Indie Book Club discussion

Writer's Corner > Calling Epic Fantasy Writers

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments I'm working on an epic fantasy novel. This is the first time I've done a solo effort on this. I love reading (or watching) epic fight scenes, but I suck at writing them.

So I'm looking for any advice from other fantasy writers about writing these sorts of scenes. Do you guys just go with the flow? Do you script them out? How do you decide what's over the top, and what's classic fantasy story odds?

If anyone can give me some advice, I'd appreciate it. Every time I hit one of these scenes, it really slows me up cause I stumble over it.

message 2: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn I think it's mostly dependent on what type of writer you are, Mia. Some writers outline everything, while others go with the flow and tell themselves a story. If you are a plotter, then I'd say go with what works for you and plot the fight scene out, otherwise go with what feels natural.

As for over the top fight scenes. It all depends on the world you've created. Does it lean more towards medieval realism, epic 300 (the movie), or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon type fighting? Watch movies, do research on real life fighting styles. There's a ton of cool Youtube videos with RL demonstrations. If you have two massive armies going at it, then remember that for the most part, a warrior doesn't have an overview of entire battlefield. So that narrows down the POV. You can research WW1 and read up on personal accounts. For the most part, the soldiers had no idea what was going on in another section of trench. There was often mass confusion and a soldier's focus was on the moment.

The main thing, I think, is make sure it's consistent with the rest of your writing style. Write it as you would any other scene. And avoid excessive descriptors to give it a feeling of movement.

message 3: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) | 31 comments I consult SCA fencing websites for my sword fighting sequences. There are several fencing sites out there that give you the precise terms you need to make this work well.

Here's a short fighting scene (actually a practice duel) from my current book, "Princess Anyu Returns" which demonstrates how using proper fencing terms helps:

Christopher headed to a nearby tree against which stacked his heavy fencing tunic, sword in its sheath, gorget, gloves, hood, and fencing mask. From his gear, he tossed Anyu his extra hood, gorget, and fencing mask that he kept for those situations where a potential sparring partner lacked them. Anyu watched as Christopher donned his gear before following suit, the gorget proving to be difficult to fasten on in her heavy protective gauntlets. With a smile, Queen Tamera helped Anyu buckle on the gorget. Anyu bowed her head at the queen appreciatively.

Finally, with both readied, Christopher and Anyu walked to the specified battle field. Drawing their swords, they saluted one another before circling, their steps ritualized and precise, following Beinarian martial arts forms. To King Gavin, their steps looked like a variation on ba gua gongfu or perhaps wudang gongfu. Anyu circled patiently, then slashed and lunged with her sword. Christopher parried, redirecting the momentum of Anyu’s lung back at her. Un-phased, Anyu used the skirt of her dress to her advantage in concealing her next move, effectively landing a clean blow on Christopher’s gauntleted right hand which he put behind his back in recognition of the hit.

Undaunted by the princess’ success, Christopher attacked fiercely. Anyu counter-parried with a swift slash to Christopher’s back. Acknowledging the hit, Christopher “played dead” by crimpling to the ground. King Gavin applauded as Christopher rose, sheathing his sword and bowing politely to Anyu.

message 4: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments It depends partly on how realistic you want it - do you want a movie fight scene or a more believable one.
Are your combatants equally matched? Do they have any special abilities (like magic, extra speed, two weapons etc) if so you might need to tailor your scene. Are they fighting for their lives? Is it more a gentlemanly fight like Laurel's practice duel?

I've linked some useful sites below -
This one is a blog outlining the bloggers own issues with this and offering good advice

This is a great repository for useful fantasy info

If you want a beta reader for the scene I am happy to help.

message 5: by Jake (new)

Jake Yaniak | 4 comments I would recommend taking a look at how Homer did it in the Iliad.

message 6: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
Depends whether you mean a full blown battle, a brawl with several fighters or a duel.

It's important to consider the weapons and armour used, and, as Jake suggested, certain parts of the Iliad have great moments. I still remember one chap getting a spear thrown at him, which goes through his neck and cuts his tongue off.

There are some excellent Youtube videos on this sort thing.

A detailed (ish) look at Viking-style sword and shield fighting is here:

And a quick video of various duels with differing medieval weapons is here:

Even if you're not going for a sword and shield type approach I'd suggest watching the Viking video as it has some interesting and useful ideas (such as the 'weakness' of the sword, the shield as an offensive weapon etc).

In Philip Matyszak's very enjoyable Gladiator Unofficial Manual he used the experience of re-enactment groups to get a better grasp of how weapons would be used, so that sort of thing could work well.

Oh, and a chap whose Youtube name is Lindybeige has tons of videos about ancient and medieval(ish) weapons:

Hope you don't mind the enormo-reply, but I've been thinking a lot about knights fighting one another recently.

message 7: by Philip (new)

Philip Dodd (philipdodd) | 11 comments I think it is important to concentrate on individuals on both sides when writing a battle scene, as Homer did in The Iliad and as Tolstoy did in War and Peace. It is Homer's concentration on Achilles, fighting for the Greeks, and upon Hector, fighting for the Trojans, which makes the siege of Troy alive, dynamic, for example. And it is always best to learn from the masters, those who have written works that have lasted. Describing two opposing armies clashing together on a battlefield will not be very interesting if you do not make clear what it was like for individuals on both sides to experience the conflict. Writing a battle scene is a daunting task and so it should be. In my own book, Angel War, I set myself the task of describing the war in heaven, spoken of in Chapter Six of the Book of Revelation. First I chose the battle site, a long, wide borderland valley, then those characters from both sides to concentrate upon, to bring the battle alive and, hopefully, keep the reader's interest. Rather than just describing the lines of the rebel host battling against the host of faithful angels, I made sure I filled the battle with many incidents, involving characters from both sides, so it could be witnessed and experienced from many angles. I think it is important to show how the battle affects not just your main characters, but also your minor characters, as Shakespeare did in Henry V, for example. Hope that helps, and good luck.

message 8: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments Thanks for the comments and suggestions, everyone!

message 9: by Ahmed (new)

Ahmed Al-Sheikh | 11 comments When I write my fight scenes, I draw on my experiences in studying martial arts, then I push it to the appropriate level of fantasy. I believe that the reader should be able to picture each moment if the fight as you describe it, while still keeping it fast-paced.

message 10: by Robert (new)

Robert (valdieron) | 108 comments I do the same as Ahmed. Picture a beginning, middle and end for the fight and fill in the gaps. Remember the 'rules' tho. Keep a believable realism throughout. Remember that fights don't just take place on even ground. Bring in environmental variables etc. Also, keep in mind that fantasy is often about overcoming odds and readers want to be entertained, not just read a blow by blow ultra realistic scene. Be creative and have fun. Dont be afraid to rewrite a few different styles and compare.

message 11: by Steve (new)

Steve Thomas | 198 comments Whatever you do, don't make dancing analogies. That's the single biggest fight scene cliche.

message 12: by Mia (new)

Mia Darien (mia_darien) | 425 comments @Steve: Yeah, I would only do that if the character were specifically a dancer otherwise and then it actually meant something to that character.

message 13: by Claude (new)

Claude Dancourt (claudedancourt) | 12 comments Youtube is a great help. However, just remember one thing : always keep your eyes on the sword! The pirouette thing works only in Hollywood.

message 14: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Yes, anyone who fights Hollywood style is probably dead pretty quick;)

message 15: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
*sighs* I always think of the Obi-Wan/Darth Maul duel at the end of the The Phantom Menace. For a moment, they both spread their arms wide in a move I believe is known in fencing as the Please Stab Me In The Face Now posture.

message 16: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Preedy | 4 comments I have a number of big battles in the book I'm writing at the moment and I find that being incredibly descriptive with regards to the sensory side of things is what works best for me.

You start off with your two armies charging together so you can describe the thundering sounds rolling across the area, the ground shaking with clods of dirt being kicked around by the thousands of booted feet.

You can then move in to focus on the main protagonist at the head of the charge and talk about the blood pulsing loudly in his ears, his heart beating wildly in his chest, the adrenaline coursing through him as a moving sea of armoured figures rushes forwards behind him.

At the moment before the two armies clash together you can talk about a heightened sensory awareness, how he can feel the familiar pattern of his sword hilt in his hands (unless he's wearing gauntlets), the lone trickle of perspiration running down his sweltering face. You could mention how he can see the snarling faces of the front ranks of opponents racing towards him, see the whites of their eyes as an animalistic and bestial expression of savage fury covers their faces.

The armies then clash together and you can talk about a sea of humanity where thousands of figures smack violently together.

You could then move in to focus on the protagonist's own battles at the head of the army, talk about how pure instinct kicks in and how his shield endures blow after blow, the force of each impact sending jolts down his arm. You could talk about the bonds of brotherhood that get forged on the battlefield and how warriors that may not necessarily have known each other before today fight together, each one protecting the flanks of the one beside them as they fight with the intuitive and primeval instincts of men who are defending their homes and families.

Anyway, that may not be what you had in mind at all but that's the type of mindset I like to get into when I write battle scenes.

message 17: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 1013 comments Thaddeus wrote: "*sighs* I always think of the Obi-Wan/Darth Maul duel at the end of the The Phantom Menace. For a moment, they both spread their arms wide in a move I believe is known in fencing as the Please Stab..."


message 18: by Mara (new)

Mara Valderran (maravalderran) | 5 comments If you are having trouble picturing it, I agree with what others have said about watching fight scenes in movies or TV or reading them.

If you know how you want it to play out but are worried about going into too much detail, I say write it all out anyway. You can cut what you need to with editing, but get your thoughts down first. Keeping the focus on only a few characters instead of giving an overview is good advice too. Readers want to know what the characters they are invested in are doing in the battle (or, as a reader, that's what I want).

Research is also key. It drives my husband crazy when he sees or reads about someone beheaded with a sword when he knows it wouldn't be possible (thank you, Mythbusters). You don't have to become an expert at fighting or weapons, but make sure you know enough to make it believable.

message 19: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 60 comments But you see that regularly in shows such as the gladiator, Troy etc. it makes for good visual. ;)

message 20: by Steve (new)

Steve Thomas | 198 comments A more serious answer: watch some videos by this guy. I have no idea what his qualifications are, but he makes some interesting videos about ancient weaponry, how they were historically used, and common pitfalls in modern depictions.

message 21: by Thaddeus (new)

Thaddeus White | 631 comments Mod
Steve, top tip, and top chap too. Lindy Beige's stuff is often very interesting.

message 22: by Judy (new)

Judy Goodwin | 12 comments I knew I wanted to write fantasy from a young age, so I actually studied fencing in college and ended up on the fencing team. There's nothing like doing something to learn about it. Now of course I'm not going to describe fighting with an epee the same way as fighting with a broadsword. But learning any kind of martial art gives you ideas about offensive and defensive strategies.

That being said, my basic advice is to research it from several different angles--history, movies, talking to someone who does reenactments or has a specialization in whatever fighting style you want to learn about . . . these all help, in my opinion.

message 23: by C.G. (new)

C.G. (CG_Garcia) | 21 comments Typically, I plot out key points I would like to happen during the battle, but it's always a very loose outline. I use it only to make sure my stories don't meander too much. I also research weaponry, armor, ancient battle strategies and techniques on several different websites to see what would work best for the scene. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos of fighting technique demonstrations, swordsmiths, etc.

back to top