By Steve Weddle
At the moment I am writing this, 27,873 fiction blog posts in the last 365 days have been devoted to discussing the writing of sex scenes.
Coming in a close second is the fight scene.
As Dave is the self-appointed DSD expert on fictional sex (see his earlier posts), I’ll take a shot at fight scenes.
Mostly so that I can deduct this month’s $93 innerweb bill, I researched fight scene writing.
Here are some tips I found >> Use as many kicks as you do punches. Have the fight move from one room to another. Always use at least one weapon. Vary sentence length. Only use short sentences to keep the action quick. Pause after a punch to describe the scenery in order to slow the action.
Heck, you could read pages of these tips and feel like you’re really learning something. I don’t know how helpful it is to your own writing, though. Or to mine.
What I’m thinking often happens is that writers want a fight scene, so they choreograph some moves. They write the scene, not the character.
I’ve read stories in which the protagonist, as the page turns from 73 to 74, magically picks up the ability to fight for a couple of pages. This might come as a shock to many in the noir community, but most private detectives are not seventh-degree black belts. They’re not former Army Rangers who have retired to a small town to fight their bad dreams and alcoholism.
Not to get into Dave’s specialty of fictional sex, but remember that Elvis Costello song, “Mystery Dance,” with the line: “So both of us were willing but we didn’t know how to do it”? Why is it that everyone in noir is a good fighter? Don’t tell me it’s just the genre. That’s a crap answer, and you know it.
Maybe the reason is that writing fight scenes is fun. Active. A nice break from all that exposition junk and placing clues around and having to write a convincing explanation of how your protagonist knew that the colonel was the real murderer just because he’d gone to Notre Dame with the victim’s brother.
If your protagonist is a stand-in for you – whether you’re the reader or the writer – the fight scenes are fun. Punching someone in the nose with no consequence. Let me tell you, you pop someone’s nose back into his skull, there’s gonna be some blood.
You know what happens in most fights? They end up on the ground. At the dojo where I trained, we spent a considerable amount of time working with Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, a style of fighting pushed by the Gracie Family who knew a thing or two about ground fighting. How many fights in that novel you just finished ended up on the ground?
I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong. I’m certainly not saying that I know which is which. But I’ve written a few fight scenes that just don’t quite work. And I’ve read some like that, too. Too long. Too many people. Too much standing toe-to-toe.
If the first rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club, let's make the first rule of fight scenes that we talk about fight scenes. OK?