How to Fight Write

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Anonymous asked: If a 5'6'' 150 pound woman who had been training basically her entire life were to bring her heel down (most likely with boots or tennis shoes) as hard as she could on another full grown human being's neck as they lay on their back, what kind of injury would they have? Would it just snap the spine or could it potentially crush the entire neck?

Striking to an exposed throat can result in a crushed trachea. Which in turn would lead to death from asphyxiation. The rest of the neck would be fine, but you’re crushing the piece you need to keep breathing. Your character should be able to do this with a hand strike, so doing it in a stomp isn’t an issue at all.

Though, it’s worth pointing out, given she’s had extensive training, this would be treated as a homicide.

Generally speaking, the more training you’ve received, the less force you’re legally allowed to employ to defend yourself. The simple explanation is that someone who is untrained doesn’t have full control over a fight, and accidents can happen that they didn’t intend. The more training you’ve received as a martial artist, the more control you’re considered to have over the combat and results. When you get into the range of a character who’s trained for decades, received advanced belt rankings, and cross trained in multiple martial arts, accidentally killing an opponent is extremely unlikely.

Your character can’t “accidentally” kill someone in a brawl. They chose to snuff another human being, and they’re going to need a damn good reason that goes well beyond, “but he was going to hurt me,” to justify using lethal force.

If your character could have ended the fight by putting their opponent into a restraint position, held them there, and waited for the cops to show up, arbitrarily escalating to killing someone will be treated as murder.


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fivesecondsoftroylersplacenta asked: I'm writing a some what short story about a girl who wants to write. Her best (guy) friend suggests letters. I'm going to have her do the letter challenge is this an okay-ish idea??

With respect, you don’t need to ask us that.

When, as a writer, you’re saying, “I have an idea I want to write,” you don’t need to go asking people for permission. Just write the story (or article) you’re thinking of.

When you’re trying to sell it, or trying to create something you can sell, you probably want to investigate to make sure your idea isn’t something that’s already being done to death, or see if anyone already wants to buy something like that. But, if that’s not the case, then just go ahead.

Write it, learn from it, and improve. Look at what worked, what didn’t, ask yourself why that was the case.

You’ll never know until you have a draft in your hands.


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Anonymous asked: Is it realistic to have a male fighter character who is very strong but rotund? Most strong fighters I see in media are super ripped and defined. But if you look at some american football players (I don't know if this is a good comparison) those guys are super strong but they also can have big guts.

Yeah. Fat and muscle aren’t mutually exclusive. While pop culture tends to think of losing weight as turning fat into ripped muscle, you can be both. Also, muscle weighs more than fat, so most people that try to lose weight by going into bodybuilding actually end up heavier than before.

In some circumstances, particularly the (historically) harsh winters of northern Europe and Asia, a thick layer of fat is provides insulation against the cold.

I’m told this can also benefit cold water divers, as the layer of fat can protect against the thermal shock from going into the water.

So, with some caveats, yes, it’s entirely possible to have someone that fits that description.


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If you are a writer, and you have a novel idea that you are excited about writing, write it. Don’t go on message boards and ask random Internet denizens whether or not something is allowed. … Who is the writer here? YOU ARE. Whose book is it? YOUR BOOK. There are no writing police. No one is going to arrest you if you write a teen vampire novel post Twilight. No one is going to send you off to a desert island to live a wretched life of worm eating and regret because your book includes things that could be seen as cliché.

If you have a book that you want to write, just write the damn thing. Don’t worry about selling it; that comes later. Instead, worry about making your book good. Worry about the best way to order your scenes to create maximum tension, worry about if your character’s actions are actually in character; worry about your grammar. DON’T worry about which of your stylistic choices some potential future editor will use to reject you, and for the love of My Little Ponies don’t worry about trends. Trying to catching a trend is like trying to catch a falling knife—dangerous, foolhardy, and often ending in tears, usually yours.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay attention to what’s getting published; keeping an eye on what’s going on in your market is part of being a smart and savvy writer. But remember that every book you see hitting the shelves today was sold over a year ago, maybe two. Even if you do hit a trend, there’s no guarantee the world won’t be totally different by the time that book comes out. The only certainty you have is your own enthusiasm and love for your work. …

If your YA urban fantasy features fairies, vampires, and selkies and you decide halfway through that the vampires are over-complicating the plot, that is an appropriate time to ax the bloodsuckers. If you decide to cut them because you’re worried there are too many vampire books out right now, then you are betraying yourself, your dreams, and your art.

If you’re like pretty much every other author in the world, you became a writer because you had stories you wanted to tell. Those are your stories, and no one can tell them better than you can. So write your stories, and then edit your stories until you have something you can be proud of. Write the stories that excite you, stories you can’t wait to share with the world because they’re just so amazing. If you want to write Murder She Wrote in space with anime-style mecha driven by cats, go for it. Nothing is off limits unless you do it badly.

And if you must obsess over something, obsess over stuff like tension and pacing and creating believable characters. You know, the shit that matters. There are no writing police. This is your story, no one else’s. Tell it like you want to.

Rachel Aaron (via relatedworlds)

Yeah, so, this answers a lot of asks I get. It’s also why YW focuses on technique and style, and less on content and research.

(via clevergirlhelps)

(via clevergirlhelps)

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Here’s renowned self-defense instructor Kelly McCann talking about rage and it’s place in a fight. He also talks a little bit about legality and why jumping in fists swinging just isn’t a good idea.

When working with this in a writing context, it’s important to remember when you’re building characters to moderate their aggression. Combat is about control, controlling your opponent and keeping control of yourself. It’s important not to confuse guided rage with berserker, and also important not to confuse those things with “professional combatant”. No matter who they are, your characters are going to be working within the boundaries of some sort of legal system.

So, try not to go hog wild.


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cerebralzero asked: hey man just a quick correction on that black powder AK post. The powder strength is the opposite of what you posted. Smokeless powder is way hotter/more powerful than black powder.


Huh, I stand corrected. I get why I screwed it up too. My first hand experience with black powder was from a muzzle loader back when I was in Scouts. That thing had an insane kick, though I was also about 11 at the time. But, it’s an experience that’s stuck with me.


…and reblogging this to the right place.

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Anonymous asked: I'm not saying it's wrong to use Diamond, just that his theories aren't the end-all be-all of anthropology (as they're often treated by the media), do have unsavory implications, and aren't well supported within the discipline he's drawing from (he's not actually an anthropologist...). All reasons for judiciousness, in my view, or at least for supplementing him with other writers/theories.

Yeah, this I can completely agree with.

We tend to skim over how to do research when we’re making recommendations, but, some basic things to keep in mind.

First: always research the author before you start reading. This is for all kinds of reasons. You can usually start with their wiki bio, if they have one, or sometimes the bio in their book. Depending on who it is, that might be enough. In other cases, as with someone like Diamond, you’re going to have to go further afield and look at what people are saying about them.

You don’t need to know everything about the author, but you do need a baseline of who the are. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Second: take everything anyone says with a grain of salt. Everyone, and I mean everyone, including both you and me, has an agenda. When you’re reading someone’s work ask yourself why they wrote this. Why are the making the argument? Or, sometimes, in the case of fiction, what argument are they making?

This is why I told you to research the author before you started reading. It will help gauge their motives.

For example: how does your understanding of Jurassic Park change, when you know that Michael Crichton was an MD?

One of my first classes, the professor started by saying, “everything is political.” What she meant was your personal philosophy influences everything you do. The same is true for everyone else. Why did they write this story? Why did they write it this way? What are they trying to say to you?

In a similar note: be immediately suspicious of anyone who tells you, “no really, this very complex system is really quite simple.” If it was, it wouldn’t really be complex. The cause (or causes) may be, but the resulting social fractal is anything but.

Third: Look at what the critics said. This goes for both fiction and non-fiction. Though, for non-fiction you’ll often have to dig through trade journals for the book reviews. Look for what they noticed that you didn’t.

Seriously, you can learn a lot about how to put a story together from reading through the reviews Roger Ebert wrote. There are literally thousands of pages of him telling you what did or didn’t work in a story. Some of that strictly pertains to film, but go ahead and take a look, you will learn something.

Finally: What did other people in the field say in response. When I say, “this is a place to start,” I don’t mean this is all you need to look at. Look at the sources they’re using. Look at what other people say on the subject. Look for names that keep popping up in a field, and find out what they’re saying.

A quick aside, if you’re coming into a field from the outside, go through 10-15 articles on the subject, and look at the names the authors keep mentioning, then go find what those people wrote.

But, this also happens in fiction, and it leads to a really degenerate criticism. “It’s just a ripoff of my favorite thing.” That’s almost never true.

No, someone didn’t go out there and write a ripoff of Constantine with a teenage lovechild. They were responding to Hellblazer, or Supernatural, or The X-Files, or Watchmen, or Twilight, or Anne Rice, or whatever, and said, “no, what this really needs is X.” Because everything is better with Steven Williams.

I don’t think what Twilight needed was hardcore S&M torture porn, though, obviously, someone disagreed.

I don’t mean the author was automatically right. They might not have actually said anything interesting. But, ultimately, that’s a personal judgement you need to make on a case by case basis.

Very few creative people will be truly satisfied by just playing in someone else’s sandbox forever. When they go there, there’s usually a reason that has nothing to do with, “I just wanted to copy their success.” Try to find out what it is. When you start seeing similarities, immediately start looking the differences as well, and ask yourself, “what does this mean?” “What are they trying to say?”

Sometimes they’re just learning. But, other times, you’ll see things you never thought of.

Hopefully this will help some of you, when we’re tossing out recommendations in the future.


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Anonymous asked: I'm not sure if you should be invoking Jared Diamond as a good worldbuilding resource. A lot of anthropologists in particular really critique his work for ignoring recent anthropological scholarship and portraying things in too simplistic and deterministic a manner. The websites Savage Minds and Living Anthropologically have some really good round-ups of Diamond criticism. Might be worth investigating.

I’m assuming, when you say “recent anthropological scholarship” you’re not talking about Guns, Germs and Steel, given that the book was published in 1997. That might be a legitimate critique of Collapse, though, I’m not sure. It’s also possible that Diamond’s gone off his gourd since I got out of college.

So, for the uninitiated, this is kind of how academia works. Someone publishes a thing, and then everyone else dog piles on to tear it apart and look for it’s flaws. The more prominent the literature, the bigger the dog pile. The further it is from the field’s norm, the more savage the critiques.

If I’m completely honest, I actually tend to forget that Guns, Germs and Steel is supposed to be an anthropology text. To me, it’s always read more like a (sharp) criticism of Huntington’s civilizations model. Stopping just short of actually calling Huntington a racist by name.

And, as a result, I’m not surprised at all that Diamond drives mainstream anthropologists absolutely nuts. He’s taking the study of people, and then ignoring the role of people in social development.

That’s a big part of what Jason Antrosio (the author behind Living Anthropologically) seems to be taking issue with.

He does make a few good points, though. Diamond is prone to making sweeping generalizations. I’ll take it over something like Michael Walzer’s horrifying attention to minutiae, paragraphs that never stop, and pathological fear of footnotes. But, this is one of those, endless debates, between providing enough information without providing too much. As writers all of us should be familiar with that dilemma.

By definition, Guns, Germs and Steel is incredibly deterministic, which is one of Antrosio’s points. It’s a valid. Philosophically, the book is sort of saying that individuals are meaningless in the grand scheme of human development. That factors like the distribution of physical resources, actually shape a culture. But, I’m not sure I buy Antrosio’s claim that this somehow reveals a deep failing in Diamond’s work, especially given what the book was reacting to.

So, why am I recommending Diamond? Because he’s accessible.

For your writing, having a coherent world model you can build and tear apart is invaluable. Also, because of the deterministic qualities, it provides you with a racially agnostic system. Now, that probably doesn’t mesh with how you view the world, but when you’re building a world from scratch, it can be immensely useful.

If you’re never going into anthropology, the issues with his work probably won’t matter (though, obviously, that’s a point of debate). If you are, then you’ll have professors who will show you the error of your ways, they’re used to doing that. So, I’m still inclined to say Diamond’s a resource point, even if he isn’t perfect.


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Anonymous asked: I wonder if there would be any problems getting an AK type design to eat black powder rounds. Off the top of my head, the only major issue is barrel fouling.

At a guess? Black powder kicks harder than modern gunpowder, so, you’d need to use less. The fouling would be an issue, though, as tolerant as AKs are for abuse in general, I’d be inclined to think they might be able to handle it, if they were properly maintained. Obviously, that is a recipe for a fantastic barrel failure down the line if it just builds up.

From what I’ve been told intermittently, the Soviet era rounds that the AK was built to handle were pretty nasty to begin with. Though obviously, nothing on par with just loading the thing up with black powder, but this isn’t as completely implausible as it might sound.

If that isn’t an issue, the biggest problem might actually be the gun smoke obscuring the shooter’s vision.

Anyway, that’s off the top of my head, I’m probably not considering something.


EDIT: As someone has pointed out, I’ve actually got the black powder part backwards. This is the risk of going off the top of my head, once in a while, something will go slightly screwy.

So, instead we’re actually looking at sub-par ballistics in addition to the smoke, and possible for barrel failure. Also, the vague possibility that the round won’t push enough force to cycle the action.

Some of this can be compensated for by hot loading the rounds, but that’s solving one problem by creating another. I’m not sure if hot loading an AK round would require a shorter bullet in the cartridge, nor if hot loaded rounds would, in fact, be more prone to detonating in the action.

Either way, you would be adding more powder to the barrel which means faster fouling.

So… yeah… just this side of possible, but still problematic.

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