-Warning: Post may contain spoilers for films or games you have not experienced yet. That said, they are necessary examples for what I am about to discuss, so please forgive me for any major spoilers.-
When you think of novels, you don’t tend to think of the fight scene; they remain more the realm of film, video games or other more visual mediums. That’s fair enough; after all it is rather difficult to render something like this into written text:
Yu Shu Lien Vs. Jiao Long from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
That said, there are certainly fight scenes in books. Those medieval romances I’m so fond of feature plenty, but the type of combat I envision happening in my novel is probably rather rare in literature and it is this that I wish to talk about today. As you may have been able to gather from earlier blog posts on the process of writing my novel, I am very open about my influences. You may have also noticed that I like to have a visual of characters and events in order to write about them. For a fantasy novel that is heavily inspired by video games and anime, it is therefore tantamount that I create impressive and ultimately memorable fight scenes. My intentions are to develop a cohesive style in which the combat has its roots in real combat but which matches the speed, skill and intensity of the fight scenes seen in the likes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero (as seen here).
Optional Boss Fight against Maxwell in Tales of Symphonia
Above is a boss fight from Tales of Symphonia and, as an Japanese Role Playing Game inspired by the anime style, it presents many of the quirks unique to video games and anime: Characters announce their special moves as they do them, powerful magic attacks take a while to charge up, combat culminates in boss battles which all feel completely unique, etc. Ultimately my goal is to blend these quirks into the stylised realistic fights present in films. Whether I will succeed in this is a different matter altogether, although I hope I will, but there are numerous ways in which I am attempting to have the best chance of replicating the effect in words.
Optional Boss Fight against Rondo in Eternal Sonata
The first of these methods is giving my characters various different weapons: Hideki has a standard arming sword, Rosalina has a magical staff, Diana has a rapier, David a bow, and Arthur a spear. It’s a common trope in video games for characters to specialise in different weapons, above is Eternal Sonata where there characters use everything from swords to fists to batons to umbrellas. In games, it’s mostly a method of differentiating characters but in the more realised style I’m aiming for, different weapons will result in different ways of fighting. While Hideki and Diana would have a more standard sword fight, the tactics are naturally different when a spear or a bow is brought into the fray. There is in part an issue of location too, as a fight in a church will feel different to one in and around a factory. For example, compare the Tifa Vs Loz and Cloud Vs Sephiroth fights from Final Fantasy VII Advent Children:
Tifa vs Loz
Cloud vs Sephiroth
Despite having the same over the top combat, the two scenes feel different thanks to the weapons used and the locations. It’s perhaps an overly simple point to be making, but it shows off the effect I’m hoping to achieve and it just gives me an excuse to watch those fight scenes again. So, I’ve got my style of fight, I’ve got my weapons, but there comes an issue when it comes to envisioning how these fantastical fights can be portrayed in a realistic manner. This is where I have found sparring videos incredibly useful.
A sparring match from the Academy of Historical Fencing
While not necessarily the most graceful examples of combat, they have provided a helpful tool in seeing the pros and cons of each weapon in action. When added to the brilliantly detailed information provided by the channel ScholaGladiatoria (an example can be seen here), this should provide a good grounding of realism to the fights. It’s perhaps a little odd to be delving into such a level of realism in combat which may at times be defying gravity, but I suspect that the combination will lead to better fight scenes.
Torture Attack and Climax Showcase from Bayonetta featuring Enochian
And now we come to the issue of magic. Ever since playing Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta, I have been fascinated with the Enochian language which was used for the Torture Attacks and Climaxes. The language is fictional, but it was created by John Dee and Edward Kelley in the late sixteenth century and there is something satisfyingly mystical and brutal about the language which I feel makes it perfect for the magic I wish to use in my novel. Most JRPGs make a distinction between black magic (offensive) and white magic (healing/defence) and due to the element based translations, I felt Enochian worked rather well in the context of black magic and summoning. This is perhaps slightly off, as Enochian is meant to be the language of the angels but it adds to the bite of combat. White magic is being based on the magic seen in the Tales series, with English spells. This is mostly because Enochian doesn’t have words that would work in these contexts, and because it is really difficult to construct sentences with it due to the lack of an official grammatical structure. Still in my mind, the difference in language used makes the difference between the types of magic more apparent.
In the end, I don’t know whether all of this preparation will help. Merely having the basic knowledge of weaponry and combat from a bit of research and an idea of how I want things to occur isn’t going to lead to the best written fight scenes ever. I’d be an arrogant egotistical nut-job if I thought that were possible. But, I do hope that this preparation will lead to unique memorable written fight scenes that manage to have even half the style and skill as those presented throughout this post. After all, who doesn’t want to experience an exhilarating fight scene?