This week: Writing Battle Scenes Edited by: Jayne
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|Hi, I'm Jayne, here with another installment of the Action/Adventure newsletter.|
| Conjure up the notion of a fictional “epic” battle scene, and a large swath of the writing community heads straight for the fantasy genre, while another sizeable group trots off to the lands of historical fiction. Why is that?|
Sure, castles and dragons are a lot of fun. But so are space operas, westerns, supernatural beings, and even steampunk. That list is not exhaustive, of course, serving only to illustrate that an epic battle – assuming the story builds to that conclusion – can go nearly anywhere.
When I say ‘anywhere’, I don’t actually mean ‘anywhere and everywhere’. Battle scenes require careful coordination both within their own boundaries of action, and within the context of the story. A constant battle, without any breaks, is hard on your readers. They need a little breathing room, a little more to the story, and certainly a lot more to the characters. Otherwise, why would we care if one wins over the other? We wouldn’t.
It’s important to establish your character relationships and goals ahead of and between battle scenes. Before this gets called out for being too cliché, let’s be clear it doesn’t mean characters on the same side have to like each other. But if they don’t, will one save the other in battle? Why or why not? We need their motivation.
No matter how many characters are headed into battle, your main and major characters have to have a reason to be there. What’s the grudge or other kind of motivation? Just as importantly, what’s the point of their story in relation to the bigger picture? How do their actions, either directly or indirectly, affect the outcome of the story? If they have no ultimate purpose, make sure you aren’t giving them too much space. It can sidetrack the reader and get them invested in a character with a dead end.
There are few things worse than getting invested in a book, only to find your favourite character ends up as little more than a piece of set decoration. On top of that, it wastes critical word count on something that ultimately doesn’t matter. If it’s not pushing your story forward, consider limiting the stage-prop characters, or eliminating them altogether by sliding their actions and conversations into characters that have a vested interest in the outcome – for themselves, and for you, the writer.
Next issue, we’ll talk about a fight scene vs a battle scene, and how to help your reader keep track of what’s going on.
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