Kung Fu vs Wire Fu: Realistic, working fight scenes


Kung Fu vs. Wire Fu
Are your fight scenes realistic? Do they work on the page?
Steve Perry, Kamila Miller, Dave Smeds, Blake Hutchins, Steven Barnes
Orycon 34 -- 2012

·      DS: The first thing, when doing an action scene, is to get intensely into the viewpoint of my character. How is the fight seeming to them. What are the threats to them. See it from the viewpoint of the expert. In doing this, it makes it accessible, regardless of whether the reader is familiar with the combat or not.
o   I know unarmed combat, but mostly I write about armed combat. There’s some cross over in terms of what people are aware about in fighting, but the techniques are different.
·      SP: I go for wire fu. Real fighting is boring. Someone gets hit, and you don’t know what happened. You want to write for it to be entertaining.
·      KM: I try to pull in the point of view really tight. In the beginning, I tried to do it like a movie: choreographed. But for writing, what’s important is the impact on the character.
·      SB: every fight has its own story arc. Look at Sylvester Stallone: every fight is a 3-act story.
·      BH: When I write a fight scene, I start with grounding in the sense. That makes it exciting. What is the scene meant to show? It is real jeopardy, or show competence?
o   What does it feel like to feel outclassed?
o   What does it feel like to be hit?
o   What does it feel like to be tricked.
·      SB:
o   Fight scenes are like sex scenes. There’s a lot going on, but what’s important is what it reveals about a character. A character should not come out as the same person.
o   I start by asking myself who is this person at the start, and who they are at the end. Either they change, or they learn something about themselves, or they reveal something about themselves.
·      Pet peeves?
o   KM: The dude who wades through the battlefield hacking and slaying.
o   DS: Karate kid: where you take someone with almost no training, and they can beat people who have been training for years.
o   SP: Tom Cruise. A 5’8” guy can’t play Jack Reacher, who is 6’5”.
o   SB: In PG and PG-13 movies, when people are fighting other people far more capable. There should be ripping eyes and going for the groin.
·      What do you love?
o   SB: The fight scene in From Russia with Love in the train cabin.
o   SB: Peter O’Donnell wrote the best fight scenes ever.
§  He’s put people in a situation they could not possible win.
§  Then convince you they have to win.
§  Modesty Blaze books
o   You find the people who do know this stuff. You have the scenes express something: somebody’s loyalty, their tolerance for pain, the lengths they will go to.
·      Get the original episodes of the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee. He’s genuinely good. The last few seasons are the best because they bought up people he could really fight against.
·      Guilty Pleasures:
o   SP: Green Arrow on CW: the kids aren’t watching this, so they just go wild. “kill them all”
o   SB: Wild, wild west
o    
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