I love writing action scenes.
Love them. Loooooooove them.
Got swords? Guns? Mad Ninja Skillz? I’m all over it.
On a side note, I pity the intruder who breaks into our house, because they will be met by any number of firearms and melee bringers of stabby and/or smashy death, as well as some very seriously pissed off homeowners. And if you bleed on my tile floors, I will hit you again.
Zombie apocalypse? Bring. It. On.
I think even my husband’s a little afraid of how intense I am regarding this subject. Anyway.
My characters know Kung-Fu.
But the best fights, the most epically epic of them all, aren’t just fights. They’re also conflicts.
Men express romance with action. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m also talking about things like nobility, destiny, fighting the good fight and stopping the world blowing up every other week. Some women do, too.
At the same time a fight scene is going on, it’s not really about the fighting. It’s a juxtaposition of internal conflict with the character’s self and external conflict with the bad guy (or guys) in question.
And when you write something like Keepers of the Flame (think Highlander in an apocalyptic setting, starring female action heroes), this is something it’s imperative to bone up on. My Keepers are pretty bad-ass and action-oriented, and they’re usually fighting something in themselves as well as their opponents, because their greatest power comes from the act of sacrifice.
Here are some of my favorites that illustrate this point about a fight also being a conflict:
The Matrix: Neo’s end game fight with Agent Smith—Neo has to accept (and embrace) something about himself he hasn’t been willing to up to this point in order to win the day. It is only through death that he is reborn.
Equilibrium: John Preston accepts the need to sacrifice himself in the attempt to destroy the world that has gone from comfortable and familiar to unravelling on him, thread by thread, throughout the course of the movie. When he does accept his own death, and embraces it, he becomes that much more powerful.
The Hobbit: Despite Peter Jackson’s signature, overly long, slow-motion shots between the White Orc and Thorin, this is an epic conflict of the ages, right up there with Ahab and Moby Dick. This is one of those “We’re such hard-core enemies we may as well be allies in another life” relationships that borders on bromance. These guys bring the “epic” to “epic struggle”.
Thor: I love the first Thor movie, mainly because Kenneth Brannagh directed it, and as such it is so chock-a-block with Shakespearian awesome that it makes my wittle theatre-geek heart go thumpa-thumpa. In order for Thor to gain everything he’s lost, including his godhood, he has to sacrifice himself in battle. And the ongoing brotherly struggle with Loki (“He’s adopted”) is so full of conflict win it deserves its own master’s thesis.
Leverage: Throughout the entire series, Eliot is the bad-ass with the heart of gold. He hates guns. Doesn’t need ’em, doesn’t want ’em, makes a point of releasing the clip from every bad guy gun he can find after he’s concussed them all with his bare hands. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to use them–quite the opposite. For Eliot, guns open the direct line to his dark side. In one epic scene (Ssn 4, I think), Eliot sacrifices everything to arm himself with a couple of pistols, Tomb Raider style, and in one gorgeous, balletic shot, wipes out a whole bevy of bad guys. It is heart-breaking and beautiful and terrifying all at once.
So there you have it. It’s not just about the flying fists of doom, or clashing swords, or wildly firing guns. It’s not even about Kung-Fu (crazy-talk, I know).
A really good fight scene—whether it’s just a heated argument between two characters or an epic battle scene of Mordorish proportions—encompasses both the internal and external conflict to ground your reader on the edge of their seat.
What are some of your favorite fight scenes?