We talk a lot of concept in this blog, but very little action. I enjoy learning along with you how to do write and how to do it well. But, it’s not very often I give you practical examples of what these concepts look like when put to practice.
A friend of mine once wrote a post called “A Lesson In Battle”. It was actually a brilliant method of how to conceptualize a battle and the steps it takes to perfect it.
This ties well in with my post from yesterday about the worth of a life: in order for a battle to have significance the characters must have significance. Ways of establishing a character are as simple and easy as giving the reader an affinity to their existence such as newspaper article or tv add you mention with them featured. It can even be as overt as a separate written scene where the character’s purpose is explained. There are many ways to subtly engrain the concept of a character in the reader’s mind without them ever appearing physically in the story.
The most infamous and iconic battles take place between arch enemies and are immortalized less by the outcome of the battle and more by the content of their dialogue. Movies are remembered primarily for their “quotable” lines. Phrases spoken that are so catchy or so epic that you go around saying them for a week.
Your dialogue defines your battle scene.
Even though I can explain the characters and their backstory by simply using the dialogue without even the reader knowing anything about either, it is 80% more effective for the reader to know the characters already. For example: if I were to write a battle scene that took place between Gandalf and the Lord of the Nine Ring Wraiths, or one between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, you will already know the characters so the fight scene will mean significantly more because of that. However, if I was to write a generic battle scene about two of my personal characters, let’s say Hercule Savoor and Apostasy. You knowing next to nothing about either of these characters will cause this battle scene to carry much less weight.
If you already know the characters, not only does the fight mean more, the dialogue does as well.
Your characters are your story.
The third and final point I want to make is that although fight scenes are generally immortalized by the dialogue, (the characters must already be in place for that to even be true), the actual fighting needs to be done well otherwise none of that counts for anything at all.
In other words, all the effort you put into surrounding your battle sequence with things that make it memorable will be basically worthless if the battle sequence itself is not extremely well done. Simply because that’s not what people remember the most doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a lot of effort into it. Why? Because I guarantee you that if you don’t put effort into it the fight will be the thing people remember most for its lack of quality, descriptive nature, engaging themes, and realistic emotions and actions. For an action writer, for a fantasy or fiction writer, the effort we put into describing exactly what happens in a fight scene or battle sequence is what sets us apart from every other genre.
Most people don’t think about a fight scene, most people have never been in a legitimate fight. I can guarantee you that 99% of the world has never been in a genuine sword fight; at least the current populace. What does that mean practically? That means that you are going to be the only way they read about this or know about this kind of thing. So the more detail you give, the more descriptive you are, the more exact and realistic you are with what takes place, the more enthralling the scene will be for your readers. This is what hooks people on fantasy, this is what makes people come back and read an action novel over and over again, this is why the bestseller list is polluted with so many fantasy novels, fantastical novels, action and adventure, and thriller books.
Make a fight scene as good or better than it’s surrounding elements.
I hope you learned something from my techniques and methods of how and why to write.
As always, thanks for reading.
–the anonymous novelist