Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The "use magic!" scenes are even worse than the "everybody fight!" scenes

...and those are bad enough. I wanted to be at 40K yesterday night, but I ended up spending too much time watching "research" videos on Youtube. The thing about the genre (mythology/wuxia inspired fantasy) is that people want at least one fight scene each episode, as a point of visual interest. This translates into about one fight scene per chapter. And I would miss them if they weren't there (even though sometimes it's just boring) so I'm including them in my novel, too. Also, by convention, at least half the characters are skilled in martial arts. So then you have to let them show off their skills.

...but what about my skills (or lack thereof)? D'oh! I'm not a martial artist or fight choreographer. (All I have is a few classes in *mumble mumble* and fencing (foil).) Yeah. The funny thing is, even some of the classic wuxia novelists didn't always describe the fights. There's this one novel where there's a HUGE buildup to a showdown between the main character and the Big Scary. They keep meeting, exchanging portentous looks, and people (and the narrator) discuss each of their chances, etc. etc. etc. and the tension builds until finally at the very end they FIGHT! And it's like... the two walk into a room. The main character walks out. The end! Ha ha! It's amusing to see how the TV/movie adaptations either go with the black box version or else attempt to show the actual fight. I should try that technique sometime. But you can't use it more than once per novel, or the aggravation will be too much.

...and what about "genre convention" vs (even the slightest sense of) "realism"? For example, why swords? They're all constantly using swords and being all awesome-sauce with their SWORDS and stabbing each other with SWORDS and learning super-duper SWORD arts. But when I look at the evidence (and physical/mechanical considerations), spears just seem so much better in so many ways. Unless you're stuck in some small space where you don't have room to use a spear, it looks like the spear fighter (assuming equal skills and training) can point and laugh at the sword fighter. Jabbity jab jab! And a point on the end of a long stick is gonna move fast, too. Very easy to threaten here, there, everywhere. While the sword fighter dances around in annoyance trying to get within reach to use the sword. Moving in is just delivering yourself for shish kebab. And if the sword fighter does somehow manage to get close, the spear fighter can always pull out a dagger, or go to hand-to-hand fighting (close range can nullify the sword as well as the spear). Of course, a shield equalizes things a bit, but those wuxia sword fighters are too cool for shields or armor! Idiocy.

Well, I'm trying to be cinematic, but it's hard to run those little movies in my head without tsking at the silliness. Especially when I'm describing the action in my dull, simple-minded prose.

And then there's trying to describe how people use magic. Maybe I can just sprinkle some nifty CGI into my novel. Pfeh. Magic has to be constrained. But the constraints get away from me. I cheat. I suppose that's the advantage of game systems over novels. You have a definite set of rules about what you can and can't do, and a character sheet reminding you of your abilities. Or sometimes I just forget what I decided. Or change my mind between chapters. Very annoying. You get the "why didn't you do <cool trick you did before> this time?" Or "if you can do THAT, why didn't you do it before, when it would really have come in handy?"

Oh well. Five days, 11000 words. I can do this, yeah?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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