You may recall my March 19th piece On Fighting, Or, Maybe That Elf Needs a Black Eye, in which I discussed my then-recent experience of getting out of my proverbial shell, losing weight and learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and how that had ...
You may recall my March 19th piece On Fighting, Or, Maybe That Elf Needs a Black Eye, in which I discussed my then-recent experience of getting out of my proverbial shell, losing weight and learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and how that had affected my impression of how fights are written up in fantasy. It's been a couple of months since I wrote that, and I feel like it's time to revisit the subject.
I've been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (and now kickboxing, as well) for almost six months now, and boy, things have changed. I've lost 30 pounds of fat, and have - for the first time in my life - started to build a little muscle. I've started to get to a point where I may not win if I ever have to defend myself, I am at least sure I can give the other guy a fight. I even earned my first "stripe" on my white belt! I'm more confident, much happier and...well...a great deal more sore.
It's not something that many fantasy writers visit in their fiction: injuries. Stick with any combat sport - no less actually fighting - long enough and you're bound to get a few. Teeth get chipped, nerves tweaked, muscles pulled and joints pulled out of socket. Concussions happen, and so do broken noses, jammed fingers and cauliflower ears. All of this won't happen to every person who trains, but some of them will. My left middle finger is a little stiff, and my neck snaps, crackles and pops more than those Rice Krispies elves. It's all probably temporary, just like the leopard-spot constellation of bruises and hamstring soreness. Some of my classmates - the lifers - aren't so lucky. Look around and you'll see a few misshapen ears and hear a few complaints about chronic shoulder pain. It's all part of the game.
That's what I'm getting at here: If you're a writer and you've got a brawler or sword-slinger in your story, then you might want to consider adding a few colorful details. Consider some scars around the hands and arms, or maybe a finger joint that isn't right anymore. How about a knee that creaks, or an old shoulder injury that flares up when it rains. Fighters fight, and when you fight you get hurt. Sure, nobody wants to read about a mercenary who constantly complains about pain and old injuries, but a few nods to what he or she has paid physically to develop their skills will make your characters all the more believable.
Further, just like in any profession or pastime, fighters have their own language - stuff that people outside their circle won't know. I had no idea what it mean to have my "neck cranked" last year. I had never heard the expression "gassed out", or seen a fighter referred to as "game". I know what these things mean now. It's part of the process of enculturation, if you will. Further, although I'm relatively new in my studies, I'll be able to strike up a conversation with another Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast no matter where I go. Think about your warrior characters having the same relationship with the fighters around him or her - even if they're the enemy.
The sweat, passion and pain of fighting should be part of any warrior's story. Think about making it part of yours.
Matt Staggs is the author of short stories, numerous reviews and many feature articles. He’s also a podcaster, publicist, editor and more.
His work has appeared in several non-fiction works, including Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers. He was games and fiction reviewer for Realms of Fantasy magazine and has had his writing appear on many websites, including Tor.com.
As a book publicist, Matt has worked with a wide range of authors, including Tom Disch, Michael Moorcock, Peter Straub, John Shirley, Alan Dean Foster, Daniel H. Wilson, Nancy Kress, Joe R. Lansdale and Jeff VanderMeer. Some of the publishing houses he has worked for include Random House, Harper-Collins, Tachyon Publications and Underland Press.
Matt is web content editor for the Disinformatio