I am a series of disconnects. In many respects, actually. But it rarely manifests itself anywhere more clearly than in what I read, watch, and write. I gravitate toward books, movies, and cartoons with some sense of action and adventure, even as I gloss over fight scenes in books and focus on stage choreography in movies and blocking in cartoons. My favorite games may have an action/adventure feel to them, but they tend to be puzzle or rhythm games. I participated in LARPs for a while, until I eventually left the field because hitting someone with a well-padded boffer sword and pretending to maim or kill them was just too traumtic. I even studied martial arts at one point because I think it’s a beautiful form of movement, but I fell apart every time Sensei tried to engage me in sparring.
So, it’s pretty fair to say that while I love action-based adventures, I’m not much of a fighter.
But because I’m drawn toward action/adventure stories and action/adventure-friendly genres, I knew I’d eventually have to write fight scenes in my own stories. Before I’d realized why I was hating LARPing, I wrote my first NaNovel, an adventure parody that featured the following fight scene (I had forgotten about this little gem, my actual first fight scene written seven years ago):
A rustle in the vegetation behind him startled him. By the time he was on his feet and turned around, four large men had surrounded him. He recognized one of them from the Stewarts’ country manor, and could only assume the other three were also in the Brotherhood’s employ.
The one he recognized spoke gruffly, “Keep your hands where I can see them.”
John held his arms out to the side.
“Where is Miss Williams?”
“Not here,” John offered bluntly. He grunted slightly as a pistol butt quickly connected with his cheek.
“Where is she?”
Unable to stop himself, John’s eyes went to the obelisk, wishing he could warn Alex and allow her some time to conceal herself.
The pistol barrel was poked into his chest. He understood and turned slowly. He was going to be forced to march them right up to where his injured companion was waiting. Again, the pistol was pushed against his spine.
“You know, gentlemen. I’m far more cooperative when I’m not being threatened.”
Robbins laughed, a sound that could ruin a soufflé. “Yes, but you might decide to do something foolish, like run away or perhaps call out to Miss Williams.”
There was no denying that logic, but he couldn’t let these thugs reach the obelisk. Alex wouldn’t stand a chance in her current condition. As they approached the stairs, John stole a quick look at his watch. It was five minutes to one. If he could stall them long enough, Alex would be able to check the shadow and vanish into the temple’s shadows.
The first order of business would be to remove the pistol from the equation. The pistol was driven into his back like a cattle prod when they reached the base of the stairs.
“No funny stuff,” Robbins reminded him.
No funny stuff, indeed. Let’s see how funny you think this is. John suddenly drove the blade of his foot at Robbins’ knee, sending the giant man to the ground. The other three got over their shock at seeing their leader howling in pain and advanced on the man. John had no delusions of being able to take on all three at once. He ran to the far side of the staircase, drawing the nearest thug with him. A well-placed series of punches had this thug backing off, grasping his broken ribs as he fought for breath. The next nearest thug took one look at his two downed comrades and slowly started backing off.
John was feeling pretty confident, “If you don’t wish to end up like your friends, then you’ll stay back!” He walked over and picked up Robbins’ gun, using it to keep the thugs even further back. When he was sufficiently convinced they wouldn’t follow him, he turned and ran toward Alex.
A few paragraphs later, John fights off another goon just as vaguely.
I was proud of myself. I didn’t trust myself to write a fight scene, and I managed to get out something I wouldn’t read right past and that vaguely resembled a fight scene. But I came to realize that I’m not a big fan of fighting, and I moved on to different conflict-resolution methods.
A few years later, I started creating New Glory, opening with a short story about an assassin wrestling with an attack of conscience as a pair of reporters started piecing together what had happened. I deliberately started a story involving an assassin, not the most peaceful of occupations. And I was so entranced with the world that I started focusing more of my writing practice on building his world.
And that led to creating a group of monasteries, each focused on a different discipline, including the martial arts. It didn’t make sense to me to create a dystopian society that didn’t have some form of defensive arts, and so I created a group of warriors. I research the various warrior monk tropes, and how these tropes have played out historically. I even listened to episodes from my favorite podcast on various ways to approach fight scenes (especially if you aren’t a fighter yourself).
Really, I spent more time stalling out in research than I did in writing and editing, and given that it took me the better part of two months to write “Tiger Strike”, that’s saying something. But every time I sat down to work on the next fight scene, I had a meltdown. The obvious solution would have been to change the story so only one fight scene was necessary. But to me that seemed cowardly. I was introducing the warrior monks, and I really like my idea for how I wanted to introduce them. So, I pushed onward, painful fight scene by painful fight scene.
But I can now say I’ve survived writing fight scenes. I don’t know that I’ll make much effort to fold more of them into my storyworld, but I have learned that the professionals write fight scenes without resorting to the blow-by-blow and the resulting gore. There are emotions and senses involved in a fight, and it’s perfectly acceptable to build a fight scene around them. We’ll see how this plays out as I continue to work with New Glory.