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Narnia
March 25th, 2013, 06:12 AM
I am editing a scene in my novel that I need some more of your helpful critiques with! Writing a fighting scene is not my strong point any pointers and grammatical corrections would be welcomed. Also I am thinking about changing the last quote and sentence. It doesn't flow well. Thank you in advance!

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Revised from Critiques - First Round of Edits With New Changes.

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The entire tribe turned out for the event. Women covered from head to toe in loose black cloaks stood behind the men with children close by. The men were talking amongst themselves and urging their champion on, teasing him about his pending victory over a little girl. She saw him before he turned to look at her. Reardon was standing almost hidden near the back of the circle where she was to compete. She felt his cold eyes wash over her. He was taking in her appearance in the early morning light. Reardon turned from her, dismissing her without another glance. She wasn’t sure what to make of it. His stare had felt, almost cold. It was as if he didn’t care what the outcome of the battle was. If she died by the warrior’s blade or won she couldn’t tell what he wanted. “Why should he care? He’s just as much my enemy today as he was yesterday.” They were simply forced together on a mission to save the only thing they had in common, their land and the people within it. Now that he knew what she was he was determined to end their journey together. No, he could care less about the outcome of this display. He had no reason to keep her by his side any longer.


Well if he could care less so could she. Turning her attention to her opponent she looked him over. Kaleem was about average height for a man, he was muscular and his bare chest displayed just how much so. His tan skin was already glistening from what must have been a workout before their fight. He was positioned in the circle waiting for her. He let his eyes take her in, assessing her himself. Grace could tell Kaleem was a little worried about losing to her. Her reputation may not have carried as much to royal ears but had traveled far among commoners. She could tell by the way he moved he would be very agile and the fact that he feared her showed he was cunning enough to expect a challenge. She moved into position in the circle blocking out the rest of the crowd. The Caliph, the Sheik’s second in command stepped forward to hand her a sword. It was a long curved blade with a golden handle called a Saif. She noticed Kaleem was presented with an identical one. She had used a Saif several times before and knew the slice was sharp. The Caliph indicated that a step outside of the circle would be a defeat. The first blood drawn was an opportunity to declare the winner. The terms of the battle had been clear. If she lost she would be sent packing. That was something she could not do. “I can protect myself better than he can walk,” she muttered in disgust remembering Reardon’s comments from the night before. Adjusting her footing she smelled the early morning air and smiled. This was what she needed, a chance to let her frustrations loose. She almost felt sorry for Kaleem, the warrior had gotten thrown into the middle of a quarrel he knew nothing about.


A red shawl floated down from the air where it had been throw. The crowd drew silent as it caressed the sand below, the fight could now begin. Kaleem circled her trying to draw her into an attack. She followed suit sizing him up as she went. His footing was good, he held his blade high. “Yalla!” came a shout from the crowd. They were growing impatient.
She let a smile graze the corners of her face as her blade dropped lower. Kaleem lunged seeing his opening. “Umph,” Sand flew up as she pushed herself to the side. His blade sliced through the empty space where she had been standing.


“Ayeeh!” The warrior let out a scream. He threw his blade up and struck. The clang of metal could be heard as she raised her sword to match every jab and thrust. She took a step back which each block. Kaleem grunted and raised his sword again. She saw a flash of excitement graze his eyes. What was he happy about? Looking down she saw the edge of the circle behind her. “Idiot,” she thought to herself. He was trying to force her to cross the line. If she had taken another step backwards he would have won. Kaleem brought his blade down to strike planning to push her across. She turned her shoulders to the right forcing his blade to slide off to the side. His mistake had been the amount of strength he had tried to put into that blow. He fell to the ground as she moved herself back to safety in the middle of the circle. The crowd roared its disapproval. She didn’t know if it was because she hadn’t lost or for Kaleem’s underhanded move. He glared at her, good he thought it was for him.


Instead of moving in to attack she waited for him to get back up. He didn’t deserve a quick defeat, not after that. With the amount of energy he was exerting he would tire in no time. She just had to wait it out. He turned back to face her, a look of confusion flashed over his face. She knew he couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t struck while he was down. She didn’t plan to draw blood this morning. She saw that knowledge pass over him and recognized the fear at what that might mean. She smiled, could it be she was forcing him to fight for his life? Yes, he was concerned now. He pushed himself up. His breathing was labored. Taking his time to catch his breath he brushed off the sand that clung to his hands.


Bursts of sand flew up as he pushed forward with his sword held high. Reardon needed to see she could hold her own. Instead of defending the attack she positioned her blade so it would run Kaleem through if he completed his move forward. He pulled up a hair from its tip. If the blade had not been curved it would have bitten into his chest. The tribe cheered for the sport of it, not realizing that their warrior knew he had been a breath away from losing his life. Lines of sweat began trickling down his face threatening to block his sight. He was wearing down, while she had used up very little energy of her own. He kicked out trying to take her legs out from under her. She jumped, and her feet came back to rest with a muffled thump in the sand. Panic flashed over his eyes. It was a look that had not gone unnoticed by her. It was never good to show fear in a fight, she took her opportunity and charged. The action took him by surprise. Just as he was about to lower his blade she halted mid step and slipped her own under his with a sharp clang. His blade was sent flying. It landed on the ground just out of reach outside the circle. Twisting her body she kicked out and landed her foot onto his leg. “Umph!” Her move had sent him down to land backwards onto the desert floor. He was now without a sword and on his back in the sand. By all rights she had won. She lowered her blade to graze his neck. His brown eyes met hers and held them. She kept her sword positioned at his throat for what seemed like an eternity. She was showing him she could have easily have taken his life if she had wanted to. The crowd was now silent. It was her right to draw blood but instead she lowered her blade and offered him her hand. It was a dangerous move. He could pull her to the ground and force her own blade against her if he chose or he could accept her peace offering and show to the crowd he believed her to be a better warrior then himself. The pride of the men in the dessert tribe was a dangerous line to cross. He paused. She saw the idea flash through his mind. But it was quickly replaced with the fear he had shown her earlier. He grasped her hand and nodded his head. “It seems warrior woman that the rumors are true. You have much skill.” She nodded her thanks as she helped him to his feet. Kaleem bowed to her, “I have not been beaten in years. It is my honor to have fought one as deadly as you.”


The men and women of the tribe began talking loudly among themselves. The fight had been won, without a drop of blood shed. She heaved a sigh of relief to see Kaleem smile and laugh as he headed over to join his friends. They were now patting him on the back joking.The Sheik’s laugh could be heard well over the noise of the crowd. He motioned for her to join him.The Sheik roared with amusement. “That child, was the best fight I have witnessed in a long time. God have mercy on any man who may come in contact with your blade.”


Only now did she dare to sneak a peek at Reardon. He had not moved but was still standing with his eyes fixed on her. He didn’t offer her a word but only stared. It was a look that sent chills through her body. Reardon nodded to her and turned to walk away. She would be traveling with him; she had no doubt of that. The terms had been, win or go home. She had won, but as she watched him walking she felt as if somehow she had lost.

archer88iv
March 25th, 2013, 06:27 AM
Preliminary thoughts:

Too easy. Not enough actual risk.

Ending is much too happy; nothing is at stake in the final paragraph.

As a general rule, the best defense (in swordplay, at least) really is a good offense. The more aggressive swordsman is going to win unless the difference in skill is extreme. This is a minor point; most of your readers probably aren't former fencers. :p

egpenny
March 25th, 2013, 06:59 AM
What Archer said about the ending. You should probably end with she felt as if somehow she had lost. lose the rest.

If Kaleem is a fierce warrior he shouldn't have all that fear flashing around. His fear would show once, then it would be determination, cunning, and the sight of his mind working on his next move is what she should see. No warrior is going to give his opponent the edge by letting them see him fearful, which you said after you're having him do just that.

Plus there's no sound in your fight. Sword play is noisy with the clang of metal against metal and the sliding of one blade against the other with a hissing noise that sets your teeth on edge.

Fencers and swordsmen aren't quiet either, they grunt with the effort they are expending and they sweat. In your story they aren't wearing masks and they aren't using lightweight epees, so Kaleem is using energy, trying to win.

One little nit.
( No, he could care less what about the outcome of this display ) or this display was.

Nice job overall, just need to mix it up a bit with sight, sound, and lots more action.

archer88iv
March 25th, 2013, 03:13 PM
The first paragraph is very "in our last episode"-ey, which doesn't make a lot of sense if we just saw all this in the last chapter. Also "could care less" is backward; "could not care less" is the correct usage.


I think it's a mistake to be too specific in describing the movements involved in a fight, and here are the reasons why:


1) You simply cannot match all those movies your readers are watching with whirling Yodas and stuff.


2) Even trying to match that kind of choreography is going to waste too much ink.


3) Describing specific movements has the effect of slowing your pace, which should *feel* fast during a fight scene.


It's fine to let things "bog down" in the midst of a fight--and to get very specific about what is happening--if the effect you're going for is kind of a slow-mo sequence, but people can only read so quickly, and expending several paragraphs on what amounts to several seconds isn't an effective way to present "hurry."

As far as the ending is concerned, my earlier comments aren't specific to a fight scene; I just think it's a bad idea to have a "happy ending" for any scene in a novel other than the very last. (Can't do it for that one, either, if you're planning a sequel. :))

knightforce
March 25th, 2013, 04:05 PM
I kind of liked that Kaleem took the defeat in stride; I think it is kind of cliche to have every male warrior totally emasculated by the superior female combatant. I liked that he had enough dignity to take the loss in stride and then learn from it. I also thought it made the main character seem...cooler...nicer...more magnanimous that she took time to teach them what she knew, even if she was really in fact distraught over Reardon's coldness.

If having the happy ending is too much, couldn't it be somewhat of a fix to mention that even as she taught them, she was thinking about Reardon and feeling downcast in spite of all the respect these guys were showering her with?

archer88iv
March 25th, 2013, 04:20 PM
Anything will work to ratchet up the tension leading into the next scene. You have to keep it tight in order to keep the reader moving forward. Just as long as, whatever it is, it serves to connect this scene to its sequel, you're golden.

(Note that I did *not* say that this scene has to be connected to the one that comes immediately after it, which may--depending on your technique--take place in another locale with other characters, etc.)

Ideal scene flow is something like this:

Plan > Plan disrupted > New plan > Plan disrupted > New plan ...

And then you want to divvy things up so that we find out the "plan" for the next scene at the end of this one. Don't take that too literally, though, please; "plan" is just a placeholder here because I'm not sure what word I ought to be using to describe the concept and because it was the word used to describe it to me. To give a more concrete example, the last scene I posted here has characters attempting (and failing) to recover a lost relic, but it ends with one of them being arrested for treason.

Whisper
March 25th, 2013, 05:49 PM
You use "had" too much.


The entire tribe had turned out for the event.
The entire tribe turned out for the event.

His stare had felt, almost cold
His stare felt almost cold.

Narnia
March 25th, 2013, 05:56 PM
These are great. But I should have clarified my setting here. Grace knew she was going to win going into the fight - it was Reardon who didn't. I left out his POV going into it and started the post from hers with the fight scene. She's supposed to be teaching Reardon a lesson, that she can hold her own in a fight. Also, I'm trying hard to make sure my readers know she doesn't fear anything which was why I added in her seeing Kaleem's fear. Should I do away with describing that?

egpenny:
Nice job overall, just need to mix it up a bit with sight, sound, and lots more action

I will definitely work in some of this. I can't believe I didn't until you pointed it out.

Archer88iv:
I think it's a mistake to be too specific in describing the movements involved in a fight, and here are the reasons why:


1) You simply cannot match all those movies your readers are watching with whirling Yodas and stuff.


2) Even trying to match that kind of choreography is going to waste too much ink.


3) Describing specific movements has the effect of slowing your pace, which should *feel* fast during a fight scene.

Would using sounds and sight in replace of those movements clarify this? Also I will check out your last scene post.

knightforce:
If having the happy ending is too much, couldn't it be somewhat of a fix to mention that even as she taught them, she was thinking about Reardon and feeling downcast in spite of all the respect these guys were showering her with


I like this but I should clarify that I am trying to have this scene resolve her position with Reardon the previous chapter. I don't know that I can have Reardon feeling downcast - pissed is more like it. I can totally throw something in about her joy in having made him even madder. Would that help to make sure it doesn't sound like a happy ending but rather the start of something more?

Thank you all for your help. I will be working on this scene late tonight that's for sure. Also any tips on sounds for sword play?

archer88iv
March 25th, 2013, 06:11 PM
Yes, I think the most effective way to write action is to focus on the effects of the movements rather than the movements themselves. Sights and sounds are a good way to go--although I believe sounds or even smells are a more powerful way to go. You are describing the action visually, so "sights" aren't really going to stand out unless they are themselves pretty singular.

"He lunged forward" is an action, but it's also something we would see--something we see without taking note of it as a sight.

If you want to convey action through effects in a visual fashion, you might go with something like, "He lunged, his footwork hurling dust into the air." Even then, it might be more effective to describe the taste of dirt on the tongue or the feeling of grit in the eyes instead.

Whisper
March 25th, 2013, 06:24 PM
Also any tips on sounds for sword play?

Yes. Don't say, "the swords clanged as they came together." Or some variation.

Go with discriptions.
The sound of hard metal on metal could be heard throughout the camp as the two warriors circled, rushed in for a brief engagment testing each other, before circling each other again, looking for some weakness they could exploit.

Or something close. If you tell me the swords clanged, you might as well draw me a comic with the word Kapow in one corner.

knightforce
March 25th, 2013, 08:50 PM
Yes, I think the most effective way to write action is to focus on the effects of the movements rather than the movements themselves. Sights and sounds are a good way to go--although I believe sounds or even smells are a more powerful way to go. You are describing the action visually, so "sights" aren't really going to stand out unless they are themselves pretty singular.

Huh. Interesting. I've been trying to figure out what the key is to visceral, pounding action in fiction.

In defense of Kaleem being fearful, again, I think its braking with fantasy-cliche in that the male warrior who gets beaten is not just a macho dumb-ass who underestimates the opposite sex and gets trounced. He knows what he's getting into and naturally is going to see it as something of a lose-lose in many ways. So, I think that goes a ways in making things more interesting. For one thing, we're sympathizing now with the opponent to an extent, not just the protagonist.

archer88iv
March 25th, 2013, 09:27 PM
Huh. Interesting. I've been trying to figure out what the key is to visceral, pounding action in fiction.

Hell, I can't vouch for how well my method works; I just know that's what I've been going with for the past couple years. :)

Feel free to have a look at my last and see if it works for you.

Narnia
March 26th, 2013, 06:00 AM
I posted my edits from all of your wonderful critques and suggestions. Let me know what you think.

Ranji
March 26th, 2013, 10:21 AM
I think the style is good. But going into writing details in a fight is pretty dangerous. Criticism might be negative from many readers who are movie buffs.
Also, I don't think he would lose all his energy in just a couple of moves. From what I understand, he has been in a lot of fights and that shows he has experience. Either he is trained or he's good naturally.

"The first blood drawn was an opportunity to declare the winner."
Why? If I were a spectator of something as exciting as a sword fight, I would want to see some blood (No, I'm not a psychopath). Maybe not till one dies but some real action please. Maybe that's just there so that you can give a happy ending?
To the happy ending: I liked the fact that you made a man humble. It's a nice change from all the animal-like characters out there. But the way it ended was just too quick. And not very probable. Though people will complain if you kill the man. Maybe threaten him a bit. Make her hold him against the sand and cuss at him. Not a whisper because that's too clichéd for female warriors but rather tell him her proposition of letting him go.

I think it just needs a touch of excitement. Rather more of it.