A fiction writer's resource for creating realistic, convincing fight scenes.
Author and martial arts instructor, Alan Baxter, presents a short, ~12,000 word, ebook describing all the things a writer needs to consider when writing fight scenes. Baxter's experience from decades as a career martial artist make this book a valuable resource for writers who want to understand what fighting is all about - what it really feels like and what does and doesn't work - and how to factor those things into their writing to make their fight scenes visceral, realistic page turners. Baxter won't tell you how to write, but he will tell you what makes a great fight scene.
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Truthful and useful
“A fiction writer’s resource for creating realistic, convincing fight scenes” reads the subtitle, enough to cause me a little discomfort. I have no ability to write fight scenes in painful, technical detail, nor any such desire, but I understand what it’s like to be thrown out of a book by an unrealistic or improbable fight scene. I didn’t know what to expect.
Here’s the short version: buy this book.
Alan Baxter writes from the point of view of a writer, as well as a martial artist. He shares the experience of fighting, and espouses writing about fighting as an experience rather than as exposition or spectacle, and along the way, debunks a lot of the myths around hand-to-hand fighting. Even better, he summarises all his main points in a checklist at the very end, but that checklist is most valuable if you’ve taken the time to read the whole book.
I have my own experience of fighting, from a couple of years of karate lessons when I was a child. I don’t like it, but I know what a fight feels like, and it bothers me when writers make fights out to be these comfortable, strategic, planned engagements, when I know for myself that a fight is nothing like that at all. The fact that Baxter concentrates on what a fight feels like (while not neglecting any of the other detail) means that his method of writing about fights would work for someone who didn’t want to describe a fight in great detail, although of course someone who wanted to make more of it could do so quite easily.
So much of what Baxter writes rings true for me that I have no doubt that the other stuff (the point of view of a trained fighter, which I definitely am not) is easy enough to believe, and plausible enough to extrapolate quite reasonably. At 12,000 words, this is a quick read, but packed with so much content that it’s well worth the asking price. Frankly, if more writers would just countercheck their fight scenes against Baxter’s checklist, there would be more realistic and more quality fight scenes written, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Of course, this book may have no application for you, if there are no fights in your books, or if everyone duels in some magical, esoteric fashion on another plane, by some non-physical method like changing colour or something, but for everyone else, I suspect most would gain some insights from this small (but rich) little book.
(Disclosure: I know Alan Baxter, he’s a Facebook friend, and I met him earlier this year at Conflux 7. Make of that what you will.)