Tuesday, May 1, 2012

100 Books #37 - Alan Baxter's WRITE THE FIGHT RIGHT

I have never been in a fight.* Until just very recently (and I mean very recently, like last week), I had never even seen a fight. I hope never to see one again, and I really hope I never have to be in one.

Unless I want my fiction to be unrelievedly dull and full of talking heads, though, at some point I'll probably have to write a fight scene or two in my career. Indeed, I have already had to at least once, but luckily for me it was for a graphic novel script, which means the illustrator gets to do most of the heavy lifting on that one.

Enter my good pal Alan Baxter, urban fantasy novelist and martial artist extraordinare, who has been teaching workshops on writing fight scenes at various conventions in his adopted home of Australia for quite some time, and finally allowed his fans to prevail on him to publish the wisdom he has been sharing that way in book form.

The resulting work is informative as hell (at least from this non-fighter's perspective), short and vivid, just like a good fight scene should be. Baxter reminds us that the fights we see in film and television are not accurate depictions of real fights: nobody takes turns, blocking only works for a little while, size matters, so does footwork, and you only ever really see someone taking punch after punch and staying in the fight on bad TV.

Baxter illustrates his principles with examples of good (quick, lively, exciting, accurate) and bad (wordy, clinical, slow, wrong) fight-writing and a gentle sense of humor that somewhat belies his subject. Nor does he just focus on the mechanics of fighting itself; he devotes a decent amount of copy to the sights, sounds and smells of fighting as well.

All of which are things I'm perfectly happy to take his word on, thank  you. Because while I might get off my lazy butt and take a self-defense class someday (my recent experience has left me a bit shaken), I don't ever, ever want to have first-hand knowledge of this stuff.

This is seriously the best how-to-write-combat book I've found since J. Daniel Sawyer's Throwing Lead: A Writer's Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them). And since it covers rather a different aspect of combat, it's a most welcome addition to my reference library. I think a few would-bes and wannabes on my  list are absolutely getting this one for Christmas, if not sooner.

*Obviously not counting the odd schoolyard scuffle. And even those, I can't really count as fights, because fighting implies more than one participant and my level of participation amounted to my pulling a Samwell Tarly (i.e. taking a few hits and crying like the little girl that I was, running  home, and then telling my parents I'd fallen off the monkey bars because I didn't want to cause any more trouble than there had already been).

Blogger's note: this is another short one, but I promise you, I'm making up for the short length of these last two by also tackling (and enjoying) some longer stuff that it's just taking me, duh, a longer time to get finished and blogged. The Recognitions, for instance. It's 956 pages long.


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