Cresy Gyre–Ever More Dangerous

Posted: June 1, 2009 in Threat Quality

I’d better put something up for today.  Uhm, how about this?  I am interested in trying to do two things:  1) write fight scenes in a way that is interesting, and 2) explore this idea that really it’s the meanest people that win fights.

Fights in movies and things can be kinetic and lots of jump cuts and shaky cameras, but there’s a level of scrutiny that you end up with in a novel or short story that makes it difficult.  So, I’m putting a piece in that will probably show up in a future short story.  It is from a cycle of short stories that, I think, only Holland has actually read, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know what the hell is going on.


“Hold her!  Damn it…” Garrick shouted, and tried to maneuver around the struggling combatants.

“Ow, get off–”

“I can’t–”

“Just…just fucking hold her still!”  He had his pistol drawn, but didn’t want to risk hitting Miki or Laz as they wrestled with the girl.

“Get off my leg, stupid!”  Laz shouted, and promptly received an elbow to the teeth for his momentary preoccupation.

“Idiots,” Garrick shouted again.  She’s seven-fucking-teen! He fired a shot into the air, hoping it would give them pause.  The plan backfired–distracted, Laz and Miki took a half a second to try and clear away; Miki was rewarded with (another) headbutt to his already smashed and bleeding nose.

The girl was tall for her age, but not particularly big.  She had long arms and legs, and Garrick and his mates could be forgiven for, in the dark and the excitement, not noticing the rangy muscles that corded her limbs.  Miki winced and clapped a hand to his nose, giving the girl exactly enough time to whip her hand around and stick her thumb in Laz’s eye.

“Damn it,” Garrick swore again, but still couldn’t draw a bead.  This should have been simple, he thought.  Just grab the girl, knock her out, drag her away. The second Garrick’s men had laid their hands on her she turned into a whirlwind of writhing limbs–sharp knees and elbows lashing out, by good luck or better skill cracking into skulls and jaws and joints, bruising ribs; wicked fingers hooked towards tender eyes.  She moved viciously and with complete abandon, never hesitating; biting, clawing, kicking, punching, on top of every opening and opportunity before Miki or Laz even realized it was there.

Laz shrieked, but didn’t let go as the girl ground her thumb in deep; he screwed up his face and tried to turn his head away, as Miki tried to get a grip on her wrist.  Almost fast enough; she leaned forward and bit hard into the meat of his thumb before he could get a firm grip.

For their part, the two men, each of whom must have outweighed the girl by a hundred pounds, found that they were hindering each other more than they could help.  It seemed almost impossible to keep a solid grip on her wildly torsioning arms and legs, and similarly, if peculiarly, difficult to maintain their balance.  Every grab led to a stumble, every stumble to a collision.  Miki and Laz just couldn’t seem to keep their feet under themselves, and all the while the girl lashed out at them like a rabid animal, desperate to free herself or else tear herself apart in the process.

Only, she’s not trying to get away, Garrick realized, and he tried to maneuver around Miki’s bulk.  The girl wasn’t trying to escape; she’d passed up a dozen opportunities to free herself and run.  She’s staying in close…why is she doing that?  “Okay, get off her, Mik.”  Fuck this taking her alive.  The bitch took out Laz’s fucking eye. “Just let me get a shot here, right?”  Miki had gotten on top of her, it looked like, finally managed to pin her down.  “Come on, Mik, just move.”

The tangle of men and girl and limbs was still suddenly, as Miki turned his bruised and bloody face towards his partner.  He opened his mouth and something dark poured out.

“Fuck!”  Laz caled out, obscured by the other two combatants.  “Fuck, she’s got my–”  His voice vanished into a strangled choke, and Garrick saw the man’s legs begin kicking wildly, just as Miki rose to his feet and collapsed, his weight falling against Garrick’s gun arm.

Not rose, she pushed him, FUCK… too late, then, as Garrick’s pistol sounded once, twice, again, bullets spent uselessly in the dead man’s body as Garrick scrabbled desperately to free his arm, and the girl was on him then, with Laz’s knife in her three-fingered hand.  Garrick barely had time to register what was happening, as she slashed and hooked it around, viciously plunging it into his elbow joint, dragging it across his jaw and throat, pinning his gun with her free hand as she took that wickedly-sharp blade and traced the frenzied runes of violence across his body.

Shock set in at once, a creeping cold at the edges of his vision, a sudden, sweeping lassitude as hot red life, black in the moonlight, splashed to the paving stones.  He met her cold, fierce wolf-eyes, as she continued to work on him with the knife, not satisfied of her victory until every last iota of vitality was gone.  Garrick managed a last, shivering, “Fuck”–a resigned sigh tinged with a strange sense of admiration, before he died.

  1. Jeff Holland says:

    Action in narrative is a tough proposition. On the one hand, clarity is vital – you need readers to have a clear image in their heads of who is making what moves, and how the opponent reacts to that.

    Being clear often means being utterly simple: “Sam punched at Danny’s head. Danny ducked and punched at Sam’s kneecap. The punch connected. Sam screamed. Danny shook his hand out because his knuckle hurt from the impact.”

    Now, is it clear what’s happening? Sure. But keep that fight going for any longer and it’s going to get severely repetitive. Which is antithetical to a very good reason for throwing some action in – to liven things up.

    So what’s the alternative? A fight from one fighter’s perspective, perhaps. In third person, this means getting impressionistic – detailing the viewpoint character’s perceptions of the action, the dull bone-ringing of a knuckle colliding with a rib, the chest-tightening of air wheezing out, etc.

    And the problem there is getting too flowery, once again grinding the pace to a halt. Many a reader may scan down to the end of the paragraph to see just who the hell won the fight without wading through all the too-clever descriptions.

    So, the answer: A short, pithy, deeply descriptive, beautiful BUT UTILITARIAN examination of the action by itself and ALSO AT THE EXACT SAME TIME the internal responses of both fighters.

    In under three lines per paragraph.

    So, y’know. Simple, right?

  2. threatqualitypress says:

    A short, pithy, deeply descriptive, beautiful BUT UTILITARIAN examination of the action by itself and ALSO AT THE EXACT SAME TIME the internal responses of both fighters.

    Well, I guess at least it’s not implicitly harder than everything else you’re supposed to do as a writer.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    All right, we’ll make it a little trickier: You must write all that…while locating the jade monkey BEFORE THE NEXT FULL MOON.

  4. V.I.P. Referee says:

    To Holland – Ha! Moon + Monkey = Total, creative inspiration.

    To Braak – Temperature, scent, fluid exchanges and texture. Those are the abstracts experienced in a highly charged grappling. Excellent rythm and texture contrasts, here: “The tangle of men and girl and limbs was still suddenly, as Miki [turned?] his bruised and bloody face to face his partner. He opened his mouth and something dark poured out.” I’d really like to see where you take this.

  5. braak says:

    Er, oh, yeah. Hahah.

    The dangers of going to print without taking the time to run a quick edit.

  6. braak says:

    There’s something I want to do, make the beginning a little choppier, too, I think.

    And rhyme. Rhyme-tastic.

  7. Lindsay says:

    Nice passage.

    Tiny nitpicky comment: “frenzied runes of violence” is a pretty turn of phrase, but possibly too fancy given the tone of the rest of the sequence. In my opinion.

  8. threatqualitypress says:

    I will take it under advisement.

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