Welcome back, dear readers!
We’ve got a special treat for you today. One that has the muse dancing in her chair, waving her pen around like a sword, and humming the Xena the Warrior Princess theme song. Oh yeah, that’s right, we’ve got Rayne Hall visiting today to give us a sneak peak into her awesome Writing Fight Scenes Workshop. And she’s agreed to talk about my favorite lesson… location, location, location. So read on and take a journey into Rayne’s Fight Scenes workshop and…
The Writer’s Secret Weapon: Location
To make a fight scene interesting, place it in an unusual venue. What’s the quirkiest possible location in your novel?
How about a sauna, a laundrette, a playground, a morgue, a potter’s workshop, a lady’s boudoir, a cow shed, a minaret, a sculpture gallery, a stalactite cave, a theatre’s prop store room, a sewage tunnel or a wine cellar?
What features are there that the fighters can jump on, leap across, climb up, swing from, duck under? What items can they topple or toss? The more creatively you use the space, the more entertaining the scene becomes.
Staircases work well because the fighters can stand on the steps, they can run or leap, they can stumble, fall or tumble, and maybe slide down the banister. They can also use the stairs to move from one location to another, which is useful in prolonged entertaining scenes. To make your fight scene stand out, make the stairs unusual in some way. Perhaps they’ve been freshly washed and are still slippery, or maybe they are so dilapidated that some boards are missing.
In a long fight scene, the fight can move right across the terrain. This adds variety. Try to arrange it so the climax of the fight happens in the most dangerous place – at the edge of the cliff, at the top of the tower, on the narrow crumbling wall.
The terrain also helps to make your fight scene realistic. As soon as you mention what kind of ground the combatants are fighting on, the scene gains authentic flavour flavour. What’s the ground like: Persian rugs? Concrete? Lawn? Uneven planks of splintered wood? Hard, firm, soft, squishy, muddy, wet, slippery, wobbling, cluttered, sloping? I suggest mentioning the ground twice: once to show how it feels underfoot, and once to show how it affects the fight. Perhaps your heroine slips on the wet asphalt, or stumbles across the edge of a rug.
To keep your fight scene plausible , consider how large the space is. How much room do the combatants have to fight? How high is the ceiling? What obstacles restrict the space?
For example: The hero is a warrior, used to swinging his sword in a high arc. Now he must fight indoors, where the ceiling is too low to raise the sword overhead. How will he cope?
Most staircases are too narrow for big sword swings, which can add interesting difficulties. In medieval castles, spiral staircases were almost always built so they favoured right-handed defenders. The person coming down had room to swing the sword-arm, while the person coming up had not. This makes an interesting challenge for the hero fighting his way up, or for a left-handed defender.
Spatial restrictions make the fight scene authentic, plausible and interesting.
SHOW THE LOCATION BEFORE THE FIGHT
During the fast action of the fight, there’s no room for describing the setting. This can be confusing for the reader. To help the reader understand the location, show it in advance. If the plot allows it, place an earlier scene in the same venue. Alternatively, let your point-of-view character check out the terrain immediately before the fight starts.
Here are some famous fight scenes from the movies which use the location creatively.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxWA4GPtM6Q (Robin of Sherwood)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0JYNznbL0Q (Jackie Chan)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8UlKifnGZo (Kill Bill 1)
You can study them for inspiration. Enjoy!
If you’d like to discuss these clips, or to tell us about the location for your fight scene, or if you have questions about fight scene writing, leave a comment and I’ll reply. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rayne Hall writes dark fantasy and horror. She has published more than twenty books under different pen names in different genres, and her stories have earned Honorable Mentions in ‘The Years’ Best Fantasy and Horror’. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and teaches online classes.
Even if you’ve never wielded a weapon, you can write an exciting fight scene. Rayne will show you how, in her workshops on ‘Writing Fight Scenes’.
The next workshops are:
March 2011: www.celtichearts.org/workshops.html
June 2011: www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=303