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  1. #1
    Junior Member piloting's Avatar
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    Default How do you learn to write good gun-fights for a story?

    Is it tricky to write big gun-fights or not so much seeing as how thriller,mystery,war and western movies have been at it for decades?.Would reading up Nothing last forever (Die hard 1's source material) or Tom Clancy novels be a start at seeing how it's done?.Do things change b/c it's in the style of an Asian "heroic bloodshed" (like a John Woo) or Jet Li crime movie and I'm trying to put all those striking visuals into prose?.

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    Veteran Member Lancerman's Avatar
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    Same as any fight in in any novel. Just write it clear enough so that the readers can understand it. Then use conventional story telling to bulid anticipation and suspense.

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    Mattress Tester T Hedge Coke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by piloting View Post
    Is it tricky to write big gun-fights or not so much seeing as how thriller,mystery,war and western movies have been at it for decades?
    Writing any scene, especially a busy scene like a gunfight or a big action sequence is tricky. But, obviously, it can be done. You can do it.

    My suggestion would be to check out the opening of Philip Farmer's Lord of the Trees or Richard Stark's The Outfit for two different, but brilliantly paced shoot-em-up scenes.

    Quote Originally Posted by piloting View Post
    Do things change b/c it's in the style of an Asian "heroic bloodshed" (like a John Woo) or Jet Li crime movie and I'm trying to put all those striking visuals into prose?
    The way things are described, the way you'd pace both events in the prose and the length or style of your sentences can create an atmosphere that will subtly remind the reader of the way such scenes play in certain types of movies, yes. Pay attention to how such fight scenes are presented onscreen, in terms of editing, in terms of what elements are highlighted, and try to focus on those in your descriptions or in the pacing of your sentences and paragraphs. Write it as you see and hear it, as you feel it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lancerman View Post
    Same as any fight in in any novel.
    Because they're all the same?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lancerman View Post
    Then use conventional story telling to bulid anticipation and suspense.
    I wouldn't recommend that at all. I'd suggest using whatever storytelling techniques you need to to get the effects you want, conventional or otherwise. Try different things and see what works for you, what feels exciting and what feels merely informative on a basic level.

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    Napoleon of Crime Professor Moriarty's Avatar
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    get in an actual gun fight.

  5. #5
    Modus omnibus in rebus Roquefort Raider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Professor Moriarty View Post
    get in an actual gun fight.
    Harh! You beat me to it, Prof !!!
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  6. #6
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    It helps to know where gunfights differ in terms of conflict and suspension and such. Use elements like cover, range, visibility of the target, clarity of the target, flanking maneuvers, suppressing fire and of course the supply of ammunition to aid in the pacing of the tension. Know your character's weapon well enough to know a few advantages or disadvantages of it (read up on wiki, or look for advice in gun forums), and keep track of the shots fired so that you can use reloads and strategic knowledge to set the pace.

    Be wary of Hollywood gunfight tropes. People who know and understand guns for real will hate you for it. Guns don't blast people across rooms when they hit (not even shotguns), for instance. People often don't just drop dead because they've been shot once or twice. You don't have to be 100% authentic, but little things go a long way.

    TVTROPES GUNPLAY LINK. Here's a bit of a starting point. Dive down the rabbit hole and look to see what you can do to avoid, deflect or use what writers have done before.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Professor Moriarty View Post
    get in an actual gun fight.
    It would be probably more like the Wire the a Segal movie. You would not live long, don't try it.

  8. #8
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    This is going to sound silly, but some of the best gun fight scenes I've read of in fiction are in a series of pulp westerns, the ones with gratuitous sex and violence inside. The series I'm speaking of is Buckskin, written by a terrific author named Mitchell Smith under his pseudonym Roy LeBeau. He doesn't just fetishize his subject matter, which is a danger these days - he uses it as an opportunity to see how people behave under extreme stress, just as if someone was faced with a grizzly bear or walking out on a girder eighty stories above Manhattan.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by piloting View Post
    Is it tricky to write big gun-fights or not so much seeing as how thriller,mystery,war and western movies have been at it for decades?.Would reading up Nothing last forever (Die hard 1's source material) or Tom Clancy novels be a start at seeing how it's done?.Do things change b/c it's in the style of an Asian "heroic bloodshed" (like a John Woo) or Jet Li crime movie and I'm trying to put all those striking visuals into prose?.
    For starters, read up on historical accounts of battles or gun fights from the era you want to write about. Get a realistic idea of what a gun fight would look like, the tactics, etc.

    After that, take a class and learn how to use a gun. This will give you a touch of realism as you will know first hand what actually firing a gun is like and you won't make the same mistake that most authors make when it comes to firearms.

    After that, get some of your friends and act some things out to get the logistics of an actual fight. I've written stuff before and had my wive help me act some things out so that I can see what it looks like and then write it on paper. But I'm very visual as a person. If I see something or experience it I can write about it in a much more clear and functional fashion.

  10. #10
    Mattress Tester T Hedge Coke's Avatar
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    Realism and historical accuracy are good, but also, know your audience. Are you writing for gun purists, or for a general audience? Because a general audience doesn't care about reloading unless it's for dramatic purposes and that's okeh.

    Veracity is not the same thing as accuracy. Veracity, that things feel right, is great for entertainment. Accuracy means the first shot likely ended the gunfight, and that sort of ends the scene if it's the protagonist being shot at.

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