Young Writers Society

Home » Forums » Resources » Research

weapons, swordfighting, action scenes



User avatar
65 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 2859
Reviews: 65
Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:24 am
View Likes
AlyTheBookworm says...



I've been reading and writing and watching fantasy stories full of swordfighting scenes for over a decade now, but I really don't have a great understanding of how fights work.

As a writer, I used to be able to fake it with vague, poetic descriptions that made my action scenes seem passably believable. But now I'm working on a webcomic centered around sword-wielding monster hunters, and writing the phrase "he swung his sword at his enemy" is a very different thing from having to illustrate the stance of the character, the way he's holding the sword, the direction it moves, how exactly the enemy dodges or blocks it, and a myriad of other missing or incorrect details that expose my ignorance in this new visual medium.

So.. yeah. To make my fight scenes look accurate and not-stupid, I probably gotta do some of that dreaded research I've been avoiding haha

This thread is for any kind of advice or tips on writing/illustrating swords and swordfighting, medieval weapons, action scenes, and fighting in general. If anyone has any good research resources to recommend on these topics, that would also be super helpful and much appreciated :D
  





User avatar
801 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 32112
Reviews: 801
Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:58 am
View Likes
ShadowVyper says...



I write a lot of action scenes in my novels, and for me, it really helps to kind of act out the scene myself sometimes. Like okay, if I was swinging something heavy, how would that feel? It would probably strain my shoulder -- it'd make me be a bit off balance -- it would make it harder to dodge something if I was mid-swing because of momentum.

It also helps me to look at images, rather than movies, to really analyze what's going on. Like...

Image

How are they distributing their weight? Which leg and arm muscles are they using? How realistic is it that they'd be able to pull their sword away without it getting clunky with the shields? What will it feel like when the sword strikes the shield? Trying to figure out how things feel helps me a lot when I'm trying to describe what's going on in action scenes.
"im like a cockroach" - Carina

"THE FEARSOME SHADOWVYPER aka sad fishie" ~ Tuckster
  





User avatar
65 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 2859
Reviews: 65
Mon Sep 28, 2020 6:09 am
View Likes
AlyTheBookworm says...



@ShadowVyper

Wow thanks! I wasn't expecting such a quick reply, but that's a great piece of advice. I'll definitely keep this in mind when I work on my action scenes.
  





User avatar
1727 Reviews

Supporter


Gender: Female
Points: 94060
Reviews: 1727
Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:35 pm
View Likes
BluesClues says...



Depending on how concerned you are about accuracy, I'd also recommend googling to see if you can find stills or videos of swordfighters in action! That would probably give you some references if you like drawing with references, and then if it's a trained swordfighter then it's probably going to be fairly realistic.
  





User avatar
315 Reviews

Supporter


Gender: Male
Points: 17879
Reviews: 315
Tue Sep 29, 2020 7:07 am
View Likes
Vincian says...



I'm posting here to remind myself to give some advice when I have the chance :D
This account proudly supports lgbtq* rights.

sass levels loading




formerly omnom
[he/him]
  





User avatar
315 Reviews

Supporter


Gender: Male
Points: 17879
Reviews: 315
Wed Sep 30, 2020 6:37 pm
View Likes
Vincian says...



Okay! Hey Aly! I'm gonna give as much advice as I can about writing, with what I've learned throughout the years. We're both in Aether's Heart so I'm sure you've had a bit of experience regarding action scenes haha and how each of the five writers within Aether's Heart go about it. So, let's take a look at some of my tips within writing action.

  • Outline!
      This is a personal preference, but I think it helps so much! Visualizing action is important, and what better way to visualize it than outlining the scene? It's important to outline to know where all the characters will be, even if you don't actually write where they are at all times. In fact, you shouldn't do that, but we'll talk about that later.
  • Keep it Short
      One of the things about writing action is that it cannot slow the pace down, otherwise it kills itself and the reader gets bored. So, how can we keep the fast pace?
    • Write short sentences
      Avoid run-on sentences because that can slow the pace down. Short sentences with impactful word choice is your best friend.
    • Mix Action with Dialogue
      This is a fine balance, because just describing what's going on within the action can get boring to read. Relating it to your characters by adding dialogue (not monologuing) will help add needed variety to the action scene.
    • Don't Get Introspective
      Character's thoughts slow things down. Instropection during fights slow things down. Stream of consciousness during fights slow thingfs down. This should happen before or after the action.
    • Action Should be Short
      So, this is a point that is flexible. Action scenes should be short. If it's going to be long, you need to have breathing room for the reader and for the characters. For longer action scenes, variety is amazing. This can include things like adding different characters into the fight, or switching out characters. This also includes changing scenery/locations, changing weapons, changing tactics, regrouping, falling back, etc. My personal favorite is adding elevation within a fight scene, or deliberate use of including the setting within a fight.
  • Sensory descriptions only
      This is pretty self-explanatory, but the only descriptions you should use are taking advantage of sensory descriptions, like sight, smell, and taste. These should be brief, but it makes it personal.
  • Verbs Are your Best Friend
      And now we're onto the point that's probably the biggest point (besides short sentences). This Article on verbs is a great support article for this, and it highlights just how important verbs are to sentence creation and structure. In action scenes, verbs are even more important because they can make weak action strong and otherwise awesome action boring. I found a list of Useful Action Verbs that vary on how impactful they are (Red is extreme, Yellow is moderate, and Blue is Mellow). I suggest keeping a pocket of verbs for action scenes (with whatever you do) to use for action scenes.
  • Edit Your Action Scenes
      Last but not least, many writers tend to over-write their action scenes on the first run through, especially when they're not used to writing action. We don't need to see everything that's happening just as long as there's continuinity that's consistent and makes sense. Remove minor details that don't matter because they slow down the pace.

I hope this helps! Action has been something I struggled with quite often over the years but I've learned a lot, and I hope this has helped you out as well! :D
This account proudly supports lgbtq* rights.

sass levels loading




formerly omnom
[he/him]
  





User avatar
65 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 2859
Reviews: 65
Thu Oct 01, 2020 12:02 am
View Likes
AlyTheBookworm says...



Thanks so much @Omnom ! This is really helpful. :)

I especially liked "Action Should be Short"- it gave me some good ideas on how to make my comic fights more varied and visually interesting. I don't usually think much about the character's environment when writing action scenes, but after reading this, I realize my favorite fights in fiction are the ones where the protag is able to cleverly use their surroundings to win. It would be a lot of fun to get more creative with my own fights in the same way.

Also, that list of verbs is something I always want to have when I'm writing but can never find lol. So thanks for sharing!
  





User avatar



Gender: None specified
Points: 0
Reviews: 2
Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:37 pm
View Likes
kaenexion says...



Alright, hi! I've actually taken a stage combat class that revolved around swordfights, so I'll try and drop some of my knowledge here to help out. It's going to be a bit of an awkward list, but hopefully I can provide some help since I've done actual swordfighting before. This will probably apply more to building the scene of the swordfight instead of the actual combat itself, but maybe my knowledge can help you improve your scenes regardless with random sword info, lol. This isn't really on how to write a fight if you're looking for help on what descriptors to use or something, so if that's what you're looking for you can skip over this. My message is just a lot of general information on how swordfighting works and how to do some moves and choreography of a fight so,,, yeah! I hope this is helpful to someone at least lol

The swords are a lot heavier than you think. Even the most delicate and pretty looking blades have a surprising weight to them, so keep that in mind. Not every sword is going to feel light as air, so treat it like a heavier object. They will be balanced, yes, but if your character is new to using a sword or has to fight with a sword they're not used to, they'll need a bit to adjust.

Basic sword safety- if your characters have access to them, give them leather gloves (other animal skin works too) if they don't have a full set of armor or something. It's a layer of protection between the blade and the skin which can be used to catch your opponents blade and potentially disarm them (or save your own skin if you can't parry in time).
Another piece of sword safety is to always keep your eye on the tip of the blade. Granted, this won't come up in actual combat very much, but once a fight is over or any other circumstance where they'll have a sword out with no fighting happening, they're going to be careful with it and always keep the tip pointed at the ground and in their range of view. No casually resting the sword on your shoulder, that puts the tip behind your head and out of sight and that's a big no-no.

A good swordsman will never strike a fancy pose with their sword pointed at the enemy and their hand out to the side. You know what pose I'm talking about. That pose is stupid. You might as well be asking for your opponent to cut your hand off.
You're always going to be aiming for an arm or a leg- chances are, you're not going to get a direct hit on someone's torso, but if you can slice their thigh or bicep open, that's going to put them at a huge disadvantage and will pretty much end the fight there and then. Everyone loves a good satisfying stab through the bad guy's heart, but that's unfortunately highly unlikely to ever happen in the middle of combat. You'd have to down your opponent first and disarm them.

There's five points to attack at, and I'll list them as I learned them:
1- Left leg
2- Right leg
3- Left arm
4- Right arm
5- Head
These are the main places you'll want to aim for when you're not busy defending yourself.

When you're dueling (aka pretty swordfighting), it's a lot like a dance between you and your opponent. There's a lot of movement and showy sword twirling, and a lot of shuffling back and forth as you attack and then defend. You can put natural breaks in the swordfighting for dialogue, such as it coming to a bit of a standstill where you and your opponent circle each other (usually reserved for smug trash-talking) and a more high-pressure situation when you and your opponent lock blades. Locking blades would mean you both essentially meet in the center of your fighting area and are pretty much holding each other hostage- when choreographing a fight, I've used this when my opponent and I both try and rush in for a stab but end up locked since we both have to parry. Locking with your opponent would mean you meet with your swords crossed and you're both essentially pushing to see who can break it and get the attack in. If you want to hold your opponent hostage, you can grab their sword hand with your free hand in the middle of the struggle to keep them there longer or to try and give yourself more of an advantage in the fight. Chances are, your opponent will grab your sword hand in a lock too, and eventually you'll have to break. Breaking the lock can be used to end a fight too, if you manage to push your opponent off balance enough for you to attack again.

When you're dueling, you can add a lot of flair to it too. In an actual swordfight you wouldn't want to give away your moves, but you can turn up the theatrics for writing. When we do it on the stage, we make a lot of big loops with our swords because it looks cool and helps convey what's happening to the audience. Having big loops with your sword can be excused too- it helps build up momentum for your attacks which means it's harder to block.
It's been a while since I've done stage combat so I need a bit of a refresher on how some attacks work, so give me a moment and I'll add on to this later with more information on attack :)

If you manage to knock your opponent off balance or otherwise disarm and expose a vulnerability, you can go in for a stab- usually this is done without getting close, but you can rush in and stab someone in close range too. When done from a long-range, you essentially just lunge forward and thrust your sword out horizontally in front of you. Close-range stabbing is pretty self-explanatory so I won't bother with that.
You can also swipe at your opponent's head or feet, but there's not a lot of theatrics with that and is again, self-explanatory (you can dodge it by ducking or jumping/stepping back out of the range of the blade)

If you're in a brutal life-or-death battle you're probably not going to pay attention to this, but when you're in a pretty swordfight, you'll want to keep your form consistent. The starting stance for a swordfight mainly focuses on your feet- they'll be in the shape of an L (one foot forward and pointed at your opponent, the other one perpendicular to that). Don't stick your feet together, keep distance between them to keep yourself steady during the swordfight. You only start with your feet together in an L when you're fencing because there's no real fighting happening and the blades are much lighter and less intimidating. Whenever you move you'll stay in that stance. You can move in one of two ways- you can move quickly forward (I can't remember the name for this one, I'm sorry) where you'll essentially skip forward while keeping your feet in that stance (good for stabbing and other quick attacks) or a move that's called a pass, where you basically turn your entire body while moving forward and return to the same L-shaped stance. It's a slower move, but also helps build up momentum for an attack, and if you're well practiced enough, you can move pretty quickly like this. Again, you'll probably only use this when dueling and not pay much attention to your form in a life-or-death battle, but it's worth mentioning :)

Disarming your opponent can be done in several ways. There's a fancy way to do it where you essentially trap your opponent's blade in front of you- not a lock like I mentioned before, you haven't moved in and grabbed their blade or anything, you're just essentially keeping your swords moving in a circle in front of you and keeping the momentum going until it builds up to the point where you can break the circle by pushing their blade out to the side so they lose their grip and hopefully drop it if you've done it right (when I did it, my partner and I did about 3-4 circles before I disarmed her. You can do as many loops as you want, however much you think is appropriate to build up the momentum to disarm your opponent). You can also just straight up grab your opponent's blade and yank it out of their hand if the opportunity arises (best to do with gloves, though). There's no real correct way to disarm someone, you can honestly do it however you'd like.

That's all I really have at the moment, but if I remember anything else I'll add more to this. If you have any questions for me about my swordfighting experiences to help you choreograph your own fights, go ahead and ask! I'll do my best to answer and provide as much help as I can here.
せめて 心 砕かれぬように
  





User avatar
65 Reviews



Gender: Female
Points: 2859
Reviews: 65
Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:25 am
View Likes
AlyTheBookworm says...



@kaenexion

Thank-you so much! It's really cool that you have some experience with swordfighting. This was super helpful- and actually, looking at it from the perspective of a fight choreographer is perfect, because my fights will also be visual (illustrated) rather than written. Thanks. :)
  








Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!
— Allen Ginsburg