The way of the blade...

Discussion in 'Historical Re-enactment' started by darkfox, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. darkfox

    darkfox New Member

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    Just thought it would be interesting to see how everyone handles sword fights in writing. I've read a few fights where you need to have intimate knowledge of fencing history to understand, and others where it's so hard to follow because the author tries to write it in quick short sentences for dramatic effect.

    Anyway. Here's my stab at it. This is a part of my book. The backstory is that the young prince is being put in charge of a veteran unit of soldiers under an old war dog who takes exception to being under the command of what he views as a child.

    Aaron is the Prince, Kevin is his older brother and Captain Lance Robertson is the old war dog.

    I'm not sensitive, so honest input is greatly appreciated. Please share any of your sword fights if you want.
     
  2. Greybeard

    Greybeard Geezer

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    I have read this and will comment, and post my own, but I'm not ready yet. Next week, probably.
     
  3. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    It's a bit hard to describe a fight literally blow by blow, and not make it sound like "swordfighting for dummies." Eg
    Isn't the secondary edge of a double-edged sword called the back edge? Calling it "the other sharp edge" is literal but also a bit clunky.

    In trying to avoid the long-winded academic descriptions, and the short sharp "Hollywood fast film cut" style, you may have inadvertantly ended up as a mish-mash somewhere in the middle :(

    I've never written anything mysele, but as a reader it was a bit clunky.

    I'll check something at home tonight and will post again later.
     
  4. eliec

    eliec New Member

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    Steel flashed in quick arcs as Devin was forced back by the sailor's blade. Closer and closer those short cuts and stabs came until every thrust of his was met by a quicker riposte that left him scrambling for a desperate defense.
    Devin was dimly aware of crewmen fighting and thrashing around them, but all he could see was the sailor's deep brown eyes fixed into his. Not the furious snarl of a killer, but the determined look of an artist at work, and the small curved blade truly did weave a silver painting in the air, coming ever so close to drawing the rich red with which to complete the artwork.

    Devin twisted round, right boot lashing out to catch the sailor's unprotected shin. His opponent stumbled to a knee and Devin stabbed, only to meet with the sailor's blade, halfway down. A thick fist caught him in the stomach and he stumbled back, gasping for air as the sailor's boarding sword thrust forward.
    The young captain desperately cut at the blade. It flew wide and the sailor's eyes grew wider still when Devin thrusted his own blade into the burly body. Only then did the young captain see a spearhead sticking out of the sailor's chest.
     
  5. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    I had a flip through some David Eddings fight scenes. He describes their thoughts, reactions, very ague descriptions of the actual blows themselves, more about "X attacks, Y staggers back in defense" etc. He hardly ever describes a particular blow except the killing blow.

    Reading his style, I found myself filling in the gaps in my mind which I enjoyed and found easier moreso than the literal "blow by blow description" that you attempted.

    I haven't had the time to flip through any other books and look for fight scenes to compare different styles, I just used Eddings as I knew where to look to find a particular fight.
     
  6. darkfox

    darkfox New Member

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    i hear ya. but the point of the exercise is to NOT be like every other writer. you know?

    i've read some other authors who tend to learn about swordplay and the terminology before writting about it. which is also fine because i've heard swordplay terms and not understood the movement involved with it. there are also authors who write sword play like it's a dry cost annalysis report.

    i was looking for something between "blocked the blade" and "performed a stalaminto reposte". something that the average reader can follow, but someone with more knowledge wouldn't find ridiculous. took some fencing courses when i was younger and read a few fencing books. fencing of course not JUST with an epee or rapier, but with more traditional blades such as a basic twin bladed sword.

    incidentally, the "back edge" of a sword is a flat part on the back of a sword like a saber.

    the 'reverse edge' is the lamen term, though i worried that calling it that might be confusing. i'd rather be literal than completely lose the average reader with no interest in swordplay other than how cool it looks.

    anyway, the goal WAS to find something in between over-analysis with a spanish or italian named move sequence, and hack, block, slash. yawn.

    Eliec: i liked yours. the imagery of it was well constructed. i was curious as to what kind of captain Devin is. judging from the short blurb, he seems like a mercenary or pirate. i say that only because of the cheap shot kick to the shin. if that wasn't the intent you may want to re-write that part to something more "gentlemanly" like a pomel to the forehead or the like. if he was intended to be a pirate...you might want to have something like a knee into his opponents face as he's down on one knee, knocking him back into the spear that pierces his back. which seems less random and more brutal.
     
  7. Mububban

    Mububban Administrator Staff Member

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    I don't have the skill or patience to be a writer, I can only offer my opinion as a reader. And as a reader, and one who knows a little bit about swordfighting, I still found it overly descriptive.
     
  8. darkfox

    darkfox New Member

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    fair enough
     
  9. eliec

    eliec New Member

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    Much appreciated Darkfox. I improved this right after reading your post, so i'm afraid Devin doesn't have much of a backstory yet, maybe i'll write some soon.
    Anyway, i love the way Robert Jordan describes battles, especially Rand's swordfights. He made up names for Forms (the name he gives to a set of kata-like movements), and basically describes Rand's emotions during the battle, while only mentioning the name of the Forms he uses. Obviously not for everyone, but it's very enjoyable. Personally i love imagining what these Forms may look like, depending on their names and the situations Rand's in, it makes the reader heavily immersed.
     
  10. Dravish

    Dravish New Member

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    What I tend to do is describe the more significant moves and emotions of the combatants involved and suggest the rest. Giving any combat narrative the correct flow and feel for the experience/emotional state of the combatants is more important, imo.
    But...my golden rule is that you have to enjoy what you write. Meaning that you will be able to find the way to get your reader's heart pumping in his/her chest if you write whatever gets your heart racing. You just have to be honest about what "does it for you" and consider whether you just like how "clever" you're being. Therein lies the secret...
     
  11. darkfox

    darkfox New Member

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    the fighting style also needs to be in keeping with the character. as i suggested for eliec, you can't have a gentleman kick someone. unless he's some sort of rogue. .

    i'll use an example from a book that got me into swordplay in the first place, Dumas' Three Muskateers. D'Artagnon would stick to the strict rules of engagement, allowing his opponent to make a mistake as he sets about with calculated strikes. Porthos though, would bite, kick and headbutt his way to victory. both heroes, both completely different styles, both written with their style in mind.

    I also use Alexandre Dumas as an example of an author who explained a swordfight in as great a detail as a love scene because he gave them equal weight in constructing his fable. As did Robert Louis Stevenson in his novels. both masters of their craft in my opinion.
     
  12. Normf

    Normf Death 'n' Roll

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    Well. I really enjoyed reading that, and quite like the descriptive sword fighting, it puts the perect image in my head of two men fighting. I'm not left guessing as to how or what exactly the two fighters are doing, and i was really impressed. Good stuff mate!
     
  13. darkfox

    darkfox New Member

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    thanks. it seems to boil down to styles that people enjoy reading. some prefer over the top descriptions of form, while others like a simple hack and slash description.

    the whole point of this thread is to show all the different ways something relatively simple, like a sword fight, can be looked at. so keep posting if you've got something to share.
     
  14. Ravenhart

    Ravenhart New Member

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    Personally I prefer giving few descriptions when it comes to fight scenes and rather provide a sort of overview, though of course going more in detail on "highlights". I find the imagination often describes things for you when you read than words possibly could.

    That, of course, is just my personal opinion.