Recently, I bought a nerf gun. Why, you ask? Well, I'm doing this little thing called HvZ - Humans vs. Zombies. It boils down to a week long game of cross-campus tag. Only in this case, whoever isn' t 'it' can shoot your sorry self with a nerf gun. This calls for massive training.
I know they have to advance plot and/or characterization, but sometimes it's hard to know how to make it interesting. Be honest: how many times have you skimmed over battle scenes in books, even if you cared about the outcome? *COUGH*toomanytimestocount*COUGH*
Yeah, me too.
But not every battle is equal to every other. Here are three types of battles:
A) Social battle - oh no she did NOT just steal my lip gloss. This chick's going DOWN.
B) Physical conflict - fight breaks out on the team after Quarterback John discovered Runningback Bill also has a crush on Band Geek Mary. (It could happen.)
C) 'War' Battle - Not one to raise the stakes, but the one that decides them. Small country of Snickers revolting against the Cotton Candy King, that sort of thing.
How to make people care?
Well, let's ask the people who not only make 'readers' care, but do it so successfully that their battles are the main reason people buy their products.
That's right - it's Legend of Zelda Time!
(For previous posts, check the left sidebar)
Battles in Twilight Princess were, without a doubt, the best improvements on the game. Sure, the plot was cool. Yes, the 'new look' was nifty. But being able to use the Master Sword while riding a horse?
But how do we do this with writing?
One of the classic Zelda game formulas is a dungeon - or a temple. It's pretty formulaic.
Go through trials and puzzles
Get a new weapon
Go through more trials and puzzles
Boss Battle - best way to defeat the boss is using the new weapon.
See? What Legend of Zelda has done - what many games have done - is tied the battle fully in the story line. It isn't just the stakes that matter, it's not just who wins, it's how they win it.
For example: Cotton Candy King and his land of Tastiness have long oppressed the minor province of Snickers. From that province arises a hero. Hero has a flair for drinking milk. Hero confronts King and wins because milk made him strong.
Okay, I get it. Makes sense - the milk comes back into play. Clever. But is it enough?
Cotton Candy King and his land of Tastiness have long oppressed the minor province of Snickers, forcing them to drink milk rather than other, tastier drinks. A young man from the land - one who can drink more milk than any other man alive - rises from the province and leads a rebellion against the Cotton Candy King. In a clever twist, Hero destroys Cotton Candy King and his army by drowning them in milk.
I know the difference is sort of subtle - but do you get it?
The best advice I have (and you should take it, cause, um, I'm a genius. By which I mean, be swallowing this stuff with cupfuls of salt, a spoon won't cut it) is to stop thinking about your battle scenes as battle scenes. Think of them as puzzles you can use to bring previous aspects of the story back into play.
Want an example of this? Jim Butcher's Codex Alera. Read them. Read them all.
What about you? Do you like battle scenes? Hate them? Avoid them?
What about Legend of Zelda? Isn't it flipping awesome?