Combat Writing 101

Hello everyone! I just want to pause for one second before I even get started and thank God for the soul that was saved during our concert Saturday night. I wasn’t feeling well, I’ve been down with head congestion and stuff; but I asked God to allow me to do my best for Him, and I see the reward. You can’t tell from my writing, but I’m ecstatic! 

Here’s a little background on today’s post concept. About a year ago I started a joint blog with two of my best friends that was supposedly devoted to the subject of “writing” exclusively. During that period, my co-blogger, Stephen wrote a series called “A Lesson Battle”. I’m going to borrow a few of his concepts in this post, where I’ll be explaining how to write a good combat scene.

The important thing to remember about writing any kind of combat is that it is real. Every other section of your story can conceivably be completely fictitious. But, no one will believe or be interested in unrealistic, poorly written combat. Now, there are action and fighting heavy books which can easily get old quickly, and there are action and fighting heavy books that compel the reader to hang on every word. 

The difference is in the descriptiveness of the combat. It’s critical to be overly descriptive in battle sequences, but it is devastating to be overtly descriptive. The best combat sequences are balanced in between a simplistic action render and an intensely picturesque painting. Vague is never vogue. It kills combat to simply tell what happened without telling how; to be overly descriptive is to tell what, how, and why things happen as they do.

There are three major methods of combat writing: vague, simplistic, and comprehensive. 

Vague is the most obscure and difficult to follow. Vaguely combat focuses on the weapons of the combatants nearly exclusively and moves through action at approximately 4 times the pace in which it would have actually occurred.

Simplistic is the most commonly used mode of describing action sequences and is a tool to be imputed to certain areas of combat, not a mandate to be enforced upon the whole. Simplistic combat writing will not only focus on weapon movements, but character movements as well, specifically focusing on balance and footwork, then some surrounding and atmosphere to help the reader step into the scene. Simplistic takes occurs at twice the pace the scene would in real life.

Comprehensive combat writing can be described as holistic. It is the culmination of everything that needs to occur for the reader to see the combat: footwork, weapon movement, speed, and direction; surroundings, climate, sky movement, and time of day. But, it also adds so much much more in the fact that it gets inside the head of the characters and discovers their motives and drive. Things said and done are motivated by the emotions of the combatants or lack of it. Comprehensive combat writing occurs at nearly half the pace the scene would take in real life.

Comprehensive is by far the most enticing style of combat writing. However, in excess it can get tiresome to read, this is where the simplistic combat writing can come into play. Simplistic has a place in reprieve of the comprehensive depth. Vague has no place whatsoever. In order to produce the most effective combat content, the action and thoughts need to occur within a realist time frame and at realistic pace.

Perhaps tomorrow or the next day I’ll give you a sample of what these styles of combat writing look like so you can compare them to your own. But, for today, decide what style you want to write, how it will effect your story, and keep the reader engaged whatever you do. Combat can immortalize or destroy a story, so make it good. And whatever you do, in everything you do, have a point and a purpose. A purposeless and pointless combat is vague and a waste of time to both write and read. Find your balance, find your purpose.

The less distractions we have in our writing, the more professional and compelling it will be. Then we can give our message in the story to a captive audience, ready and willing to receive it.

As always, thanks for reading, and reach for the next rung on the ladder of excellence.

–the anonymous novelist

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