Characterization, Fight scenes and what you get when mixing the two. Nimbus's advice for beginners.
Re: Characterization, Fight scenes and what you get when mixing the two. Nimbus's advice for beginners.#1
So, what happens when you mix fighting and characterization? You get two very interesting things done at once.
Now, do note that this post Is more or less my opinion and experiences, so I might be wrong now and then. If I am, or if you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Imagine the character of your book as a blank piece of paper. As you add more details, as you characterize your characters, more details are added to that blank piece of paper. Things like hair color, body shape, height. The more you fill this out, the clearer and more detailed this image becomes. It's also a very good idea to add things like wear and tear on the characters gear and clothing, little stains, smudges and effects based on the environment they are currently in (forest, desert, muddy places, swamps). Good descriptions are a key. Don't use block descriptions if you can avoid them. Describe a character through their actions.
However, this is basic stuff. Stuff to help the reader picture* the character, not to remember them.
So, if descriptions are to help your character be pictured, personality, traits and quirks are to ensure they are remembered*.
For instance, which of these two renditions of a side character is the audience more likely to care about and remember?
1. The D-rank leader who died when a wyvern stabbed him.
2. Twitchy, lanky Arnold, who always wore a too-tight helmet and spent most of his time wiping imaginary spittle off his lips, who died screaming, impaled through the belly by a wyvern's claw.
See the difference?
Lets look at all the characterization crammed into the second one.
- Twitchy, a piece of his personality.
- Lanky, a description.
- His name.
- The helmet and the wiping, two quirks that stand out.
- The manner of his death.
Personality is what makes a reader remember a character. Well-done characters, above all else, are what will make a reader come back to your story. Would they rather read:
1. Yet another powah story with a bland, unremarkable MC who they'll follow for fifteen chaps then slowly begin to lose interest.
2. A story with deep, vivid characters who they actually care about as they've invested time and thought in them, who they are much more likely to follow to the end of their journey?
So, give your characters personality. Give them opinions. Give them quirks. Make them disagree with each other over things. Make them like different things. Feel differently about subjects and topics. And remember this: The universe does not revolve around your MC. They are not always right. Other characters do not exist solely to agree with them and be simpering syncopates.
If you feel your aren't creative enough, look at real life. Look at the people you know and take examples from them. Not copying THEM to paper, but think of all the small things, all the nuances, strengths and flaws you see in a person. Try to emulate that on paper.
Because, whatever you do, do NOT make your MC or characters so one-dimensional that they can be summed up in a single word. THAT in itself is what can turn off readers. More fleshing out is always better.
Contrast is important too, and can be used to great effect when fleshing out characters or making very memorable descriptions. For instance describing things like these.
A stunning blonde wearing the perfect press and finely shampooed hair, but with blood under her fingernails.
A messy, exhausted man with a buzz cut flat enough to land a helicopter on.
Can you see where I sharply contrasted there? By providing contrast, you pull even more attention to detail, making this even more easily remember-able for readers. In short, the more you can make a reader think about a character, the better. And the less words you use, the better. Instead of long, rambling descriptions, use short, powerful words. Employ your greatest tool.
The reader's own imagination.
Everyone loves em. No two ways about em. There are a plethora of different ways to write em. What I'll try to show your here Is how I do them, as I've found that my readers seem to like them this way. Well, bot just my readers, other authors have both asked for advice and given praise (stawp, you make me blush) on them.
Now, onto Nimbus's Terribad Writing advice, which you should always totally follow to the letter. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are wrong. And have obviously never written a serial so awesome that RR's stats page couldn't handle all the traffic and had to reset the views counter to 0 to avoid breaking the site.
Looking to write that awesome fight scene? Want to have those readers glued to the edge of their seats, noses almost to their screens as their eyes frantically race along, wondering why the fug you randomly stopped the fight to insert a love triangle? Well, look no further.
The first thing we should totally get rid of is tension. Tension serves no purpose but to get in the way of our upcoming love triangle.
So what if it lends the fight an air of gravitas and semblance of reality and consequence? Don't be silly, the readers don't care about all that. Why should they feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement when the main character fights a harsh, grueling battle, emerging atop the corpse of a formerly insurmountable challenge?
Why go through all that nonsense when you can just show everyone how awesome the main character is by having them point their Object A of godslaying at whatever enemy gets in their way and obliterating them with a beam of light?
This won't in any way bore the audience after the tenth generic boss crumbles to dust a quarter of the way through his monologue.
Any and all enemies should NEVER be shown as intelligent. They should NEVER be capable of using tactics of any sort. And if they do, they should gloat about it out loud, instead of just shutting up and pressing the advantage like any competent person. No, that would be DUMB. Because its not like these characters have their own lives and experiences up to this point. They should always soley exist for the MC to beat up.
THE main character should never take damage in a fight. His dashingly handsome good looks should never be disturbed. He should never face enemies who are faster or smarter than him. Nobody can be BETTER than the main character. Because stories are always about how good you are at fighting. So, our main character should never feel threatened in any way. Because people don't want all those boring things like the main character having to use tactics or some such nonsense. And if the main character ever does have to, it should always be a plan a two-year old could see through, just to make sure the audience understands.
It is an amazing idea to have 'techniques' that do the exact same, predictable thing EVERY TIME, and to yell them out loud during a fight, in no way revealing vital information to the enemy. Which they won't pick up anyway, as their average IQ should never be above 74.
Fights should drag on for hours and multiple chapters. Not sieges or whatnot, you can make entire books out of those) But individual fights should be page after pages of sword-swinging and flawless dodges. After all, it's not like most fights in real life are over in seconds. No, having the enemy futilely bash away at the MC's shield instead of stabbing his exposed head/hairy legs/crotch/etc is how it should be done.
Above all, NEVER show the enemy as effective. This will in no way make the audience feel like the main character actually accomplished something, and can't be used to say, force the main character and party to switch up their tactics.
Speaking of parties, enemies should always be in equal numbers to the main character's party. There should never be more, or anything that might actually put the main character's party at a disadvantage (since the Godslayer sword can only target one enemy at a ti e and has a 26 second cooldown timer) In fact, for the best results, make sure there are always less enemies on the enemy's side.
Even better, line them all up and have them take turns attacking. Old JRPGs got that bit spot-on.
Now, all you have to do is follow my advice to the letter and you'll be writing awesome fight scenes in no time. Just remember to insert lots of love triangles. Nimbus's Terribad writing advice, Out!
Actually, no, don't do any of that. Take everything I said in there and dump it. To sum it up, for those of you who didn't feel the ocean of sarcasm in there, let me sum it.
- Make enemies effective. Make them actually challenge the MC, and press them, force him/her back on their heels. Make the audience feel like the MC is actually threatened, like there actually might be consequences.
- Use descriptions. When your writing the scene, picture it like a movie scene. As you write, play that scene forward. Note the surroundings, what environment the fight is going on in, and how it could affect the fight itself. Describe the sounds of battle, how it smells and feels. The less words you write and the more you say*, the better.
- Let each side get their licks in. It doesn't have to be death or blah blah blah, but actually injuring the MC is a tremendous feat for any villain nowadays.
- Remember that retreating, feints, misleading and ambushes are actual, elementary tactics.
- Do not write shit like this: Hero atak, flawless dodge! Villain atak, flawless dodge! Hero atak, flawless doge! Villain atak, flawless doge with a pirouette! Sometimes, character is just too slow to avoid a hit. Getting hit, even through armor, hurts. Write how THAT can make a character slower, blur their thoughts, etc.
-Make the fight a real challenge for the MC and party. Whenever I write a Boss Fight, I make the actual boss a nightmare to face. Not with their looks and bulky build, but I make them blatantly unfair. Stronger, faster, smarter, with more options/better powers and the knowledge to use them efficiently. Then, I write just how the hell the MCs beat this thing, and what they suffered.
- Please, for the love of all that is sacred, DO NOT do shit like: 'I'm going to be serious now." "No more holding back." Or ANYTHING along that vein. Seeing a character entering a life and death fight and not using their full power suddenly makes me suspect that no less than three bulls unloaded an entire forest of brown logs onto that screen.
- Try to have your characters and their actions retain a constant sense of logic.
Do note that you can throw this out the window if your writing a parody, joke story, satire or so on. And, if you want to show the MC thoroughly outclassing the enemy, disregard a lot of what i said as well.
Subtly, of course. How a character fights can reveal a lot about them. How you write a fight scene can also contradict a characters personality. You can take fight scenes and use them to more fully explore a character's traits, personality types and weaknesses. But whatever you do, keep it consistent.
Don't make a careful, guarded character who plans ahead a lot suddenly change into a raging berserker and charge into the fray if they always hang out at the back.
In the same vein, a reckless, thickheaded character employing traps and treachery out of the blue is going to look weird AF.
Other things can be used to flesh out a character. For instance, if they spare a fallen enemy or finish them off anyway because no one is looking and the character abhors that particular order of knights/Is a ruthless killer hiding behind the mask of decency.
Where life and death is concerned is when characterization is at it's most effective,.because that's when readers will be focused the most. You just have to be creative enough to employ it.
Well, hopefully I helped you all somewhat, maybe gave you a few ideas and pointers.
So, whaddya think? Let me know below.
Re: Characterization, Fight scenes and what you get when mixing the two. Nimbus's advice for beginners.#2
One of the things I've taken to doing in my own writing is putting the protagonist in a bind, one in which I don't know how they'll prevail, and then seeing what they come up with. It works more times than you'd think, and I'm often surprised by how genuinely clever their solutions are.
Re: Characterization, Fight scenes and what you get when mixing the two. Nimbus's advice for beginners.#3
Similarly, remember what the stakes of the fight are. If it's two fighters sparring for fun, or in a no-kill tournament where it's just for bragging rights, then showboating, stopping to brag and being a bit lazy and starting off with weak attacks to test them makes sense. If it's a no-shit death-fight, then those involved are going to bust out the ultra-techniques to start with, because they want to kill the other person and not die, so aren't going to muck around with lesser attacks. Characters shouldn't behave as though they know they're in a fiction, showing off and hamming it up, they should behave as though it's an actual life-and-death combat, and treat it as such.
Endless Paving Wrote: You’ve been watching too much Terrible Writing Advice I see, but good points on characterization and fight scenes.
Mmm, I have indeed. Good Stuff.
Actually, the Terribad advises weren't very useful. I don't know how a writer like you could employ such tactics!
3seed Wrote: Here's a question: What are the novels on Royal Road that do a great job at fight scenes? From the traditional publishing world?
The only one that comes to mind right now is (i'm not adding my own here, even though Invinci was one big fight scene and readers loved it) Is The New World. There are quite a few, but I can't think of them rn.
Hopefully, some aspiring young authors stumble across this post and feel inspired to write the next great RR novel <3
3seed Wrote: Here's a question: What are the novels on Royal Road that do a great job at fight scenes? From the traditional publishing world?
I'm still fairly new to RR, so I can't recommend a story on here yet (give me a few months and I'll have definite favorites, as well as stories to avoid at all costs). Shameless plug: wait a few months and I'll get to the fight scenes in my story on here. ;)
In the traditional publishing world, I've been incredibly impressed by the large-scale, pitched battles in Malazan Book of the Fallen. They sprawl without feeling tedious -- most epics fall short of delivering a truly epic, but Malazan is incredible: vast, gritty, violent, heartbreaking, surprisingly clever. For duels or skirmishes, particularly of the magic variety, I enjoy the Cradle series, by Will Wight. Uncrowned, book seven in the series, released today. I devoured the entire book before breakfast. Well, metaphorically. Mistborn also has some great, rollicking battles with tons of cool effects.