Write Fights Right!

Sanjuro final duel, two samurai facing each other with spectators in background

If you’ve seen Sanjuro, you know this isn’t a still, but a playing video.

I love good fight scenes. In a story, I want to feel the action. In a film, I want tightly choreographed combat. It’s fine if it’s realistic (the long tension of Sanjuro‘s final duel, and we’ll just ignore the period blood effects), fake realistic (the bloody impact of Logan), crazy physics-defying martial arts (the alternate-world movement of The Matrix), or just plain fun (Captain America kicking Nazi tail). But lame action, the writer glossing over it or the director trying to fake it with shaky cam, makes me feel cheated.

So I try to write good action scenes. And most of the time I feel I do an okay job.

But I’ve been really struggling with one scene. It’s very short, an attempted bar fight which is over in under three seconds. But because it’s so fast, it’s hard to write; I don’t want to lose flow or add length with a lot of explanation, yet the physical actions are fairly complex. I’d been frustrated by this for an embarrassingly long time. So I called in an expert, Carla Hoch. Continue reading