Check out this excellent piece by Kai Wai Cheah, readers!
The Fight Scene is the Last Scene
Action scenes are the most memorable aspects of any fiction. Fast-paced and intense, they sear themselves into the audience’s memories. Battles between the hero and the lesser mooks punctuate the plot, while the final showdown between the hero and the villain serves as the climax of the story. And that is what action in storytelling is: a climax. A climax that must be built up to.
Violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When someone resorts to violence, it’s because he wants something out of it. What he wants, and who he is, drives what he will do. What he does defines the action scene that follows.
I say ‘action’ here, and not ‘fight’, because ‘fight’ implies a physical contest. At the highest level of violence, or in specific contexts, there is no contest. The actor moves in such a way that contesting force is not possible. When both parties have high-level training, skills and experience, you have an incredibly intense scene. Even at lower levels of force, a professional is going to act differently from a civilian. This is anathema to Hollywood and conventional fiction, which uses resistance and and back-and-forth for drama, but it is reflective of real-world violence.
The events that lead up to the action scene is as important as the action itself. It defines the players, the location, the tactics, the tools, the moves. When revealed judiciously, it builds up tension, stretching it out, winding up the audience for the big finish. Doing this successfully requires authenticity to keep the reader immersed in the scene, and that requires the parties acting in a believable manner.
In some cases, violence may appear to come out of nowhere. Done properly it create dramatic impact. But to do it properly, the creator has to know why the actors do what they do, so he knows what they will do and how they will do it. He doesn’t have to reveal the build-up to the audience, the defender doesn’t need to see the set-up, but the creator he does need to know what the initiators are doing and why they are doing it before they appear to the reader.