blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
If you’ve read most any other person’s experience attending Sirens, you’ve an inkling of what I’m going to say.

Yes, it is an amazing few days—surrounded by women and men (why, YES, men do attend Sirens, and enjoy it immensely) who celebrate who they are, and what and who they love. The conversations are far-ranging and tightly-focused, curious and passionate, overlapping and attentive. The interactions are both open and intimate. There is space and there is affection. Questions and affirmations. Challenges and comforts. Embracing old friends and picking up where we left off last year, and embracing new friends with the anticipation of connections yet to be formed.

Three cool things in particular, but in no particular order:

First: Conversations about grief and grieving. Not many opportunities come about in daily life for those. People close to me are much more interested in making sure I’m “all right,” which to them means I’m not expressing loss and longing. That makes it easier for me to talk about grief with people I don’t see all the time; they tend to be more curious than concerned, and curiosity is what opens doors in search of answers. Those chats are emotional gold for me—the chance to share in the hope it’ll help someone else, yes, but also the opportunity to better understand myself and the process.

Second: The Sirens Fight Club. Hooking up with women who understand the subtle and overt challenges of choosing to train—to openly enjoy—combat arts is exhilarating. Truly, I wanted another entire weekend to spend with these women, and I knew so within the first few minutes of our meeting. We’re going to plot out a proposal or two for next year. Truly, between us, we could offer a multi-day workshop!

Hmm…

Third: Laurie Marks. I’ve said before I am grateful for, and humbled by, the female fantasy writers who “raised” me in this crazy world of storytelling. Laurie was the first published writer I’d ever met, the first to teach me about critique groups, the first to give me feedback on my very first attempted novel. I was nineteen and stupid and arrogant and ambitious, and when she told me I used too many gerunds, I had to go home and look up the word (in an actual printed dictionary, no less!) because I hadn’t a clue. We lost touch a few years later, and the more years that passed, the more awkward it felt to pop back into her life with a “Hey, remember me?”

Twenty-five years passed that way.

Nervousness remained as Sirens came closer, until I passed Laurie in the hall on the second day and re-introduced myself.

And was given a full smile and a tight hug and an invitation to lunch with her and Deb. Catching up was wonderful and too brief, but there isn’t a shred of awkwardness or nervousness on my part remaining. There will not be a horrible time-gap again!

All of that was Sirens for me.

The conference will be in Colorado again next year, but this time up in Vail at a marvelous luxury resort that—and this is the incredible part—will cost little more than the rooms down in Denver.

You want to do this, my darlings. You want to do this so, so badly.

You want to come to Vail in October, when it might be clear and merely crisp at sundown only to give way to snow-covered mountainsides by sunrise. When we will celebrate the women of fantasy who not only hold power in their own right, but wield it as well. Women of strength. Women of magic.

Women we all know.

Women like you.

#SFWApro
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

This article originally appeared for patrons at Patreon. Due to its length, I’ve broken it into two parts.  Part One can be found here, and includes discussion of the chokes in general and defensive considerations of air chokes in particular.  This section discusses defense against blood chokes, and offense of both blood and air chokes.

***

Being choked from behind—when the attacker uses biceps and forearm as a vice on the sides of the neck for that blood choke—is a very different experience. It can be more of a “Hey, what are doing back there?” experience because the pain isn’t always as acute as the air choke. By the time you hit the, “Hey, I feel funny…” realization, you’re halfway to any set of techniques being useless because everything below the neck will soon stop listening to you.

Read more... )

***

This post is made possible through the generous support of patrons via Patreon–where all self-defense articles and fight scene breakdowns are posted for an exclusive period before being made available to the public.  If you’d like to see the articles sooner, be part of choosing article topics, or check out other benefits, consider becoming a patron!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This article originally appeared for patrons at Patreon. Due to its length, I’ve broken it into two parts.  Part One includes discussion of the chokes in general and defensive considerations of air chokes in particular.  Part Two discusses defense against blood chokes, and offense of both blood and air chokes.

Some time ago, I shared my frustration with a fight scene I saw on television. (Yeah, go figure, right?) The scene showed our hero valiantly fighting a bad guy with direct and aggressive blocks and strikes… until the bad buy got his hands around her throat. Then that supposedly well-trained and aggressive fighter seemed to lose all training and sense, and battled the person choking her by grabbing his wrists to attempt pulling his hands away.

Gah.

Now, a situation like that—a trained fighter demonstrating sudden incompetence and/or panic—is totally possible if the fighter never received proper training for a suddenly-changed situation. And many martial arts schools don’t teach how to set or escape a choke, and some that do teach them do so poorly. But in the instance mentioned above, when the character’s extensive training had been established through backstory and on-screen action, the abrupt shift from good fighter to startled victim on the floor happened so another character could arrive to save the day.

Gaaaahhhh…!

That’s not bad fight-scene writing. That’s bad writing: a storyline that sacrificed being true to the character for the sake of a forced plot point.

***

Being choked is a frightening thing. Really frightening. It’s the training experience most likely to put my adult students on edge, and I plan accordingly by including time to establish comfort and trust. But even when folks have trained together for awhile, permitting someone to apply pressure to the neck kicks off all sorts of adrenaline-fueled aversions. I’ve had students on the verge of tears, students pace the mat to calm down, break into nervous laughter, or close their eyes and take deep breaths as a trusted peer sets hands at their throat or tightens an arm around their neck. Chokes set off all our THIS IS NOT RIGHT STOP I MUST FIGHT RUN MAKE IT GO AWAY triggers.

And with good reason. Some well-set chokes can incapacitate a person in seconds. Some can cause a lasting and/or fatal injury in even less time, even though death itself might take unconsciousness and death take longer to occur. There isn’t much time to escape, and the stakes are high if you don’t.

There is no tap-out in real life.


Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
This article originally appeared at Patreon.

There are a ton of “How To Write Fights” books and articles and blog posts and whatevers out there.  Most of them repeat the same advice that—while mostly valid and accurate to varying degrees—remains rudimentary for beginning writers and horribly redundant for experienced writers looking to improve their craft.

*shelves temptation to discuss the search for resources readily available to experienced writers looked to be even better*

I want these articles to be more than “the basics.”  By using great fight scenes as examples, we’ll explore what works, how it works, and why it works.  The goal is to move beyond technical skill—good fight scene—and look at the fight scene of exceptional craft—compelling story.

A few disclaimers before I begin:

First, I will never rip apart a fight scene for the sole purpose of pointing out everything it does wrong.  Sure, it’s tempting now and then, and I’ll likely more than once give you my fight-scene peeves, but I’m not here to tear down another writer.

Second, the nature of deconstructing scenes means there will be varying levels of spoiler-y stuff to deal with.  I’ll do my best to keep it to a minimum, but…  Well.  Please take those words to heart, my darlings.

Third, the fight scenes I choose will come from stories I like.  I don’t give a flying flip if the author publishes independently, with a small press, or under a trade publisher.    We’re here to talk craft, my darlings, not business.

Fourth, I’ll add a purchase link for the stories we’ll be examining.  If the fight scene looks interesting and you haven’t read the book, do the writer a service and pick up their work.  At this moment, I’m not setting up affiliate links, though I’ll likely do so in the future, and will notify you when it happens.

Lastly, these are my opinions and impressions.  If you’re the writer of the scene I’m highlighting, and you want to jump into the conversation, PLEASE DO SO!!  Because that would be totally cool.

And with that, let’s start with an action scene from the opening chapter of Myke Cole’s Gemini Cell (purchase link).

GeminiCellCover

I originally envisioned these analysis pieces to be of short sections of scenes.  But I’ve been kicking around varying ways to discuss an issue I’ve seen come up now and again—characters whose actual physical fighting is well-written, yet seem to be missing the mindset that would support such great fighting abilities.  (See, The Mindset That Matters.)

Gemini Cell offers a great opportunity to highlight a fighter whose mindset is fully integrated.  So this fight breakdown will be a little different than others.  It’ll have fewer explorations of specific word choices, physical actions, and so forth.  Instead I’ll focus on the wider perspective because there are so many things here done well.

The scene I pulled is from the opening chapter depicting a SEAL team infiltrating a cargo ship at sea. Major plot spoilers are non-existent in the sections I’ll be using, though you’ll of course have an idea of what happens in the fight itself.

It’s a different kind of fight scene.  Rather, it’s a fight scene presented differently.  It doesn’t adhere to or concern itself with the “standard” fight-scene advice.

It doesn’t work well in spite of that fact.  It works well because of it.  Because Cole has chosen to do far, far more with this action scene than provide action.

The action encompasses the entire chapter, so I’m not going to tear apart every line.  Instead I’ll excerpt sections to illustrate what makes the whole thing work together, giving general comments and specific ones.

We’ll start about a quarter of the way through the opening chapter.



“Cut the chatter,” came in Ahmed’s voice as they rejoined the team and began weaving through the piled metal containers.  The ship groaned beneath them as it drifted around its anchor and the swell began to hit it directly on the beam.  The cloud cover was thick above them.  When the hell’s it going to clear?  With  nearly no ambient light, the shadows coiled in every niche and recess among the stacks of conex boxes, putting Schweitzer’s reflexes on edge.

The bridge’s windows were dark, but Schweitzer knew that meant nothing.  A crewman of the watch was most certainly on duty, hopefully sleeping, his binoculars resting on his belly.  He glimpsed the windows one last time, the signal mast rising about it, before it was lost from sight as the towering stacks covered them.


Do you see those sentences?  Especially those loooong sentences full of scene-building?  They come in the midst of the action.  After the enemy has been engaged.  After people have died.  And the pattern of long sentences, with lots of details and observations and complexities that introduce the reader to characters and setting, continues for over a dozen paragraphs that include maneuvers of stealth, gunfire, and other violence.

So let’s look at what all those long sentences, descriptions, and such tell us.  I’m not talking about what the words describe.  I’m instead referring to what we learn about the POV character—James Schweitzer—as a result of his observations and choices.

The longer and more complex sentences, coupled with the details, reveal a man whose experience has made a fight normal rather than unusual, who is accustomed to the surge of adrenaline (and its consequences).  He is a warrior fully immersed in the fight.  His thinking mind is immersed—something I rarely see understood by non-fighting writers—so he sees the fight as an integrated part of his being.

It isn’t disjointed and frantic.  It’s a day on the job.  It’s smooth and flowing.  While no experienced fighter would call a fight predictable, Schweitzer’s viewpoint tells us the fight is familiar.  The visual representation would be a single fluid and camera-steady shot viewed over the shoulder of a highly competent fighter.  And a fighter who, when life and death is playing tug-of-war, notices all of this—



Both men were ignoring the plastic stick, dropping to their knees and raising military-grade carbines, fitted with modified sights and extended magazines as advanced as the gear the SEALs carried.  They looked nothing like the armed seamen Schweitzer had taken out.  They wore black bodysuits, NODs mounted to high-quality Kevlar helmets, torsos enveloped in military-grade body armor that would stop most rounds fired into their center mass.


–is danged near guaranteed to give me a story that has the smarts to match its action.

So here we are, pages into an extended action scene told in specific and smart language that hasn’t slipped into the hokey “Look! It’s a big doo-doo fight!” pattern of jabbing my brain with choppy sentences to describe solely physical action for paragraphs on end.  I’ve slipped from trusting the writer—an abstract decision—into trusting the viewpoint character—an immersive experience—and am happily riding along on his shoulder.

Have you ever been to Disneyland?  Ridden one of the story-based rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion?  If you have, the opening chapter of Gemini Cell is at this point the ride’s introductory section.  The ride before the ride.  It’s the darkening, increasingly claustrophobic journey from the quiet bayou into shadowy tunnels echoing with stark warnings. It’s the descending elevator that takes you from the interesting oddity of paintings that shift with a head-tilt to the screaming deadly stakes of a dead body hanging over your head.

Then we take the blind plummet into darkness.



Shouts.  A voice was crying out behind them, ragged and coughing, but loud enough to do the job.

Chang rolled back around the corner, returned a moment later. “Your guy, Coastie.”


The shift to short sentences here isn’t really about suddenly signaling, “Here’s the fight!”  Nope.  It’s about tension, not pacing. It shows us our viewpoint character is now uncomfortable.  And if a guy as steady and competent as Schweitzer is worried, you can be damned sure I’m worried, too.

The pressure of the operation, especially one in which he’s mostly unseen and anonymous, hasn’t truly and deeply disrupted his composure before.  But now something doesn’t fit his narrative, has jolted his internal expectations.  Even though Schweitzer has been fighting and in jeopardy from the novel’s opening—conditions that would have sent an “average” fighter into short-sentence mode from the start—it’s this unexpected interruption of forward movement that puts a bump in his flow.

We have Shouts. Not Someone shouted or the stupid-clunky He heard shouting.  We have instead a single word that tells us, “At least one human is making lots of noise that others will hear, and since we’ve established we’d recognize the voices of our own guys, we know it’s an enemy.”

That’s an impressive and hard-working word there, Shouts.

Then we have A voice was crying out. Not a person.  Just a voice.  Disembodied.  Unidentified maybe because the author wants to raise momentary suspense with mystery, but I read it more as indication of who Schweitzer considers worth consideration.  It’s confirmation that this isn’t an ally who is shouting, and it underscores the viewpoint warrior’s mindset.  The enemies he has encountered exist as things vastly separated from his very human and real companions.   Period.

I love that Cole then chose the phrase “to do the job” to concisely express the threat.  The reader knows “the job” is to disrupt the mission of Schweitzer’s group by alerting others to the infiltration and rousing those others into taking deadly action.  But it would totally suck to say all that.  Cole trusts the reader to follow along, and this reader appreciates the trust.

And here’s another immersion point: Schweitzer isn’t going to pause to explain something like that to the reader.  Schweitzer expects you to keep up.

Now look at the following single sentence from Chang.  We don’t even get a proper conjunction.  (Insert Schoolhouse Rock moment.)  Schweitzer doesn’t have time for no stinking conjunction right now.  We shouldn’t be wasting time on a three-letter word, either.  Seconds matter, damn it, so quit your bitching.

This is when and where those short sentences matter enough to make an impact.  The contrast is a tool used to get the reader’s attention.  It’s the sudden turn the roller coaster takes right before you slam into a wall.  Sure, you missed that sudden death, but there’s something even worse just up ahead.

Chang’s three-word summation of the life-threatening problem is lovely.  Your guy, Coastie. Now we know who’s shouting, whose fault it is, and Chang’s preference for naming fault with a moniker that sets one person outside the team’s cohesion.

That’s a damn fine bundle of stuff packed into four sentences.

A rapid exchange of dialog follows, and a handful more of punchy sentences.  Then Schweitzer gives himself a single command:  Focus.  The narrative resumes with detailed observations and varied sentence structures.  Schweitzer has rammed himself back into op-mode, which is on one hand incredibly composed, and on the other exceptionally intense, as the action pounds onward.

After a little while, we come to my writer-brain’s favorite little section in the whole chapter.



Within moments, they both abandoned the tight target box and let their shots roam in the interest of being able to put more bullets in more people more quickly.  Schweitzer shot one of the enemy operators in his gut—miserable aim by his standards and likely stopped by the body armor, but the force drove the man off his feet and he tumbled from the top of the stack, shrieking, to slam into silence against the deck below.  Schweitzer’s eyes tracked and moved, sighting targets and shooting them, his hand mechanically releasing his empty magazine and shuffling it over two inches so the full one, duct-taped alongside, could move into the gun’s smoking ammunition well with barely a second lost before the carbine’s bolt slid home, and he was shooting again.

Bang.  Target down.  On to the next.  Move.  Bang.  Target down.  On to the next.  Move again.


Those two paragraphs do All the Things, my darlings.

Again we have these longer and detail-filled sentences, but now we feel as if we’re on the downhill and picking up speed.  There’s a sense that everything is happening at once, and maybe we need to read faster so we don’t miss something.

Let their shots roam… I love this most awesome phrase.  I kept thinking, “Request permission to send my bullets on a walkabout, ma’am!”

Miserable aim by his standards…  Under extreme pressure in a mission going sideways, he’s critiquing his aim—even though the shot took the enemy out.  Process matters to this guy.  How something gets done is just as important as whether something gets done because how is something within his control.

And the entire one-sentence description of reloading is a thing of beauty.  There are no unnecessary bogging details; we’re told only what’s important in that barely-a-second Schweitzer gives himself, and in retrospect, that’s a whole damned lot of necessary.

Then we reach that second paragraph—the short and sharp parts that are supposed to make us feel frantic.  But their deliberate nature actually slows us down.  Focus, Schweitzer is telling us.  Don’t outrun your own feet.

(I don’t much write fanfic per se, but I do hear random snippets of dialog from characters at times.)

Bang.  We are done wasting time with extra words.  Forget the conjunctions, we don’t even have time for italics.  Bang is statement, not a sound.  Stark and emotionless.  Alone but for the period at the end.

And we haven’t even hit the cool and spooky stuff, and the most intense fighting, that this one chapter has to offer you.  But we’ve seen plenty at this point to establish one the most important traits of a strong fight scene.

It isn’t how pow-bam cool the techniques are (though those factors will indeed be more important when we start examining hand-to-hand fight scenes).  It isn’t imposing a pre-ordained rhythm on your fight scene (though understanding the rhythm of a fight helps you know how to break up expectations).

It is absolutely about the choices the writer makes to reveal, expose, and illustrate what kind of fighter the character is.  The mindset that will drive the character not only in the fight, but in the story before and after the fight.

Questions, comments, and ideas?  Share them, pretty please!

And for goodness sake, go buy Myke Cole’s book.

If you like this fight scene breakdown, and want to see more articles on writing fight scenes and understanding self-defense, check out Patreon.

(And I was ALL EXCITED to tell you my Patreon is almost $80 now... but Patreon is having some glitches, so less than half that amount is visible to the public. That doesn't at all dim my own excitement and gratitude, but I do wish it showed the truth! :) )

#SFWApro


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
As in, I mentioned in public that I'm considering Patreon. So in between coaching my nephews through schoolwork and chores -- hours during which absolutely nothing creative can occur -- I read through all the How It Works stuff on the Patreon website, poked around different creator projects to get a feel for things, and sketched out some notes while the boys finished math.

And I have IDEAS.

Y'see, I don't want to put up a campaign solely for the purpose of supporting novel writing. I mean, in the end, that's what happens, but that alone seems so... not quite what I want to propose. But I was having trouble coming up with something I could provide patrons on an ongoing basis. I'm not a short story writer and, no matter how much anyone pays me, I cannot suddenly become one. I am not a visual artist, so cannot provide people with wonderful pretties. I'm not willing to commit to a chapter-per schedule at this time (though that might change as Life becomes more secure).

But I write about fighting and self-defense and violence--sometimes in the context of writing, but most often in a more general context that can be used by writers and others. These are the most-read articles I've written. I've the martial arts background, basic weapon familiarity, stage combat training and experience, and ongoing access to resources to learn more.

So here are some of my feeling-things-out thoughts:

On the side of patron levels:
-- Basic support level provides access to monthly content that'll be exclusive to patrons for three to six months. Topics would range from self-defense notions to information on different styles and training, to writing application. Anyone can submit questions and topics, too.
-- Maybe a slightly higher support level that'll include... I don't know yet? Mention in acknowledgements of published work and question/answer priority?
-- A much higher level for personal feedback/critique of a fight scene and/or answering specific questions on an ongoing basis (like... editorial coaching for fight scenes).

On the side of cumulative goals:
-- A set total goal for a monthly article. Were I writing these at the "pro" per-word rates, it'd come in about $120 per article, which I'm mentioning as a reference.
-- A higher total goal for a second piece of content. (Another article, or line-by-line analysis of an existing fight/action scene, its choices, and what the choices reveal?)
-- And something else I'm not thinking of?

Would this be of value and interest to folks?
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

MileHiCon happens next weekend, and I am so looking forward to attending for the first time! Already the organizers have me feeling welcome to my new home-state convention. I’m so looking forward to sitting on a few panels, and sitting in on quite a few more.

Here’s my schedule thus far:

Friday, October 23

4:00 PM Inside Writing Workshops

I’ll be offering insights about Viable Paradise and Writers of the Future. Other panelists will discuss their experience with Clarion, Odyssey, and more. Come ask your questions about the different experience and emphasis of workshops available to writers looking to improve their craft and make connections with other professionals!

Saturday, October 24

9:30 AM SFWA Meeting

I am SO looking forward to meeting other SFWA members in person, and connecting with local writers. It’s a business meeting, so I’ll be sharing a bit of info on the self-publishing committee as well.

12:00 PM What Makes A Good Bad Guy?

Now, I’ll be honest here: I asked my 6-year-old nephew this question, and he said without hesitation, “His lightsaber moves!”

I suspect the panel will go into a wee bit more detail. Since I’m moderating, I’ll be asking questions about villainous viewpoints, whether sympathetic villains are preferred or expected or a passing fad, traits of villainy that are a cliché and traits that are unexpected, and all sorts of other stuff the dear folks on Twitter helped me come up with

8:00 PM Violence in Fantasy

A huge percentage of fantasy novels revolve around wars and battles, torture or at least torment. Is it necessary? How much is too much or is there a limit?

Gotta admit, I like the violence in my fantasy. (And in science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and so forth.) I’m not certain where this panel will go, but I’ll be most interested to hear what the other panelists and audience members have to say.

Sunday, October 25

10:00AM Writing Good Fight Scenes

Reasonable/believable choreography and obeying the laws of physics and human physiology are good and necessary first steps. What other factors need to be considered when writing fight scenes?

I’m really looking forward to this one because I personally love writing fighters and fight scenes for people who understand fighting as well as for general readers. I’ve been told I’m good at it, so I hope I have some interesting things to pass along—particularly on the difference between most martial arts training and practical martial application. I’m the only woman on this panel, and am deeply hoping that’ll make little to no difference whatsoever to what we panelists are asked.

(Aside: Does anyone see a general theme in the craft-related panels I’ll be sitting on?  I think I have my own convention theme, truly. :) )

There might be some last minute schedule changes, so be sure to check in at the convention’s website as the dates draw near.

In between my handful of panels, I’ll be sitting in on other panels, or hanging around waiting for the next thing. In the evenings, I’ll likely be in the bar for a bit in search of interesting conversations.

If you see me and want to talk, PLEASE COME BY AND SAY SO! I recently had a writerly friend tell me about a “pro” writer who told a bunch of aspiring writers that “pro” writers didn’t really want to be bothered at conventions. Ye gads, if you’re a reader or newer writer looking to connect, please don’t think that person’s attitude is mine. If I didn’t want to talk with other writers, I wouldn’t bother telling anyone where I’d be. I know, from personal experience, it can feel like cliff diving, walking up to someone you might know only from online interactions. In fact, I suck at it myself. Rest assured if you say hello, I’ll participate in a conversation.

So if you’ll be at MileHiCon, let me know! Let’s connect somewhere!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

uSince I’ve just gutted the middle of Stone because the plot was moving with all the grace of a square-wheeled locomotive chugging over the Rockies, you get a Sunday blog post so I can clear my head before I resume stitching the innards back together.*

So here it is: As I mentioned on Twitter, discussion forums for MMA and other fighting sports are a goldmine of writerly information.

There are bunches of little guides out there on how fantasy writers can realistically and vibrantly portray combat.  Information on everything from edged weapons and individual duels to archery and battle formations is fairly easy to find.  But not as much hoopla surrounds the aftermath of those fights—the small injuries, the crippling injuries, and the physical/emotional life-long consequences.  It’s simple to Google for “broken leg” and come up with a pile of guidance from modern medical sites.  But that’s only part of the story.

From a storytelling perspective, it’s a mere sliver of the story.

The fun part—the part that makes plot and character development real—is what happens after the injury is sustained.

Modern medical sites will give you extensive information on trauma, treatments, and expected outcomes.  But they are based on modern interventions coupled with assumed accessibility to food, water, shelter, cleanliness, temperature control, and rest.  In my stories, it isn’t unusual for some, most, or all of those things to be missing.  And that, my darlings, changes everything.

These days, most folks head to the doctor when they or their kids are injured.  Bumps on the head, twisted ankles, sprained wrists, possibly broken bones, blistering burns, busted noses—all prompt immediate doctor visits, extensive testing, and scheduled follow-ups with specialists.

But for a number of present-day fighters—especially those who love it but aren’t making a circuit/tournament career out of it— the doctor’s office isn’t the immediate stop.  Unless the pain from an injury is debilitating—and sometimes, not even that is enough—some fighters take a ton of convincing and failed self-care before they’ll show up in an emergency room or urgent care center.  I’ve gone days with a dislocated elbow and partially torn ligaments.  A friend ended up with stress fractures in both feet.  A training partner waited out the pain of a dislocated shoulder.  And I’ve seen folks finish belt tests with a blown-out knee, or a broken hand, or busted ribs, or a swollen-shut eye.

For a few, it’s a matter of ego, certainly.  But in my personal experience fighting and being around fighters for more than a decade, ego is secondary to expectation and experience.

Y’see, fighters expect to get hurt in a fight, they expect to hurt for awhile after the fight, and they’d really rather not be treated as fragile or stupid or both.  Experience tells them they can work through most hurts, and many of those hurts can be treated without professional medical intervention.

Why go to the doctor for bruised ribs?  Wrap ’em up, take it easy, deal with the pain, watch out for secondary infections, and move on.  They’ll be better in a couple months either way.  Why rush out to have a sprained wrist checked when you know the answer will be, “Rest it, ice it, elevate it, come see me in a week if it isn’t better?”  Yes, there will be times more serious injuries are missed.  But most fighters learn to tell the difference between something that hurts badly and something that’s badly hurt.

This is where those discussion forums come in.

Sure, I can look up all sorts of technical information on tissue damage done when a person is strangled, or the recovery prospects for a person with torn quads, or the lasting effects of a concussion, and all of that is useful to me. But understand those medical sources exist to provide information on how best to care for and heal an injury. That's not always the most pressing goal in the story, though. That's... not always what the writer wants, either.

It’s the discussion forums that’ll tell me the experience and consequences of those injuries when limited (or no) medical attention is gained, and what it feels like to keep training and fighting despite those injuries.  I learn how different people describe the sensation of being choked out, how the throat felt while eating and drinking over the next few days, how it felt and sounded to speak after the injury, and at what point those symptoms shifted from getting better to better see a doctor.

If you’re not a fighter, or have limited martial arts experience, you’ll also gain a glimpse into a different mindset.  Spend a little time, you’ll be able to tell the difference between the “indestructible” youths and the more wise and experienced by the way an injury is described.  Dig a bit more, you’ll read a few journeys undertaken by fantastic and powerful fighters who come to terms with injuries that forever change how—and sometimes if—they can continue doing what they love.

For some things, I can call on my personal experience: broken nose, torn tendons, dislocations, foot fractures, bruised ribs… even the experience of giving up a large part of my training due to ongoing physical challenges that can’t be mended.  The forums, though, expand knowledge and understanding, and give insight into injuries I’d rather not experience myself.  I’ve been choked to gray-out, but I don’t want to discover first-hand what it feels like to have my throat punched, thank you.  And I really don’t want to find out how long it takes for one’s ability to breathe and swallow without pain, or what my voice would sound like once scar tissue hardens.

But the knowledge is good for stories we want to stick in the mind and heart of a reader.

So.  There’s your writerly tip for the day.  I suppose I’ll now resume the revisions that simply shouldn’t be this difficult, yet are somehow even more difficult than difficult.  Alas, I’ve vented my frustration on as many characters as I can without killing them off.

I promise I won’t kill them all.

But no one is reaching the end without scars.

*Next time I mention squishing two very long novels into one long-ish novel under the assumption it’ll be easier, just smack me, mmkay?  I mean, it had to be done, and the story will be better for it, but there has been nothing “easy” about the squishing process.

#SFWApro

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blairmacg

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