We’re Going to Talk About Fight Club Part 1

Over the last few weeks I’ve been asked a few times about how I get my ideas for the fights that occur in my books. I’ve also seen a few blogs that deal with the subject, leading me to believe that there are a lot of unsuspecting characters that some writers are about to have assaulted in the name of literary endeavour.

People all have their own ways of thinking about new fights or action scenes, but for this post we’ll assume anyone else is wrong and go with how I do it.

Before you write a fight scene there is one thing that you need to be aware of. Real fights suck. I’m sorry to all of you who think that real fights are somehow a cross between Jackie Chan and a UFC fight, but they’re not. They’re normally fought by people who have no idea what they’re doing and they’re normally dull, insanely stupid and not worth bothering with. Normally alcohol is involved. This does not make you a good fighter.

If you really need to see a real fight just go to Youtube and type in ‘Man punches…’, then the noun of your choice and then sit back and wonder how human life has actually managed to not implode with stupidity yet.

From every fight I’ve ever been in or seen, there’s one prevailing truth. They’re over quickly. Either because someone gets a lucky punch, or because after a few punches, the participants are far too tired to continue. I’ve seen two grown men, clearly very angry at one another, start slapping each other like a Three Stooges sketch, because they’re too tired to actually continue fighting.

Every Saturday night in Southampton is another unnecessary pie fight.

There’s one other thing about real fights. In your mind you may have the idea that someone gets a kicking and at some point they bounce back to life and dish out a thrashing to the thug in question. This doesn’t happen. Life is not the end of the Transformers cartoon movie.

You got the the touch, you got the power…

So, when writing fights you’re going to want to make them sound interesting. No one wants to read every fight if it’s “I punched him once, he fell over, I moved on.” You can only really use that once, maybe twice before it gets dull. So, you’ve gotta mix it up a bit. Lee Child is excellent a this, his fights are normally short, sharp yet still exciting. But his main character, Jack Reacher, can hit people once and move on as he’s the size of a small car.

So writing fights in a realistic manner is something I don’t usually do. I usually tweek that realism until it gets to a point I’m happy with, and for that there’s a multitude of places you can go to get inspiration. Asian cinema is fantastic for this, and there are a few american films that have some great fights in. Anime is also a great place to find interesting ways to fight, especially is you’re using non-human characters. But as for telling you what I recommend you watch, well, that will have to wait until next week.

If you’re writing about vampires (not so much the sparkly kind), Blood the Last Vampire is a film you should watch. Not the live action thought. No one should do that.

In the mean time, here’s some links that you should be checking out.

Bea’s Book Nook has a Spotlight on Crimes Against Magic.

Ciara Ballintyne has a great interview with me on her blog.

Both of which are worthy of your time to go and have a read.

This week I plan on getting more of Born of Hatred done, and I have a new story, a Steampunk Fantasy, something I’ve never written before. I”m currently at that exciting point where I’m making notes. I’m quite excited about writing it, and one day I may actually tell people what it’s about. That it’s for now, so until next week, have a good weekend.


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Posted on May 24, 2012, in Born of Hatred, Crimes Against Magic, Interview, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Fight sequences are tricky things to manage, its one reason I like working fictionally with knives and swords . There’s so much you can do with it, but finding the right words and sequences so that its not OTT is a fine line. I don’t know if you’ve read them but I love David Gemmell’s sequences, they’re punchy, they have great motion and for me, they give me what i want.

    • David Gemmell’s fights are some of the best I’ve ever read, especially involving weapons. He also does very good “one man against many” fights. He’s one of my favourite writers.
      My main problem with fights are ensuring they’re just realistic enough to be entertaining, without being so realistic that they become dull. And keeping them interesting each time.

  2. The classic suspension of disbelief vs. real life isn’t fun to read about – sometimes tricky to balance. I’ve not written many fight scenes yet, but they’re a staple of most genres so thanks for the solid tips and ideas.

    Now I must go a try out the feasibility of those moves on my inflatable doll…

  3. I really dislike writing fight scenes, and try to keep my conflicts cognitive more than physical most of the time. When I do try them, they usually end up people rolling around in the dirt, pulling hair and biting. What can I say? I prefer below the belt maneouvres.

  4. To be honest Krista, thats how most fights go. LOL I do remember my Sparring days with Ninjitsu, I was knackered after four or five minutes.

  5. Yes! This is a great post! I had to spar while in karate…fight never lasted very long and for the newbies it never was that amazing to behold. lol
    My own fight scenes? Hmmmm…I haven’t written that many to be honest. Not sure why.

  6. I haven’t written any fight scenes in my WiP yet but they’re something I’m learning mostly from the books I read as I’ve never seen one (and hopefully never do!) in person. You’re right though, I can’t see people getting up after a beating and being full of energy like they are in some books hehe. Adrenaline counts for something, sure, but I guess in anything supernatural you get to have a bit of an extra boost for characters to make things seem more “super” in other places too 🙂

    “..then sit back and wonder how human life has actually managed to not implode with stupidity yet.” <–I wonder that often 😉

    • Adrenaline does count for something, but it’s similar to when in movies when the hero gets shot and they just shrug it off. I don’t think that actually happens.

      I wonder if often too. Most days in fact. 🙂

  7. Great post Steve, something that doesn’t get researched as much as it should. Supernatural fighting aside, where anything goes is one thing, but real fighting is as you described it. It’s all about lack of energy and a reluctance to be hurt and lots of shaking. Sounds obvious, but when you write your instincts of what makes a good fight scene tend to override what makes an authentic fight scene. That’s really got the old noggin going, cheers Steve, I’ve got some scenes in my new WIP that will benefit from this post – cheers 🙂

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