Writer’s Craft #21 – Nobody wins a fight, not even the writer
This week’s guest author is John Preet. John teaches martial arts and has military experience. (Lynda)
I decided to write this after watching The Green Hornet in the same week that I read about kids trying what they saw on televised fights and getting seriously hurt. I blame popular visual media for creating a completely unrealistic standard of armed and unarmed violence. For example, in The Green Hornet, Seth Rogen gets shot but manages to wait a couple of days to fake a shooting, so he can be treated. Not a good idea. Any kind of blow has far more consequence in the real world. Many, many film fights have people taking blows to the eyes, knees, throat, and somehow gathering their reserves to administer justice.
All of which leaves us writers with an enormous dilemma. How do we make these scenes resonate with audiences who have watched action stars perform gruesome killings, followed by lame puns, or suddenly find spiritual strength to return from being beaten, cut, clubbed and rise even stronger than when the fight began? For one thing, the human body is largely comprised of water. Any kind of impact transmits through media that by their nature tend to go straight through, spreading damage by hydrostatic shock. The body is also powered by electrical impulses which are easily thrown out of sync by impacts, leaving muscles in spasm and not responding to commands. This does not even begin to examine the effects of blood loss, broken bones, dislocated or broken joints, damaged cartilage, eyes, eardrums, and so on.
When I have written fights the way they really happen, I get feedback of disbelief.
Finally, there’s the psychological factor. I am not exactly a shrinking violet. I firmly believe that, as Mr Heinlein said: “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst.” Even believing that and having far more than my share of training and experience, I can tell you first hand that nobody wins fights. Even when it is settled (as is usually the case) by the first landed shot, the “victor” relives it, regrets it, and wishes it didn’t happen. A little piece of you gets taken away with every fight.
Here’s two pieces I’ve written. Which, if either, do you think is more realistic? And how do you deal with the dilemma in your own writing?
Smythe collapsed straight down at the grip on his shoulder, anticipating the punch that snaked through the air above his head, his own fist smashing through the man’s knee as he dropped. Mistake. Instant realisation as his hand began to swell an instant before the pain started but he managed to turn his broken hand down and smash an elbow into the crumpling man’s throat, cutting off a cry.
Jim heard the whicker behind him but only got halfway turned before the flying blade buried in his shoulder. Spinning the rest of the way, he left the blade where it was as he crushed the hand that had thrown it. He turned completely around, the grin turning feral. “Anybody else?”