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Writing Fight Scenes with Punch

This month for Writing with Rae, I’ve been asked to provide tips on how to write an awesome FIGHT SCENE in your novel.

First thing’s first! Do your research and learn the vocabulary. If you’re characters fight with swords, you better know what a “parry” is. If hand-to-hand-combat is more of your character’s style, know the difference between a “roundhouse” and an “uppercut.” Learn your weapons and make sure they fit well with your character. You should know a broadsword is heavy and cumbersome and requires tremendous upper body strength to wield.  Rapiers are light and swift and rely on a lot of leg work. You’ll also want to know what era these weapons were used and what modification have developed over time. You want weapons that fit well within your novel’s worldbuilding.

You will need to be versed in fighting styles too. A knife fighter will stab and slash quickly multiple times until an opponent falls—there is no once and done in true knife fighting. Different swords require different fighting stances. Do your research—knowing is half the battle! (catch my GIJoe funny?)

Lastly, don’t overload your fight scene with technical terminology. Just because you know what a full tang on a blade is doesn’t mean you should talk about it in your fight scene. More than likely, your reader couldn’t care less. It’s knowledge you should know, but don’t show, unless of course it has a specific purpose within your storytelling.

Now that you know what you’re talking about, let’s discuss verbs.  Action scenes require action verbs. Make them strong and one-syllable heavy: “block,” “shove,” “crush,” “slam,” “punch.” Like short sentences, quick verbs support the quick pace of a fight scene. Don’t forget about verbs that give the weight of the fight, both physically and emotionally. During the fight does your character “fear,” “defy,” or “gloat?” What about pain? Does it “sting,” “burn,” “shoot?” Get in your character’s head AND body.

You’ve got research & words. It’s time for some tips in not letting your readers get KO’d. You need to grab their attention and keep them in the ring. Keep the stakes high! Give your hero a worthy adversary. If the opponent is not a legitimate threat, then you run the risk of losing your reader’s suspension of disbelief. You also don’t want to write a play-by-play! Watching a fight scene and reading a fight scene are not the same. Documenting every punch, kick, and roll makes for a tedious read. Finally, be sure every fight scene moves the plot forward. Something must change as a consequence of the fight. If the scene before and the scene after still makes sense without the fight scene in between, then get rid of it.

Now it’s time to dive deeper. A successful fight scene happens out of the character’s head. Trust me, they aren’t thinking about how they feel about fighting their opponent. There’s time for that before and after, but not during. Introspective characters would get killed in a real fight. You are allowed to add verbal exchanges though. Readers don’t care for lengthy fight descriptions, so mix it up with dialogue. What words are exchanged between your character and his or her opponent?  

A successful fight scene also utilizes all of the senses! Sight is the easiest, but don’t ignore the others. Besides, who doesn’t love onomatopoeia? “The blow KNOCKED the brute’s head into the brick wall with a SMASH and his body fell with a THUD.” Also include environmental smells, touch, and taste.  Try to avoid the word “felt.” It’s usually a sign you are beginning to “tell” instead of “show.”

What about a battle scene? Most fights are frenetic, but battles are outright chaotic. Your job as the author is to make the scene clear to your reader without bogging him or her down with too much detail. Make sure you have mapped out the environment for your knowledge. Battle scene will have far more clarity when the orientation of buildings, water, trees, etc. are consistent. Contradictions lead to confusion.

Also be sure to avoid flowery words, similes, and metaphors. The last thing you want to do is slow down the action by not being straightforward and specific. Avoid passive voice.  Allow your characters to interact within the environment.

Another great tip is to utilize “found objects” and opportunity within your fight scene. What resources are available when your character is disarmed? Which opponent on the battle field will your character target? What happens when your character reaches a fallen comrade? 

If your battle is massive and epic, think about giving multiple perspectives from characters amongst the battlefield. And be sure you have done your research on basic battlefield maneuvers and strategies.

Congratulations! You’ve written a fight scene! I appreciate you being a part of Writing with Rae.  You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @RaeHardingbooks to receive notice of upcoming #WritingwithRae posts!

If you would like to learn about a specific writing topic or technique, drop me a suggestion in the comments! See you next month!

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Outlining: The Seven Point Structure

I recently began a monthly Twitter event beginning the last week of each month called #WritingwithRae where I share topics on the writing craft. The first topic is my favorite outlining technique call the Seven Point Plot Structure:

  1. Hook
  2. Plot Turn 1
  3. Pinch 1
  4. Midpoint
  5. Pinch 2
  6. Plot Turn 2
  7. Resolution/Falling Action

Many pantsers believe plotting stifles creative juices, but plotting is a great way to prevent writer’s block while still allowing flexibility for those who need it. The outline is just the skeleton–how you add the muscle is up to you! Outlines are blueprints or roadmaps. Having one keeps you in the right direction. It doesn’t mean you can’t deviate. Brilliant ideas do not come to us simultaneously. Let your outline be freeing and elastic.

The first Plot Point to outline is the Climax/Resolution. THIS is what your story is about; it all leads to this moment. This is where the plot and characters collide to form the end of the story. The hero fights through the climax and either wins or looses. Either way the conflict is resolved. The resolution is a series of small scenes showing how the world has changed after the conflict.

After outlining the Climax and Resolution, move onto the Hook. You know where your story is going, now it’s time to figure out where your story starts. The trick to figuring out your hook is to move from the opposite state from where your story ends. For example, a selfless character at the end may begin as a selfish character in the beginning. This provides an arc throughout the plot.

Your hook sets up the hero in his/her ordinary life. This is the moment before the story begins, the scene that occurs right before the inciting incident and the hero’s immediate reaction.

The second part of your hook reveals the conflict, the problem disrupting this ordinary life. You should plan your hero’s reaction to this conflict, the action the hero takes thereafter, and the consequences of that action.

After outlining the Hook, move onto the Midpoint. This is the center of two states—where your characters moves from reaction to action. The Midpoint is usually (not always) in the middle of Act II (if the Act I, II, III structure works for you). The protagonist usually receives new information that changes his or her perception of the conflict.

This new perspective changes his or her commitment in the struggle against the antagonist. On the flipside, the protagonist could gain a broader understanding of the danger involved and his or her motivation for achieving his or her objectives may turn.

The protagonist’s experiences inside the “new world” builds up into a crisis. At this point in the story the hero no longer reacts, but becomes proactive—there is a reversal in action.

After outlining the Midpoint, it’s time to outline the First Plot Turn. The part of the story moves from the beginning to the midpoint and introduces the conflict. The first Plot Turn might also be known as the “Call to Adventure” or the “Confronting of New Ideas.” The hero might meet new people or make new discoveries. Alice’s decision to follow the White Rabbit is an excellent example of the First Plot Turn.

The hero’s life is disrupted by the conflict, thus a change in trajectory begins. This usually begins the end of Act I. The hero will have to chooses to engage or not.

Next we outline the Second Plot Turn. Similar to the first Plot Turn, the second Plot Turn moves your hero from the midpoint of the story to the end. The hero must obtain the final piece of the puzzle in order to succeed. This is where they receive the last element in moving their success from TRYING to DOING.

Most times the second Plot Turn involves the hero finding the power within, even if he or she doesn’t know it, and then taking action. The hero grasps victory in the jaws of defeat.

It’s time now to outline the First Pinch. This is the event that forces the character(s) into action. In the first Pinch peace comes to an end. Something goes wrong and it’s usually because the bad guys attack. Many times the villain, or his or her influence, is introduced in the first Pinch Point. The hero’s life changes due to the consequences and pressure is applied.

To get the best use of your first Pinch Point, escalate the conflict and force your protagonist to make tough choices. If the hero wants to achieve his or her objective he or she must engage. This is the first crisis your hero encounters within the “new world” and it’s build up leads to the Midpoint of your novel.

At last we outline the Second Pinch. This is right before the story’s central conflict. The full weight of the pressure rests on your characters and hopelessness sets in. Plans fail, mentors die, and bad guys win. All seems to be lost.

Defeat is hurdling toward your hero like a torpedo and the hero experiences his or her “darkest moment.” Despite this, or because of this, the protagonist pushes forward. Your hero has no way out, but through the complications, through the consequences, and through the escalations. At times the second Pinch is bittersweet, as often there is a price to pay.

And that’s it! Once your outline is put in order you can work on your world building, round out your characters, and thread in your subplots. If you want to go more in depth with your understanding of this outlining technique, Dan Wells, American horror and science fiction writer, did a lecture that can be found as a five-part series on YouTube. I highly encourage you to check it out! You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC430F6A783A88697


It’s Up!

Ep. 3 Peer & Professional Critique

It was an absolute pleasure speaking with Natalie Lockett from Write Away Pod about peer critique groups. She also interviewed Meg Trast from Overhaul My Novel about professional critiques. If you are a new writer or a seasoned writer with no experience in critique partners, I highly encourage you to check it out!

You can listen to the full podcast here: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/9009164

You can learn more about Natalie Lockett and her podcast here: https://www.natlockettwrites.com/write-away-podcast-1

And you can learn more about Meg Trast here: https://www.overhaulmynovel.com/

My critique partner April Jones can be found here: https://thepathtostory.com/

My critique partner Justin Siebert can be found here: https://justinmsiebert.com/

And my critique partner, Daniel Reece’s short story in Memphis Magazine can be found here: https://memphismagazine.com/fiction/gronklin-trouble/

Enjoy!

Write Away Podcast

In the summer of 2018 I participated in #CPMatch, a Twitter event hosted by Megan Lally in which CP-searching writers can pitch to other like-minded authors in an effort to find a perfect critique partner match. This introduced me to several fantastic and up-and-coming authors. One such author I had the pleasure of working with is Natalie Lockett. She recently debuted her Write Away Podcast available on iTunes and Spotify. Her first episode, Braving Querying: Tips, Tricks, & Tech for Querying Writers, delved thoroughly into the querying process with author Patrick Bohan and QueryTracker.net creator, Patrick McDonald.

Natalie recently approached me about participating in her upcoming podcast, Peer & Professional Critique airing the first of April, in which she will interview me and my regular writing group about the various aspects of both peer and professional critiques. I’m excited about speaking on this topic, having been the recipient of Revise and Resub’s December giveaway of a 10-page edit by professional editor Elizabeth Buege, as well as a monthly critique by my peer writing group.

For more information on Natalie Lockett visit: https://www.natlockettwrites.com

For more information about CP Matchmaker visit: http://meganlallywrites.blogspot.com/p/cp-matchmaker.html

For more information about Revise and Resub visit: http://reviseresub.com/

For more information on Elizabeth Buege visit: http://www.elizabethbuege.com/  

What I Read in 2018

FEB.

  • 👍 The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • 👍 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • 👍 A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • 👍 The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

MAR.

  • 👍 A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
  • 👍 Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  • 👎 Immortal Life by Stanley Bing
  • 👎 Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • 👎 Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
  • 👍 Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

APR.

  • 👍 Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • 👎 The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
  • 👍 Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  • 👍 Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

MAY

  • 👍 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • 👍 The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

JUN.

  • 👍 The Walking Dead Vol. 1 & 2 by Robert Kirkman
  • 👍 Saga Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • 👍 A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  • 👎   The Outsider by Stephen King 
  • 👍 Night of Cake & Puppets by Laini Taylor

JUL.

  • 👎 A Feast of Crows by George R. R. Martin
  • 👎 Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  • 👍 Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

AUG.

  • 👍 A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  • 👍 The Diviners by Libba Bray
  • 👍 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • 👍 Mistborn by  Brandon Sanderson
  • 👍 The Final Empire by  Brandon Sanderson

SEP.

  • 👍 A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin
  • 👍 The Hero of Ages by  Brandon Sanderson

OCT.

  • 👍 Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • 👎 Fallen by Lauren Kate
  • 👍 La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • 👎 Torment by Lauren Kate
  • 👎 Passion by Lauren Kate

NOV.

  • 👍 Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
  • 👍 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

DEC.

  • 👍 Dark Matter by Blake Crouch