|The Magnificent Seven|
One of the best ways to amp up the tension in the big climatic scene of your novel is to have the hero or heroine end up in a physical confrontation with the villain.
|The Scarlet Pimpernel|
I read a regency once in which the hero, a well-built, smart man, who was skilled with swords, pistols and boxing, was forced to fight the villain to save the heroine. The scene included a few well-places punches and kicks, and ended with a fight over a pistol in which the hero accurately shot the villain in a desperate, well-aimed shot.
While the scene did have conflict, how much more tension would have been added if the hero’s usual weapons hadn’t been available, or he had been injured, or the heroine had been forced to save him? The point being, consider taking your fights from the expected and predictable to the surprising and unusual. Increase the anxiety of your readers, by taking your hero and heroine out of their comfort zone.
Instead of a strong warrior hero, what if your hero was a tall, nerdy, bookworm, suddenly thrown into a life-threatening situation with a brawny, no-neck thug? How will your hero escape now? Your readers will have no idea and that will keep them reading as they try to figure it out.
Look at each character’s back story. Think about, size, weight, age, gender, skill, and experience. If your character plays baseball, he or she knows how to step into a swing, using their shoulders and hips to add strength as they slam the bat against the ball. If this character picked up an iron bar, he or she will probably inflict injury. If your character is smart, use that to outwit an opponent.
Think about ordinary things that might be used as weapons. Your heroine may get attacked and only have the items in her purse to defend herself. How could she use her keys, her cell phone, a paperclip?
Most people lose a fight because they are surprised by the degree of pain and not necessarily the degree of injury. Smash an apple or cell phone against the temple as you would a rock. Unfold a paperclip into a U-shape and hold it between the fingers of your fist, with the prongs sticking out and jab. Self-defense instructors, police officers, and military people are good resources for help. Google self-defense against a gun or knife and you will find a wealth of articles and videos.
Remember that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If your heroine fires a gun remember there is a kick. If she never fired one she wouldn’t be prepared. There is also the distraction of the noise and the haze of gun smoke. And guns are unreliable stoppers. Unless she is lucky enough to drop her attacker immediately, he will still be coming for her.
If your hero is in a fist fight, unless he hits his opponent someplace vulnerable like the nose, he will probably hurt his hand. In a bare knuckle fight the wrist will buckle slightly on impact. When your nerdy hero hits the brawny thug (supposing they are of similar height and arm reach), in the jaw or well-conditioned abs, he will probably sprain his wrist. Instead let him fight smart, use the villain’s over-confidence against him. Let him use ordinary items to smash, stab or distract.
Remember, great fight scenes involve someone not trained to fight. Take your hero and heroine out of their comfort zone, force them to use their wits to save themselves in fresh and unexpected ways and your readers will thank you.
My notes from, Writing Fight Scenes, a workshop presented by Jonathan Maberry at the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, 2011
Suggestions from police and military friends, and critique partners