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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Art of War (Con Carolinas Writing Panel)

Yes, I know, it's officially been an entire month since ConCarolinas. And I have been taking way too long to post these notes. I realized that I'm still on sessions I attended from the very first day of the convention!

So I am going to *try* to update this almost if not daily. One hopes, anyway - I'll be on the Island, away from the Internet this weekend. But I will try to get the rest of these out as soon as I can.

Here's what followed the Future of the Printed Word panel: The Art of War (or, writing battle scenes). Once again, apoloiges for any errors; this is just what I wrote down and I'm *pretty* sure I missed a thing or two.

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The Art of War
Authors: David B. Wood, Rachel A. Aaron, Toni Weisskopf, A.J. Hargtley, Stuart Jaffe, Chris I-forget-his-last-name, didn't write it down, can't find my program and forgot to make a note of who the moderator was but it may have been him

The authors and how they use conflict/battle scenes:
David: historical fiction of family historyStuart: battle scenes in short stories
AJ: battle in fantasy novels
Rachel: fights in her novels, lots of blood
Chris: hard SF, many battles

General tips:
- There are different kinds of fighting for different kinds of fiction.
- Study weapons.
- If the battle has a historical setting, research it!

Authors' thoughts (discussion):

- Writing conflict/battle scenes has to do with the scope of the novel itself.
- Our culture is not raised with war in the same way
- Martial arts: helps you know what's possible, what's not
- You need to know what you can and can't do before you write it.

- Writes lots of battle and combat scenes
- If you're going to write it, you need to know something about it.
- Combat is driven by larger story issues.
- His character is an ordinary person in these situations (his terror drives his involvement in the combat)

Toni: Overdescribing can be a problem.

A.J.: Blow-by-blow account is too much, too choreograped, doesn't feel like actual fighting

Stuart: Real fighting is sloppy.

- Remember that a fight scene is still a scene, and must be treated appropriately (the stakes must be high, there must be a reason for the scene, the scene should flow and fit with the larger story.)
- The scene should move the reader.
- The fighting anime formula: fights escalate up until the boss fight
- Video games: the fight that culminates all the drama.
- Therefore, figure out the key emotion in the battle scene, and work to that.

- Warfare is endemic to our psychology.
- Battle scene in space: superior force vs. (???) force
- Crafted a battle scene based on a historical battle
- Studied battle tactics used and historical accounts

Conflict vs. War Porn:
- "When the description of the sword is longer than the description of the hero."
- When we get overly detailed
- When we forget all of the little details of what people are experiencing

Stuart: War porn is "here are the toys, watch them play"
Conflict: Actually showing what people are going through, finding the glory in that scene

A.J.: Make readers empathize, or the whole thing is pointless

- Murakami Masashi: The Five Rings
- All novels are about conflict. War just makes it more visceral.
- It's about the people. Human tragedy.
- Use conflict as a way to move (the plot of) your book.

- Battle is visceral, offence or defence.
- Swords and knives are inherently beautiful.

- Not just a male thing.
- Men overanalyze. Women are more practical.
- Night Witches (WW2 female pilots, widows with nothing to lose)

A.J.: There's an anxiety over female violence in our culture

- Battle should be a component to the story, not a focus of the story.
- Worry more about the character than the battle.

David: Recommends Write The Fight Right by Alan Baxter

- Chaos has to happen, but needs to be balanced with description of what's going on.
- Your character must experience/feel the battle, the emotion

- Envision the landscape

- Fallacy of the now.
- Our experience is not universal.
- WW2: The last time the US was truly, unequivocably on the good side/ the good guys

- The past is a foreign country. So is the future. But the readership is in the present.
- Be in the moment, don't be scared, that's how you survive. Be in the moment in the battle.
- You enter combat thinking "I am dead" and have to seize life.

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Next up: The Sex Panel!

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