Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Fight the good fight . . .

I'm a gentle person -- until I get into a meeting. Years of battling with words for my department make me feisty, especially when I'm surrounded by folks who want my budget money.

But in a physical confrontation, although I once forced a cantankerous 6 footer to back down (he wanted to plant a facer on my mother), I'm a coward. More flight than fight. Most of the time.

Now, in the final edit of Standing Stones, one of my beta readers called me out on my fight scenes, saying, "You might want to work on this a little bit."

My first stop was to find some online writing advice. WriteWorld had a neat list of links under the heading of "How To Write a Fight Scene." I've begun reading and revising. Maybe within the next few days, I can post a the revision so you can see the results. Here's the "before."

Standing Stones:  Lord Gordon has ordered guards to evict crofters and fishermen from their rented cottages on his island in the Orkneys, Scotland, 1840s. Mac hosts a meeting to resist evictions at his fisherman's cottage. 


     The door to the cottage crashed open. Guards burst into the room, guns lifted over their heads as clubs.
     Freya screamed.
     “Hey, you. You can’t come in here,” Mac cried over the noise. “Get out. Get out!”
     The guards stepped on those who had been pushed to the floor.
     The men fought back. They roared and shouted and shoved. They threw furniture at the guards. Bruce fell into the hearth and howled as the smoldering peat scattered. The smoke grew thicker.
     One of the guards grabbed Dougal’s fiddle from the wall and shattered it over Sean’s head. The guards slammed the butts of their guns everywhere, blows landing on arms and backs.
     Colin went down first, his head smashed. Mac stood over him, his legs on either side of Colin’s body. “Ye bastards. Hitting a boy. Hit me. Hit me.”
     “Help,” screamed Jacob. “Help! They’re after Freya.” Two guards knocked him against the wall and he fell hard, groaning as his arm hit the floor.
     “Dougal,” yelled Mac, spotting his brother. “Get her out.” Mac fought on, but the guards swarmed him. They pinned him down on the dirt floor and began kicking him.
     Dougal picked Freya up and pushed toward the door, his way blocked by guards. “Out! Let me out,” he cried. He held Freya tightly in his arms, for she was screaming in his ears, her screams a part of the melee.
     “For God's sake, let me out,” he cried again. With a mighty push, he broke through the guards to the outside. He lay Freya down by the stacked peat in the side yard. “Stay here. I’ll be back.”
     Dougal raced back to the front door, now hanging by a hinge. He couldn't get in. He tripped on the bits of furniture that had been thrown out in the yard. Crofters and fishermen spilled into the yard, pushed out by the guards. The roof of the cottage blazed afire. The noise mounted as guards smashed furniture and tore at the stone walls with pikes.
     “Have you no shame,” cried Dougal. He ran back and forth in front of the house. “Let me back in. I just want to get our things out.”

"The Last of the Clan" by Thomas Faed (Wikipedia)


  1. Hi Beth. You have a very astute editor! I've never thought about how I'd write a fight scene, but I'm more flight than fight as well, and I don't have much if any experience to draw on. How on earth does one write beyond their experience? I guess that's part of the craft of writing good characters. I'll be interested in reading the revised version!

  2. You can't imagine how much I needed to read this, Beth. The fight scene, as you wrote this version, I would have happily enjoyed without comment, knowing I didn't know how to make it realistic...

    Thank you for the link.