- Leave the stabbing object in the wound! Pulling it out will increase blood loss and pushing it will cause further injury.
- Stop the bleeding. Apply pressure on – or around, if the object is still embedded – with a clean shirt or towel. Minimize contact with the person’s blood by wrapping plastic bags or disposable gloves around your hands. If you have limited supplies, place sterile dressings atop the wound and apply non-sterile dressing (clothes, dirty towels, etc.) on top of the dressing. Apply extra padding if the intestines or other internal organs are protruding. Secure the bandage with padding and push down with light pressure if the person needs to sit up or vomit. Do not lift or remove the dressing after you put it on. Moving the dressing will disrupt the clotting process. Do NOT use a tourniquet except as a last resort.
- If the wound is bleeding profusely, apply pressure to the major artery leading to the area with the pads on your fingers while your other hand applies pressure to the wound itself. Press on the inside of the arm just above the elbow or just below the armpit to slow bleeding in the arm. Press behind the knee or in the groin if the leg is bleeding.
- If possible, reposition the person so the wound is above the level of the heart. It will reduce blood loss.
- Treat shock only after stopping or slowing the bleeding.
None. There’s actually two parts to this; the injuries themselves, and the pain from those injuries.
Nearly any physical activity will eventually introduce you to managing pain. Note: “managing”, not ignoring.
Managing pain isn’t something you can teach, you can’t rationally explain it to someone. You experience pain, and push on.
This is part of the point of all those extreme endurance training exercises, it’s as much about learning to deal with discomfort and finding your actual limits as it is about physical conditioning and fitness. The trick is to inflict as much discomfort as possible (not just pain) without actually harming the participants.
Of course, this also gets warped into outright sadism by writers that don’t understand the point. So, if you’ve got a story where they’re torturing characters as “training”, that’s probably what you’re looking at.
It doesn’t make you ignore pain, but it does give you a better grasp of what pain actually means.
You can’t power through injuries. If your character’s actually been seriously hurt, they can’t ignore it. This is the point where something in their body has been damaged, and there is no way you can simply go “I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got, Captain!” and keep fighting.
Minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises hurt, and could cause someone without any experience to think that something’s gone really wrong, but the fact is, it hasn’t. Also, remember, bruises take a few minutes to form, so they won’t really start until after the fight is already over.
Deep tissue cuts, severed tendons, torn muscles, broken bones, concussions, punctured lungs? These are things that your character will need to work around. You can’t use a broken arm to fight. It just doesn’t work anymore. The same goes for everything else on that list. These don’t automatically mean your character is out of a scene, but they’re not going to be able to continue to fight.
Don’t be sorry! Writing about fighting when you have no practical experience is a difficult challenge and writing fight sequences when you do is still time consuming. There are a lot pieces working together and figuring out how they function is difficult and something very few writers actually do well.
Here are a list some of our posts that may be helpful to you:
Also check anything in our Michael Janich tag, he is a very good instructor who teaches self-defense. I refer people to his videos for the work he does with concepts, where he actively explains what a technique is, what it does, and why it’s used before teaching the technique. As a writer, you need both technique and concept before you can put it on the page.
I plan on doing a write up on both elbows and knees in the near future. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how these techniques work.
Also check out Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series particularly First Test and Page in The Protector of the Small quartet. Tamora Pierce is one of the few authors that write fight scenes I feel comfortable recommending for reference.
Because beating the crap out of someone isn’t socially acceptable in the real world.
Our most recent post on our blog howtofightwrite covers some common flaws that most writers find when working on their fight scenes and characters. In this post, we offer five simple ways to overcome those problems.
WHAT MAKES AN ACTION SCENE GOOD?
IT’S RATHER PERTINENT QUESTION NOWADAYS. IT SEEMS ACTION SCENES ARE A COMPONENT OF EVERY KIND OF POPULAR MOVIE. AND WE BUILD HIGH-STAKES SUMMER TENT-POLE MOVIES AROUND NOTHING MORE THAN A VAGUE CONCEPT AND THEN TREAT THE SET-PIECES LIKE THEY’RE ONLY THING THAT MATTER.
FOR SOME REASON, WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THIS IS “THE WAY” TO DO THINGS DESPITE THE FACT THAT RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTING THE FACT THAT A GOOD STORY WELL-TOLD IS THE THING THAT TRULY RESONATES WITH AUDIENCES. BUT BECAUSE ACTION SCENES DOMINATE THE BOTH THE INCEPTION AND PRODUCTION OF FILMMAKING, HULK WORRIES THAT THE EFFECTS NOW TOO DEEPLY-ROOTED IN THE FOUNDATION OF MOVIE CULTURE. MEANING HULK THINKS OF ALL THE THOUSANDS OF YOUNG KIDS WHO ARE TOTALLY INTO MOVIES AND TRYING TO REPLICATE THEIR FAVORITE ACTION SCENES AT HOME. WHAT ARE THEY TAKING AWAY FROM WHAT THEY’RE SEEING? CHANCES ARE IT’S NOT THE GOOD THINGS.
THIS PROBLEM RAISES A REALLY GOOD QUESTION: IF ACTION IS SO IMPORTANT AND INGRAINED INTO OUR CONSCIOUSNESS… WHY AREN’T ACTION SCENES BETTER?
Most Superhero comics are based around two things: character-based drama and fight scenes. Many even forgo the former for the latter, under the horrible impression that they’re the same thing. This is in part due to the superheroes’ humble origins. The Pulps that most early creators drew on were often simplistic fare. This is certainly not true of all pulps, there has been many a great science-fiction story published in them, but it is true of many. Just look over collections of pulp covers and you’ll see, almost regardless of genre, hideous monsters, masculine men, monstrous foreigners, and scantily-clad women. Often there are more than just one of these components, and they’re fighting. For years superhero comics would conclude their conflicts in a fight, often made more interesting by who was fighting what as opposed to the presentation or storytelling at play.
Now I can hardly claim a definite knowledge of comic-book history, but I think it’s safe to say what the next big change in the comic book fight was the arrival of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Stan Lee’s interest in character drama and Jack Kirby’s interest in explosive mythology were a beautiful combination. Suddenly these inevitable fight scenes were dynamic again. They were firmly grounded in the very human emotions these characters had, and they were exciting and larger than live. Fight scenes (and comics as a whole) quickly evolved to meet this new standard.
The second major development in comic book battles comes from another media, film. With the popularization of action movies came a change in the way comics presented these conflicts. (If you want to read a great article about cinema fight scenes, which conforms to many of the same rules a comic has to, check out this.) With the action movie came a new kind of fight scene, one still popular today. These new scenes had even more of a focus on physicality, on martial arts, on gunplay, and on explosions and their ilk.
Comics (and to be clear this article is about superhero comics, not all comics: assume that’s what I mean when I use the generic term) are built around fight scenes. They are an integral part of the superhero genre, so why are so many of them so bad? It’s a shame, but Sturgeon’s Law seems to hold true over superhero fights. Most of them, even in otherwise excellent comics, are forgetful, uninteresting, unoriginal, or just plain bad. Anyone seeking an in depth exploration of storytelling and action sequences should read this link from before. Some of the technical stuff doesn’t hold true in comic form, but most of the storytelling principles do. I will touch on these concerns throughout the issue, but if you find yourself wanting to know more you should read that article. So- what makes for a good comic book fight scene?
I feel like our friends at How To Fight Write could make you a beautiful list.
Maybe they’ll oblige us?
Well, it’s more a question of what you are looking for or want to be looking at. There are a lot of fabulous books and movies out there, but they are all interested in doing different things. So, the real question is what do you want? Other than a good fight scene.
Here are some of my favorites though:
For novels: the Conan the Barbarian catalogue and novels by Tamora Pierce are good, both are very good and you can learn a great deal from them.
For movies: When you’re looking for good fight scenes in movies, it’s always worth checking who did what and what they know.
Lord of the Rings has fairly realistic sword fights with actual technique.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) This is one of the finest swashbucklers from the Hollywood Golden Age. Howard Hill did the stunt shooting with the bow, the stuntmen were paid somewhere around $200 (that’s insanely real money for the time) to take arrows in the chest, Errol Flynn is charming, it’s got a great staff battle between Little John and Robin on a bridge, and Basil Rathbone was a real honest to god fencer. It’s a timeless classic and it’s worth noting that Errol Flynn hated Michael Curtiz partly because he forced him and Basil to fence with swords using real points to add an air of realism. (Captain Blood and The Seahawk are also very fun.)
GI Joe: The remake gets looked down on, but Byung Hung Lee and Ray Park (and their child counterparts) are absolutely fantastic to watch go at it. I can’t really recommend the second movie, as it uses shaky cam and jump cuts during the fight sequences and the two are moving so quickly it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on.
Expendables/Expendables 2: This is more of those really fun movies put together by aging acting stars, but they really know what they are doing when it comes to action. 2 is my favorite. Van Damme has a jump wheel kick I would sell my soul for (and he does it twice!). Getting to see Chuck Norris tell a Chuck Norris joke on screen is also a bonus. They do some neat and inventive stuff in this movie that might give you some ideas.
Lethal Weapon IV: He may be the bad guy, but see Jet Li take a gun apart with his knees while in the air.
The Karate Kid (Remake): Will Smith’s son and Jackie Chan star in this delightful remake set in China about a young boy who is transplanted from his home. The film stars a bevy of young action stars all of whom are martial artists (you want to know what trained children fighting looks like, it’s right here), gives a fairly nice primer on traditional training and spirituality versus bullying. Jackie Chan is awesome as usual and Michelle Yeoh has a cameo where she stares down a cobra. It was filmed in China, so the martial arts are all excellent and there’s only one white supporting cast member. I very much enjoy this movie and I think you will too!
Romeo Must Die: This was one of Jet Li’s earliest American movies set as a remake of Romeo and Juliet with Chinese versus African American mob with a young interracial couple caught in the middle while they try to work out who murdered their siblings. Jet Li does some amazing things with twist ties and some really cool stunts. On the plus side, the only white actors in the film are the NFL executives looking to buy up the waterfront property.
Rumble in the Bronx: This is an early American Jackie Chan movie (after he was finally able to get insurance in the states) it’s basically a bunch of long stunt fights strung together, but they are pretty fabulous.
RED/RED 2: RED is the better (and over the top) put together movie, but RED 2 with Byung Hung Lee is also pretty fun for his action sequences.
Highlander: the katana combat is silly, but the Italian school of fencing is actually neat. Adrian Paul specializes in aikido and it’s one of the few places you’ll see some interesting fight sequences using joint locks. The show spent most of it’s money on the stunts and it shows. (Season 2 has a great episode involving Duncan training Ritchie, which showcases how beating the crap out of someone teaches them nothing, and what it looks like when it’s done the right way.)
24: Starke would be mad at me if I didn’t mention 24, but it does have some really good fight sequences both with guns and hand to hand.
Burn Notice: This is more about tradecraft, but Michael Westin really does some cool stuff and explains it all to you in VO. It’s a must watch for anyone trying to write a spy. (Or just watch for Undead Larry. Undead Larry!)
There are plenty more than these, but this is what I could come up with off the top of my head.
They have obliged us.
That’s a lot of TV/movie recommendations and not a whole lot of book recommendations.
If I may, I have several author/book suggestions to add.
And this list is really just to get the ball rolling because I’m sure our followers will have some great suggestions as well! I hope this helps!
This is the second article in our series about Writing Violence. In this post,I thought I’d talk a little bit about Cause and Effect. For me, Cause and Effect are on the level of Show Don’t Tell in their importance both to descriptive writing and to generating a plot. Your plot is based entirely on a cause or an action and the effect of that cause or action on the characters and the world around them, your plot is put together through sequences of scenes that are based around your characters’ actions, their reactions, and the world’s or society’s reactions to those actions. Causes and their effects can be big and small, when working with violence, be that violence intellectual, emotional, or physical, and be those causes and effects big or small, they are all important to developing a realistic feeling in your story as a whole and in your characters individual actions.
Starke and I refer to this sense of realism as weight, as in your story feels grounded in reality. Ultimately, when we discuss realism in writing, it doesn’t matter whether your story is a high flying fantasy adventure, far flung future sci-fi, a historical piece, or a horror novel. So long as it crafts it’s own reality in keeping with the rules of cause and effect, you’ll be able to give your story, and the violence within it, weight.
Below, we’ll discuss how to do that.
Every Action Causes An Equal or Opposite Reaction
To steal one of Newton’s Laws, let’s talk about one of the biggest failures in fight scenes. Often, in many of the stories I read, authors are so focused on getting the fighting or the techniques used in the scene “right” that they neglect consideration of the surrounding details.
Take, for example, the line: “Virginia punched Charles in the gut.”
Now, in other kinds of descriptive writing, I might ask what kind of punch it was, but that’s not the most important question that you should be considering when looking to improve the sentence and the scene. The real question is: what happened to Charles?
Without changing much, we can improve the scene by adding a second line.
Virginia punched Charles in the gut. Body curling forward, Charles stumbled back as his hands rose to grasp his stomach.
Neither of these is, admittedly, very good, but see how much the scene improves? Charles’ body curling in to protect the important bits is a natural reaction to the pain inflicted on it by Virginia.
Now, let’s expand on the concept by adding a bench and another character named Amelia to the scene.
Virgina walked toward Charles. Instead of extending her hand in friendship as he’d expected, her fingers clenched into a fist. She rolled them over, slamming her knuckles up into his gut. Body curling forwards, Charles’ eyes widened as he exhaled sharply. As he should, she thought with a smile, all the air he’d stored up had just been forcibly expelled from his diaphragm.
"Charles!" Amelia, his girlfriend, shouted.
Charles stumbled back, calves knocking into the park bench not a foot behind him. The bench rocked and Charles tipped too far forwards onto the balls of his feet. Head swaying and green faced, he fell. His knees hit the dusty ground. His eyes rolled back. He leaned forward, inches from the toes of Virginia’s calf skin boots and, then, he hurked.
The scent of half-digested turkey and sausage stuffing lingered in Virginia’s nose.
"Charles!" Amelia cried again as she sank down beside him, gripping his shoulders. She glanced up at Virginia, her eyes harsh, flat, and furious. "What have you done?”
Virginia’s action of punching Charles causes the physical reaction of him throwing up on her shoes and Amelia’s emotional response condemning it. Violence is both physical and emotional in the reactions it evokes and should be represented in the destruction it causes on the surrounding environment. Remember, the glasses, chairs, tables, and tankards your characters destroy in a bar brawl are valuable property to the owner of that establishment. Your characters may have to pay the cost or risk never being able to go back there. The characters they beat up in the bar are going to be someone’s husband, sister, or friend. They may be more beloved in the community that they’re part of than your wandering drifters. Also, breaking a bottle will involve your character getting glass a fist full of glass embedded in their hand. A prolonged fight will cause your character to perspire and they run the risk of getting sweat (or blood) in their eyes.
Important details run from big to small, but they all work together to create that ‘weight’, that feeling of realism in your work. X happened so Y was the response. When Beth kicked James through the door, she broke it and had to pay $200 to repair it. When Jenna threw her dishware at a home invader, she had to buy paper plates to eat off of for that evening and she invited her friend John to stay over because she no longer felt safe. Then, Jenna cut her finger cleaning up the ceramic remains and had to repaint the walls where the plates hit.
This is the important push and pull, action and reaction, the consequences of even the most flawless plans yielding unintended catastrophe and unexpected results. This is important to remember when writing scenes involving violence because it is inherently divisive. Characters who engage in violence, even when that violence is justified, face harsher penalties and greater risks both to their physical selves and in their personal life.
Once you begin to think in these terms, the tension and drama inherent in your story will naturally unfold and writing violence will come a little easier.
This video is very important, especially when you’re writing or maybe even drawing out fight scenes. Many don’t seem to realize that swords were often not the primary weapon and see spears more as a weaker weapon. This YouTube channel is actually very good at helping to explain older medieval martial arts, mostly the sword and European fighting methods, but very helpful nonetheless for fellow authors/artists.
This awesomely-named YouTube channel, called scholagladiatoria, is a brilliant resource for writers. Have at it!