Writing Nowadays–Predicting Fights

Hmmm . . . I seem to have vanished for a while there.  Sorry.  I was out of the country for a month, and when I got back, my little family exploded in difficult and unexpected directions.  But now I’m back.

Where were we?

Being a writer has its hazards.  (It occurs to me that voracious and/or highly-attentive readers encounter similar problems, but this is a blog about writing, so we’ll look through that filger.)  One of the bigger ones is that writing wrecks a lot of entertainment.  Movies, for example.  Especially fights scenes.

Every single fight scene in a movie runs in one of two ways.  I’m afraid I’m going to wreck them for you, incidentally, so if you haven’t seen this pattern yourself and don’t want fight scenes spoiled forever, stop reading.


This scene usually happens early on in the movie.

1. Hero encounters bad guy.
2. Bad guy taunts hero in some way.
3. Annoyed or enraged, the hero attacks the bad guy.
4. Bad guy smacks hero down.
5. Hero musters up some energy and fights back a tiny bit.
6. Bad guy smashes hero flat and walks away laughing.

Then, a bit later, we have this:


This scene usually takes place at the climax.

1. Hero encounters bad guy.  Hero is wounded or otherwise badly disadvantaged.
2. Bad guy taunts hero.
3. Hero, desperate rather than enraged, attacks bad guy.
4. Bad guy smacks hero down.
5. Hero tries to fight back, but is badly hurt.  Bad guy continues to beat hero to a bloody pulp, giving him wounds no one could possibly survive.
6. Bad guy says or does something that touches the hero on an emotional level.
7. Hero rises up, shrugs off wounds, and pounds the snot out of bad guy.

It happens like this every freakin’ time.  Name the movie with a physical fight, and it goes this way.

The formula may be satisfying, but it’s major weakness lies in its predictability.  You know how it’s going to turn out, so there’s no suspense, no surprise.

My secret hope is that Hollywood writers and directors will wake up to this and change things, but I’m not holding my breath.

When you’re writing you own stuff, avoid the predictable.  If your audience can second-guess your work, you’ve lost.

–Steven Harper Piziks


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