Choose fight scenes to write

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I often talked about my various works in progress (WIP). I’ll draw an example of which is closest to completion. It opens with a warrior who has been adventuring for two decades (the first with an adventure company, à la D&D group, the second alone as everyone retires), battling a dragon. The goal is to get an item from the dragon’s hoard, not for an exciting fight. And, of course, the character is new to the reader at this point, so thrilling extended action would have stakes (survival), but there’s no connection or understanding of why that matters.

The fight was 2,000 words in the original draft. Followed by another 5k as he finds out what the object is and what it means to him.

I kept the final pacing of the fight, to set the setting and tone of the show, but cut it down to around 500 words for the fight, 250 for the loot, and around 1k to find out what the object and what it means. With each revision pass, I tightened it further. It now does everything it needs to, and absolutely nothing more.

Also later, once he has his ship outfitted and they are all captured, when he goes to free them, the first real fight against the guards is detailed (to show the danger), but most of the other underlings are dispatched in a few lines – or less – until he gets to the jailer. Because this fight matters, the others are speed bumps.

(Editing tip: read it aloud. The first chapter survived me, with only minor tweaks. I think it’s done, but that’s a whole different topic.)

The thing is, there’s a simple heuristic for whether to detail the fight scene. Is it important for the story, the characters and the reader? Sharpen it. Nope? Consider throwing it away.

(Of course, this applies to any scene, really.)

Feel free to share your own experience in deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and what needs to be tightened up.

Good writing!

No writing exercise this week. Instead, I open the discussion to experiences of tightening or removing scenes because they didn’t work.


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