One of the most talked-about features of Realm Makers 2016 was Carla Hoch’s Thunderdome Fight Workshop. Every year at Realm Makers we’ve had some sort of session about fight scenes, because they are so important in most of our stories.
2013: Ben Wolf taught about choreographing sword fights.
2014: Travis Perry taught about battlefield psychology.
2015: Travis, Carla, and many others participated in a fight-scene panel.
But this year Carla and Ben — both of whom have studied martial arts — took it to a new level. They brought in a padded floor mat and demonstrated self-defense moves. Here are some of my notes from that session:
Carla started by pointing out that villains, like lions, will attack the weakest gazelle in the herd. Unless it’s personal. Which in our stories it usually is. The why of the fight scene is critical. Also consider the environment and the size and training of the fighters.
If you act out your fight scenes with a partner, do it in slow motion so you don’t get hurt.
People who train to be dangerous will do only enough to get the job done. They are humble enough to not want to do a lot of damage. The goal is usually to stop the fight, not to kill anyone. As Carla said, “I’m not going to kill him, but I’m going to leave an impression.”
Carla’s biggest laugh of the night — and the event’s first meme — came from an offhand remark that she made in all seriousness. “Don’t kick ’em in the crotch—it just makes things worse…Make it count.”
The key phrases she taught us were answer the phone, go for the throat, and soft banana.
Answer the phone: When Ben grabbed Carla’s wrist, swinging her hand up to her ear in telephone-talking position twisted her wrist out of his grip. She then pulled his arm across her shoulder and explained that it takes only 35 pounds of force to break the elbow.
Go for the throat: A blow to the throat will be far more debilitating to the attacker than the aforementioned kick to the crotch.
Soft banana: Squeezing the trachea like a banana does even more damage.
Fighters train very hard. A newbie isn’t going to be an effective fighter.
Carla recommends not trying to get technical when describing fight scenes. Describe the feelings of the point of view character, remembering that when you punch someone, it hurts you. The weight of the punch needs to land on the first two knuckles — the outer ones will break.
The muscles in a fighter’s sides will hurt after a hand-to-hand fight.
A blow to the chin can indeed knock a person out, but only for a minute or so. That’s why fighters guard the their faces.
Punching the nose bone into the brain is, Carla tells us, “not a thing.” The cartilage just crunches.
Don’t use movies as a basis for your fight scenes. They are super unrealistic, because they are designed for entertainment, not realism.
To help writers get fight scenes right, Carla is now working with Realm Makers sponsor Quill Pen Editorial as a consultant. You can hire her either as part of an editing package or just to make your fight scenes exceptional. Contact Catherine Jones Payne at www.quillpeneditorial.com to schedule a slot with Carla.
An extended version of Carla’s workshop is one of the most requested features for Realm Makers 2107. To register your vote for this fantastic idea — or any others — visit the Realm Makers page on Facebook and make your opinion known. I for one am hoping to see a lot more of this action in Reno, and not just because it’s funny to see a girl smaller than me drop Ben Wolf to the floor.
You did know Realm Makers 2017 will be in Reno, right? Check out Speculative Faith’s announcement for details, and the epic video announcing the keynote speaker!