There are a surplus of articles and blogs on how to write a great fight scene. I thought about doing one myself…(I believe writing fight scenes is one of my superpowers).
But then I remembered another kind a fight. A fight that’s like, a lot bigger?
Battle. That’s the word.
A full blown battle between two (you could do five if you want, just don’t kill my favorite characters *glares at Tolkien*) opposing forces meeting on a field, fortress, jungle, beach etc. It’s a lot of people to manage. A LOT of people and a LOT of action.
How do you do it? Warm up with a game of Risk of course! Then grab a pencil and notepad, enter your war room, and plan an attack with your five star general.
Or, follow these steps. (btw, these are my golden rules, they may not be your rules. But….I think they are good rules. So.)
Write a strategy. For crying out loud have a strategy. A strategy for both armies (multiply however many there are). Even if it is an ambush, the people being ambushed will most likely have some sort of backup plan, or resort to some sort of order (always remember that running for the hills is an option).
How to form a strategy? (Challenge your friends to a game of Risk or the Lord of the Rings Stratego).
You must consider every element.
That means weather, terrain, weapons, ammunition, beasts, war machines etc. Who is using what, who has how many, what are consequences, what are the strengths and weaknesses.
I usually plan the battle out step by step. I like a pen and paper, but I guess you can use the computer too. Start with the location of the opposing forces and who attacks from there.
Whether your writing in first or third person, you have to decided where your MC will be during this battle.
Battles are long, complicated, messy….it’s a lot to write out. And what I think can easily be missed the emotional impact. The gritty part of the battle. It’s easy to get lost in the large scope of the event.
That’s why choosing where to place your MC is very important. They will make the battle personal, and your reader will feel more of an impact.
I usually will not put my MC in the heat of the battle (like in the middle of a cavalry charge) (Unless you have to. Like they’re the leader, or a foot soldier on the front line).
I pick out a location where my MC will spend their time, isolating a miniature battle inside the larger scope. Stuck in a corridor in the castle? Sniping from the trees? Chased off into the woods?
Somewhere easier to focus on. A smaller scope.
(Side note: I think it is a good idea to use a little bit of omniscient narrator if you can. Give a brief bird’s eye view of the battle. Give the reader some general idea of what’s going on in the big picture as you focus in on your MC).
Yay! The battle is over. Hopefully the good guys have won. Time to revel in the victory, right?
EXCEPT NOT YET.
After the battle there will be dead and wounded on both sides. Your MC might be wounded (or dead) and scratched up, tired, dirty etc…
Everyone will be tired and dirty. The dead must be buried, the wounded taken care of. Friends will be mourned.
So tie up all the loose ends. Unfortunately, your hero just can’t walk away from the battle onto the next adventure (Unless he has to. Scout, run an errand, go save someone before the hourglass runs out.)
I’ve read a lot of war books. Part of this is because I enjoy reading nonfiction (sometimes more than fiction. But that’s another post).
See? All the books!
Ok. These are all modern warfare and I write fantasy where B17s aren’t really a thing.
But I’m familiar with war. I’m familiar with soldiers, wounds, military function and strategy. If you want to know about battles, read about them.
(All those books are really good. Some are a bit hard to get through. Enter if you dare).