Turning Readers Into Writers

074 - How to write a great fight scene with Alicia McCalla

September 11, 2021 Emma Dhesi Season 1 Episode 74
Turning Readers Into Writers
074 - How to write a great fight scene with Alicia McCalla
Show Notes Transcript

Alicia McCalla began writing and self publishing professionally back in 2012. In the beginning, she wrote part time while she worked full time as a school media specialist tragedy struck and her only child an officer in the US Navy was lost at seeing this single event changed everything. 

 With the overwhelming intensity of her grief brain. She had to relearn how to live fully while honoring her son's legacy, and she often takes time to acknowledge her grief journey in her blog posts. Now Alicia is a full time writer and merchandiser, sharing stories and products of courageous, brave and strong black women warriors. 

She enjoys writing sisters with skills, swords, and superpowers. 

Alicia is black girl nerd, and regularly cosplays strong female superheroes, warriors, and maybe even a fairy because of her love of fan merchandise, and a desire to see black women represented in sci fi and fantasy merchandise. 

She launched her own shop Alicia McCalla's Emporium, featuring superheroines, vigilantes, huntresses, and much, much more. 

And in this interview today that Alicia very kindly came into my facebook group to do, we talk about how you can write fight scenes, and how it can become more than just a kick and a punch, Looking underneath the fight scene and how you can actually give that some depth how you can bring it out to be a vital part of the story.



Connect with Alicia:

Website - Free Book - Alicia McCalla

Alicia’s emporium - Alicia McCalla's Emporium - Alicia McCalla

Alicia’s books - https://amzn.to/3BItsAW




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Emma Dhesi:

Hello, I'm Emma Dhesi and welcome to another episode of turning readers into writers. If you're brand new here, welcome. And here's what you need to know. This is a community that believes you are never too old to write your first novel, no matter what you've been up to until now, if you're ready to write your book, I'm ready to help you reach the end, I focus on helping you find the time and confidence to begin your writing journey, as well as the craft and skills you need to finish the book. Each week I interview debut authors, editors and industry experts to keep you motivated, inspired, and educated on all things writing, editing, and publishing. If you want to catch up, head on over to emmadhesi.com, where you'll find a wealth of information and tools to help you get started. Before we dive in, this week's episode is brought to you by my free cheat sheet 30 Top Tips to find time to write. In this guide, I give you 30 ways that you can find time to write in the small gaps that appear between the various errands and tasks and responsibilities that you have in your day to day life. I know you might be thinking that you don't have any time to spare, but I can guarantee these top tips will give you writing time you didn't think you had. If you thought writing always involved a pen and paper or a keyboard. Think again. If you thought you needed at least an hour at a time to write your manuscript. I help you reframe that you won't be disappointed. Get your free copy of 30 Top Tips to find time to write by going to emmadhesi.com/30 Top Tips Okay, let's dive in to today's episode. Alicia McCalla began writing and self publishing professionally back in 2012. In the beginning, she wrote part time while she worked full time as a school media specialist tragedy struck and her only child an officer in the US Navy was lost at seeing this single event changed everything. With the overwhelming intensity of her grief brain. She had to relearn how to live fully while honoring her son's legacy, and she often takes time to acknowledge her grief journey in her blog posts. Now Alicia is a full time writer and merchandiser, sharing stories and products of courageous, brave and strong black women warriors. She enjoys writing sisters with skills, swords, and superpowers. Alicia is black girl nerd, and regularly cosplays strong female superheroes, warriors, and maybe even a fairy because of her love of fan merchandise, and a desire to see black women represented in sci fi and fantasy merchandise. she launched her own shop Alicia McCalla's Emporium, featuring superheroines, vigilantes, huntresses, and much, much more. And in this interview today that Alicia very kindly came into my facebook group to do, we talk about how you can write fight scenes, and how it can become more than just a kick and a punch, Looking underneath the fight scene and how you can actually give that some depth how you can bring it out to be a vital part of the story. And also say something about the characters who are involved. It's a really interesting interview with Alicia. So if you are someone who writes fight scenes, or are curious to know how you can make your fight scenes better, then this is a must listen for you. So let's dive in and hear what she has to say. Yay, we are live. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you are in the world. Welcome to our Facebook live tonight. And I have the lovely Alicia McCalla with us today. He's very kindly agreed to step in and answer some questions about how to write a fight scene because it's something I know nothing about. We were just talking before about how all my scenes are domestic. So there might be a slap, but that's about it. So I'm not good with the this this kind of this area. So I at least here was very kind and said that she would join us tonight. So I'm just kind of hanging about gonna wait, see who jumps on with us because I know that Facebook has a little bit of a lag time. But while we're doing that, I'm going to just read a little bit about Alicia so that you can get a feel for where she's from. And the background that she's got in terms of writing and I I shared with you in the Facebook group, they're there. I love that image, Alicia maybe you can talk to us later about where you got that image done for yourself, you know of you as a superhero. Yes. Great. And but she's been publishing, writing and publishing since 2012 and more tragic kind of circumstances got you started. But from that you've come on to leave a legacy for your family, and you're now a full time writer, and you're a merchandiser as well. And you share your stories and your products of courageous, brave and strong black women warriors. So maybe as to before we start, you could talk to us a little bit about those. And you write you enjoy writing sisters with skills, swords down super powers.

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah. My favorites are superheroes, supernatural thrillers, and huntresses. I love those kind of characters.

Emma Dhesi:

Well, that's brilliant. We've got some people with us. So um, hi, Christy, nice to see you here. Hello, Facebook user. If you're happy to have your name shared on stream yard, there's a link and there that you can click and it just allows them to share your name. But if you're you prefer to stay anonymous, that is not a problem. So Alicia, welcome today. Yeah, I wonder if you would tell us just a little bit about the series that you're right. And then I'd love to know where you got your image as well.

Alicia McCalla:

Well, the hour start with my images, because that's really a big part of my brand. So I like to cosplay. And so I will dress up like, oh, all kinds of superheroes. I love Captain Marvel. I love Shuri I love Wonder Woman. And so that image, the one of the images on the website is me in cosplay as Shri so that's exciting. And then my Emporium that is my logo. And it's kind of the character Nubia. So Nubia is Wonder Woman's twin sister, and she's black. And so I have them create me a new obeah with the shield, shield and a sword for my logo on Fiverr. So that was pretty simple. But I love artwork, and I love basically very strong women warriors. Those are fun to me.

Emma Dhesi:

And I'm looking at the the backdrop behind you there. And that kind of says all to that said, Yes. No, I sent out an email to my email list earlier in the week asking if they have any questions that they really want answered. And then a lot of people very kindly responded. And so we've got some prepared questions. But for those of you who are here, live today, then get your questions in as well. If anything crops up as we're going through the session, and then you're thinking, oh, I've got a question, please pop it in the comments. And we'll we'll answer it live here as well. But Alicia you've got the questions there and you haven't looked through them. And you've kind of been able to put some together because we had some similar questions, and then some very different questions. So as the novice here, if you're okay, I'm going to hand over to you to let you kind of take over with the session. And as I see comments come in, I'll, I'll jump in and

Alicia McCalla:

You know, is exciting So originally, I was let thinking about what my favorites fight scenes were. And then when you sent the questions, it made me because I actually was a librarian for 20 years. So I love researching and I just have a whole ton of books that I just enjoy. So at the end, people can get a list for me of my favorite book. But I do want to put this out there. I went and found mine was it knives and swords of visual history. And I found my gun digest from of course 2017. And for those of you who don't know me, I am a Marine Corps veteran. And I'm also a Detroiter, so I grew up in the hood fighting and I know how to fight in both ways, trained as a marine vet and train in the hood. How can you say that? But I was I was a geek too. So okay, there. There's There's my twist. Right?

Emma Dhesi:

Credential for this type of event.

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah, yes. So I really love a good fight scene. I really get into those. And I love putting those in my stories. I do just want to talk a little bit about just the questions overall, from what I've noticed. So I think it was some questions about whether or not a fight scene is predictable. And how do you make it not be boring, you know, and for me, I've learned that, yes, things can be predictable. But what makes it interesting is the twist or the spin or something that sheds a light that gives you the understanding of the protagonist in the fight, or what I call Brian McDonald calls the armature Or the theme or the spine of that story. When people can take those concepts, and put them all together, it makes your fight or fight scenes or your story in general, not be so predictable. So I know we have some youngsters out there, but I'll say this amazing fight scenes are kind of like, amazing, I don't want to say the word but romance scenes or, you know, relationships. And so they should be really dripping with that emotional connection that the reader has. And so at the end of the fight scene, the reader needs to have some type of release, right? They need to have an experience. And I think for me those experiences, it really could be, if it's a, it's a SmackDown, meaning there's this character that says, Jeff gotten on the reader's nerves, they have just been a bully, or they have just been something. So you get to the end, and the reader doesn't want you because that person is evil, they just want you to smack that person down and the story. And so in the end of that climactic battle, there is a release for the reader because they, they've gotten their revenge, or they've gotten their whatever is that's necessary, it's released and so for them, it results in something, you know, really exciting for the reader.

Emma Dhesi:

What's not so interesting, this is not just about the physical hitting and kicking and all the rest of it. It's the emotion that goes along with it. I yeah, way before. Yeah, yes.

Alicia McCalla:

So I think, you know, sometimes you people don't want to look at fight scenes, like they look at romance scenes. But I think we have all read romance novels, where you just go from one sex scene to the next sex scene to the next and it's like, okay, so these people are getting busy. Why, right? I mean, so there are some authors who I really love to read like Sherrilyn Kenyon, for example, like I, you know, I'm not a romance reader by any stretch of the magic that I like violence, gratuitous violence, like me and my husband are switched. He loves romance novels. And I love to do with this violence.

Emma Dhesi:

Can you actually do if you don't mind me interrupting? Can I ask you what it is you love about it? What is it that you enjoy about kind of the violence in the story?

Alicia McCalla:

I think I just like justice, I like to see that protagonists win, right. So I don't know what kind of stories people are writing. But oftentimes, we hear the discussion of the try fail cycles, that a hero or heroine, they try really hard, but they fail. And so that failing they learn a lesson. Well, if you're somebody who's writing high thriller, or high action, you're going to have a try when cycle, right? That character needs to win every time. So if you look at some of the famous anime stories, like St. ceja, or you look at Legend of Korra, or there's all kinds of different manga, anime TV shows out there that people fall in love with? Well, that's because they, they always have to win, right? They, they win that big battle, and then they go on to the next one, right? And that next one is just as high as the other one. And why is that? Because you're watching them as a winner. They do. They do suffer when they win, right? Um, but there's a cathartic connection when your hero wins, or they struggle to win, basically.

Emma Dhesi:

Okay, okay. Oh, interesting. Interesting. I'm sorry, I interrupted you, Carrie on

Alicia McCalla:

Is anybody else have more questions in there? You think there?

Emma Dhesi:

We don't have any further questions. No, no, in the live chat.

Alicia McCalla:

Um, so one of the things that I really enjoy thinking about is characterization. And that question of why or why not, you know, like, why does, why does this fight scene? or Why do these fight scenes connect with the protagonists? What's the lesson that they need to learn here? Or what's their armature with a stake for them? Right? And I think that's a big problem, or a big concern when you're writing a fight scene if you don't have a reason, like so. For example, I was telling you about St. seya. Or one of my Netflix shows that I kind of get into that I don't really talk about is troll hunters, right is that like kid who's a troll Hunter, he like fights all the time. And you could tell that his lesson learned or his armature is he just doesn't give up, right? So he just goes to the next battle to the next battle and my husband says something really funny. He's like that little Joker likes to fight, man. Does he fight to his art is out. So I think that's important, but it's not necessarily that he fight. But why is he fighting. And so if his tip is lesson being learned, or his armature or his third rail is about perseverance, or is about never giving up, then every time you see him in a battle or a fight, then he can't give up, right? That's not a part of him. That's not how he goes. And so every time you see a fight, that's hard for him, where whoever that villain is, or whoever that antagonists is, well, then you've got to understand what's at stake for him and that lesson that he needs to learn

Emma Dhesi:

Well, okay, oh, that might fit in nicely. was where that might fit in nicely with this question that we've got about, you know, how can you make a superhero character with a lot of power? Seen vulnerable? And, and maybe that comes into effect when with that lesson, perhaps? Or Yeah, yeah.

Alicia McCalla:

So you do have to be really careful. If I'm thinking Wonder Woman 1984 I was watching that movie as far as screaming because Wonder Woman can be bent over crying like a damsel in distress with a knife with that. I was so mad. She's the Amazon where Superman cried because Lois Lane bad he might, he's not gonna break down. So the question is the vulnerability and I think you're right, it has something to do with the characterization. But remember, you have to set about doing your characterization, and make sure that that character is doing it in the proper way. So one of the people that I really love is Jeff Elkins, the dialogue doctor, and he had an assignment where we had to do a cat a dialogue and character cheat sheet. I know, I don't know if Ron is out there. But, um, so I liked that dialogue character cheat sheet, because you have to lay out what that character might say, or what they might do from the beginning. And I kind of take that and I add the things like the archetype. And how does this character respond? What what what both a words be that they say? What are their facial expressions if they're in a fight or a lesson, right. And I think that's really important. So I think characterization is definitely the way to show up a character who is seemingly powerful, be vulnerable. But I also do want to mention this thing that, um, is about the cheat in the systems. And that comes a lot in the anime and manga world. And we don't necessarily do that in our stories. But if you have a system if you have a cheat, meaning, does this person have a special weapon? Or does this person have a special superpower? So what are their limitations? So yes, Superman has his kryptonite right now or Wonder Woman? If a man binds her her bracelets together that makes her helpless like a lamb or sheep, right? No, every superpower has a limitation. And that limitation that you put on their ability or their power, that needs to also not just be a limiter. So that person can get something out of it. That's fantastic. But it has to also make their lives complicated. You know, that's a part of your story and your world building.

Emma Dhesi:

So, and Facebook user who asked that question, does that Does that answer the question for you? And maybe you could let us know what type of stories you're writing and if that's useful in the stories that you are writing? Thank you for your question. Um, cool. Yes. If Lauren is there, and I'm not sure if you...

Alicia McCalla:

Well, um, so let's talk while while we're waiting for more people to ask So the choice of the weapons is very important. So you have a choice of a weapon. So is it? Is it connected to the weather? Is it connected to being in a closed location? Can it have an obstacle with this weapon? is an unusual choice is is something that's culturally sensitive or some type of symbol? Does it involve technology superpower? Is it magical? Is it like a Excalibur kind of a weapon? Is there a gun? Or is it a knife? Or is it brass knuckles? Is it a sword? And somebody was asking that question about the sand? So is it beach, sand, beach, on sand, sand on the beach, you know, what it? What is the weapon that this person is going to be using? And why? But the choice of weapon is uniquely connected to the characterization. And the more that you can add that predictable, but unusual twist to it, the better. That's what makes it exciting. So for me, I get really excited. I think the best fight scene of the decade was Arya Stark and Game of Thrones, right? Whoever thought this little girl was gonna take down the night King with her itty bitty little knife leg needle weapon. And she started off with needle. And then she ended it with needle but ended with needle and that secondary, you know, like she was coming at him aggressively. But in the end, it was hard taking Nieto in a small puncture. That's the night came down. So that's a big deal, right? And people around the world were like, Oh, yeah, that collective like scream. Yeah, well, Arya Stark, because whoever would have thought she could have did. But her choice of weapon was unique and unusual. But specifically for Aria, it is how Aria is going to take down the night King. And we thought her plot or her armature was revenge. But actually, in the end, it wasn't. She saved the world, right? she takes, that that was something very, very different.

Emma Dhesi:

I think really well with what you're saying about characterization, because it was her as the character and her change that the needle stayed the same. Change that what you were saying?

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah, we saw her grow up right, right in front of our faces and harder to take down on Nineteen. I guess

Emma Dhesi:

I run almost, Oh, good. Facebook users saying Yes, that was helpful. She's writing fantasy, with characters that have elemental powers that are empowered by emotion. Ah, yeah.

Alicia McCalla:

So I already see limitations with something that's empowered by emotions, right? I mean, maybe her limitations are, they're only empowered by certain emotions, right? And so if they can't tap into those emotions, well, you just put your character in some really serious trouble, right? Especially if, if they can only use anger, or they can only use happiness, or they have to go to their happy place. How are you gonna battle and you're happy in your good place, right. So there's some great limitations that she can put on her character based upon that.

Emma Dhesi:

Fantastic, Cool, thank you for that. I'm glad that was helpful. Yay.

Alicia McCalla:

So one of the things I also I'm interested in is the choice of the fighting style. So I grew up in Detroit, my husband grew up in my country, right. But what's the backstory with that what we choose to fight differently? Because of where we grew up? Is there some culturally sensitive style? So there's like a Brazilian kind of karate style or Brazilian martial arts that people love to use? Or is it just traditional martial arts? Or is the fighting style about survival? Or are they some type of warrior or some type of barbarian? Or in this world building? If you're a fantasy world builder or a sci fi world building? Is there something about that world building that creates a weapon? And again, does it involve superpowers? Or does it involve some type of magic or technology? And, you know, thinking about fighting style? Is there something about that character's backstory that has a twist? Like for me, for example, I was a librarian for 20 years. But before I became a librarian, I was a Marine Corps veteran. And many times I remember when I work in a school that was gang infested. And some of the boys, when they saw me came in, they decided I was going to be their gang initiation. And so they brought this kid in there, and he was bigger than me. And he attempted to kiss me. Because they were like, oh, we're gonna make her cry. And do you know what happened to that little boy. By the time I put him down, and put my foot on his neck, put picture him up, pants in one hand shirt in the other, kicked the door open and threw him out into the cafeteria. Everybody was very shocked right?

Emma Dhesi:

Now what you expect from your local librarian?

Alicia McCalla:

No, No. So I looked a certain way. But whenever. And then in the end, when he was getting thrown out of school, he was like, I never thought she would have did me like that. I'm six foot and I'm only five, seven. I was like, you went down really quick and fast and hard. I'm sorry, I hurt you. But don't ever put your hands on me again. Right. And surprisingly, I didn't lose my job because he attacked me. Right. And it was on film, I was on camera. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, what is the backstory? Or what is a unique twist for your character that you can bring in. And that can create a unique fighting style for that particular person? I don't know.

Emma Dhesi:

A really good example, your own experience, there is a really good example of that. I love it. So Christie is asking how do you change or build the intensity of the stakes of each phase over the course of the novel?

Alicia McCalla:

So I think that the, I think it depends on the type of novel that you're writing and the type of fight scene that you're creating. So um, let's, I'll give you a couple examples. What's the difference between James Bond and Jason Bourne? Right? They're both spies, right? But James Bond, his fight scenes are choreographed really well, the old not the old James Bond, the newer one are kind of like Jason Bourne. But Jason Bourne is like, gritty, right? And so you get a sense as you're going along, that James Bond is winning, because I think he has that try win cycle as well. So you start off with one event, and then maybe he's chasing down, tell somebody that he knows is a bad guy or spy. And then he captures them. They have a little choreograph, you know, sparring thing. So that to me is like a mini fight. Right? Okay, which you might think is very different from when James mana is going to take down gold finger at the very end. Right? So that's like a climactic fight. I think it just depends on for you and your story. How do you escalate that? Or how do you make the try win cycle more and more in depth? Right? And what type of fight scene are you creating? Is it choreographed? Or does it get grittier as as you go along with it?

Emma Dhesi:

Mm hmm. I think that fits in with I see that Ethan's here. Hi, Ethan, good to see you here. Because Ethan was one of the people who put in a question and I think it fits in with this, you know, how do you he asked how do you create tension and keep the reader guessing during the fight scene? Sounds like varying the the varying the the intensity of the fighting, and maybe the length of the fight that kind of thing?

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah. So it could be the intensity of the fight. Is this a mini fight? Is it something that just kind of helps you to find out a piece of information? Or is it something like it's just a scuffle? I think you have to kind of decide actually what that actually is, and go from there. And so I got some notes here about like, the different types of fight scenes. So you've got the choreograph and you've got the gritty fight scene. You've got is it many is it just a duel between two people or two people who are maybe evenly matched? Or is it literally David versus Goliath, like one person is just huge. And the other one is just really tiny? Or is it some type of SmackDown? And what kind of SmackDown? Is it is a Smackdown? On like multiple people that Smackdown just between, you know, like the protagonist and the antagonist? Is it like one opponent just so much more powerful than the other one? That is like, What the heck? How is this person going to like, when this is laughable, this person is gonna get squashed? Or like you said, Is it a victim? Like a woman? Who is fighting for her life? Or fighting to save her children? Or to save a loved one? Or is it a battle or a fight or duel between a mentor and a mentee? And the mentor is doing this to help make the mentee stronger? And if that's the case, what's the what kind of mentor is that? Is this a mentor? Who's not gonna hold back? Hang on, take that character down? Or is it a mentor who's going to be gentle and kind, right? So you've got a lot of types of fights there. And so some of them can be escalated higher, and some of them can be lower. But I think the climax like a Smackdown that's probably a climactic kind of fight. Because you been with you been with that protagonist, and they've suffered at the hands, you go down, and I'm gonna figure out how to do it, right? That's kind of that mano a mano type battle, right?

Emma Dhesi:

Chisty is wonderful, thank you. She's writing more on the choreography style.

Alicia McCalla:

Right, right. Somebody also asked a question about the dialogue in my scenes. And one of the things that I did want to mention is that, again, the characterization is one of those that's very important, and the lesson that's learned, so you've got secrets that can be revealed in the fight, you've got something that's surprising that could be reveal here or some type of revelation about the motive, right? But when you talk about the type of icing, is it if it's gritty, like Jason Bourne, you know, talk where he fighting, he tried to take that and put somebody's eye out, or, you know, do something with this, I forget, I'm gonna push this off, I get down until you die. There's no words, there's just like, I'm gonna kill you. You were as James Bond, really might have some words, or less famous Batman and Joker, right? They fight all the time. Batman hardly says anything but Joker, he got jokes, he got the state of bad joke, forgive me like losing. He was like, yeah, you might beat me down, okay.

Emma Dhesi:

So it's an element there of, you know, suspend your disbelief there. In a real life, there might not be much conversation going on in a real life fight. But in our stories, we can give them a bit more depth as fights a bit more depth by adding in some dialogue, to move the story on a little bit, or as you were saying, you know, share secrets. Brilliant. Okay, that's really great.

Alicia McCalla:

Um, I want to mention too, I don't know if people have seen Ryan, the last dragon, I have a little niece who loves Disney. And so we watch it. And so Ryan, her technique, or her style for fighting was just like her and her also her weapons, it was honorable. So she thought in an honorable way. And I think our armature was probably something like trust or truth. And her fighting style was rather trusting and honorable, right? She's not gonna be somebody that necessarily does something dirty or underhanded. And so that's something to consider that your characters fighting style could could be connected to them. And that could be a limitation for them. Right? Because if if you are somebody who always fights with honor, but you're fighting somebody who's dishonorable, well, you could be problem you might lose, right?

Emma Dhesi:

Mm hmm. Yeah. And so just on that, kind of the dialogue element, so I'm just looking down here. That's Darrell Leffler. And she was asking, you know, how would you rate the vocal signs of someone being hit? And because does it get a bit repetitive After a while, and do you just have to put a few in perhaps to kind of give the reader the feel for the scene? Or should you include them on every punch in every hit?

Alicia McCalla:

So the thing that I was thinking about when I saw that question was about the facial expressions, and about the sounds that people make. And so we're always talking about Jeff Elkins on his character and dialogue sheet. So I was start with that first. So before set your sexual world building, set your characterization beforehand, and put your character in that fight scene, and just have a little box in your or put a little descriptor, and how will my character respond? How will they what will they say? And what does their facial expressions look like when they're fighting? Right? So that one is constantly consistent. And two, it gives you have a basis for what to how to deal with that person.

Emma Dhesi:

Okay. So things like you know, bam, that kind of things that we think about with Batman, presumably there, you wouldn't use those anymore. Those are a bit dated. Could you maybe give us an example of

Alicia McCalla:

I would be careful about saying that their data because it depends because you have things that are genre specific. So in the superhero genre, bam, and Oof, really work. Right? People understand what that is, and that's where it should be right. So if you add Batman Oof, to Jason Bourne, somebody is gonna look at you like, what are you doing? Right? Because it doesn't fit was born, Jason Bourne is gritty. Like, I'm gonna kill you. And that probably is like, what he's gonna, you're gonna die. And he may say it in a very even tone manner. So I think that's very important. The characterization, like, who those two combatants are. Sounds like you got some battles going on there. But what's the rivalry between those combatants? One of the classes I took years ago was from Bonnie Lin. Right? smarter, not harder. And she was talking about the the, the arch enemies relationship, what is their rivalry about? So you bring in these few characters in who are combatants? And we need to understand why are they battling what I mean, the Why is very important. And then the how, so let's say you have a character who's a crusader. And you have a character, that's a beauty queen, right? Both of them are going to fight very differently, and say different things. So maybe like a crusader might be a I would say, maybe Wonder Woman as a crusader versus Buffy the Vampire Slayer right? So Buffy, she's gonna stab the vampires. And this she's gonna finish my leg doing her hair, or, Oh, I got my I got my outfit dirty. Right? That's Buffy. And that net makes it work for Buffy. But if you don't have the characterization, and so how does Buffy look, Buffy doesn't she's not going to have the same facial expression as Wonder Woman. Right? Yeah, they're going to be very different in their reasoning. And so Buffy fighting spike, because you know, they have that relationship is very different than, say her fighting just another evil vampire. Right? Her reasoning for doing it is different. So the reader is gonna get sensitive, because they're like, Oh, my God, Buffy has to do this to spike, or Angel. Oh, she's got to let Angel go. I feel like everybody you see Buffy, right? You go have to kill Angel. Right? I mean that. That's hard. Right? So you know what's at stake for a Buffy character. Right? You know what that for her?

Emma Dhesi:

Yeah, well, cool. Okay. Yeah, it surprised me actually. And I don't know why but how much of it actually comes down to the character rather than the technical knowledge of a fight. It's more about how each individual character would enter that situation would respond to their protagonist and and the choices that they make then about perhaps which move which competent combat it into move, they use it in those terms before I was wondering just to kind of just to be technical for a moment, when we mentioned earlier, the the kind of different Types of fight scenes that there are leading up to that big climactic one that big Smackdown? And is there a no formula? But do you have a, a structure that you use for your fight scenes, you know, so the smaller fight scene might be kind of one page long, and then they will progress to two or three pages long. And then maybe it would be five pages long by the big fights? Or does that not really come into play for fight scenes?

Alicia McCalla:

So so your climax usually be about 10 pages depending upon what type of story that you're writing, because you kind of want that to go on because you want people to get that final cuff, that final cathartic feeling like this person has won, right? But I'd be less inclined to say this fight seems to be one or two pages and more inclined to go, why are they fighting? Okay, and to think about it in terms of what's predictable? What kind of fight does everybody think this should be right here? And then I would brainstorm maybe 10, 20 or 30 different ways to make whatever fight scene that is twisty. So I think it's, it's less about the length and more about what it reveals to the reader about the why, you know what I'm saying? And then you can actually put pressure in fight scenes based upon, like, we talked about that unique choice of weapon, some environmental circumstances, is it raining? Right? Where are they? What's happening with it? Is it in an unusual location? And how does that unusual location, you know, make it more scary? Is there some unusual reason for them to engage in this fight? Like, what brought them to it? Is it a gang initiation? Or is it or did they just happen upon it? So what how did they get into be in this circumstances? And at the end of this fight, is there an unusual consequence that they're fighting for? Or an unusual consequence that might happen to the winner? Or an unusual consequence that might happen to the loser? Right? Okay. I mean, you raise the stakes, just by adding those, like environmental pieces, as well as some of these other things that can put the pressure on? I think.

Emma Dhesi:

yeah. Okay. Okay. I'm going to jump to our questions and our pre pre prepared question, just to see, just to check that we've kind of gone through the mall.

Alicia McCalla:

You. Okay, so you asked, so I think we answered Ethan, because he said, How do you create and keep the tension reader guessing during a fight scene? And I do want to make I did write myself a note, if you don't already have tension that before the fight, there's something wrong, right? So that fight has got to be a release of whatever tension that you've already created in your story. It has to be a natural outgrowth of that. If it's not, then you don't need that fight scene, you need to drop it.

Emma Dhesi:

So if you're still here, what kind of stories are you telling? Are you thrillers superhero? Let us know what your what your particular genre is? That'd be really interesting to know. Um, I was asking about problems with running out of descriptive words, but I think you've addressed that really, really well about how it's actually all comes from the character.

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah, so I wrote a Heron note, create a characterization board and pick a few descriptions for each character, along with the dialogue and create a dialogue cheat sheet also said to decide what kind of fight scene you're writing and what's at stake there because I think what's at stake is important. I do want to answer last question, because he asked me Do I ever find myself acting out a complex fight scene? I was like, Yes, I do. I do it right. And then me and my husband were battling I was the last vampire Huntress and I was dressed in cosplay with my my sword, and he was a vampire. So my little niece came over, and she put the makeup on and put this wig on him. So we had like a whole choreographed thing. So people want to go on YouTube and watch the last vampire hunter if they certainly can, right. It's foolishness.

Emma Dhesi:

But fun, fun, foolishness. It sounds like

Alicia McCalla:

Yeah. Darrell asked about how to write the vocal sounds. Okay. So I think one of the things I didn't talk about was the POV and whether it's written in first or third person, and I think either way, it needs to have that focal character that uses the characters And why to decide, because if it's coming from a first person, and this kind of person has a certain type of character at will maybe they're really super gritty, and they're not gonna go for like, they won't go for a gun or a knife or they're gonna go for their they carry brass knuckles, right, like a Clint Eastwood type of person. So it's a very different person of why they choose to do something. And listening to Clint Eastwood's voice is very different say that even listening to like john Wayne's voice, right? I will say this, my dad, so most little girls, when they were kids, they would watch my dad's a marine also. So they would watch like, love stories or something. So I grew up on Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and john wayne. Third is like, what stories are you telling little girl? Right? Um, let's see, am I sisters are the same way to this, like, yeah, good revenge story. It's marvelous. Um, somebody was asking me about word vomiting. And I think the gestures need to come from that character. And if your character doesn't shrug, then that's not something that you should put there. So I would encourage people to really focus on their characterization boards and make sure that you're creating unique characters, and that they say and do different things to me.

Emma Dhesi:

Ethan's come back to us just simply saying that his stories are set in a fantasy world, the US have to learn how to control their power. So that's an interesting one, that idea of controlling their power, and also the use of magic weapons and armor.

Alicia McCalla:

So I think the way to control powers is about the limitations. So they have a cheat, and maybe their cheat is excalibur, but maybe at excaliburs limitation is that it sucks them dry. You know, every time they use exit caliber, it takes a part of their soul, right? So that the reader gets, ooh, you don't want to use that caliber too much. Because it could be problematic, right? So I think for every magical weapon, or every piece of armor that you have, that's a cheat. And so it needs to have an indelible limitation. Man, maybe, maybe for some armor, the limitation is it not necessarily that it's not powerful for certain time, but maybe it has to stick into the skin and make the the person bleed right? Or attaches to them in a way that's painful. You can tell I'm kind of into violence. So my, my limitations always really, really hurt.

Emma Dhesi:

Well, this might work because everything, you know, this idea of the weapons working as a conduit for the power so that there would be some kind of interconnected in a very strong way. nicely, lovely. Okay, great. Thank you. For that you then thank you.

Alicia McCalla:

Okay, so it says is this Carla said that she's got a fight thing between two brothers in their early 50s. One is drunk, and one is emotional, tight wire, the other is sober and trying to keep their younger brother from doing something stupid. And she was curious as to how I would handle that. And I think the questions that I had was, which brother is the protagonist? What's the armature? Or the lesson that they will learn? How does how does or why are they fighting and relate it to this armature or lesson and what's at stake for them? For example, you got two brothers, and maybe their mom died. And so maybe one brother is the oldest brother and one is the youngest brother. And so they got drunk because they felt like the youngest brother, or the oldest brother felt like he was never mom's favorite. Right? And so I was never mom's favorite, so I'm gonna punch you out. Do you know what I'm saying? Who knows? I don't know what their backstory is. I don't know what their reasoning for fighting. Or maybe the oldest brother was like, I'll let you hit me once, but you're not hitting me again a second time. I'm gonna punch you back. Right. And which one of those brothers will use sand as a weapon? Right. What's the riveting backstory behind these two brothers that would make them fight? Or was it even worse than One brother sleep, went the other brother's wife and that wife died or something, you know. And so now you got this situation where you slept with my wife and I hate you. So one, maybe even feel guilty about it, right?

Emma Dhesi:

Raise the stakes. They're..

Alicia McCalla:

Just a fact that the reader is coming to that. And they'll be like, Oh my God, oh, and maybe this is a wonderful opportunity to where in the end if their mom died, and the one brother says, Mom, you are always mom's favorite, and tries to punch the one brother and they know their brother mumbles. Why was mom left you the million dollars? She didn't leave her for me, right? So there's like this secret? Or this piece of backstory that comes out? Everybody likes to leave Oh, hey, do you know so and between Matt, you've got something that could be really potentially riveting while they're fighting on the beach, right?

Emma Dhesi:

Yeah. Again, it's the emotion behind it rather than the physical fight that's driving the scene forward. Just kind of conscious of time, because then I don't want to keep you beyond the hour, because it's very generous of you to give up your time. Do we have there are just a couple more questions that you you're happy to answer?

Alicia McCalla:

Sure. Do you want to pick one?

Emma Dhesi:

Um, I don't know what how do you feel about? Oh, yes. How Christopher when Lisa Williams was asking, how do you write the scene without bogging it down?

Alicia McCalla:

I think that's the same thing that we're talking about the armature and lesson, you just want to tell people or tell the readership just enough for them to focus only on the Y to reveal something of that lesson that's learned. So the example that we used about the two brothers, right? I mean, really, it's not necessarily about the fight between them as much as it is about the backstory, and the information that's revealed. So maybe that fight scene? That's a good question, Where does that occur? Is that the climax of the book? Or is it right smack dab in the middle of the book, right? So if it's in the middle, you give some revealing information? Well, maybe that's my thing is just one brother swinging on the other one, but you put it there to drop that critical piece of information that spirals off into something more as it comes up. So I think you whatever your purpose, or your reason behind the characterization, and the lesson that needs to be learned, is just as much is what you want to put in there. And also the location of it. Right? Is it a, is it a mini fight? Is it a mini battle? Or is it more escalated? And then it's a climax? I think you have to decide where that is. But I mean, generally, climaxes are going to be longer. There.

Emma Dhesi:

Yeah, I'm surprised to how long that was. Well, I just looking at the questions, I think that you have really encompassed all of the questions a lot about, you know, the structuring the scene, the language being used, and, and the pace of the scene and things like that. And I think that you've encompassed a lot of these and thinking about, where does the scene take place? What kind of fight? Is it? What weapons are being used? What tools are being used? So I think cam, you've covered them all. So thank you so much for this year. It's been very, very gracious of you to join us tonight. Very good. Before you go. I'd love it if you would tell us about your series and your books. And I'm going to link to your website. So if anybody's interested in the reading and seeing them for themselves, action.

Alicia McCalla:

I have superheroes short reads, that's my latest work that I put out. And I've just gotten into learning about recording my own audio books. So that's my first audio book, and it's got three short stories in it. One is a post apocalyptic story about a mother trying to survive against a pack of wolves. I have one that's a vigilante story, and then one that's a little bit of a romance story, and also have a supernatural thriller series. And that is a more that would be what I call my women's fiction book. survive a a serial killer trying to get her in that series, um, and there too, yes. And my last vampire Huntress. It was a short story that I just published in a vampire anthology. And so I'm thinking about turning that into a serial. But as far as my current project that I'm working on, it is a serial superhero story because I really want to write something. So I think what I have is a new adult girl who's a techno morph. And so your techno morph basically means she can change into her technological supersuit. And she's actually grieving the murder of her grandfather and the accidental death of her grandmother. And she wants to figure out which one of the villains killed them. So that she can, so that it will help her to get the justice that she feels like her family needs and deserves theory.

Emma Dhesi:

Oh, cool. If mentioned that, that's a series that sue a serial or a series.

Alicia McCalla:

I originally started as a series, but I think I'm working more towards writing it as a cereal. Cuz I'm looking at Kindle vello. Right now. What I love about learning about writing a cereal is that every ending at every chapter is some kind of Cliff or mini Cliff of like, you those, I do want to mention, like we were talking about what the fight scenes. So when I first started writing, I would pants it and I would like write myself into walls. And let me throw in this card cheese to make it work, right. And the problem when you do that, if you don't have a connection to that lesson that that character is supposed to learn, you just dump things. And that's when you get your biggest conflicts. So if there was one piece of advice that I will offer to people, is don't just throw in a fight scene, just because you've written yourself into a corner, it seems like a good thing to do. Whatever you do, you need to build up the tension. So that that fight scene is in there. I mean, Echo it throughout from the beginning, so that we understand that it's a potential for this fight scene to occur, and then let readers know what's at stake, so that they get an understanding of why this person has to fight.

Emma Dhesi:

Okay, so there's the purpose behind it, not just to fight for a fight sake. Lovely. Yeah,

Alicia McCalla:

I mean, I think that's what makes it boring. You know, I was thinking about Kill Bill. And I like Kill Bill because it was kind of cool. But Kill Bill just fought for the sake of fighting. Just like, we don't want to watch this, can I just fast forward? Fast forwarding through them? Because they're just fighting for the sake of fighting because you don't as a as a viewer, watcher reader. You're just putting this here as a distraction. Mm hmm. So I think that people have to be careful when they're putting their fight things out there. It needs to be a natural outgrowth of what's happening in this story to the lessons that the protagonists, or your main character needs to learn.

Emma Dhesi:

Lovely. Well, let me go to Christie. Christie is saying, Thank you for this wonderful talk. Within the same thank you for your time, this was so helpful. We've got someone saying hello. And Facebook users saying I'm a beginner and practicing makes perfect. Absolutely.

Alicia McCalla:

And another person saying writing is good therapy, isn't it just it's so much better to find on the page, and it isn't real life.

Emma Dhesi:

So I feel like I need space time away on my own. If I want to write an autobiography. Well, hopefully there won't be too many fight scenes in your autobiography, but you never know. That's lovely, Alicia, I'm going to leave it there. And if anybody wants to get in touch with the VC has any more questions, you can get in touch with her through her website. And she's very kindly given us a document or resource document for doing research and delving into what she has been talking about tonight in more depth and so I'm going to share that in the Facebook group too. So you can link straight to it. So I want to say thank you. Very much to everybody. And in particular, thank you very much to you. And you see, thank you.

Alicia McCalla:

You're welcome.

Emma Dhesi:

See you all soon. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you find that helpful and inspirational. Now, don't forget to come on over to facebook and join my group, Turning readers into writers. It is especially for you if you are a beginner writer who is looking to write their first novel. If you join the group, you will also find a free cheat sheet there called three secret hacks to write with consistency. So go to emmadhesi.com/turning readers into writers. Hit join. Can't wait to see you in there. All right. Thank you. Bye bye.