After my mother read RED-HEADED STEPCHILD, she called to tell me how much she enjoyed it. Then she hesitated and asked, “But, honey, where on earth did you learn to write fight scenes?” The subtext of this question was, “Where did I go wrong?”
It was actually a fair question. Despite the proliferation of violence in my fiction, I am, in the real world, a wimp. In fact, the only fight I’ve ever been in was a schoolyard slap fight with Christy Cates (no relation to Avery Cates) in the fourth grade. Instead of instilling a healthy blood lust in my young self, the experience resulted in a healthy dose of tears and mild psychological trauma.
So how does one write convincing fight scenes without any real life experience with physical violence?
Well, first, all these years of not fighting have built up a healthy dose of repressed anger. On the outside, I may look like a suburban soccer mom, but inside I’m a roiling sack of rage. Just ask anyone whose been on the receiving end of my intimidating passive aggression.
Second, forget the whole “write what you know” thing. The truth is a savvy writer gets really good at researching to fill in knowledge gaps. In fact, for me, that’s one of the most fun parts of writing. I’ve taken self-defense classes, attended workshops on fighting, watched Youtube videos of martial arts demonstrations, read books and articles on weapons and fight theory, etc. Hell, I’ve even acted out fight scenes in my office. (I recommend you only do this when at home alone. Mime fighting is rarely not embarrassing.)
Third, it helps to know your character’s strengths and skills. It helps that my main character is a vampire and a mage. She’s got an impressive bag of tricks to pull from. But she’s also female, so she’s physically smaller than most of her opponents. This means that as I’m writing, I have to be aware of her lower center of gravity and using her opponent’s momentum against them.
All that said, my motto is pretty much, “When in doubt go for the ‘nads.” Keep that in mind if you ever decide to challenge me.
Also, if my mother thought the fight scenes in RED-HEADED STEPCHILD were troubling, I can’t wait until she gets a load of the Demon Fight Club scenes in THE MAGE IN BLACK (out April 1). Just sayin’.