I attended a really good class last week about creating realism when writing fiction. But, we don’t need realism, we’re creative writers, and we can write anything we want. This is true, up to a certain point. The question the instructor asked us, “How long dies a fight last?” Well in a movie we know it takes a matter of minutes. In reality it takes a few seconds. So how, as a writer, do you write a good fight scene in your story, and still have it be believable? Weapons and wizards aside, just a plain hand to hand fist fight, how long does it last? How many pages are you going to fill? Can you take twenty pages for a 20 second fight?
The instructors pitch to us, if we want to write realism into our fictional prose, then it is a good idea to understand what we are talking about. For instance, you want to write about a beat cop, who spends his time writing tickets for parking in a no parking stall. Ever go to Walmart and there is always that one car that thinks they are okay to park on the painted areas under the no parking signs? What better way to understand the importance, and methods of police procedure than to do a ride along with an officer? You want to write a murder mystery that takes place in a hotel…why not ask the manager if you can shadow house staff and maids to get a better idea of the layout and what they do?
The thing is, believable details, the ones the reader doesn’t have to try creating in their mind, but pop up on their own keeps the reader more focused on the story rather than getting lost in epic fight battles that go on to long. If you want to understand how to write good realistic scenes, then get ready to get your hands dirty. Consider it a benefit of your job. Not only do you get to write about all your cool ideas, you get to do hands on research to make sure your giving your reader the best writing you can muster.
AS a writing challenge, go out and do it. Pick one thing in your work that you could use more detail about. Figure out how to get it, then do it.
D. B. Flint