Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fighting and writing workshop, day 2, Setting the Chessboard

This is my online workshop in writing fight scenes that I did for the Catholic Writer's Conference.  Karina Fabian had managed to draft me ... or I volunteered, I'm not entirely certain.  Either way, it was an interesting little experience.

Since most of you folks have been with me for a while, I'm going to give it to you.

Don't worry, I wasn't paid for this, so giving this away for free will hurt no one. And, few to no people wanted to show up and play with my workshop, even though there were over 25 viewers for each post.  But, I've been told few people showed up anyway for the forums, something to do with schedule confusion.

So, here is day two.... see you next week.

 Day Two: Setting the Chessboard

Before even beginning a fight scene, you should know where it is, what happens to be lying around, and what is or is not available.

Keep in mind that you're going to have different rules of engagement for each fight, depending on the setting and the bad guy. If you're in the middle of a fantasy universe, where the technology is pre-atomic, the moment that some random adversary pulls a weapon, your hero/ine can immediately counterattack – be it a full disarm or a quick kick where it hurts – if only because the likelihood of your character being arrested for defending him/herself will be nonexistent (and you thought day one was a waste of time, didn't you? Heh.).

Obviously, the method and manner of the counterattack will be dictated by your character, and the situation. A civilian who knows Krav Maga will have different instincts than, say, a police officer with a gun.

Step one, of course, is your players. What is the physical condition of your character? How tall? How fat? How many protagonists vs. how many antagonists? If your hero/ine is seven feet tall, or three feet wide, it would be difficult to hide. An athlete can, at the very least, run or hide. Are either or both armed? With what?

Step two is knowing where your players are in relation to one another, and in relation to the environment. Fights do not take place in a vacuum. Pick a setting for your fight. Set it up in your own home, or someplace you know well, or someplace you've created out of thin air. Is it a place rich with weaponry? (See the improvised weapons article.) Or is it a place rich with hiding places?

Important note: consider that while your paper is two-dimensional, your setting need not be. In fact, unless you're on a stretch of highway in one of the flatter parts of Ohio, or in a strange part of a desert without sand dunes, you're going to have three-dimensional elements to it. Just something to think about.

Step three: Where is your hero(es)/heroine(s)? Where is your bad guy? This will dictate many of the choices for your main character. Is it easier to run, fight or hide? Does your character need to take cover? Can s/he get to a weapon, or will s/he have to work for it?

Assignment #2: Setting the Chessboard

Create a setting for your battle, keeping in mind everything discussed in the reading. Go as big or as small as you want. And keep in mind while your page is two-dimensional, your setting is three-dimensional.

What weapons areavailable to each character involved? What hiding spaces or cover is there? What would your hero/ine notice? What would the enemy notice?

In short: describe a room with a tactical eye. Can you characters run? Hide? What can they fight with? Throw?

For more ideas on the matter, I recommend looking at the reference link, mainly for some basic ideas on being aware.

1 comment:

  1. Having grown up in a rather boring looking desert, where sand wasn't much of an issue. In this case, the topsoil was flat and thin, having next to no body at all, until you dug down to a clay so dense you'd swear it was kin to neutronium. The dirt issue being that throwing it in someone's eyes would do you no good, because it would blow away before it hit anybody in the face. But most of those deserts have rocks. A fist full of rocks can be distracting but will have no stopping power unless you put it in a sock-- or find one big enough to hurt. Unless you only have one rock, multiple rocks in the fist to punch actually hurt you more than your opponent. (Yes, I know from personal experience.) There are dead branches, if not actual mesquite here and there, and old cacti and whatnot. The only place I can think of in the continental US with featureless desert is salt flats or death valley-- and they do have the occasional rock, that would be hot enough to cause damage. It occurs to me that this would be an awesome place to have a fight. Now if only I can figure out an excuse for it... And salt flats have..salt. This has whole categories of blinding potential, considering concentrated salt REALLY hurts in the eyes. Considering that this salt is likely impure, with things like sulfur and other exotic and even toxic things, well... it can get pretty ugly if you let it.

    One last thing. IN the desert I can think of, there were areas that were covered with concrete in bizarre forms with smooth sculptural shapes. Why? Because the army corps of engineers decided that this was a good place to doc a boon, or perhaps line certain strategic aroyos (or washes) so they did not deteriorate. This way, when the FLOODS came, the water would be shunted into areas where it would do no harm. IN this desert we had monsoon style rains every spring. The year before they fixed the arroyos we had ten inches of rain in our kitchen, that poured through like a river. It was't just stagnant, it had a dangerous current. Fortunately, things dry out quickly there-- and getting to high ground wasn't that difficult. The next year we had similar rains but no floods, thanks to those weird alien looking formations deposited in wacky places in the middle of nowhere.

    Even weirder are the dumps for nuclear waste, which are covered with spikes and craters that are supposed to appeal to the primal human's sense of danger. Basically, they asked themselves how preverbal man (who might not be able to read even the most helpful signs) would feel about the place, and did their best to create the creepiest and most disturbing landscapes to express danger in every way they could. Spooky places. I can't seem to find my link, but it's out there. Google knows all.


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