May 19, 2019, 07:44:58 AM

Author Topic: Fight Scenes...  (Read 18600 times)

Offline Yora

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #45 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.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2015, 06:02:06 PM by Yora »
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #46 on: April 05, 2015, 06:10:11 PM »
Another great post @Yora, 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!
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Offline Yora

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #47 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).

Offline silvijanus

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #48 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 ;)

Offline Raptori

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #49 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  :-\
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Offline RussetDivinity

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #50 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.

Offline Elfy

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #51 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.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #52 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.  :)
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #53 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.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #54 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.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #55 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...

Spoiler for Hiden:
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.  :)
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 03:19:45 AM by Raptori »
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Offline Yora

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #56 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 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.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2015, 12:05:09 PM by Yora »
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Offline silvijanus

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #57 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.  ::)

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #58 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.

Offline silvijanus

Re: Fight Scenes...
« Reply #59 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.