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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The art of writing fight scenes

Most of my stories are pretty tame and don't require me to write much in the way of fight scenes, although HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES has a a couple of brief scuffles I had fun with. I was recently asked to speak at an RWA meeting for the CT chapter. They asked me to discuss 'realistic fight scenes' because of my back ground in martial arts. Having attained the rank of Black Belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, I suppose one could assume I know a thing or two about fighting.

Since I couldn't teach everyone about martial arts techniques in the brief time I had to present, I decided to give tips on the right questions to ask.

1) Who is your hero/heroine fighting?
Make your villain a formiddable foe. Give him/her a special talent, weapon, or power that will give them an edge over your main character. We love to see our H/H as an underdog who has to pull out all the stops to overcome the villain. It must appear that your H/H cannot win against such a powerful foe. Then when he/she comes back from the edge, we can really cheer them on.

2) Why is your H/H in this fight?
What is at stake? Are they fighting to save the world, a loved one, each other? Are they fighting for a principle or is it life and death? This will determine the intensity of the fight. Give them big stakes! The bigger the stakes, the more impact your scene will have.

3) Where did they learn to fight? What kind of training do they have?
Military guys--Marines, Rangers, Navy Seals--they are trained to kill or be killed. They will not hesitate to take a life if theirs is threatened. They fight ruthlessly with precision, control and purpose. They think nothing of breaking bones, dislocating joints or slitting a throat if it serves the mission and saves the life of an innocent. They may have a moral quandary about it later, but in the moment, they are killing machines.
Cops, however, are taught to 'protect and serve.' They will use a weapon--gun, taser, nightstick--rather than engaging in hand-to-hand combat, although they are quite capable. They will use joint locks and seize and control maneuvers to capture their man. They are ethically and morally bound to saving lives, and will kill only when absolutely necessary.
Martial artists and street fighters will be adept with weapons--sword, stick, nunchucks, etc. Match your weapon with your your character. A woman will not tend to use a sword--which would be heavy. She will learn to use a staff or sticks. She might learn to use a knife, and will have to be seriously trained to kill without hestation--think Ziva David from NCIS

4) This leads me to the difference in the way men and women fight differently.
Women will tend to defend rather than attack. They will try to keep their opponent at a distance, knowing that they are at a size and strength disadvantage in most cases. Women will rely on their wiles, outsmarting or out thinking their enemy. They will throw objects to fend off an attacker, are more likely to kick or bludgeon rather than use their hands. They will use whatever is at hand, including nails and teeth! Meowww!

Men are more agressive and direct. They are ruled by their testosterone, pride and a need to conquer their enemy. They will attack and have no qualms about the consequences of their actions. Even at their own peril. We love them for their courage and applaud their recklessness because it shows that they are willing to sacrifice for what is right.

Lastly, make your fight scenes real by employing the five senses. Feel the pain, smell the sweat and fear, taste the blood, see the fog that comes over your eyes when you are punched so hard you hear bells and see stars. Give enough detail to paint a picture, but try not to bog down the action by including too much. Keep sentences short and crisp. Tighten your prose. Use vivid language and active voice, word choices that reflect the tone of the scene, and verbs that bring your prose to life.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hey Gang

Okay, so I'm a writer. I've been writing forever, but just started crafting Young Adult fiction this past year or so. I discovered that writing in first person was where my strongest voice came through and I had stories pouring out onto the page once I got going.

When I started writing fiction about five years ago, I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn about the writing craft and the world of publishing, so I joined some writers groups and started the long process of working toward publication. Although I'm as yet unpublished, I feel like I'm really close. It's just a matter of getting the right story in front of the right person at the right time. Sounds simple enough, right? I figure I have time and perseverance on my side. I also have some great stories to tell.

My own youth is filled with amazing tales of teenage angst, drama and more than a few narrow escapes with destruction and mayhem. Stay tuned for upcoming real life stories that will curl your hair and leave you wondering how I ever made it to a happy, healthy, adulthood.