Conducting a fight scene can be a complicated experience when thinking about plotting it into a novel. There are many types of factors that must be considered when planning one, from the use of language to the authentic steps it takes to wield the weapon of choice.
Where to start?
Let's find out shall we? In the case of most writers research is essential and anything you don't know about will need to be researched in enough depth. So that a pro in the artistry would not be offended and unable to continue to read the novel, as they may feel like you’re making fun of their craft.
For the first part of this blog i thought we would take a look at different types of weapons available to our characters in the Middle Ages. Now obviously you can mix and mash if you write fantasy, steam punk, sci-fi or something along those lines.
Medieval weaponry such as the items listed below were common during the Middle Ages and often made from a mix of
Falchion–This is a sharp tapered blade that looked intimidating. It was intended to chop and cut, although it was not as effective against metal armour. Its hand protection slightly heavier than a sword but more balanced than an axe. It was a nimble weapon good at striking and defending.
Langes messa- This is a a smaller more personal version of the Falchion.
Army sword–This is a well balanced, double-edged sword, with hand protection, it has more balanced thrusts then some swords. This is a versatile weapon which has a movement named a ‘Mordhau’ or ‘murder stroke’. It's good for chopping, slicing, dicing and more.
Axe- This is single headed and top heavy with no hand protection but it cuts, chops, slices and hacks. It does not have a good reach.
Battle-Axe (Danish Axe)– This is a double-sided axe with a good reach and all the attributes of the axe.
Bow and arrow
Crossbow–This shoots bolts.
Spear- This weapon is less likely to be thrown and shorter and lighter than a lance .
Lance- This is a long spear. They were wielded by cradling them under arm or over head. When riding a horse they can give a horse power hit to an opponent. They could also be thrown.
Long Sword- This is a two handed sword with better leverage and a longer reach than a standard sword. There is modest hand protection but the sword is heavier and requires wielding by two hands if you wish to move quicker against an opponent.
Great sword- This is wielded with two hands by a strong man as it is very heavy
Tuc - This is a stronger, sturdier weapon used as a thruster because of its nimbleness and long reach. It has hand protection.
Polaxe- This is double-headed with a spike at the top (3 sided axe) thrusts, cuts, smashes and has a great range.
Bill- This is a pole weapon that can thrust like a spear and has a hook to dismount opponents. This weapon has a massive range.
Pike– This is a pole weapon that has a range of upto 6meters and is extremely heavy. It is used for thrusting.
Halbert- Is a two handed pole weapon with a long range and a head much like the polaxe.
Partisan- This is a pole weapon that is shorter than a pike with deflecting/ shielding with two metal spikes at the hilt.
Glave–this is a pole weapon used as a cutter but can also thrust. It has a massive range.
Maces- flanged / circle–used as a concentrated strike and has no hand protection. It is a top heavy weapon.
War hammer- double ended one sharp one blunt–no hand protection.
Dagger (combat knife)
Things to consider;
Knights and noblemen wore chain mail and lesser men if wearing armour wore
They often had shields.
Some rode on horseback, while others were on foot.
There are emotional interests in battle- how invested in winning this fight is your character? Would they do anything to win? Is it their fight? Their countries fight? Or are they doing a soldiers doing a job? Have they been cohort into the army. Do they want the money. Want to prove themselves, want to move up the social/ army ladder? They enjoy killing.–These are all things you need to consider when plotting your character into a war/ battle fight. What is their motive?
Now, to the fighting!
The first thing to consider is if your character has previous fighting experience, what level they are at and in what field of the art they are more dominant.
Wielding weapons requires appropriate stances so that you don't injure yourself or unintentionally harm someone you don't want too. For most weapons there are primary stances and the stances branch out from there. It is always a good idea to check out how your weapon is wielded and how much artistry, power and talent is needed to wield it to make you characters fights believable.
For this purpose we will take the long sword. Here are the 5 primary stances/ guards when wielding a medieval long sword.
1/ Middle strike = this is called a plow
2/ outside high/ horizontal strike = this is called an ox
3/ low strike = this is called a fool
4/ high strike = this is called a roof
5/ back guard =this is called a tail
There are many more stances for long swords other than these that you can look into if you wish.
Then you have the steps to consider, for example you're character may be advancing or retreating. They maybe swinging their sword or triangle stepping.
Don't forget to consider the impact when the weapons strike and the material it is made of and what effect it would have on their opponent (armoured or not). Most middle-aged weapons were made out of iron/ steel/ bronze/wood.
One major thing to remember is that the aftermath of your fight will have other physical and mental effects on your character so stay true to their essence (stay in character).
Now for the technical side of the writing;
Always mix action and dialogue to keep the reader engaged
Never should you have a huge thoughts passage during a fight. Your character would have all their senses engaged in fighting and staying alive, not pondering.
Always remember the senses–your reader wants to be transported to the battle not lectured.
The use of onomatopoeia in fight scenes adds real emphasis (clang, snick, thrust–you can feel these words)
Don't over do the technical side of the fighting, research it and implement it where possible, tweak it as fits your novel, but don't go into text book depth as your reader will get bored.
Use fewer adverbs (describing word) and more verbs (doing word) to add a fast intensity
Above all, show don't tell
About the scene.
Where are the characters fighting?
What effect does that have on their footing, armour, visibility, stability?
Does your character have an injury? How would that impede their capability during a battle?
I hope you enjoyed this blog and I look forwards to you visiting again.