How to Write Combat
A blog by ♠ Aldrin ♠
Hello, hello, hello my little chocolate and lemon muffins! Welcome to another blog, and I bet you have tried to write combat once or twice. It’s tough, isn’t it? You imagine what it is like in your head, and it’s so cool! The clanging of steel, or the hard punches, and awesome dexterous combat moves! In films and shows, it’s brilliant to watch Light saber duels, Kung Fu fights, or Captain America getting his soppy butt kicked in by Bucky. But when writing this out on paper, it’s a different side of the coin completely. On the screen, combat is fast-paced and flowing. But putting it on paper, it is sensationally tough because you need to structure the words so that they flow like a river, otherwise you get a really repetitive and slow fight scene like two ten year olds thinking they’re the Ninja Turtles. However, do not fear, Aldrin is not here! He is in front of a computer screen somewhere whilst you read this… So…on that note, let’s get started with this!
As I said, the most important thing is to let your words, sentences, and syntax flow. Most commonly, what I see is people saying “He swung his sword violently, but Crotax blocked it. Crotax then counter-attacked, but Everdine stuck his sword in Crotax’s throat.” That… just sounds boring. The key is to not use “then” at all; using “then” breaks up your ebb. “Then he did this. Then he followed with this. But then his ene-“ ohhhh just make it stahhhp! The other way I have seen combat done in writing is making it really vague. So it might be nicely written, but no detail has gone into it. “She swung her daggers backwards and forwards through her enemies, as if she was dancing their deaths and misery.” Well that’s all nice and good, but how is she killing them? By doing the cha-cha-cha? It’s just bland, and doesn’t get me fired up to read on.
So how do you keep this constant movement of words? How do you structure them? For most of this blog, I am going to use the Batman vs Bane fight scene in the sewers from The Dark Night Rises movie as an example for teaching you how to write combat scenes. If you haven’t seen that film yet… why not? It had better be a good excuse! Anyway...It’s one of my favourite fight scenes in all of movie history, and I’ll put a link at the bottom to the video. And…I won’t go on a rant why Batman got beaten down (FISTS UP!!! PUT YOUR FISTS UP, BATMAN!!) Let’s just get to it already! So my first important tip is to talk about every sense you can. Sight, sound, feel, smell. The usual, but keep it in mind! For instance, “The sounds of Batman’s blows echoed through the chilling air of the sewer. Each one having the force of two concrete bricks clashing as he hammered at Bane’s steel-like bones.” Detail, it’s all about detail, people. As much as you can pack in. Even go as deep as to say what the characters in combat are thinking. Is their morale dwindling? Are they in excruciating pain however still keep on going because they have to? Just cram it alllll in!
Now, tip two is kind of an odd one, but it works. Don’t keep the focus on your two or more combatants. Pan the screen out, what detail is going on around them? As the fight scene in The Dark Knight Rises shows, “Bane’s low life grunts watched the two of them exchange blow for blow, blankly staring. So too was Cat Woman, but she was rife with horror as an expression of sorrow glazed over her face, comprehending what she had done.” This just keeps it more interesting, with what the other characters are doing, are saying, or are thinking about this fight that is going on. Or even write about how these two characters are perhaps effecting the environment around them. Are they breaking down trees? Cracking the concrete underneath themselves? Good fighters always keep tabs on their environment around them, and may even use it to their advantage. That’s a good point actually…
I’ve had a brain wave! Always keep the combat diverse and different. Don’t have it as a constant direction of hitting, blocking, and parrying. Change it up! Get creative! Again, combatants always use the environment to aid them in battle, so throw some of that around. Such as “Bane clambered down the slimy chain, clanking and shimmying down to the second floor, where Batman lay in dismay.” Also, if you can or want to, have some dialogue. Whilst in real combat, you never really talk, but real fights are boring and I hate boring fights. So wherever you can, put in some nice dialogue. Reason being is because a one-to-one brawl is a very close time between two people - eye contact, physically harmful exchange of contact, and extreme emotions only aimed at the other. Make the dialogue intense, emotional, clever or conversely, deep and meaningful; perhaps all at once, if you think you can do it effectively. It can just add more depth to each of your characters, and understand what they both feel about each other. For instance, “Bane stood over Batman as he lay helplessly on the chilled metal floor, his menacing and masked face pierced Batman’s eyes as he spoke with rage “The shadows betray you, because they belong to me!” What that expression of speech can tell me is that Bane is enforcing his superiority and Batman is helpless to stop him. It's just showing the shred of emotion and bitterness, as if the furious punching didn’t do that enough.
Now the last part of this blog, is how to write mass battles. There maybe two main characters that are in a clash in the midst of this greater scaled conflict, but remember to keep in mind what is going on around them. Keep an eye on what is happening in your battle, who is winning and who is on what side. For instance, when the armies first clash, describe what it’s like when that mass of bodies first collide. “From the north side of the hill came the thunder of hooves as the Empire rose from the brow, their glorious armour shining in the sun. The bandits stood in awe and fear as the men’s cries of thirst for blood raged through the valley, spears and swords high in the air to fire up their blood. Soon, they charged with all their gallantry and punched through the bandit ranks with the force of a typhoon, as bandits were broken from heavy horses smashing their bones and the men atop of them cleaving their swords right through their enemies’ flesh.” And once that battle is over, finally, remember to describe the environment afterwards. What has suffered at the collision of these two mighty armies?
So that concludes my blog for today. Much longer than usual, but I had to tell you every bit I can give to you. So the next time you write a fight scene in your book, remember to describe the environment, the thoughts and feelings of the combatants, dialogue if you can, and to always give as much detail as possible! Each set of punches, kicks, slashes, etc. must have their detail described through a minute scope. But not so much that the battle just goes on for page after page. Always change the direction while fighting is going on.
Now go, my muffins! Go out there and write the best fight scene you can! And I’ll be here… still just at a computer screen… Cheerio! And Corn Flake!
And oh yeah, here’s Batman vs Bane:
Thanks again to our daring movellian ♠ Aldrin ♠ for writing this blog post & designing the brilliant banner.