Friday, August 22, 2014

Fight Scene: Refuge of Last Resort

Fights are like monologues. They're a refuge of last resort, reserved for moments of extremity, for when a character has been backed into a corner and there is no other option. Precious few people who aren't psychotic or hopped up on illegal substances want to walk face first into a fight for no reason.

Therefore, by the time a fight scene happens, the talking should, to my mind, be over. UNLESS. Words are one of the weapons. Talking rather than acting is generally seen as a feminine trait. Acting without talking is generally seen as a masculine trait. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. They are simply tools a writer can pick up and use to heighten the conflict in a fight scene. Because in no way should a fight be about might making right. Sure, it does happen that sometimes someone shoots at you and all you can do is shoot back. But if you're writing a fight scene, you have the option to make it do double duty.

Most fights are masses of confusion, terror and noise. A police officer with the highest marksman ranking his department awarded once told me that the winner of most gun battles is decided by who runs out of bullets first - not who hits someone or something - he who runs out of bullets, loses. Reality? Maybe, certainly not good for a sense of drama though, is it?

Maybe that's why I prefer other weapons. This short snippet of a fight scene is from a short story called Emissary. It appeared in the anthology Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword

My heroine has been sent to kill a wizard who usurped his brother's throne. He's using the captain of the guard as his bodyguard.

         “Aukenhet, you have destroyed temples, murdered the priests, and defiled the sacred precincts. Your actions offend the Gods.”
          His beady black eyes glittered at me.
          I fingered my mother’s gift to me, the dagger she’d given into a merchant’s keeping before she’d died. Whether the Dagger of Heaven knew by some means that I stood before the man I’d been sent to destroy, I could not know, but strength and resolve surged into me when my left hand closed on the hilt.
          “You’ve been sent to rectify the situation?” he sneered.
          “By any means necessary,” I confirmed.
          “Sekhmet has turned you from a warrior into nothing more than a common assassin?” He clicked his tongue. “Pity. You see, Kol defends my life with his own. Kol. Kill her.”
         Kol said nothing. Instead, he circled outside of my shorter reach, watching me counter him.
          Most fighters telegraphed their intent – attack or retreat – well before executing the move. Well trained warriors had learned to read their opponent’s body language like a scribe reading a papyrus scroll.
          I knew he watched me move, hoping to learn to read me. I knew this because I sought the same information from him and shivered when a thread of misgiving wrapped a noose around my heart.
          I couldn’t read him.
          Eburi’s growl echoed through the throne room, bouncing back upon itself until I felt as if my skull rattled with it.
          “He is not our prey,” I told her.
          Aukenhet’s champion imagined I’d left him an opening while I spoke to Eburi.
          He darted in, aiming a swift cut at my sword arm.
          I didn’t bother parrying, since I suspected he’d use any contact of our blades to run up on me and lock us body to body. With his greater weight and strength, if I let him gain that advantage, I’d be dead in an instant. So I sprang out of the way, a simple leap, conserving energy.
          Poised on the edge of the dais, Aukenhet muttered. His fingers twitched.
          Eburi hissed.
          Something cold and slimy slithered up my right leg, rooting me to the floor. When I glanced down, I saw nothing. Panic tightened barbed bands around my chest. In its sheath against my side, the Dagger of Heaven warmed.
        The scent of bodies rotting in the sun wafted past, making my eyes water. The chill wrapped around my leg vanished. I could move unhindered.
          Kol’s eyes narrowed.
          Did he know Aukenhet had tried and failed to bespell me? Did he care?
          He opened his guard slightly.
          Not quite taunting. A goad, maybe.
          No matter. I’d take his dare. I dove into a shoulder roll that brought me within striking distance. For a moment, as I let the momentum of the roll bring me to my feet, I caught the startled look in his face. His lips parted and I heard the rush of air sucked into his lungs as I aimed my blade at his ribs.
          Kol backpedaled hard and barely brought his sword across his body in time to deflect me.
          That he managed to parry at all spoke of agility and strength that could all too easily best me. Why then did my heart sing at the prospect of having found so worthy an opponent?


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