Realistic Fight Scenes (Part Two): Choreographing Fight Scenes

Sword fight

So you’ve decided you need a fight scene in your book. You’ve researched fighting techniques and weapons. You’ve done your homework on war wounds. And you’ve come to the conclusion that a) the scene has to be told from the POV of an experienced fighter and b) it needs to be detailed.

This is where fight scenes can get tricky. A one-on-one fight scene between two skilled characters needs to balance your level of research and your readers’ expectations. Your research tells you a fight scenes should be short. But it falls as the climax of your book and your readers expect some sort of payoff for waiting for 200+ pages for this fight. Too short and they’ll walk away disappointed. Your research tells you all the moves that a fighter can or cannot do, but your readers’ expect to be able to follow the fight without a lot of jargon. Yet they want it detailed.

Are you thumping your forehead on the table yet?

This is where you take a page out of Hollywood’s fight scene textbook and choreograph your scene.

Every fight scene in a movie is choreographed to give the illusion of reality (though the level of success can be debatable). The illusion of reality is what you’re striving for. Perhaps the fight extends longer than it would in real life. Perhaps the movements are played as if in slow motion so the reader can follow along. But, the reader will be so caught up in reading the scene that those things won’t matter. The fight scene will still feel real.

So how do you set about choreographing a fight scene in a book?

1. Work Backwards. I’ve heard this tip given for everything from editing to outlining, and it works really well for fight scenes. Figure out how you want the fight to end first. How is the opponent disarmed? Are they killed? Wounded? Do they get away? Or perhaps win? Once you know how the fight has to end, you can work backwards to bring the fight to that point.

2. Whole Body Motion. In a fight scene, your character isn’t just moving their hands. They are moving their feet, twisting their bodies, setting themselves up for the next move. For each move your character makes, you need to figure out where it puts their body. If they just did a wide swing to their left, they will have to move differently depending on if they want to follow up with a back stroke, downward stroke, or upward stroke.

3. The opponent wants to win too. The opponent wants to win just as much as your POV character. He/she won’t simply react to what your POV character does. Your POV character will be just fighting a statue if that were the case. Have the opponent throw your POV character off balance and do things your POV character did not expect.

4. Picture the fight. This can be tricky to do depending on how your imagination works. What works best for me is closing my eyes and running the fight scene through my head like a movie in slow motion. I tweak the positions of the characters’ hands and feet. Sometimes (when I’m by myself in my room), I’ll close my eyes and pretend I’m one of the characters. I’ve heard some people like drawing stick figures. Whatever method you use, it should be something that lets you test your choreographing until it flows smoothly.

5. Write it. Once you have a clear picture in your mind, write out the fight scene. Once it is written, you can go back in editing and decide what movements are necessary for the readers’ understanding and what are implied. When you have the movement pared down to the essentials, the fight scene will flow quickly, even if it takes a page or more to tell.

These are things that work for me. Any fight scene tips that work for you?


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Christmas Book Giveaway – Of the Persecuted

This year, I’ve stumbled across a number of Christian YA speculative fiction authors whose books are now among my favorites. To share these awesome books and celebrate Christmas, I’ll be giving away a new book each week until Christmas.

This week, I’m giving away a copy of Angie Brashear’s debut novel Of the Persecuted. This book’s title and cover art captured my attention the first time I saw it. Isn’t it stunning?

Of the Persecuted

 Back Cover Copy (from Amazon):
Laila Pennedy awaits death by hanging. For the Rendow Clan rules the Woodlands Region, aiming to slaughter the Faithful. And she deserves to die. But Lars Landre, the man destined to lead the Faithful out of persecution, has other plans hidden behind his rare and mysterious blue eyes. Rescue.

Following the daring escape, Laila seeks the path of a warrior and vows revenge against the Rendow Clan. She embarks on a dangerous journey with Lars, one in which they endeavor to reach the promised safety of a magical village, to train for battle, and to ultimately assure freedom for those with faith in the Maker.

Clashes of weapons and souls. Brutal loss of lives. Unrequited love. How in all the Woodlands will Laila survive?

My Recommendation

The characters and the story world in this book are unique. The first sentence grabbed me, and I couldn’t put the book down after that. While this is an indie published book, I didn’t find any editing issues. If I hadn’t known that this was an indie book, I wouldn’t have guessed it from the quality of the writing. Definitely a book to add to the shelf of favorites!

Personally, I go out of my way to support indie authors because I know they don’t have a publishing house behind them. What about you? When buying books, does it matter to you if they are indie or traditionally published?

Follow the Rafflecopter link below to enter to win an ebook or paperback copy of Of the Persecuted:

A Rafflecopter giveaway


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Things to be Thankful For

Snoopy Thanksgiving

By now, you’ve probably read plenty of blog posts about thanksgiving and what people are thankful for. This is a good time of year to pause, look back, and reflect, and I guess this blog post isn’t going to be any different.

I could go on and on about how I’m thankful for nice clothes, a car, my family, etc. Those are all good things to be thankful for, and I am thankful for them. But here I would like to focus on five writing related things that I’m thankful for this year:

1. I’m thankful I wasn’t published this year. That sounds like a strange thing to be thankful for, but I’ve learned so much that I wouldn’t have learned if publication had come when I’d thought it would.

2. I’m thankful for the community of writers that I’ve discovered. This year, I commented on a few authors’ blogs and discovered that published writers are people too. I’m so thankful for Nadine Brandes, Angie Brashear, Gillian Bronte Adams, Jill Williamson, and other authors who have replied to my comments and encouraged me even though they have never met me in person. I still squeal in excitement when I see an author replied to one of my emails or my comments.

3. I’m thankful for my critique partners, whether they are ones I just met this year or friends I’ve had since high school. You all are so amazing, and I wouldn’t know how to write without your encouragement every step of the way.

4. I’m thankful for Go Teen Writers even though I’m no longer a teen writer. I’ve met so many unpublished, young authors through that blog, and I look forward to getting to know everyone there better next year. The community there is wonderful.

5. Finally, I’m thankful for you, my readers. I don’t even have a book published, but I have 49 likes on my Facebook page and 74 followers on my blog. I never would have thought that possible when I started this blog a few months ago! Thank you so much!


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You Know You're a Writer if…

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I can’t take credit for this list. I found it on the blog of Kaye Dacus, a Christian Fiction writer who writes historical and contemporary Christian romances. Her Ransome trilogy is my favorite of hers so far (seriously, Regency, British navy, and pirates, what isn’t there to love?).

I loved these so much I thought I’d share some of my favorites:

You know you are a writer if…

  • Some of the letters on your keyboard are completely worn off.
  • You would rather write than go out.
  • Your/you’re and their/there/they’re errors send you into an apoplectic fit.
  • You get cranky if you don’t get to write.
  • You’ve ever said, “The voices are getting louder; I must go write.”
  • In the middle of the night, you grab the pen and paper you keep next to your bed to write down a scene to make the voices be quiet so you can get some sleep.
  • Getting the scene finished is more important than food, coffee, or the bathroom.
  • A blank wall becomes the screen where the scene you’re writing takes place right in front of your eyes.
  • You can’t write because you’re mad at one of your characters.
  • You argue with said character.
  • The “sermon notes” section of the Sunday morning bulletin comes home every week filled in with ideas or scenes for your WIP.
  • You–hold on, I have to check my e-mail . . .
  • You do everything you can think of to procrastinate from writing, then turn the light on in the middle of the night and furtively write a few hundred words because you feel guilty for not writing.
  • You can predict the next line or conflict in just about every TV show/movie you watch.
  • You don’t meet “new friends”; you meet “potential characters.”
  • You stay in bed ten minutes after you wake up structuring the details of your dream into a novel synopsis, complete with character descriptions, setting, and costumes.
  • You spend more on “writing stuff” every year than you do on groceries and gas combined.
  • You’re never bored, because your characters are always there to entertain you.
  • You aren’t concerned when someone else talks about “the voices” not leaving them alone—in fact, you ask them about their voices and tell them about your own.
  • You know more than ten verbs to describe the way someone walked into the room.
  • Poorly written novels make you bipolar—elated knowing that you’re a better writer, and depressed because that hack got published and you can’t get past the acquisitions editor.
  • It takes you forever to send a text message on your cell phone because it has to be properly spelled and punctuated.
  • When given an essay/paper assignment in school with a ten-page length requirement, the professor turns and looks at you and says, “That means ONLY ten pages!” Your response is, “Is eight-point font okay?”
  • You live in a constant state of “What if?”
  • You see a hand-drawn employee appreciation poster at the grocery store with one word misspelled and have to avert your eyes every time you walk past it to keep from attacking it with a red Sharpie.
  • Staring off into space with a glazed look in your eyes is considered “working.”
  • You are automatically drawn to the display of journals and fancy notepads/notebooks on the bargain table at every bookstore you enter. And you buy at least two, because you don’t have any in that style yet, even though you have at least fifteen or twenty sitting at home unused.
  • You go into mourning when you kill off a character . . . even if the character deserved to die.
  • You know that “Which of your books is your favorite?” is the second worst question you can be asked. The worst is “Which of your characters is your favorite?”
  • You can never “clear your mind.”
  • You’ve figured out how to write while driving. And have actually missed your exit/turn because you’re so absorbed in your own story.
  • You pat the lid of your laptop after you close it. (Bonus points if you mutter, “Good girl/boy” while patting.)
  • At parties, some people snoop in the medicine cabinet. You sneak peeks at the bookshelves.
  • You read a list of “you know you’re a writer if…” statements and think of twenty others not covered.

Aren’t these awesome! There were so many that Kaye Dacus compiled that I didn’t include them all. There were just my favorites (and no, I’m not going to admit how many I do on a regular basis. If you’re a writer, you can probably guess without being told).

Which ones are your favorite? Did you think of any “You Know You’re a Writer if…” statements to add?

And, lastly, congratulations to Miquel, the winner of the A Time to Die giveaway! You should have received an email this morning. If you didn’t, please contact me. Thanks to everyone who entered!


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Push Your Boulder Up that Hill

In Greek mythology, the king Sisyphus was punished by having to eternally push a boulder up a hill. When he reached the top, the boulder rolled to the bottom and he had to push it up once again. Over and over and over again.

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Sometimes writing feels like that. We start our book rolling, struggling through those first couple of chapters to overcome inertia, the forces (whether they are doubt or our struggles with beginnings) that hold us back. We build momentum, rolling along at a good clip, until we get stuck. We’ve pushed our boulder into a dead end. We have to let it roll partway back down the hill in order to pick a new path.

Still we push on. We grind out that word count, plugging away at whatever goal we set for our self that day. Finally, after months or years or decades, we push that boulder the last step. We cheer. We collapse on the ground. We actually visit our friends and family and smile because we have time, glorious time.

Only to realize that sometime during our celebrating, our boulder rolled back down the hill. We need to start the process all over again, whether it is editing or starting the next book.

Somehow it isn’t any easier pushing that boulder up the hill than it was the first time. The beautiful momentum we’d built those last few yards to the top is all gone. Inertia is just as terrible. We moan in despair. We can’t believe we are putting ourselves through this again.

That’s us writers. We are a little bit insane. We’ve gone crazy a few times.

But this isn’t our punishment. It is our blessing. We have a gift not everyone has. Few people have the muscles or the perseverance to push the boulder of a book all the way to the finish. Even less do it again and again.

Today I started book three of my Blades of Acktar series today. It is overwhelming starting at the bottom once again, staring at the mountain of words I need to type. But I’ll get there. I’ve done this twice before. I can do it again.

What project are you working on? Where are you at in your book?

Also, I am giving away a copy of Nadine Brandes’ new release A Time to Die. Enter the giveaway here.


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The Agony of Waiting

I think every writer struggles with patience in some form. It takes months to get that burning idea onto paper. It takes more months to edit and polish the manuscript. More months, possibly years, pass as the author queries agents and eventually editors. Even after the book is accepted by a publisher, the rounds of editing and printing of the book take another year or more. To add to this frustration is the question of well-meaning friends and family who ask when the book you are still writing is going to be published.

I’ve been struggling with gaining the necessary patience. Since graduating college, I’ve felt so ready to be a published author. I’m finishing manuscripts. I’ve developed a writing schedule. I started this blog. Frustration built inside my chest until I wanted to scream at the pressure.

Perhaps I’m struggling with patience, but I have realized something very important along the way.

Sometimes the waiting makes us ready to hear the answer.

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If I were to be published right now, it might feel good to me, but God knows I wouldn’t be ready for it. I wouldn’t appreciate it the way I would after a long time of waiting. I might even be filled with pride believing that I accomplished it all by myself.

The waiting keeps me humble. It makes me rely on God. I have to trust that publication will come in God’s time, not mine.

I’m also learning the kind of author I want to be someday. When I’m a published author someday, I want to remember the thrill of opening my email inbox and realizing my favorite author personally emailed me back. I don’t want to forget the giddiness of commenting back and forth with an author on her blog. I need the feeling of being a person not just a faceless fan ingrained in my memory so I can treat my readers that way.

I don’t like the waiting, If God’s answer is no, then I won’t like that either. But if that time comes, then this time of waiting will have made me ready for that answer. If His answer is yes, then I’ll be ready for that too.

What about you? What are you waiting for? How is your waiting making you ready to hear the answer?


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Go Teen Writers 100/100 Challenge

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Recently, I discovered a wonderful website called Go Teen Writers run by authors Jill Williamson and Stephanie Morrill. The blog is full of writing advice. They also have a book on writing also titled Go Teen Writers.  It is the kind of website I wish I’d had as a teenage writer. I sometimes felt so lost at times with no one giving advice for young writers.

One of the things that Go Teen Writers does is host word count challenges to spur young writers into writing daily. Right now, they are hosting a 100/100 challenge. This is a challenge to write 100 words a day for 100 days. This is the last day to sign up.

I wish I’d had someone like Go Teen Writers to push me along at that age. I didn’t start a daily word goal until my final year in college when a college professor gave us an assignment to write 200 words a day for a week. From there, I worked my way up to the 1000 words a day that I write now.

If I’d done something like the 100/100 challenge years ago, would I have written more back then? Would I perhaps have finished my first manuscript long before this year? I’m not sure.

I encourage all of you to at least try a daily word count for a week or two to see if it is something you can sustain. You might surprise yourself! I certainly did the first time I tried it!

Do you have a daily word count? Why or why not?


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