One of the most fun aspects of writing is getting to choreograph out and visualize the action sequences. Those fights that sweep up the reader and make you worried if your characters are going to come out the other side in one piece. When my character is caught up in this moment, the words fly from my fingers as I describe how and why the characters are fighting.
But what if my character is there for the fight, but not center in the action? In my current project, my heroine starts off as not a big fighter. Even when she steps up, she’ll never be the toughest kid in a fight. Writing this became a new experience. A fight scene is all about action and tactics and being in the moment and motion of the exchanges. Writing in third person deep, my character was more often watching and helping in the fight then centered in it. She wasn’t the thought behind the tactics or the movement. She was more reacting than planning. The heart of the fight was in her allies.
I can’t write “Wanting to open the space between his opponents, Michael feigned right and rolled hard left.”
How would the main character know what Michael wanted in the middle of the fight? She’s not telepathic. She can only observe any action that’s not her own. To do any more would be cheating. Shifting POV can be very distracting if not controlled in detail.
Instead, I have to write “Michael feigned right and rolled hard left” and let the reader and character figure out the other part. Or if I’m not sure it’s clear, I could chance it by saying “Michael feigned right and rolled hard left, keeping a wide space between him and Lester.”
To do this and fully choreograph the dance that is a fight can make it very stilted, cold and impersonal. Everything a fight shouldn’t be. A fight is passion, desperation, control and very, very personal. To be real, a fight needs to be in everyone’s head and a danger to everyone in it. This is the same reason modern movies will program their armies with AI’s. Every fighter needs to react individually, as if their life is on the line.
To make this work, I’ve come across a process of my own. I write it first as if I’m inside everyone’s head. I have to know why they are making every step they make, to ensure it’s real. Once I write it to reflect everyone’s motivations and moves, I can then revise it to take out everyone’s thoughts but the POV I’m in. This way she can observe motivated actions, making the fight more realistic.
So far, so good.