Write The Fight Right
Guest post by Alan Baxter
I was first approached by a writer friend of mine in 2009 about running a workshop at Conflux, aimed at teaching writers more about fighting. The idea was that most writers don’t know anything about fighting, yet regularly need to include fight scenes in their fiction. My friend suggested, given that I’m a career martial artist with quite a few fights under my belt, that I might be the person to help. I’d gained a bit of a reputation for writing convincing fight scenes, so it all seemed like a good idea.
That first workshop was a great success and I’ve since run it in other places, most notably Worldcon in Melbourne in 2010. I’ll be running it again in Perth for Natcon 50 at the end of April. Every time I run the workshop, people ask me if there’s any further resource they can buy to help them remember the workshop content. I finally decided to make that resource available and wrote the Write The Fight Right ebook. It’s around 12,000 words and covers everything I talk about in the workshop. Of course, without the hands on demonstrations I’m able to do in workshops it may not be as effective, but it hopefully gives people a pretty solid rundown on what’s real and what’s not when it comes to fighting.
I wouldn’t presume to tell people how to write, but I do know a lot about fighting. I know when a fight scene is well written and when it isn’t. Even readers who know very little about fighting will recognise a realistic fight scene even if they can’t put their finger on why. Equally, they’ll be bored by an unrealistic fight scene, again not necessarily knowing why.
Probably my biggest complaint with written fight scenes is that they read just like movie fights. That’s all most authors have experienced with regard to fighting, after all. The truth is that movie fights are choreographed for a visual medium, with a very unrealistic turn by turn process that makes it easy for the viewing public to see what’s going on. Real fighting simply isn’t like that.
With a written fight scene we have the ability to tell the story from inside our characters’ heads. We can talk about how it feels, the emotional content, the adrenaline and what that does, the feel, smell, taste and everything else. None of those things can really be conveyed well in film, but a good writer can include any or all of them and write a truly visceral fighting experience for their readers – if they know what it’s like. I’ve had a career of fighting, so I do know what it’s like. I think reading my book is certainly preferable to going out and getting in a fight to improve your craft.