Method writing and battle scenes

I would love to look this awesome, but sadly... Image by Fukanzen on Flickr

Firstly, apologies for my blogging absence for the last 2 weeks. I had to learn how to create my new photography website and migrate both my domain and emails for the first time – a steep learning curve! Anyway, today it’s back to writing.

I recently took up martial arts again, this time something closer to my home and easier to fit in of an evening. Aikido is the way of harmony and whilst it is similar in some ways to what I had learned in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, it is less hard/brutal and as I get older I am sure my body will thank me for this change. Like Budo, Aikido contains more than a small element of weapons training, and understanding of how this complements the open hand combat. I am revisiting sword techniques I first encountered over ten years ago in Kendo/Iaido along with many new ones, and am resuming the slow journey to understanding.

Why am I talking about this? Well, it occurred to me some time back that as writers it helps if we can experience some of the things we write about, understand them in a way which goes beyond empathy and an academic understanding. I once heard that in preparing for the film The Mission, Robert De Niro trained in fencing to championship level. He has a reputation as a ‘method’ actor, someone who learnt their role and tried to enter their character’s mindset by experiencing, rather than empathizing. To an extent, a writer can do the same if they wish (within socially acceptable limitations, of course). Many writers draw on their personal experience of life, or use it to infuse their characters and narrative with a life and truth they would otherwise not have, an emotional rawness, a knowledge of how it would really happen, what really works.

My experience of martial arts and sword techniques has helped me understand my warrior characters better and write more truthfully, because I have seen a little of what really works, rather than the glossy fight scenes one sees in many Hollywood blockbusters. I know that most hand to hand fights end up on the ground within seconds, and that it’s surprising how tired you get so quickly. I know that sword duels are brief. That small movements, not large ones, hide the difference between a useless technique and a deadly one. And that in a level match speed and strength can nearly always be beaten by experience.

In an effort to further my understanding I have watched medieval and Viking re-enactment companies slug it out dressed in full armour and metal weaponry. I respect these people immensely, because despite the armour they open themselves to the possibility of serious injury every time. They know what it’s like to be weighed down, fighting inevitable fatigue and dealing with chaos all around them. Earlier this year I was fortunate to watch and film the Vikings of Middle England and spoke to their head plunderer Dags, who is a top bloke and now a friend on Facebook. One day when my workload has magically reduced I may even become one of these re-enactors 🙂

Anyway, I digress. My point is, try these things out. It’s fun, good discipline, keeps you fit, and as a fantasy writer gives a unique take on the world you are writing about.

About Scott Foley

Scott Foley is a British fantasy writer based in Manchester. He is author of Knight of Aslath and the Dreaming God Chronicle. Brought up on a steady diet of Tolkien, roleplaying games and a never-ending fascination with the question ‘what if?’, writing fantasy novels seemed the only sensible and worthwhile thing to do with his life. Knight of Aslath is his first novel, and he is currently working on the sequel Warlords of the Dreaming God. Both novels form the beginning of the Dreaming God Chronicle and are set in the fantasy world of Teth-Kiran. Knight of Aslath is available on Amazon, and you can find out more about Scott's work at: