Creating an Effective Battle Scene

There I was, cruising through my manuscript. Words were flowing, the story was moving at a great pace. I had the map drawn which made every chapter richer with content. Then out of nowhere. . . bam! It was time for the first battle.

I realized I knew nothing about flanking or ranking. Military training hadn’t even entered my mind. Oh sure, I’ve watched the news, and seen the horrific things going on around the world when it comes to war and weaponry, but the world of Maycly had not been designed for such. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks—over half the characters had never seen or experienced battle.

Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me.

Did I enjoy the challenge? Absolutely!

I had lined up the story as such; the warrior characters needed to be trained in secret. Again, another sharp turn of events. I shouted, “Holy cow! Now the map isn’t right!” So, back to the drawing board I went to create a secret land. . .but wait, there’re other warriors. All the warriors will be informed about their allies, but won’t meet until on the battle field. Nuts! Now I’ve got to add in a second secret land. I found myself adding chapter after chapter to set the stage leading up to this epic battle. A “well worth it” task I might add.

There’re numerous things to consider for making a believable battle.

Sounds are good, but different in modern vs. archaic. For instance a beast-pulled-catapult’s operational sounds are far different from a tank. Flying creatures sound different than jets.

With no high-tech on Maycly, I had to create new creatures. This was challenging. I didn’t want the same old things to read about (or be seen on the big screen if the opportunity arises).
illustration of a beast from one of the battles on Maycly.

Yes, bows and arrows, and swords don’t change, and are necessary in an archaic battle, but as an author who must describe the epic event in captivating words, it was off to the thesaurus I went. I also created unique weaponry. (Not gonna tell ya ‘cause it’d be a spoiler alert.)
How long will the battle last? Minutes? Hours? Days? A week or longer? Is the battle between two main characters? Two posses of 10? Or are you going for the gusto—an epic battle involving thousands?

The battle scenes in Maycly are epic. It’s more than two main characters duking it out to the end. You’ll find several individual characters handling specific events in the midst of the battle, along with scores of squadrons. While writing, I envisioned the entire scene/chapter as a movie. There are “close-ups,” “mid-shots,” “wide-shots,” and “panoramic” descriptions of the action. The reader experiences the battle from the ground, the air, as a warrior, and as a spectator.

Will the warriors need food? Are medics and a treatment center needed? Can everyone die, or have you set properties into place making some of your troops immortal? If there’s magic you must maintain the continuity of your magic’s properties and consequences.

What are the elements? Rain? Snow? Heat? Sleet? Wind? Is it day or night? Will your warriors need torches? Will they need to be dressed in some type of camouflage so as not to be seen? 

What kinds of smells are present? Burning grass? Animal aromas? Fire from fire breathing dragons?

Who can see what? Is the battle field so big you can’t see from end to end? Are there spectators? If so, where are they located and can they see all of the action? Do they become part of the action?

Are there obstacles? What about quick sand? Is stirred dirt causing restricted vision? Are there places to hide? Caves? Trees? Water? Is the terrain flat, rocky, mountainous, or slippery? Is it on a flat field, a dessert with sand dunes, or in the woods?

What style of combat are you engaging in? What kind of clothing or armor is needed? Are there vulnerabilities on either side?

Hopefully these questions will bring to light the many things, or even more, to be considered, studied, and weighed before you pull your battles together in style.

To wrap it up, please understand this didn’t happen in a day. The battle chapter alone in Maycly took eight months to put together, and that’s before proofreading/editing.

The best part; I learned a lot through the process, and am looking forward to the next battles with a vengeance. There are five more novels that stem from Maycly. My goal is to be able to imagine, create, and bring to life some of the best battle scenes, from one on one to epic, this genre’s fans have ever had the privilege of reading. 

Guest post by Epic Fantasy Author Janet Beasley


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