Action and Knowing Your Character

Spider-Man vs Juggernaut (Marvel Comics)

Spider-Man vs Juggernaut (Marvel Comics)

I’ve talked about writing action scenes before and people still ask for some tips.  Today I’m going to give a few that center on knowing your character.  Some might be repeats from other posts, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it again if you plan on doing a lot of action.

  1. You really need to know the limits of your characters.  The above picture shows that Spider-Man may be strong, but Juggernaut is stronger.  The writer/artist know how to work such a fight without going outside the limits of the characters.  You would lose readers if Juggernaut starts doing nimble backflips or Spider-Man hurls the big guy into the next county.  As powerful as they are, each one has a limit.
  2. Not every weapon can penetrate armor.  I thought of this when I caught part of a movie that had two knights fighting.  They had platemail and it ended with a simple slash across the chest.  There was no mark on the other warrior that you could see since he fell face down, but it got me thinking.  How often do authors focus on the weapons and tend to forget the armor?  You can get so caught up in the offense of an action scene that you ignore the defensive side beyond a few blocks.
  3. Being a warrior doesn’t mean you can use EVERY weapon created.  Check out the heroes of Windemere and you’ll see that each one has signature weapons.  If they grab something else then they tend to wield it like their favored weapon.  The idea of a ‘Weapons Master’ is common in fantasy, but tends to be reserved for ancient characters that take the role of mentor.  A young hero like Luke Callindor shouldn’t be able to use more than his sabers, a range weapon, and a few simple things.  Though his level of skill would vary.  Remember that practice and training is necessary for a character to develop even if they’re a natural.
  4. If you describe a character as having long legs then kicking might be more useful than punching.  I always wonder why some fight scenes exclude any moves from below the waist.  If the character is a skilled fighter then they you can believe they would play to their strengths.  Powerful and long legs shouldn’t be ignored.  I’m not talking only kicks to the head too.  Injuring an opponent’s legs will slow them down, so shots to the knees and ankles should be considered.
  5. Height, weight, girth, etc. is something that I try hard to remember.  Case in point, a halfling or gnome is a shorter target.  A taller warrior would have to stab down, swing low, and alter their fighting styles to handle a ‘below average’ height.  The trade off is that shorter characters need to find ways to reach more vital areas on their enemies, which is where stealth and range come into play.  Yet, there is another side of this and that’s allies remembering this fact.  There’s a fight scene in Prodigy of Rainbow Tower where Nyx and Nimby are back-to-back.  Nyx takes advantage of having a shorter ally and ducks high strikes without worrying about Nimby getting hit.  Same goes for archers being able to shoot over shorter allies.

Those are what came to mind and I’m sure there are more that I forgot.  I’ll probably revisit this if I can think of any others.  As usual, I’m always up for suggestions and questions that can create other posts.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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32 Responses to Action and Knowing Your Character

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Whilst my characters rarely take on superhero status….always very interesting to know how to ensure that your action man is within believable parameters..

    Like

  2. L. Marie says:

    Great tips!!! It’s funny how some people make their main characters adept at every single weapon in the world at a young age. I also crack up when a 100 pound woman is able to easily defeat an opponent the size of a sumo wrestler without the aid of super strength.

    Like

    • The weapon master thing is always a strange thing to see in a young character. I rarely see a good reason for it. As for the 100 pounder versus a sumo, I think it can be done if she uses speed and aims for weak spots. As long as you make it believable, any character can beat another using the right strategy. That’s a big part of action scenes. Not just the movements, but the mentality.

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  3. Reblogged this on Shirley McLain and commented:
    Here are some helpful suggestions about action in your writing. I thought I would pass it on. Have a blessed day.

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  4. Great points, Charles! Another excellent post 🙂

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  5. MRS N, the Author says:

    Great tips! Even warriors have limits! Am reblogging. 🙂

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  6. MRS N, the Author says:

    Reblogged this on Princess of the Light: Books, Writing and Inspiring Others and commented:
    An excellent article by my friend, Charles. Writing action scenes are about timing but also have their limits. Even superheroes can’t be perfect!

    MRS N aka N. N. Light

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  7. Tess says:

    Details. Details. Great post.

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  8. Good tips all. Did I miss a post today?

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  9. I confess I’m a little worried that when I try to write a novel, there will be some sort of physical combat that I must try to describe in words. When I read fight scenes, I always find myself wondering if I could pull it off. I might get to find out. 🙂

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  10. Great point, I’m guilty of my hero managing to learn weapons all too quickly, I’ve got to work on that!
    Great post as always.

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  11. Great points. I need to remember – more kicking! 🙂

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  12. D.T. Nova says:

    It’s probably okay if the main use they get out of the unfamiliar weapon is catching an opponent by surprise, I think.

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  13. Great post. Thank you. I certainly need to think a lot about the fight scenes I want to write. It’s probably the one part of my book I’m least confident with.

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    • It takes a lot of practice. One thing I do is think through the action part of the scene before I write. Not so much the details, but the key moves that everything else will revolve around. It’s basically choreography.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Still worries me but perhaps I just need to read more books with those types of scenes. Thank you for the advice :). My book’s at the very early stage, I’ve just started writing it but the idea has been in my head for a solid three years so most of the story already exists. It’s just transferring what I see in my head into something that makes sense and hopefully sounds good on paper.

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      • Oddly enough, movies with detailed action scenes help too. Martial arts movies will show you how a fight can go back and forth instead of it being one-sided. The first draft is always the hardest. 🙂 Good luck.

        Liked by 1 person

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