc. Still not sure about the goals though... but all of this may not be important that much, this pursuit for complete realism. They say "TV is not real", (books also) and there is a reason. What looks better wins vs. realistic approach that may slow down or break the pace of story telling... important thing to have in mind is "suspension of disbelief".

p.s.
One thing I don't understand in fight scenes are characters making jokes. In 90% cases totally stupid, annoying and not real.  ::)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Nyki Blatchley on April 06, 2015, 01:57:33 PM
Also, you can consider importance of military advisors in battle, although it might be an extra character which can break the storytelling flow. For example, who is greatest army leader and general of all time - probably Alexander, right? Alexander had a genius general on his side (cant remember his name at the moment, that also tells something (nobody remembers advisors or assistant coaches)) involved in all of his big victories. When he left him, Alexander started to lose... So ;)

I'm not sure who you're talking about. Alexander actually never lost a battle - the crunch came when he wanted to push on into India after his victory at Hydaspes - the army mutinied and insisted on turning back west. Alexander marched them back through a desert, possibly as punishment, and a lot died. He never fought another battle, although at the time of his death he was planning a campaign into Arabia, and possibly then to the western Mediterranean (which would have brought him against Rome before it had expanded much).

Alexander certainly had plenty of great generals under him, but he's usually considered the strategic genius of the outfit. On the other hand, his downfall (there are strong suspicions he was actually poisoned) was his political policy, which outraged the Macedonian old guard.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: silvijanus on April 06, 2015, 03:03:06 PM
I'm sure you are right, Nyki.  ;) I glimpsed a short article about it few days ago, probably not very informative. I wanted to focus attention on importance of assistants and advisors, it is realistic that some of them are better Generals and army minds then Alexander, or some other famous name. Virtue of a leader is to have them on his side, acting based on their advice with ego put aside. That's real world sometimes, writing a story that way might be complicated.

For example: we have an army general, central figure of battle chapter and maybe other parts of a story.
If we add 2 advisors, generals smarter then our No1 general... we just added 2 strong characters in the story. That leads to: who are they, maybe we want to learn more about them, are they loyal and how much, is there a chance one of them might plot to overthrown... lots of question in just a minute. So having 1 general, character that binds few roles in one figure is much more simple. Just an example how writer can cut the extra to tell the story in a better way.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Nyki Blatchley on April 07, 2015, 12:00:07 AM
A very good example of that was Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of the English navy that defeated the Armada. He didn't actually know a great deal about seamanship, but he was very good at listening to advice and knowing when to take it. He had loads of great captains under him - Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins and many more, none of whom had the social status to be put in command of the rest - and he used that talent to win. That contrasts with the Spanish admiral, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who also had little naval experience, but considered it beneath his dignity to take advice from underlings. The result was a resounding English victory.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 07, 2015, 01:20:35 AM
Some good points being made here about the goal of a fight, whether it's a battle or an individual one on one conflict, and that's the goal of it for the participants or the director of it. I used to do tae kwon do, and one of our instructors also taught self defence. He was a big man and that coupled with his martial arts knowledge (I think he was a 3rd dan black belt at the time) meant that he wasn't likely to be challenged by too many people, but even he advocated one thing in a self defence situation. You do whatever you can to get your opponent off their feet and once they're done, run like hell away. So, the goal in most one on one situations in the street, and I can't imagine it was much different many years ago to now, is that if you're attacked, is to put your opponent at enough of a disadvantage to buy you time to get away, not to kill them or permanently disable them. On the other hand you've got characters like Inigo Montoya who are just out for revenge on a certain individual at any cost.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 07, 2015, 10:43:16 AM
Some good points being made here about the goal of a fight, whether it's a battle or an individual one on one conflict, and that's the goal of it for the participants or the director of it. I used to do tae kwon do, and one of our instructors also taught self defence. He was a big man and that coupled with his martial arts knowledge (I think he was a 3rd dan black belt at the time) meant that he wasn't likely to be challenged by too many people, but even he advocated one thing in a self defence situation. You do whatever you can to get your opponent off their feet and once they're done, run like hell away. So, the goal in most one on one situations in the street, and I can't imagine it was much different many years ago to now, is that if you're attacked, is to put your opponent at enough of a disadvantage to buy you time to get away, not to kill them or permanently disable them. On the other hand you've got characters like Inigo Montoya who are just out for revenge on a certain individual at any cost.
That reminds me of something my old karate instructor said once. Before showing us how to counter and disarm someone attacking using a knife, he said that if anyone threatened him with a weapon for real he would always surrender immediately. He's the European chief instructor for that karate union so it's not like he doesn't have enough skill, it's just that there's far too much risk involved.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 07, 2015, 11:02:18 AM
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".
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 07, 2015, 11:03:07 AM
(wrong button)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: JMack on April 07, 2015, 11:46:08 AM
This thread has been very interesting, and useful already!
In my monthly story entry (not yet posted), I had characters going through a castle to confront an evil wizard. Then I realized, no, they just want to get out of there! Screw confronting the wizard. He'll probably win!
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 07, 2015, 03:03:32 PM
One series that really surprised me in its approach to fighting is Kane. Kane is an immortal who has been around since the dawn of mankind and plenty of people consider him to be the most evil man who ever lived and who has killed thousands of very powerful warriors over the ages. And he is one of the worlds best swordsmen, but also very careful when it comes to fighting. Not quite sure why he is constantly running away from enemies who outnumber him, but perhaps he could be killed even though he doesn't age and is afraid of what awaits him in the afterlife, or perhaps he doesn't want to suffer endless torture if he gets overwhelmed and captured. The stories I've read didn't say, but he does bleed and gets weakened by injury, so he tries to avoid getting hit by a blade like everyone else. And even though he is ancient and incredibly skilled, he always tries to play it very safe and still gets beaten up quite badly.
And he is supposed to be the best in the world.

When Kane fights, it usually consists of a lot of running away when he is outnumbered or injured. He has a hard time fighting two enemies at once and doesn't try to take on three if he can in any way avoid it. And Wagner wrote him and his enemies in a way that explains to the reader what they are trying to achieve right now, and how they plan to take out an enemy while minimizing risk to themselves. I find that to make the stories a lot more interesting than if he would just walk through a sea of enemies with their weapons bouncing off of him and cleaving through them with no effort.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: silvijanus on April 07, 2015, 04:03:22 PM
This thread has been very interesting, and useful already!
In my monthly story entry (not yet posted), I had characters going through a castle to confront an evil wizard. Then I realized, no, they just want to get out of there! Screw confronting the wizard. He'll probably win!
I hope this is not based just on my post. Running away would make them deserters. Cold feet, survival instinct, just wanting to stay alive is normal reaction during battle... Fear and stress should have minimum impact on veterans and well trained units special units (like Royal Bodyguards for example).  Lots of details can be involved, my advice is to keep it simple... just don't make a hero riding skateboard down stairs.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: JMack on April 07, 2015, 04:54:54 PM
This thread has been very interesting, and useful already!
In my monthly story entry (not yet posted), I had characters going through a castle to confront an evil wizard. Then I realized, no, they just want to get out of there! Screw confronting the wizard. He'll probably win!
I hope this is not based just on my post. Running away would make them deserters. Cold feet, survival instinct, just wanting to stay alive is normal reaction during battle... Fear and stress should have minimum impact on veterans and well trained units special units (like Royal Bodyguards for example).  Lots of details can be involved, my advice is to keep it simple... just don't make a hero riding skateboard down stairs.
Skateboard... Bicycle.... Hmmmm
No, stop yourself. No more story ideas.  >:(
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Raptori on April 07, 2015, 05:04:12 PM
This thread has been very interesting, and useful already!
In my monthly story entry (not yet posted), I had characters going through a castle to confront an evil wizard. Then I realized, no, they just want to get out of there! Screw confronting the wizard. He'll probably win!
I hope this is not based just on my post. Running away would make them deserters. Cold feet, survival instinct, just wanting to stay alive is normal reaction during battle... Fear and stress should have minimum impact on veterans and well trained units special units (like Royal Bodyguards for example).  Lots of details can be involved, my advice is to keep it simple... just don't make a hero riding skateboard down stairs.
Skateboard... Bicycle.... Hmmmm
No, stop yourself. No more story ideas.  >:(
Better to just put them all into one single story I think, otherwise you'll have far too many WIPs (or WsIP?).  ;)
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 08, 2015, 01:22:30 AM
Some good points being made here about the goal of a fight, whether it's a battle or an individual one on one conflict, and that's the goal of it for the participants or the director of it. I used to do tae kwon do, and one of our instructors also taught self defence. He was a big man and that coupled with his martial arts knowledge (I think he was a 3rd dan black belt at the time) meant that he wasn't likely to be challenged by too many people, but even he advocated one thing in a self defence situation. You do whatever you can to get your opponent off their feet and once they're done, run like hell away. So, the goal in most one on one situations in the street, and I can't imagine it was much different many years ago to now, is that if you're attacked, is to put your opponent at enough of a disadvantage to buy you time to get away, not to kill them or permanently disable them. On the other hand you've got characters like Inigo Montoya who are just out for revenge on a certain individual at any cost.
That reminds me of something my old karate instructor said once. Before showing us how to counter and disarm someone attacking using a knife, he said that if anyone threatened him with a weapon for real he would always surrender immediately. He's the European chief instructor for that karate union so it's not like he doesn't have enough skill, it's just that there's far too much risk involved.
I think Seth also advocated that. He was mainly directing his comments along the lines of if someone accosts you wanting to molest you and they're not armed, then do what you can to get them down, then run. We did an exercise once where one participant would grab your wrist and you had to react. Most people lost that one, because they tried to get free. The first thing you were meant to do was shout as loudly as you could right in their face to shock them and then use your free hand to slap or claw at their face, this makes most people let go, then you run. We found the female members of the class were really good at slapping, we tried this out on the pads and some of them had very powerful arms.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Nyki Blatchley on April 08, 2015, 06:16:14 PM
One series that really surprised me in its approach to fighting is Kane. Kane is an immortal who has been around since the dawn of mankind and plenty of people consider him to be the most evil man who ever lived and who has killed thousands of very powerful warriors over the ages. And he is one of the worlds best swordsmen, but also very careful when it comes to fighting. Not quite sure why he is constantly running away from enemies who outnumber him, but perhaps he could be killed even though he doesn't age and is afraid of what awaits him in the afterlife, or perhaps he doesn't want to suffer endless torture if he gets overwhelmed and captured. The stories I've read didn't say, but he does bleed and gets weakened by injury, so he tries to avoid getting hit by a blade like everyone else. And even though he is ancient and incredibly skilled, he always tries to play it very safe and still gets beaten up quite badly.
And he is supposed to be the best in the world.

When Kane fights, it usually consists of a lot of running away when he is outnumbered or injured. He has a hard time fighting two enemies at once and doesn't try to take on three if he can in any way avoid it. And Wagner wrote him and his enemies in a way that explains to the reader what they are trying to achieve right now, and how they plan to take out an enemy while minimizing risk to themselves. I find that to make the stories a lot more interesting than if he would just walk through a sea of enemies with their weapons bouncing off of him and cleaving through them with no effort.
It's many years since I read the Kane stories (I loved them, and they've been quite an influence on me) but I think he could be killed, though he healed better than mortals.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 09, 2015, 12:38:50 AM
I don't know if anyone here has watched it, but there's a TV show called Kingdom about an MMA gym. In an early scene in that one of the lead characters encounters a couple of 'home boys' cruising around during his morning run and they nearly run him off the road. He remonstrates, they get out of the car and one of them pulls a gun. He's a trained MMA fighter, as well as a super villain (it's played by Frank Grillo, who is in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), so he takes them both out with his MMA skills, leaves them laying on the road and continues his run. The incident comes back to haunt him later in the show, so that's another consequence of a fight. I have to admit the fight scenes in the show are very well choreographed. I'm also wondering if Grillo really has MMA experience, because he played a similar character in Warrior as well.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: JMack on April 09, 2015, 12:46:39 AM
Speaking of MA, something I don't follow, there's Gina Carano in Haywire. Love that movie.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Rostum on April 10, 2015, 06:14:08 PM
Yora I feel has nailed it. A while bak. When someone is likely to die you don't fight unless there is much to gain or much to lose. If you have to fight you want to make sure you have the advantage of numbers and ground and you don't want to get drawn into a fight if you are likely to hang for it.
However if someone tries to unsheath a sword at close quartets sticking a knife in them before it's half drawn may be your best option.
Fighting two (or more) is never something you look to do and if you have to do so you break out of that situation and don't get back into it.

Fighting in lines or shield walls works because the whole is greater than the parts.
 You don't look to kill anyone you look to stay alive and keep the men at you're shoulder unharmed eventually if all goes well there is less of them than you and then you work their flanks until you can encircle them, if they are silly enough to let you. I suspect that usually one side took enough hurt to withdraw as no one is looking to die.

I have no real idea what a fight to the death is like. I do have 20+ years steel weapons combat, mostly reenactment and would like to think that gives me a little insight  into how you get out of a fight and live to tell the tale.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 10, 2015, 07:20:08 PM
Fighting in lines or shield walls works because the whole is greater than the parts.
And this is something pretty much every movie ever gets completely wrong. I can't really think of any movie right now in which a big battle without firearms is shown with any degree of realism. The only scene I can think of that comes close is in The Two Towers when the orcs are breaking through the big door of the castle. What the defenders inside the door are doing comes pretty close to how battles were actually fought. Using the remains of the door as big shields for the guys in the front, and the rows in the back bracing them from behind, while they try to poke at the orcs outside with spears through holes in the wood. And the orcs are trying to push the defenders back through sheer force, while also trying to stab at their faces with spears.
Here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMhVh6edP_k) you see the attackers making a suicidal and completely uncoordinated charge, while the defenders form a totally crappy attempt at a shield wall. There is nobody behind the frontline guys to brace them against the impact, and it happens exactly what you would expect to happen. They fall over.

But almost any other time, you get all these armies lined up as a single force, and as soon as they get close to each other they completely break formation with everyone individually throwing himself into a sea of whirling blades. Do you sometimes watch such battle scenes and wonder "how can they keep fighting without getting stabbed from behind, and who has the discipline to run into that blender?" Well, the answer is they can't and nobody does. It looks completely suicidal because it is.

(http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110201113026/uncyclopedia/images/0/04/Spartan_shield_wall_300.jpg)
Here we have a pretty good demonstration how it is supposed to look like, from a movie that doesn't even have the slightest pretense of being anything resembling realistic. But in an actual phalanx battle, this is how they would stay throughout the whole fighting.
There is a nice moment in The Hobbit 3 where the dwarves put up a really cool looking shield wall that is extremely well armored. And then those silly elves just jump over them into the orc horde and the dwarves say screw it and also abandon the whole maneuver. It is like the director saying "Hey, I know there are many of you who would like to see a somewhat realistic fight scene! Well, screw you, I won't give you any!"   >:(

And you never ever run horses straight into this. Because you and your horse will 100% be dead. How it works is that the cavalry gets as close as they can without getting into reach of the spears, then throw their own spears, and all riders simultaneously turning their horses around and get away. Then they get new spears and do it again, over and over, each time maybe taking out a few defenders with a lucky throw that didn't get blocked by a shield. A bit more advanced is to do the same thing with lances that are longer than the spears of the defender. Then you don't have to throw your spear at the enemy (who could very well throw it back at you), but can use your speed and weight to have your lance make a very heavy impact on the shields. But you still all have to make the last minute turn before being impaled. Even in the late middle ages, when knights were very well armored, the horse was still vulnerable to some degree. The impact of a spear from a charging horse is pretty heavy, so you have to have a second and third row behind the first line of defenders, just to keep the ones in the front from being pushed over.
However, the defenders will still have some few small casualties and when you keep it up long enough (and actually can keep it up that long), eventually some individual defenders might think that the next charge might get them stabbed with a spear and try to run away. And then they are usually all very dead. A running man on foot has very little chance against a rider coming from behind and that's when you get total slaughters. If you know you are not going to win, its best to move backwards slowly and in order to leave the battlefield. With some luck your enemies will not pursue you. But if you turn and run, you're probably dead.

The Battle of Hastings took all with the Normans charging the defenders shield wall about a dozen times with no real effect. The Normans just couldn't get their enemies scared enough to run away in chaos, so instead they pretended to flee, so that their enemies charged forward in chaos. Then the riders simply turned around and all the defenders who were spread out over half the battlefield collectively thought "Oh Shit!" And that was the end of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Justan Henner on April 11, 2015, 04:27:00 PM
I agree with most of the above, but I think there's a couple things to consider.
While a fight scene may not realistically happen, as a writer, I feel like you have to think about what you gain from adding it anyways. For example, if you're trying to show a character's awesome warrior skills, then you need that scene. Or, if you're trying to show that a character kills first and asks questions later, a fight scene is vital.
While I love for a book to be realistic, if everything in a story was, where would the fun be? Also, if a writer isn't good at making the book exciting while keeping it completely real, then they should probably back up a bit.
Also keep in mind that while both sides have multiple goals, from my understanding, when you're in a fight things get crazy. Sometimes those goals fade into the background, and all you have left is the person standing in your way or preventing you from getting somewhere. For example, if you're a guard, when asked, your goal is not to kill the intruder. But when confronted by the reality of the situation, and the other guy may or may not be trying to kill you, the fear factor comes into play.
Of course, I've never actually been a guard or in combat, so maybe I'm wrong. But to put this in a modern-day scenario, if a guy comes into my house, most likely he's just a thief and doesn't mean any harm. Or, he could be a psychopath. I could try to fight him off until the police got there, or just let him do whatever and stay out of his way, but if he's crazy, I'm dead. So I would like to say I would kill him.
But let's say I don't. If I try to fight with him until the police gets here. What if he followed my above train of thought? He thinks that I'm trying to kill him because I think he's crazy, and so, in self-defense, he kills me.
The issue is uncertainty of the opponent. If you don't want a fight scene where they fight until the death, you have to make your intentions clear. Of course, depending on the character, the intentions that the opponent may be trying to show may not be understood.
In my opinion, a healthy mix of both types of fight scenes may be the better route. But I'm also not an actual writer, so take it for what it's worth to you.

Sorry I'm a few days behind this thread, so I haven't read the responses to this before I'm posting, which I really don't like to do, but I am going to anyway, because I really liked this post.

I loved Yora's points, but we shouldn't forget that a crucial element in this is how disciplined, and how well trained the character is. Thinking of the guard that only needs to defend, or the bandit that only needs to distract and get away, these are very true, and should be applied to the intelligent/experienced guard or bandit, but for the rest, just because it's logical, doesn't mean it's the response the inexperienced, or the 'character caught unaware' will have.

Anyway, back to reading the rest. I'm hoping the point hasn't already been made, but I'm assuming Yora has since he's a pro at this.

EDIT: It was the very next post, brought up by Raptori.  ;D Also, I want to add that I clicked this...


Here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMhVh6edP_k) you see the attackers making a suicidal and completely uncoordinated charge, while the defenders form a totally crappy attempt at a shield wall. There is nobody behind the frontline guys to brace them against the impact, and it happens exactly what you would expect to happen. They fall over.

expecting a bloody fight scene, and was completely surprised when I clicked over to an ad about baby ducks. Know your audience youtube.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Yora on April 11, 2015, 05:23:17 PM
I loved Yora's points, but we shouldn't forget that a crucial element in this is how disciplined, and how well trained the character is. Thinking of the guard that only needs to defend, or the bandit that only needs to distract and get away, these are very true, and should be applied to the intelligent/experienced guard or bandit, but for the rest, just because it's logical, doesn't mean it's the response the inexperienced, or the 'character caught unaware' will have.
Yes, things rarely turn out as planned. But when that happens, it should happen to inexperienced warriors who are then getting appropriately beaten. Or when a supposedly great warrior does it, he should not win anyway. The ones who fight terribly should be the ones who lose. Showing in detail how a character fights terribly and still wins without any trouble is something I really hate to see in fiction. Admitedly something that most people won't notice, because almost all fight scenes are badly scripted in that way.
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: M.S OLNEY on April 13, 2015, 01:34:20 PM
1. Pacing. If it's not exciting then what's the point?
2. Too much description breaks up the flow. In my mind a fight scene should flow fluidly and make a readers heart rate pick up.
3. Bernard Cornwell. (not a fantasy writer, but no one beat his battle scenes).
Title: Re: Fight Scenes...
Post by: Elfy on April 14, 2015, 12:34:53 AM
As Yora said in a real fight things rarely turn out as planned, unless it's a WWE fight, then things turn out exactly as planned.