Life Lessons for Writers – Two

An extract from  How To Start Writing A Book brought to you courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

If you tuned in expecting advice from Moons, you are out of luck this week. Instead, you’ve got me again, Jacintha Farquhar, hag of this parish.

All right you load of miserable excuses for human beings who fancy yourself the next Stephen King, pin back your lugholes and be prepared to learn. You are all very keen on writing epic battles and knights in shining armour and all that crap, but I’m willing to bet there isn’t a one of you has ever actually even seen a fight leave alone dirtied your precious pinkies by being involved in that most working class of pastimes that is a bloody good bundle.

Life Lessons for Writers – Two: Fisticuffs

Okay then. Here’s the deal. This week’s lesson is entitled fisticuffs and is intended to give you at least the vestige of an idea about what happens when adult human beings set out to beat the crap out of each other.
First things first. If you want to really understand your knights in shining and their trusty steeds, join a re-enactment society. Get your feet stomped on by something that feels like Mummy’s best le Creuset Marmite, crawl around in mud and snot and tears for a while, watch as the bloke on the horse breaks every bone in his body when he hits the ground from a height of seventeen hands. Then go rewrite your crappy medieval fight. Similarly, should you be romanticising the English Civil War, go join the Sealed Knot and enjoy the delights of a pre-dawn melee on a frozen moor. I’m sure those of you living in the colonies have something similar recreating your own local battles. Want an idea of modern or futuristic combat? Try laser-tag or go paintballing.
The more mundane sort of present-day scuffling is a little more problematic to become personally involved in. For two reasons.

One: there is the potential to get hurt quite badly (and should some middle-class twat turn up and randomly start throwing punches, everybody will forget their grievances with each other and unite to beat the living crap out of him or her).

Two: the real possibility of getting arrested exists.

For the above reasons I have chosen not to suggest you seek personal involvement. Instead, I’ll let you learn from my experience and debunk some of the popular and misguided myths that pepper the writing of the fight virgin.

  1. It is extremely difficult to knock somebody out with one punch. And should you manage to do so the chances of having inflicted serious and life-threatening injury are very high.
  2. It is almost impossible to punch someone and cause sufficient pain so that your opponent will admit defeat. This is because most people in fights are seriously impaired by drink or drugs and have had their pain threshold raised to somewhere in the stratosphere
  3. If you knock somebody down, don’t be thinking that makes them not dangerous. Nine times out of ten they will get up. Fucking furious. If you should ever manage to put an opponent on the floor the only sensible action is to leg it.
  4. Please do not ever think that any sense of chivalry can be found in a Saturday Night Special. When they are in the moment, men will hit, men, women, OAPs, cats, dogs, toddlers, their own mothers. You have been warned.
  5. Nobody. But nobody walks out of a mass punch-up with their hair/make-up immaculate and their clothes in apple pie order. It. Does. Not. Happen. Participants (even those accounted victorious) will be dirty, bruised, smeared with blood and mucus, and, in the case of the female of the species, inevitably missing one shoe (almost always the left).

So, there we have it Jacintha’s guide to the grim realities of physical combat. Read, learn, inwardly digest and get your fucking act together. Now you have no excuse to get it wrong so go and rewrite that last fight scene and leave me to my prosecco.

Jacintha Farquar, unfortunate mother of Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

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