Writing out combat sequences can be as daunting as they are fun. I’ve been currently working on Chapter 3 of the comic which involves fight scenes with multiple combatants. Let me tell you, it’s no easy feat. Trying to keep in mind who’s who and where’s what and when who is doing what to whom is well…….a challenge. I love it.
Ever since I was small, I’ve had a fascination with weaponry and combat (really dirty, gritty realistic combat). Through out the years, I’ve done a lot of reading, movie watching ( for fight choreography…which is far from accurate most of the time) and have gathered many comrades that make combat their hobby( mostly people involved in historical reenactment). I also went to massage school.
How the hell does being a massage therapist make one better at writing combat, you might ask? …. I might answer, being intimately involved with the human body, its strengths, vulnerabilities and how its systems work is excellent for understanding that…her leg can’t bend that way or its going to take more than one swing of that sword to take off his head.
But enough about that….Let’s talk about the writing. Penning combat is kind of a weird pairing of game day strategy and a choreographed dance. First you must decide how many combatants you have to work with ( if you don’t write combat often, start small). Second, think ahead. You need to know who is going to win and why (does the winner have superior numbers, strength, agility or is the character just plain damn lucky)? Make the fight mildly to more than unfair to the protagonists. This heightens the sense of impending doom and draws the reader in with every sword stroke or gun shot. Next, do your research. Learn about the human body and its limitations. (This is helpful even if your characters aren’t quite human.) If animals are involved, study the closest living example of your character, all its attributes and flaws.
Decide what styles of combat all your characters will be using. Don’t pick something you can’t describe clearly in words. Also, be sure that the fighting styles mesh well ( don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, unless getting the knife wielder killed is your plan). I find youtube quite helpful in choosing and researching styles. Keep it real and believable. Make friends with competent combat professionals and ( the really fun part) get some hands-on training. However, you don’t have to be a 4th degree black belt in whatever martial art to write an awesome scene.
Once you have achieved a good knowledge base its time to get out the pen and paper. Keep in mind that every action has a reaction.
The thug throws a kick at the hero. Our hero may have noticed the thug shifting his weight and therefore expects the kick, so he decides to catch the kick and bury his knife into the thug’s hamstring. The thug screams and tries to free his leg before the hero can do more damage, which unbalances him causing his weight bearing foot to slip. The thug goes down wrenching the knife and the leg from the hero’s grasp. Without any need for encouragement, the hero lands a solid kick into the thug’s ribs. And so on….
Writing out a combat sequence, I suppose, could be likened to playing a video game with turn based combat. Everybody takes turns. It’s very much a well choreographed dance, so get your practice in and smooth out all the missteps. The combatants are dance partners with the intent to do bodily harm.
Oh and one last thing….Let the blood flow!… Most altercations(especially when the odds are stacked), are extremely dangerous. It is highly unlikely for everyone ( on the protagonists’ side) to come out without a scratch whilst everyone else (antagonists and by standers) lies in bloody pieces(or vice versa). A good amount of writers love to use scarred characters. Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how those scars came about; have the whole fight scene written out for flashbacks ( providing they are combat related).
In conclusion, have fun with your writing. If you have multiple combatants, its like playing tag. Each character gets an action or reaction and a turn. Do your research. Watch videos and make friends with people who have legitimate combat experience. If you need to keep all of the dance party straight, get out the cork board and the pushpins with little name tags. Story board if you need to ( for those of you with artistic talent). Ask lots of questions of your sources and characters and above all, don’t sweat the small stuff….or more appropriately: Take each axe swing as it comes!