Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Muse-ings. Psychology of Melee.

All these review blogs have their weekly/monthly "features", so I'm tinkering with different ideas on doing the same.

So, in this feature, I'll mention an aspect of the fiction writing process that I am wrestling with this week. Enjoy, ignore, discuss, as suits you.

(Sorry, can't remember where I found this picture.)

I've spent the better part of the last two weeks reworking an early battle scene. It's not a traditional fantasy battle scene, as both sides are relatively inexperienced in the ways of warfare. I don't get to say, "The vanguard took the river while X's flank fell beneath the cavalry," (etc).

Anyway, this has me thinking of these characters and their introduction to the ugliness of battle.

To do this, I go back in my mind. To my first fight.

Does anyone remember their first fight? I do. I was a toddler! Some little kid in the neighborhood said something mean about a friend of my uncle's and I socked him in the face. Then we threw his "big wheel" over the fence.

But of course, I was a little kid and beyond the memory, it didn't really stick with me.

When I was older, I was taught how to fight. I had a bunch of friends who took karate or taekwondo, and we'd spar with big puffy boxing gloves.

I grew up around a decent amount of fighting - but I was a geek, and I got picked on alot. Duh? I didn't start fights (that's what fight training teaches you), but I could hold my own. Most of the time I did.

Movies always glamorize the sword fights and heroic battles of our protagonists. They should. They're exciting.

However, if you remember your first fight, it wasn't like that. Especially if you got your butt kicked. If it was a long melee, then your muscles ached and throbbed, that day or the next.

The first time you get the wind knocked out of you, or you feel pain inflicted with harmful intent, it's scary.

Martial arts will teach you how to push through that fear, but my characters don't have that benefit at this point in the story.

So I think back to what I remember about my fights, my conflicts. I listen to other people talk about theirs.

When I want to write about the inexperienced fighters, I think back to when I wasn't confident in my ability to defend myself. To ambushes, to scraps in the schoolyard. I think about the fear of getting hurt and how much it played a part in how I acted.

I think about the anger and how often that made it easy to ignore the fear.

In looking back, I recall that certain senses go numb, and others go bionic. So, the POV from someone in the middle of a battle isn't reliable. He's seeing certain things clear as the day and other things he's not realizing at all. If he's determined, he's likely to not even notice that he has broken a limb or strained a muscle.

Certain names and ideas will stick, others will dissipate as the adrenalin pushes its influence through the moment. The sense of hearing is almost completely cut off from anything but the most direct of vocalizations.

Likewise, at some point, no matter the skill or the power, or the outcome, fatigue and strain will command the action. I caught a break on this chapter by getting to ignore that, because the race in question have abnormal endurance. If I'd been writing about another race, the fight would have ended much sooner.

These are the things I consider when I'm writing about melee: the physical condition of the fighters, their relative experience to warfare, and the psychological impacts of the conflict. Those are the factors that matter the most, not the uber sword of doom.

In my opinion, normal disclaimers apply. Your thoughts?

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