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Posts Tagged ‘stabby stabby’

Writing Fight Scenes: Basic Principles of Fighting

[This is a post in my series on how to write fight scenes. Other installments may be found under the tag.]

After (another) hiatus, I’m ready to dive back into the “writing fight scenes” project.

When we last left this discussion, I said I was about to get into the craft issues of how you put a fight scene on the page, but on reflection, there’s one more practical thing I want to cover first, for people without a background in any kind of combat, and that’s the basic principles of fighting. These are things you want to keep in mind when you imagine how your characters are moving, so you don’t end up describing what a more experienced reader will instantly recognize as bad technique.

It’s hard to generalize about every style of fighting out there, but I feel relatively safe in saying they all share one core principle: maximize your ability to hit the other guy, while minimizing his ability to hit you.

There are various ways to do that.

Answers, Round Three

More answers from the ask me anything thread.


starlady38 asked, If you were to write anything in the Onyx Court world post-series ending, what would it be about and when would it be about?

Chronologically post-ending, or just written post-ending?

Chronologically, as others have said, the most likely continuation of the series would be into the Blitz, and then to the modern day. (Whether or not that will happen depends on multiple factors, one of which is sales figures for the rest of the series, so if you want a Blitz book: go tell your friends to buy the rest of ’em!) I have to admit I sort of like the notion of a historical series that spans enough time to stop being historical, though there would be some interesting challenges associated with doing so.

At least, that’s the novel side of things. I’ve written a few Onyx Court short stories, and intend to write at least a few more; one of those would be a Jack the Ripper story, taking place not long after the end of With Fate Conspire. Aside from that, the top spot on the short fiction list is probably the “Ada Lovelace builds herself wings” story.


yhlee asked, Favorite weapon?


What? I watched The Princess Bride at a very impressionable age. ^_^ And then took fencing classes at my local rec center, where our teacher couldn’t keep us linear and make us leave our off-hands out of it for love or money, until he said “screw it” and taught us rapier-and-dagger styles instead of foil or epee. The left-handed weapon of my matched pair of rapiers was a gift from him.

The style suits me, I think, and I want to get back to doing it. I am definitely built for speed and accuracy above strength, and it’s a great weapon for Renaissance-ish settings, which I do admit I have a soft spot for.


alecaustin asked, Did you ever get a chance to do the research you wanted to do for the Mt. Hiei story?

I’m working on it, yeah. (Actually, I need to steal the car from my husband so I can make a trip down to the Stanford library, after which work will proceed at a much more useful pace.)

Also, under which edition of D&D (if any) are you level 31? (4e would break in half, but you’re okay under 3e’s Epic level rules, and still within parameters for Classic D&D…)

Who says it’s D&D? I’m tempted to claim I’m a Dragon Age DW rogue, and just picked up Unending Flurry. (Man, pair that with Twin Strikes and Low Blow, and your opponent bleeds out like you cut their femoral artery.) But even with the Awakening expansion, DA classes cap out at level 35, and I want to live long past that point. WoW would be a good choice, since they keep raising the level cap — but I don’t play that game and have no interest in doing so. In which case, okay, fine, I’m a D&D 3.5 character, playing for a GM who (hopefully) doesn’t mind coming up with the stupidly over-the-top plots that become necessary when playing epic-level PCs. ‘Cause I intend to become very epic.


I’m at the fun part of the learning curve right now.

Every fencing practice I go to, my brain unearths another dusty piece of technique it used to know ten years ago. After a few incidents of walking straight onto somebody’s blade because I failed to clear the line before advancing, my brain remembered beats! Yeah, those work! And then I overuse them heavily, but oh yeah, there are feints and disengages, too. Today’s revelation was particularly funny; given how much I adored binding parries in high school, you would think I’d have remembered them sooner.

Of course, I didn’t remember them until I’d been playing for a good hour and a half, at which point my wrists were no longer up to the task. But we’ll try them next time.

I can watch myself improving, mostly in terms of my ability to keep thinking. If my first attack is blocked, I try another one. Or even plan ahead, my first attack a feint to set my opponent up for the follow-through. If I’m retreating, I don’t just parry; I parry and riposte (or try to). One of these days I’ll get draw-cuts and push-cuts into the mental programming, and then I might even stand a chance in close combat!

Dear Brain: while we’re at the cuts thing, please also recall that we’re no longer in the backyard with a dowel rod; it is not only okay, but desirable, to follow through on a lunge instead of pulling up half an inch short of connecting. kthxbye.

Also, today I let myself pick up a dagger for a little while. I’ve been fighting single-sword because it allows/forces me to pay attention to what I’m doing with that blade, but man, rapier and dagger just feels right. I don’t want a buckler; I don’t want a cloak — though I’ll be happy to play with those someday — a dagger in my off hand feels like the most natural thing in the world. (My real ambition, of course, is case. But the few times I played with that in high school, I invariably got my points tangled, so we’ll stick with a short secondary for now.)

<studies arms> I look like a battered wife. But that will improve as my skill does.


If I had the time, I’d post a picture of the thing I’m currently wearing. Not because it’s pretty — far, far from it — but because it is the result of my first-ever attempt to draft a piece of clothing completely from scratch, with nothing more than my dress form, some muslin, and lots of pins and markers.

I doubt I’ve done a very efficient job, mind you; there’s been a lot of wasted muslin along the way, as I reinvented the wheel of things like arm holes and Redesigning Men’s Garments For People What Have Breasts. It would have been easier had I used darts, but weirdly I decided to avoid them, as they were not used in the days of doublets. I say “weirdly” because I’ve got another design element in here that is likewise not period, but that decision was made long after I’d progressed beyond the darts decision, so oh well.

It doesn’t have to be period. It just has to be functional. When I get time to work on it next, I’ll be cutting it out of some leftover taffeta from another project, to see if it still hangs okay when rendered in a stiffer fabric. If that works, then the next step is to take both the taffeta and the brocade I’m ultimately going to use and have them punch-tested, because y’see, what we are making here is a fencing doublet. (Or two, if the taffeta works out acceptably.)

And once we know whether I’m safe from being skewered, then we make the final version. And then I will have a hood and a jacket, and if I stick underarm patches on some old shirt the only loaner-wear I’ll still need is a gorget.

Which I can’t make myself. But I can make pretty-please eyes at other people, and think about buying my own blade (since I’m not using the ones I have), and then I will be loaner-gear free. Huzzah!

an open letter to my fencing teacher

Dear Barry,

You remember how you tried to teach us Olympic-style foil? And how you failed miserably to get us to attend to right-of-way, stay linear, and leave our off hands out of it? Until you just gave up and taught us rapier and dagger instead?

Well now, ten years later, I’m fighting rapier again — and I’m staying linear, forgetting I have an off hand, and behaving as if right-of-way somehow protects me.

Apparently your lessons just kicked in late.

But I’m sure that if you faced me and kurayami_hime off against each other, we’d still launch the exact same attack at the exact same instant and stab each other in the guard again, just like we used to. So the world hasn’t flipped totally on its head.

Hugs and kisses,
Your Token Righty