|Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt|
I’ve been stalled on one of my chapters for the last several months, much to the chagrin of my critique group. The reasons for this delay are many, but one of the biggest has to do with the action scene that occurs halfway through the chapter. My character has to fight her way out of the antagonist’s hideout and choreographing the sequence of events hasn’t been easy. What makes this especially difficult is that she has no real fighting experience. She’s taken a few martial arts classes, but she’s never been in a real fight before and I’m struggling with how to make her escape believable.
But this post isn’t about my writing dilemmas. I’ll figure the scene out eventually. But while studying other books and their fight scenes for inspiration, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the fights scenes I’ve read lately seem rather superfluous. They don’t advance the story. The character doesn’t do anything differently than they did in previous fights. The reader learns nothing new from the battle. It’s as if the author simply decided it was time to amp up the excitement and threw in a gratuitous fight scene.
I’m still a newbie at this writing stuff, but it seems to me that every fight scene in a story should bring something new to the table. Perhaps the character comes up with a clever way of using their special talents to overcome the odds. Or maybe they use recently gained knowledge to defeat the antagonist in an unexpected manner. Or perhaps the character takes advantage of the setting in a new and novel way.
Brandon Sanderson does a great job of this in his book, Alloy of Law. Although the hero fights the same enemies several times throughout the book, each fight feels different, and the reader learns quite a bit about the protagonist and his special abilities through his choice of tactics.
To be honest, fight scenes that are little more than a stream of punches and kicks bore me, and I usually skim over them. What looks exciting on the screen can be dreadfully boring when put into words on a page. It’s the little details that are revealed during the fight that makes them entertaining. If your fight scenes are so generic you could switch their order of occurrence without messing up the story, then you definitely have a problem. In the same way that a story's pinch points pinch are there to demonstrate the character’s growth over the course of a story, fight scenes should be used to show the character improving in some way.
That’s my rant for the day.
BTW, another pet peeve of mine is when the author sets up and describes an upcoming battle as being nearly impossible for the MC to win, and then has the character win the fight using standard tactics and without breaking a sweat. WTH?