Here's what she had to say about the art of war...
Raise the Stakes
Twelve Tricks to Make a Fight Scene Exciting
Creating a good fight scene is one of the most challenging aspects of the writer's craft. Here are techniques on how to give your readers the thrill they expect from a fight:
1. Give each fighter a compelling purpose and raise the stakes as high as possible. A heroine fighting for her life is more exciting than a heroine fighting for her purse, and a heroine fighting for her children's lives is more exciting still.
If she fights for her purse, raise the stakes by making that purse important: it contains not only money, but the jackpot-winning lottery ticket, only photo of her abducted baby daughter, or evidence that her husband is innocent of the murder of which he stands accused.
For her opponent, a street urchin, the stakes are also high: the money in the purse will buy food for his starving baby sister, or gang members are assessing his performance to decide whether to accept him.
2. Stack the odds against your protagonist: the more difficult the fight is for him, the more exciting it is for the reader. Give the opponent better weapons, greater strength, and other advantages.
3. Use a location which is either unusual (a wine cellar, a cow shed, an artist's studio) or dangerous (a rope bridge across a ravine, a sinking ship)..
4. Use deep point of view: let the reader experience the fight the way the POV character experiences it. Keep to the POV's vision (only what's immediately before him) and convey his emotions (fury, fear, hope, triumph).
5. Hearing, more than the other senses, creates excitement, so describe noises, especially the sounds of weapons (pinging bullets, hissing arrows, clanking swords).
6. Create fast pace by using short paragraphs, short sentences and short words.
7. Verbs, more than other words, convey excitement: hack, slash, pierce, stab, race, jump, leap, drive, spin, punch, kick. Choose vivid verbs, and build your sentences around them.
8. Avoid blow-by-blow accounts: these soon get boring. Instead, show only the first few moves, as well as the decisive final ones, and for everything in between, focus on the direction of the fight ('Fired with new courage, she kicked and punched.' 'He drove her closer and closer to the cliff').
9. In a long fight scene, let something unexpected happen (the hero loses his weapon and is forced to fight on with his bare hands, the hero's girlfriend comes to his aid, the villain's henchmen join the fight, the bridge collapses, building bursts into flames). This event should change the fight, but it should not decide it.
10. If your protagonist has a special skill - e.g. she's good at acrobatics, at oil painting or at basketball - let her use this skill in a surprising way in the fight.
11. Create a 'black moment' when all seems lost. Then the protagonist recalls his purpose, rallies his courage, and fights on to win.
12. If the protagonist wins the fight, it must be from his own efforts, not because of a stroke of luck, divine intervention or outside interference. Other people may help, but they must not decide the outcome.
If you have questions or further tips, or if you want advice for a fight scene, leave a comment. I'll be around for a week and will respond.
A Note from the Book Boost: These are fantastic tips, Rayne. I recommend that everyone take her class--I've seen her in action and she's a wonderful (highly interactive) instructor! Thanks for joining us today.
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Rayne Hall writes dark fantasy and horror. She has published more than twenty books under different pen names in different genres, and her stories have earned Honorable Mentions in 'The Years' Best Fantasy and Horror'. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and teaches online classes.
Even if you've never wielded a weapon, you can write an exciting fight scene and create believable magic. Rayne will show you how in her workshop on 'Writing Fight Scenes' which starts 1 June 2011.