Oh dear. It’s happened again. You’re in the middle of an exciting fight scene, and the saber-wielding protagonist just did a slow, expose-the-back spin as he wages lethal battle against his more agile opponent. But it’s not his author-ordained time to die: The opponent doesn’t even try to strike. Then you, the reader/viewer, groan and shake your head, because if the fictional character missed it, that means the author missed it, and if the author missed the obvious, what else did they get wrong?
Your head has left the story, because the fighting doesn’t jive with reality. You’ve been left dissatisfied at a pivotal moment, and while you may still go on to enjoy the rest, your subsequent recommendation will forevermore come with a caveat: “If only…”
But what if you are the author? How do you keep your readers’ heads firmly where they belong – in your story—despite the epic duel that must be fought with weapons you may know nothing about?
Enter Fight Write, a recent book by Carla Hoch that dives headfirst into the brawl to save you!
Hoch is a trained fighter, with experience in multiple forms of martial arts, and she lets it all out – all the blood and broken bones, the dismemberments and kill-spots – along with groan-worthy jokes, a sprinkling of glory, and plenty of sound, life-applicable advice. All of that. In 228 energetic and entertaining pages. Naturally, she encourages you, her reader, to try out fighting for yourself, too, but her main aim is to help you get a fight scene from head to page without it losing steam or believability.
So let’s dig in a little, and see what makes this book a worthy addition to your reference shelves.
If you’ve done any reading, writing, or storytelling of any sort, you know that these are what get everything else moving, but the precise order may surprise you. Hoch teaches us how to identify these within the unique aspects of fight scenes, and explains why this less-common order of approach is best. And because they are the base for all the rest, she continues to draw us back to them time and again as she takes us through later topics.
While you can’t ignore the rules of the physical universe, unexpected or unlikely outcomes can and do happen all the time, and fighting is no exception. Hoch offers creative ideas along with loads of scientific information – with footnotes to aid in additional study – to help you make informed choices about everything from natural reactions to climate conditions to cultural norms.
Even fantasy and sci-fi have norms and expectations which will factor into a character’s advantage. Hoch gives us a full and entertaining chapter on that topic, along with several more chapters that deal in the real world. There’s also a chapter on legal advantages, and how to make the system work – or not – depending on the laws your character lives under.
Therefore, the more skilled the fighter, the more dangerous the weapon, and Hoch’s conversational tone takes us through a load of them, listing out multiple chapters’ worth of different weaponry. And she doesn’t just stick to the traditional ones, either! She also tells you what people can do with them, describes the basics of about two dozen different fighting styles, and offers loads of fight vocabulary to further you on your path to being an effective fight-scene writer.
But most important of all:
All of this is mere introduction! Hoch screams from her pages that if anything she’s described intrigues you, you should go learn more in the books dedicated to that one thing. There are plenty of them. She has crammed huge amounts of material into both a readable format and totable book-size, but to do that, her descriptions throughout are necessarily brief.
Fight Write is the handshake that starts you on your way. It’s the resource you’ll turn to time and again when you need a refresher or new idea. But most importantly, it’s the insight you need to stop your character from blundering mid-fight and risking everything – unless, of course, it gains the outcome you had planned all along. Hoch has her own blog with additional insights and links to purchase her book. Go check it out here!