main
side
curve
  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

T.A.C.T.I.C.S.=Thread for Advice and Criticism Towards Improving Combat Scenes

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Darth_Tim, May 9, 2002.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Okay, so mush writers have SMOOCH, but what about the times when you want to make war, not love?

    In my observation/experience chatting with other writers, many find combat/action scenes difficult to write, but enjoyable to read when done well.

    So, I thought, maybe I should make a thread dedicated to action/combat scenes, where writers could offer sample pieces (either to illustrate a point or for critique) questions, advice, articles, etc. Maybe it will cut down on thread quantity as well, as the questions about ranks, how to take down a walker, etc could go here instead of into dedicated threads which get a couple replies and then dissappear.

    I would hope to have both those with a strong background in writing action scenes or a knowledge of combat, either academic or practical, and those who are deathly afraid of writing combat scenes, and everyone in between.

    I think sometimes writers forget that to follow the true spirit of Star Wars, you should have at least some combat/action between the angst and the mush.

    So, to kick this off: Do you guys think this is a good idea? And secondly, what do you think are the most important qualities of a good combat/action scene?

    I guess I'll go first...if I didn't think the thread was a good idea, why did I create it? LOL.

    As for Question 2:

    REALISM!! Very important. What I mean by that is, for example, a Jedi should be able to block blaster shots, but if a heavy blaster cannon from a walker is firing at him, he had best be VERY good or the impact is likely to knock him off his feet...

    -Tim



    Unlocking and upping per request. :)
     
  2. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Dec 26, 2000
    Great thread, Tim, I love the title. ;) [face_laugh] :p

    I've recently read the first book in the X-wing series (Rogue Squadron). I loved it, but sometimes the dogfight scenes were a bit confusing for me. It's partially because English is a foreign language to me and my vocabulary is limited.

    Writing action is one of my weaknesses, and I know it. It's great that there (finally) is a thread like this where I could improve my action scenes writing. :)
     
  3. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2001
    Great thread idea Tim. I know that those are hard scenes for me to do. I'm in the middle of one right now on this Luke/Vader fic I am working on. I am doing a Vader/droid battle at the moment. Any fencing/fighting suggestions would be welcome.
     
  4. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    Ugh, I almost hate writing action scenes. Too little description and there's no intensity. Too much and you'll bore the reader by describing every little move, step, and thought.


    After trial and error I've reached the point where I just mention the big stuff and let the reader use his/her imagination to fill in the blanks.
     
  5. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Force Ghost star 7

    Registered:
    Dec 26, 2000
    Tell me about it, Herman. When I rewrote the Battle of Yavin for TFMD, I almost went nuts (and I even had the script for reference). I could definitely use some help in this area...
     
  6. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    I'll admit it's a very narrow boundary between too little detail and "Tom Clancified" in the words of one of my betas. I think the trick is being descriptive on the important stuff but not explaining EVERYTHING.

    -Tim
     
  7. Jedi-Jae

    Jedi-Jae Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 12, 2001
    Great idea, Tim! I love a well-written action stories.

    Combat/fight scenes can be difficult to write, but not any more so than anything else. I think the key is to use good, strong action verbs.
     
  8. Melyanna

    Melyanna Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2001
    Great idea, Tim! I've got a lot of action impending in Into the Unknown, so you may be seeing quite a bit of me over the next few weeks. I'll try to get something up here for critique sometime soon. :)

    Mel
     
  9. Mcily_Nochi

    Mcily_Nochi Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 23, 2001
    I am going to need so much help here . . . *settles in and starts to feel at home* I've never been able to write a good action scene, but in my current fic there's a war going on that is going to have space battles, and the climax is a lightsaber duel . . . *cringes at the thought*
     
  10. Marawannabe

    Marawannabe Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 16, 2001
    *drags in a couch with lots of cushions* I stink at combat, might as well be comfortable while I learn from the masters. :D
     
  11. padawan lunetta

    padawan lunetta Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    May 15, 1999
    *joins Mara* I need a lot of help too!
     
  12. Fluke_Groundwalker

    Fluke_Groundwalker Jedi Youngling star 5

    Registered:
    Aug 11, 2001
    Nice thread.

    I think several resources on how to write good action scenes in SW would be Michael A. Stackpole's books, and The Black Fleet Crisis.
     
  13. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2001
    What I have noticed when reading Action/combat sections is, I am more involved and can picture it better, if the author brings it down to a personal level. Showing you the action from the eyes of a character rather than just describing what is going on. Inserting, reactions, thoughts and good dialogue helps a lot. Emotion makes it real and keeps it from getting boring.
     
  14. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I also run it across my "inner movie screen." I also try to bear in mind that lightsaber battles between 2 characters aren't as likely to happen as often as "fighting off blast bolts..." (my personal feeling is that "Dark Jedi" are getting to be a SW cliche, so I try to avoid them).

    Yes, this is a good thread! Any fighter pilots on here? I am always looking for help on ship battle description.

    Me, I've been studying Korean-style (Jedi-style!) sword fighting (melee), so I can help a little with lightsaber scenes...

     
  15. Lisse

    Lisse Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 6, 2001
    Excellent idea. And very groovy name. :)

    I prefer action scenes that don't describe every single move and the technical details of every single ship. As a result, I tend to write the scenes from a very emotion-oriented point of view. If it's a chaotic scene with people fighting everywhere, I write my current POV character as disoriented by the pandemonium. If it's a one on one battle, I tend to have two simultaneous narratives going -- one that describes the big events and a few details, and one that details exactly what's going through the POV character's mind.

    Obviously action scenes are my weak point. Hopefully I'll be able to fix that. :)
     
  16. JediGaladriel

    JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 3, 1999
    I'm utterly terrified of action scenes, and put off writing them as long as I can, but since I almost always write stories with some action in them, I can't put it off forever. And so far, not too many complaints, though I would much appreciate any help.

    My basic approaches:

    The heavy point-of-view. Great for character-based stories with action scenes in them: Just pick a character and use the action to do characterization. This is more a mental trick for the writer than an actual fictional technique, I think. I can psyche myself into writing action by telling myself that I'm just seeing how Anakin (or any other character) would react if such-and-such happened to him. Variation on this would be the distracted narrator -- she's thinking about something else, and occasionally notices that, yes, there's action going on, and maybe she ought to get out of the way of that careening Star Destroyer, ya know?

    Bite the bullet: Or, as the Nike ads say, Just Do It. Watch the movie in your head and write down what you see. For me, what I write is never as action-packed and interesting as what I've been watching.

    Short scenes: This is my favorite -- action writing for people who hate action writing -- but you have to be careful not to overuse it. Basically, it's a montage of several little incidents, usually only a few paragraphs (I use dividers between the "scenelets" to avoid point-of-view confusion). Here's something happening on an Imperial ship, and something else happening on a Rebel ship, and there's a riot on Coruscant, and the Gungans are invading the Imperial Palace... The advantage in writing is that you lose the temptation to overdescribe, and since you're usually doing this with "strangers," you lose the temptation to bury action in characterization. Each scenelet is short, so it's not as scary to approach. From the finished-product point of view, the rapid switching -- if it's part of a story that has generally had long scenes -- provides for an increased pace, like speeding up the backbeat on a soundtrack. It also gives an opportunity to do a real panoramic shot of the galaxy. There's an example of this kind of thing in Jedi, in the scene where one Ewok is killed and the other tries to "wake" him.
     
  17. Melyanna

    Melyanna Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 19, 2001
    I'm with you there, JG. (Which explains why I'm in hiding from my readers at the moment...) ;)

    I like to think I write decent hand-to-hand, okay duels, mediocre ground battles, and I just avoid space battles like the plague. I think I have it pretty much figured out as to why I do this. I have a lot of experience with hand-to-hand technique, and I've actually taught it some, so I know how to describe the techniques. I can actually ask myself, "If I'm being attacked by someone twice as big as me, what would be reasonable for me to do?" or "If I was trying to capture this person, how would I go about it?" For duels, I have a little experience with melée, so I can draw on that. For everything else, there's reading the work of other authors.

    One thing I've noticed about space battles - a lot of the authors who are really fantastic with space battles have logged many an hour in games like X-Wing. So people like my brother, who plays that game obsessively, write great space battles, provided they can write in the first place, of course. Then there are people like me, who find convenient ways around having them. ;)

    Mel
     
  18. Darth_Tim

    Darth_Tim Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Short scenes: This is my favorite -- action writing for people who hate action writing -- but you have to be careful not to overuse it. Basically, it's a montage of several little incidents, usually only a few paragraphs (I use dividers between the "scenelets" to avoid point-of-view confusion). Here's something happening on an Imperial ship, and something else happening on a Rebel ship, and there's a riot on Coruscant, and the Gungans are invading the Imperial Palace... The advantage in writing is that you lose the temptation to overdescribe, and since you're usually doing this with "strangers," you lose the temptation to bury action in characterization. Each scenelet is short, so it's not as scary to approach. From the finished-product point of view, the rapid switching -- if it's part of a story that has generally had long scenes -- provides for an increased pace, like speeding up the backbeat on a soundtrack. It also gives an opportunity to do a real panoramic shot of the galaxy. There's an example of this kind of thing in Jedi, in the scene where one Ewok is killed and the other tries to "wake" him. >>

    I always liked how the compex RotJ battle was handled too-you had a simultaneous space battle, ground battle, and saber duel all going on at once, but with the shifting around, you still manage to get a clear picture of what is going on in each area.

    I agree it's hard to translate good action scenes onto paper, even if they'd look great onscreen-and for my Ep 2 fic I had wanted to include a gigantic battle taking place simultaneously in space and on the ground. I found when playing with it what works best for me is short-to medium length scenes from certain POV's...the main characters and then a couple others, plus a few "camera view" parts here and there-IE from an outside observer's POV rather than the characters'- that sort of shift around, giving you a fairly clear picture of what's going on.

    Of all the approaches I've played with so far, that has probably been the most successful, IMHO.

    I think dogfight scenes are the hardest to write, because you can't really apply Earth-based fighter tactics to an environment with no gravity or atmosphere, which are two huge things that come into play with "real life" fighter tactics...I.E. maneuvers could be made in space that would not be possible in atmospheric flight. But then again I remember Stackpole being rather perceptive on the subject-noting the effects of air resistance on the TIE solar panels in atmospheric flight hampering lateral maneuvers, for example.

    I find the movies strange sometimes in their interpretation of tactics-TPM comes to mind...the TF army had armored vehicles, yet the Gungans chose to engage them on open ground, which is usually the LAST thing you want to do with an infantry-based army against a mechanized force.

    -Tim

     
  19. Veng_Commando

    Veng_Commando Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 26, 2001
    I want in!!


    The Gungans had a shield in that battle, the high velocety of which the lasers would hit the shield stoppped it, so they were actually "behind cover".

    Er, I've always had trouble in maiing scenes where theres 1-1 things... too hard for me to get whats in my head to the paper wihtout making it sound... stupid. I have a problem with actually finishing sotries but thats different.
     
  20. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    I find the movies strange sometimes in their interpretation of tactics-TPM comes to mind...the TF army had armored vehicles, yet the Gungans chose to engage them on open ground, which is usually the LAST thing you want to do with an infantry-based army against a mechanized force.


    True, but the objective of the Gungan forces wasn't to battle and defeat the forces of the Trade Federation. They needed to provide a nice, easy target to draw the forces away from the city. That way there would be less opposition for the remaining Naboo security forces to overcome so that they could get the crews to the fighters so they could destroy the control ship.



    Now, to me lightsaber duels are harder than space battles. Traditoinally the movies overlook the 3D nature of space battles and the fighters really don't follow the physics of zero-g combat, so you're off the hook there.

    But swordplay is all about positioning and a hellish combination of offense and defense. Position is everything and two competent swordsmen (as Jedi and Sith should be) wouldn't just hack away at each other but would instead be able to exploit the slightest mistake in their opponent's defenses.

    I've heard people who claim to know what they're talking about say that Kenobi's fighting style in ANH is much deadlier than the way he fought in TPM.
     
  21. JediSmuggler

    JediSmuggler Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 5, 1999
    They is nothing wrong with "Tom Clancified" battle scenes. If anything, they would work out quite well, IMHO.

    For a good idea of what a character would go through in a blaster fight, I've used a series of articles from American Handgunner called "The Ayoob Files", which dissect a gunfight that has occured in real life.

     
  22. jadesaber2

    jadesaber2 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 17, 2000
    This sounds like a place I'd fit in. I think I'll stay.

    As for how I write action, it depends on what type. As I've only written two stories with any kind of lightsaber action, I'm still trying to develop a style. With my first story, I described every move the characters made. With a large battle, I followed a character through a fight with one or two opponents, then moved to a different character. I did this for three, maybe four characters, then ended the battle. In my other story, I used the short-scene method.

    Space battles, however, are something I need help with. My first story involved a battle over Coruscant. It started out with two characters' points of view. Pretty good start. But then I went to an outside viewer's POV and it was cut short.

    I'm working on a story now that relies heavily on space battles. I'm nervous as to how it's going to turn out. I may have a great idea, but when I write it out, sometimes it just stinks.
     
  23. the_jedi_princess

    the_jedi_princess Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 26, 2002
    My story starts out with combat!!!

    The only advice I can give, is that the main character is never invincible. They can be dropped, hurt, and so on. Both sides should fight back, not just have it onesided.

    Another thing I use is to read SW books with combat in them. The best one I personally think of when I write, is I, Jedi. Though its told in first person, it has quite a few good fight scenes, both space and otherwise, as well as giving us a look into the thoughts of one of the fighters.

    That's all I can think of. And yes, I am a newbie, but don't hold that against me.
     
  24. Sebulba2179

    Sebulba2179 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2002
    Well, Tim, you could give a more objective view of my action scenes than I ever could, but you know I love to write action. In my youth (which admittedly wasn't that long ago), I practised space battles, one of which you'll see at the end of [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=6195206]The New Empire[/link] ; then you can see if the practise paid off. Needless to say, in [link=http://boards.theforce.net/message.asp?topic=5914002]Need for Speed[/link] , I got started on writing pod races, which have met with great reactions so far. Lightsaber duels I'm still struggling with, but practising writing them for upcoming stories.

    What works best for me in writing action scenes is to use a lot of strong verbs. You don't always have to use the same stale "hit" or "shot" or "speed" or whatever. A dictionary or thesaurus will give you a galaxy of synonyms that you might prefer to use, and will give the scene some real adrenaline.
     
  25. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    To echo everyone else's sentiments, great thread. :)

    I've never tried to do a lightsaber duel, but as someone who's been privately tinkering with dogfights for about a year now, I know how hard they are. Herman's right in that the space battles in the movies overlook the microgravity environment of space, because otherwise an X-wing would be able to perform a maneuver like Babylon 5's Starfuries, where they are moving forward, spin around so that they are now moving backwards but in the same direction they were originally going, and fire. Too bad they don't: I like that maneuver. :)

    One problem I have is trying to think in 3D, but playing the X-wing computer games or even using little figures or toys to represent all the ships in a battle and then moving them around relative to each other (even putting them at different relative heights) seems to help me get started.

    But my biggest problem by far is when I'm trying to write about several different actions that happen simultaneously, either in a dogfight or just to a character standing around. I should be able to think of an example right now but I can't, so I'll probably dig through my stories this weekend to find a specific excerpt. But usually even the basic description of the multiple things that happen at once seems to take so much longer than it would take for them to occur in the first place, and by the time I'm done reading those sentences the "instantaneousness" of the actions is no longer there, and I don't get the effect I wanted.

    Well, lunch is over so I'd better wrap this up. Looking forward to reading this thread!

    -Katie
    Thumper
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.