Writing Fight Scenes
A short fencing lesson gave me a different outlook on writing fight scenes.By Mayra CuevasOther than punching a guy in the nose (once in self-defense) I have never been in a fight. I have no idea how to prepare for a fight, participate in a fight or know how it feels to hit or be hit.Given that my novel has several scenes that involve all of the above, my lack of fighting expertise became an issue.The Fighting Manual But before I signed up for fighting classes, I did some easy research, I Googled "how to write fight scenes." The search returned a fantastic post from the Creative Pen blog by Joanna Penn, titled How To Write Fight Scenes With Alan Baxter.I listened to the podcast of her interview, took notes and for just $2.99 downloaded Baxter's booklet Write the Right Fight . Baxter details the mechanics of footwork, range, reach, technique, guard, blocks, reactions, integrating the five senses, adrenaline, emotion, weapons, myths and includes sample fight scenes.Baxter opened a world of fighting possibilities that I didn't even know existed.Prompted by my new discovery, I set out to actually practice a fighting sport, instead of just reading about it.But before I tell you what I learned, let me disclose that I am one of the most uncoordinated, nonathletic people on the planet. In fact, the first day I met my football-loving-future-stepkids I ended up in the ER with a minor concussion after a failed tackle that landed me crushed between my fiancé and the field as the kids watched on horrified. I literally heard something crack as my head hit the ground full force.So, I decided to go with fencing where the chances of ending up in the ER would be minimal.Fencing ClassI called a fencing club south of Atlanta, explained that I was doing research for a fantasy novel and they were happy to show me a few moves.When I arrived, I was greeted by a very kind lady in her 60's who we will call K.A.F.L., short for Kick-Ass Fencing Lady.K.A.L.F. explained the various swords used in fencing and gave me an overview of the mechanics of the sport. Then I watched and interviewed a few students and after a while I was ready to jump in.I donned the traditional protective headgear, body suit and gloves, which thankfully were all padded.Sword in hand I stepped onto the metal platform facing K.A.F.L. and in true form she proceeded to kick my ass -- which was wonderful because it gave me a real sense of what it felt like to have someone come at you with a very pointy sword presumably trying to kill you. Because all my senses were engaged, I was later able to develop my scenes in a more rounded approach.During my fencing crash course I was mostly struck by the concept of tunnel vision, and how difficult it was to focus on anything other than the sword coming at you. All I could do was retreat and try to parry or block the sword, while K.A.F.L yelled at me to attack. And I would have attacked if I hadn't been so scared of ending up like a pincho (Puero Rican for shish-kabob).After a few rounds I improved my parry and succeeded at hitting her foil a few times, or maybe she let me because she felt sorry for my total lack of skill. Either way it doesn't matter because I was so physically tired from moving back and forth and holding up the foil that I would have let her kill me just to get it over with. Fighting in real life proved harder than reading or writing about it.After the lesson, I wrote copious notes, describing in detail how each of my senses apprehended the experience. And later I used these notes to develop my scenes with ease.I have yet to add 'getting clobbered' to my repertoire of fighting experiences, but that is one, that for now, I can live without. Have you ever done any field research for your book? Tell us about your experience by posting below.