Behind The Scenes – Fight Choreography

When it comes to writing fight scenes with multiple people and opponents, I naturally fall back on my role-playing gamer days. I’ll scribble out a series of suggestions and start rolling the dice to see what happens.

That doesn’t mean I leave everything entirely up to the whim of the dice. Going into a scene, I know who I want standing when the dust clears. Unlike playing Dungeons & Dragons, I’ll fudge my dice rolls toward a more favorable outcome.

Who wants a primary character to receive a mortal wound halfway through the novel? Not me!

Dice:

I have two twenty-sided and two ten-sided die sitting on my side table as I type. It’s habit. Back in the days of my mailing list gaming, I’d pull them out for help with darned near anything.

But sometimes I’m not at home when I’m writing–I’m at the coffee shop. Can you imagine anything more annoying than having someone sit beside you and start rolling multiple die around while you’re enjoying your danish?

To help with that, I found a program that I have on my iPod Touch. It’s very useful! Pip. The program gives me all the weirdly shaped die I want. AND in multiple colors!

(There doesn’t appear to be an Android compatible app, but I bet with some creative searching you could locate one.)

Now on the the scene planning stage.

Planning:

As I stated in the beginning, I have an idea about what I want to happen. I also have some thoughts on the number of protagonists and antagonists for the scene.

In the case of Ginnungagap, a Freya’s Tears sequel, the final fight scene consists of our heroes, a twelve-ship escort squadron and approximately a dozen more squadrons of twenty-four ships apiece.

And that doesn’t count the overwhelming numbers of the alien enemy.

The plan called for the majority of the defending forces to launch, followed by Freya’s Tears. Once the squadrons battled clear of the besieged planet, they’d race to meet the enemy. After engaging there, our heroes would split off of the main force to sabotage their target while the reserve fighting force launched to distract the enemy.

That’s a LOTTA ships! How many? Let’s take a look at Section 1 of my notes:

(Note: all section examples are compiled at the end of this article onto one page for your information.)

The final math includes two hundred sixteen ships in the first wave and seventy-two in the second.

Next up was assigning a colored die to each combatant. No! Not two hundred eighty-three ships. I’d STILL be rolling that!

My scene occurs on Freya’s Tears, so that’s where I’ll focus. Rather than spend a lot of time rolling for each and every ship in their escort, I’m just going to roll one.

As you can see in Section 2 on the right, gunner Tobias is purple, gunner Kasli is red, the dozen escort ships are blue and the aliens are black.

In Section 3 below I’ve used broad strokes for the initial battle, figuring out the number of survivors after launch and how many survive to the main battle.

This is just the jotting down of ideas. I know that it’s a hopeless fight because the enemy outnumbers the planetary forces by an order of magnitude. But I do need a large chunk to survive the initial skirmish planet-side in order to keep the heat off our heroes.

And realistically speaking, there’s no way the entire escort squadron would survive intact, so I had to pare down their numbers as well.

In Section 4 I’ve fleshed out the fight a bit more from Section 3. The best way to get Freya’s Tears to survive the initial battle at the planet is for them to delay their launch with the escort. They’ll still encounter some enemy ships, but the majority should be engaged elsewhere when they grab sky.

I also indicated that at the halfway point, the escort splits from the main force while the huge clash occurs.

Finally, at the three-quarter distance mark from their objective, I plan on interfering with Freya’s progress to provide tension.

Section 5 below needs a little explanation. A lot of it is scribbled out now, but that was where I initially set up the hit points (the amount of dice damage) each ship could take. I have two lines: one is for our heirs and their escort, the second is the number of aliens I plan on having them deal with.

The first line reads “Home Team – FT – #1 – #2 – #3 – #4 – #5” etc., listing each ship in the fight.

I want my side to win, but I can’t make it easy for them. Though the number of opponents is almost evenly matched, I beefed up my escort ships hit points (HP) compared to those for the more numerous enemy. Freya’s Tears is a much bigger ship, so I gave it 40HP overall. Each escort received 35 HP and the alien attackers are at 25 HP.

As each ship gets hit, HP will be removed until the ship is destroyed.

It doesn’t matter how many hit points you start with. I set these values because I didn’t want the fight to take three hundred hours to write (or read!) The higher the HP, the longer it takes to pound it to smithereens. Twenty-five to thirty-five means a decent fight without dragging it out forever, and forty for Freya guaranteed our heroes’ survival to the next phase.

(Even with this caveat, this scene turned out to be over five thousand words long and took me a week to write!)

Execution:

So while Section 4 is the plan, and Section 5 has the specifics, Section 6 is where the battle occurs.

Each round is numbered: one through eight in this case. (A round is where every “player” gets to take an action.)

Do you remember our assigned colors in Section 2?

The first thing I do is roll four six-sided die, one of each color. The highest number has the initiative (i.e., can act first.) In the first round on Section 6 you see “Kasli | Escort | Aliens | Tobias.” Kasli’s die had the highest number of the four, and she was able to shoot first.

The next thing I do is roll four ten-sided die, again one of each assigned color. Just because a person has the jump and can fire before anyone else doesn’t mean her shot will hit. It was the ten-sided die that decided that. Beneath the seers of names in Round 1, you see check marks, numbers or misses. Roll 1-5, miss. Roll 6-10, hit. Roll a 10 and it caused critical damage to the opponent.

Kasli, the aliens and Tobias have checkmarks. They hit their targets. The escort ships missed (losers!) Again I roll the ten-sided die using two to determine the amount of HP damage. Then I go up to Section 5 and remove the appropriate HP from that ship.

Be aware that I don’t write the scene until I’ve planned it all out in advance! I’ll go through all the rounds until my goal is met (someone wins or loses.) THEN I write the scene using the information here.

And that’s how I do fight scenes. Granted, it’s much easier to figure out a fistfight between two people but this example shows it’s possible to create much larger and believable scenes with a little added effort.

Conclusion:

Why do I use this method? Because the dice produce randomness. I’m not a fighter. I have no idea what to do first in a situation like that. Throw a punch? Trip a person? Run as fast as I can?

Run as fast as I can is my personal go-to option! That doesn’t really build an awesome fight scene on the whole!

The randomness of the dice gives me just enough chaos with which to work. Did she hit him? For how many hit points? If it was a low number, maybe it was a glancing blow off his chin as he ducked back. If it was high, then maybe she got him right in the gut.

Oh, and Section 7?

Kasli and Tobias have a running competition to see how many ships they can down throughout the book, Ginnungagap. I needed to remind myself of the score so I could add their cheering and grumbling. As you can see, Tobias is leading.

And here’s the full planning sheet I created:

If you’ve read Freya’s Tears (available through Bella Books,) then you might like the sequel. It’s FREE!

Check out Ginnungagap!

Did you enjoy this Behind the Scenes article? Drop me a line and let me know! Do you have suggestions for other articles? I’d love to hear them!

Happy Reading!


A fan-geek and internet junkie, D Jordan Redhawk is an award winning writer of lesbian romance, writing in multiple genres. She highlights the outsider and reveals that we are not all that different from one another. Her books are published by Bella Books. You can reach Redhawk through her website, Facebook, or become a Patron!

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5 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes – Fight Choreography

  1. I know it looks confusing to the novice, but if you’ve ever played D&D or the like, it comes a little easier!

    I’ve been using this method since my first XWP fanfic–Only One!

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