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700 words - fight scene.

barrett1987

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Feb 3, 2014
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Hey all,

This fight isn't reading right and I can't work out why. It's from a PoV I don't use again and that might be why. Eitherway, can I get some fresh eyes to give it the once over please?

The countdown ends at 60 and there will be explosions :)
=========================


Caleb’s grin widened. As with most things, a little planning saved a lot of leg work. When his toughs had run into the crowd, he’d gone the other way. There was after all, only one way out of the Slave Pens.

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened. This fool had challenged his authority in front of customers. Fear was everything in a place like this. If your customers were the meanest criminals in the city then the only way they would respect the rules was if the ruler was meaner. He stepped forward. “Well, well, look whose come crawling back. Have you come to say sorry?”

“Fifteen…”

He frowned. “Fifteen what?”

“You and your boys need to get out of my way.” The man smiled. “I’m in a hurry.”

“Oh look, we’ve got ourselves a real character here!” A few toughs laughed but not as many as he’d hoped. That was fine. They just needed reminding why he was a boss. He’d make this lesson painful. He clenched his fists. Very painful. “Before I end your life, what’s your name? I wouldn’t want your wife and kids to wonder how their father died.”

“You can call me Stranger.”

Caleb’s throat tightened, a joke drying on his tongue and he fought the urge to step back. Names had power - that one more than most. “I was going to make this quick but if we’ve got a bonafide hero amongst us, it would be rude not to put on a show. Someone toss him a weapon.”

“I’m no hero,” Stranger muttered as he caught a club tossed by a nearby tough.

“Come now, don’t be modest. You’ve saved a princess! We’ve all heard of your exploits. I mean-”

Stranger stretched his arms above his head and yawned.

The crowd laughed and Caleb scowled. Are they laughing at me? He drew his rapier and began to circle, each foot placed with care, - toe then heel - legs never crossing. “Fine, have it your way.”

Stranger mirrored him, technique flawless. “Thirty…”

“Enough with the numbers!” Caleb leapt forward and slashed at his opponent’s face.

Stranger swayed away, the blade missing by inches.

Springing back, Caleb smiled a flash of teeth. “You move fast for an old man.” He lunged, thrusting low.

Again, his opponent danced away.

“Come on, don’t tease. We’ve got an audience to entertain.” He leapt again, faking low but coming in high. His blade caught nothing but air. He pulled back, his grin gone. The crowd was growing restless and needed to be entertained. He threw himself into a frenzy of slashes and sweeps. High, low, left, right, he put everything he had into the barrage. Sucking in a lungful of hot air, he brought his sword down in a final two-handed cleave.

Stranger met the blow and the rapier wedged deep into the wooden club.

Caleb leaned close, pushing with every ounce of strength he could muster and drove his opponent to his knee. “Quick for an old man.”

“Slow for a pillow-biter,” Stranger whispered into his ear.

Caleb snarled then snapped a head-butt. “Dodge that, you slippery arsehole.”

Stranger staggered back, wiping the blood from his face then straightened, club held loosely to his side. “Forty Five….”

A tough sprang from the crowd and wrapped his chain around Stranger’s neck. With a hard yank, he wrenched him from his feet.

Stranger twisted as he fell and spun a kick into the tough’s jaw with a sickening crunch.

As the tough crumbled, Caleb lunged, the point of his sword driving towards his opponent’s throat.

Stranger whipped the chain from his neck and smashed it into the rapier’s blade, sending it skidding across the floor.

Caleb ducked the chain’s returning sweep and threw himself into Stranger’s legs, tackling him to the floor.

The two men fell and Caleb landed on top. He latched his hands around Stranger’s throat and squeezed.

Again and again, Stranger tried to heave Caleb off but he kept his weight balanced and pushed down on the throat. Stranger’s movements slowed and he grinned as the light faded from Stranger’s eyes. “Call yourself a legend? What a load of-”

“Sixty...” Stranger wheezed.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I could go over this line by line and correct some things which seem like technical flaws, but that doesn't seem to be your main concern. A simple edit to take care of those things would be enough.

One example:

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened.
Besides the fact that I don't really see how a temper can tighten, that makes it sound like the temper watched the man approach.

Other than technical things, I don't see what's wrong this this scene. Why do you think it's not working?
 

Juliana

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I love the Stranger's countdown. :)

Agree with Victoria; besides a few line edit bits, on the whole I think the rhythm of the fight works. I'm guessing Caleb dies in the explosion, but does he appear before this segment? If you've just brought his POV in to tell this scene, that might be what's bothering you (and would bother me as a reader too).
 

tinkerdan

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What stands out to me is that you have a lot of small sentences and very few long sentences and I'm not sure that that works best for this although for the most part I wasn't put off by the scene and how it worked out I was still struck by a sort of choppy rhythm.
 

Mark R

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I think the problem is that it drifts away from Caleb's personal point of view, where we're in his head, to a narrative of his actions that seems impersonal. Consider the contrast of:

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened. This fool had challenged his authority in front of customers. Fear was everything in a place like this.
With

Stranger twisted as he fell and spun a kick into the tough’s jaw with a sickening crunch.

As the tough crumbled, Caleb lunged, the point of his sword driving towards his opponent’s throat.
As we get to the end of the scene the actions of Caleb and Stranger appear to have equal detail and footing. I think for the scene to "feel" right you have to tell it from Caleb's POV all the way through, keeping his observations and emotions within the action.

One further point, a rapier is primarily a thrusting weapon, Caleb's using it more like a sword that fights with the edge. You'd never bring a rapier "down in a two handed cleave" because you'd snap the blade in so doing.
 

pambaddeley

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Yes there are a few small line edit things, e.g. "Stranger’s movements slowed and he grinned as the light faded from Stranger’s eyes." would benefit from that 'he' becoming 'Caleb', but it generally reads OK, though I agree that it might be starting to feature Stranger more weightily towards the end. I think the interruption of the fight by the tough takes away from the focus between Caleb and Stranger.
 

tinkerdan

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Another note of interest on the sword name and usage.

Typically rapier; small sword; and epee would be thrusting swords because of the narrow blade.

But depending on the region and the time the name rapier might be used with some ambiguity.

For instance the Side sword which has a wider blade and sometimes is considered a cut and thrust is often called a Sword Rapier or a Cut Rapier so keep that in mind.

Now for hack and slash a good cutlass would be my preference.
 

barrett1987

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One further point, a rapier is primarily a thrusting weapon, Caleb's using it more like a sword that fights with the edge. You'd never bring a rapier "down in a two handed cleave" because you'd snap the blade in so doing.
I'm glad you picked up on this. What does that tell you about Caleb as a character? I wanted Caleb to use a dainty weapon as a way of showing what he thought his character was but when the going gets tough he reverts to his true type.

Excellent point on the lack of pov as the fight goes on, i think that's really what annoyed me about it. If i'm not in deep pov then why bother changing from Edgerton/Stranger? I think thats it.

Cheers lads and thank you for pointing out the clunky lines too. fixing them quicksnap!
 

tinkerdan

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Along the same line about the rapier and using it to make a point-pun intended.

There will be those with just enough knowledge to see the flaw, and they might pick up on your intent.
There will be those who know too much and might assume a rapier that cuts.
There will be those who don't know and might miss the point.
There will be those who don't much care either way and it's wasted on them.

I suspect the those that catch the flaw and catch its meaning in this instance might be very small.

Perhaps if the rapier breaks the point will come across (and hopefully not poke out anyone's eye on the way).
 

TitaniumTi

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If I was reading for enjoyment, I'd have no problems with this. Looking at it more deeply, the following caught my eye:
“Come on, don’t tease. We’ve got an audience to entertain.” He leapt again, faking low but coming in high. His blade caught nothing but air. He pulled back, his grin gone. The crowd was growing restless and needed to be entertained.
Does he want only to entertain the crowd, or does he want to show his power?

A tough sprang from the crowd and wrapped his chain around Stranger’s neck. With a hard yank, he wrenched him from his feet.
The tough's actions seem like a plot ploy, rather than a consequence of anything the major players have done. Perhaps you could foreshadow it, with Caleb's toughs circling, ready to jump to his support, or perhaps you could add a personal touch, with Caleb thinking of the tough by name.

Stranger twisted as he fell and spun a kick into the tough’s jaw with a sickening crunch.

As the tough crumbled, Caleb lunged, the point of his sword driving towards his opponent’s throat.
As stranger has just twisted, isn't he now facing away from Caleb?
 

sozme

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Caleb’s grin widened. As with most things, a little planning saved a lot of leg work. When his toughs had run into the crowd, he’d gone the other way. There was after all, only one way out of the Slave Pens.

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened
. This fool had challenged his authority in front of customers. Fear was everything in a place like this. If your customers were the meanest criminals in the city then the only way they would respect the rules was if the ruler was meaner. He stepped forward. “Well, well, look whose come crawling back. Have you come to say sorry?”
Going from the first paragraph to the second just doesn't sound right to me, maybe because the first one seems like a reaction and then the next bit is also a reaction, so there is a missing stimulus in-between. Also agree with @Victoria Silverwolf on the "temper tightened" point.
 

Martin Robert

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I don't get the point of the slave pens and customers comments to start off the story. Caleb is a slave? Or some kind of slave master? The counting is interesting.
 

thaddeus6th

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lot of leg work - legwork could be one word.

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened. - unsure of 'tightened' for Temper, as it seems to imply more control, but more temper would lessen control. Not major, though.

Fear was everything in a place like this. If your customers were the meanest criminals in the city then the only way they would respect the rules was if the ruler was meaner. - dislike this. You can't make your customers the meanest then say you yourself are meaner. Just make the criminals scum, or godless scum, etc.

He stepped forward. “Well, well, look whose - who's

Have you come to say sorry?” - seems a bit of a soft question given he's meant to be the meanest of mean men.

“Before I end your life, what’s your name? I wouldn’t want your wife and kids to wonder how their father died.” - last sentence seems soft. "I want to know to whom I should mail the shoebox containing your remains" or suchlike [but sharper, obviously] may fit better.

I mean-” - long dash, not a hyphen.

- toe then heel - - I think these should be long dashes.

Caleb snarled then snapped a head-butt. - 'snapped' reads a little awkwardly. Ramming his head into his opponent's face etc may be better.

Stranger twisted as he fell - but he's being lifted. How's he falling?

Caleb ducked the chain’s returning sweep - return sweep.

The two men fell and Caleb landed on top. He latched his hands around Stranger’s throat and squeezed.

What a load of-” - long dash
 

Idealect

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A few ideas: (please take them as such)

On: "Stranger swayed away, the blade missing by inches."

I think swaying is a pretty big movement, so if swaying away causes a blade to miss by inches, then it was either a very close (and possibly desperate) move, or a very nonchalant one. I find that it's not clear exactly what happened here. Is he languid? nonchalant? a thrill seeker? Simply comfortable cutting it that close?

Of course the sentence doesn't need to delineate everything precisely, plus his favorite hair color/how and why he doesn't have one, but I think, as it is, that as well as being quite undefined, it also suggests different, and clear (and contrasting) possibilities, which I found a little confusing.

I also had the reaction that the ongoing present tense case of the second part of the sentence made me expect something else to happen with the exchange: e.g. "-and lashed back..", "-and smiled" or something.

If you think those are problems then ", And the blade missed by inches" would be a simple change that wouldn't have them. It could also be expanded whether those are problems or not. e.g. Maybe Caleb is aware of the guy actually watching the blade as it passes by his face, with something like reverence, or longing. Or with amusement -or something.


By the way, not particularly relevant -prompted by this, not responding to it- I just want to write it down before i forget: Recently I've been thinking about how if a story is to be told aloud it needs less definition in the words, because it can be given with voice and expression as well as all kinds of low level miming. Perhaps also because just listening to the sound of someone's voice can be enjoyable on its own, so there might be more room for imperfection. But when committing things to paper, to be read directly from it, absolutely everything is suddenly on the words themselves, and the reader. Some things and ways of saying things immediately become a lot harder, and a few become easier, by the simple different natures of different forms of communication (or whatever word they both fall under). (and there's also things you imagine or say purely in your own mind, which has obvious advantages, but also disadvantages other than (purely) translation, mainly variations on that you can't engrave things permanently there, like you can write things down, to iterate, or experiment, or see anew, etc (or of course the primary/emblamatic benefits: to relatively permanently, relatively perfectly, store, and to share with others).) I think The same things is true with poetry/"spoken word" (not sure how wide that category is), perhaps more so.



Anyway




With

"Stranger met the blow and the rapier wedged deep into the wooden club."

Caleb leaned close, pushing with every ounce of strength he could muster and drove his opponent to his knee. “Quick for an old man.”


I don't see how Caleb could get the leverage to push an opponent to his knees from such a position. Apart from the possibility that the sword isn't completely stiff, it seems he's trying to push a whole guy downward with his arm(s); up against the guy's back and legs. And the guy with the club would effectively have a lever on the swingers arm, I think.

I think it would be more likely if this happened that the person with the club could pull/twist the sword out of the other's hands, with the swordsman's advantage being that his opponent cannot get the sword away from their close vicinity without one of them losing their weapon; if he can just twist/pull the sword out, he can unleash a cut from extremely close range.

He could also use the entanglement of the weapons to step forward and get a wrestling position. Like maybe the sword comes down, the sword sticks and theother guy staggers, he runs forward and trips him, the other guy loses his footing but half recovers, and then he's is in a position to bring his weight to bear on him (and if he brings him down, whip the sword out and hit him while he's completely unable to dodge).





On "Stranger whipped the chain from his neck and smashed it into the rapier’s blade, sending it skidding across the floor."

I don't see how a chain can specifically "smash" into a blade unless it's all rapped up in a ball, which seems to be contradicted by "whipped". If someone was extremely brave and well coordinated a particular part of the chain could be. Based on the fact that this sends the blade skidding across the floor, I assume he's smashing either a link, or a balled up bunch of chain directly into the tip of the blade, but I don't think it's very clear. If that isn't what's happening perhaps part of the chain could also hit Caleb on his hand/wrist to give a clear reason for dropping it.




Lastly, and this is the only thing I'd have a significant problem with as a reader, (and not an idea, a criticism), I think stuff like “Slow for a pillow-biter,” very straightforwardly adds a lot less than it takes, especially if it isn't around often. For me things like this turn a book from an enjoyable experience to something I might read as a bit of work if it's otherwise very good, for the sake of interesting memories. That's subjective but unless it's being done for a specific purpose it seems it would alienate some people for basically zero benefit.



Uh actually I had one more idea: I think it's a bit ambiguous when Stranger yawns whether Caleb is cut off by surprise (and if so, if/how frustrated he is by this, how angry, that kind of thing), or whether he composedly decides to stop talking (and why, e.g. as a "ok, time to kill" decision, or as an enjoyable follow up to a move he appreciates on some level, or perhaps without reservation)








Also could you give more detail about how it's not working right (edit into OP for new readers), if there's something more specific that can be said. (or perhaps specify that there isn't)
 
Last edited:

Damiynn

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First off I have not read any of the previous posts yet so if I touch on the same, sorry.


Caleb’s grin widened. As with most things, a little planning saved a lot of leg work. When his toughs had run into the crowd, he’d gone the other way. There was after all, only one way out of the Slave Pens. (OK it might have been stated earlier in the book but do we know he is in a slave pen already?)

Watching the man approach, Caleb’s temper tightened. This fool had challenged his authority in front of customers. Fear was everything in a place like this. If your customers were the meanest criminals in the city then the only way they would respect the rules was if the ruler was meaner. He stepped forward. “Well, well, look whose come crawling back. Have you come to say sorry?”

“Fifteen…”

He frowned. “Fifteen what?”

“You and your boys need to get out of my way.” The man smiled. “I’m in a hurry.”

“Oh look, we’ve got ourselves a real character here!” A few toughs laughed but not as many as he’d hoped. That was fine. They just needed reminding why he was a boss. He’d make this lesson painful. He clenched his fists. Very painful. “Before I end your life, what’s your name? I wouldn’t want your wife and kids to wonder how their father died.”

“You can call me Stranger.”

Caleb’s throat tightened, a joke drying on his tongue and he fought the urge to step back. Names had power - that one more than most. “I was going to make this quick but if we’ve got a bonafide hero amongst us, it would be rude not to put on a show. Someone toss him a weapon.”

“I’m no hero,” Stranger muttered as he caught a club tossed by a nearby tough.

“Come now, don’t be modest. You’ve saved a princess! We’ve all heard of your exploits. I mean-”

Stranger stretched his arms above his head and yawned. (Maybe it would read better like, Come now, don't be modest. You've saved a princess! We've all heard of your exploits. I mean-" His words died as Stranger stretched his arms above his head and yawned.)

The crowd laughed and Caleb scowled. Are they laughing at me? He drew his rapier and began to circle, each foot placed with care, - toe then heel - legs never crossing. “Fine, have it your way.” ( be in the action, try "Drawing his rapier, he began to circle, placing each foot with care...

Stranger mirrored him, (HIS) technique flawless. “Thirty…”

“Enough with the numbers!” Caleb leapt forward (slashing at) and slashed at his opponent’s face.

Stranger swayed away, the blade missing (him) by inches.

Springing back, Caleb('s teeth flashed as he smiled) smiled a flash of teeth. “You move fast for an old man.” He lunged, thrusting low.

Again, his opponent danced away.

“Come on, don’t tease. We’ve got an audience to entertain.” He leapt again, faking low but coming in high. His blade caught nothing but air. He pulled back, his grin gone. The crowd was growing restless and needed to be entertained. He threw himself into a frenzy of slashes and sweeps. High, low, left, right, he put everything he had into the barrage. Sucking in a lungful of hot air, he brought his sword down in a final two-handed cleave.

Stranger met the blow and the rapier wedged deep into the wooden club.

Caleb leaned close, pushing with every ounce of strength he could muster and drove his opponent to his knee. “Quick for an old man.”

“Slow for a pillow-biter,” Stranger whispered into his ear.

Caleb snarled then snapped a head-butt( need to be more descriptive-- into the others face. “Dodge that, you slippery arsehole.”

Stranger staggered back, wiping the blood from his face then straightened, club held loosely to his side. “Forty Five….”

A tough sprang from the crowd and wrapped his chain around Stranger’s neck. With a hard yank, he wrenched him from his feet.

Stranger twisted as he fell and spun (kicking) a kick into the tough’s jaw with a sickening crunch.

As the tough crumbled, Caleb lunged, the point of his sword driving towards his opponent’s throat.

Stranger whipped the chain from his neck and smashed it into the rapier’s blade, sending it skidding across the floor.

Caleb ducked the chain’s returning sweep and threw himself into Stranger’s legs, tackling him to the floor.

The two men fell and Caleb landed on top. He latched his hands around Stranger’s throat and squeezed.

Again and again, Stranger tried to heave Caleb off but he kept his weight balanced and pushed down on the throat. Stranger’s movements slowed (put a period here and try He grinned... as he watched the light....) and he grinned as the light faded from Stranger’s eyes. “Call yourself a legend? What a load of-”

“Sixty...” Stranger wheezed.

A fight seen isn't always about a fight but about the scenes in it that take place. You have to work on your perspective of what is happening in the time it is happening.
 

barrett1987

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Thank you all for your help. Some excellent stuff in here. I've tightened and improved as per your instructions. I agreed with 90% of what i read in this thread :)
 

Bowler1

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Not enough emotion. Caleb should have had some worry about the upcoming fight as random stuff can happen. Yet he doesn't express a whole lot of concern.

Not staying with the character. More important in a fight scene for me. How did the rapier feel, was the ground like, how close were the crowd, what did Stranger look like, how did he move. None of this was well handled and there was very little tension because of this.

For me, too much dialogue and not enough narrative/emotion. Dialogue is your main style and usually very well handled, but an action scene demands a change in gears and you didn't switch styles for me. With the character more - mouth went dry, blood pumped, sweaty hands, cheering faceless crowd - zoom into the fight, zone out the wider picture.

Fight scenes are a pain. I love getting them right, but they can take me ages to do. Good luck with it.
 
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