Confrontations: Sticks and Symbols

In almost every story, there are times when Character A picks up a fight with Character B. The best way I found to describe their confrontation is to draw color-coded stick figures. Once I can see where the characters are and their possible moves, I can get an outline for the confrontation. After that, it’s just a matter of expanding the outline into paragraphs to describe the scene.

Here is a piece of a confrontation as example (this should look familiar):

Combat_solo

Our hero in blue is down on the ground with a broken arm and his large red enemy is approaching to finish the job. Blue moves his head up and lands a spell on the ground. When Red steps on it, he gets frozen in place and becomes trapped.

Sometimes I add emotions on the drawings, but I mostly reserve this for the outline process. The outline is just a narration of what is happening right to the point, much like on the paragraph below the image. Bullet points or flow charts also work.

With all the pages of the stick figures fighting and the outline of their moves and reactions, words just flow onto paper to detail the scene.

Now, what if is not just Characters A and B that have a problem with each other. What if their friends are involved as well? In that case, stick figures don’t work for me. Too many variables are in place with more than two characters up until they are each on their own. For these types of scenes, I use symbols and colors much like a sports team would describe their strategy during training.

Combat_group

Square is unconscious and the Red team is determined to finish her off. The three Red Circles move to Square’s allies still standing, Circle and X, while Red Triangle goes for the defenseless Square. However, Blue Triangle is not completely out of the fight. Blue Triangle casts a spell to knock back Red Triangle and buy time while the other Blue and Red symbols go at it.

At this point I would also divide the duelists with another symbol and draw their individual movements with stick figures. For example, the two Red Circles fighting the Blue Circle would be marked with @. Every page that has their fight drawings will have @ on the top corner. A group confrontation could take several pages, specially once you branch out into the team member’s individual confrontations. Marking duelists with a symbol will help find their experience in the fight easier by just looking at the symbol on top of the page.

I am drawing and outlining each duelist’s experiences, but this doesn’t mean each of their experiences is going to be narrated. I pick the most exciting encounter to describe once each character is on her or his own and go from there. While the outcome of the other duels are going to be noted, they are not going to be as detailed as the “main event.” Otherwise, the scene would just go on and on and that which was meant to be exciting, may end up being boring and skipped.

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how you design your confrontations. Just have fun with it!

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