Posted by: B Gourley | February 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter

Write The Fight RightWrite The Fight Right by Alan Baxter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page

[Note: This review has also been posted to Goodreads and my website.]

I was going to pan this for being the wrong book, but then I read through the blurb (and even the subtitle) and realized that it was largely my fault that I got the wrong book. Furthermore, I recognized that the information contained in this tiny e-book is good and that it’s packaged in a concise form. I, thus, concluded that this is the right book for someone—just not me nor many of you. I’ll, therefore, devote the bulk of this review to differentiating for whom the book will be beneficial and for whom it won’t. Because of the dearth of books on the topic I was interested in, I can imagine others erroneously purchasing this book and having (the albeit tiny) $2.50 worth of buyer’s remorse.

I purchased this book (and another one that returned on the search for “writing fight scenes”) because I’m rewriting a chapter in my novel in which fight scenes are prominent. I realized that there is a fine art to writing a good fight scene, and that I could use some help in being more effective at it. One needs fight scenes to have fast pacing and to be visceral. At the same time, one must avoid getting bogged down in detail even in the face of multiple attackers or unfamiliar and complex weaponry. This book won’t help you one iota in this regard, and, to be fair, it says in the blurb that the book will not help with one’s writing.

The book is about what it’s like to be in a fight and how to separate Hollywood myth and misconception from reality. As a long-time martial artist with both military and law enforcement training as well as an avid reader, there was nothing new or interesting in this book—though there wasn’t much I would disagree with either.

Three criteria for readership:
1.) You haven’t witnessed or experienced a fight (outside the choreography of the silver screen) since middle school. This book describes the experience and effects of fighting and what skilled fighters try to do in close-quarters combat. It aims to help writers purge theatrical nonsense from their fight scenes and inject some verisimilitude.

2.) Your fight scene is a standard 20th/21st century brawl. What is discussed is one-on-one fighting–unarmed or with weapons that one might see wielded today. One won’t gain insight useful in historical fiction, or anything that doesn’t echo today’s form of fighting.

3.) You don’t want to put a lot of time or effort into reading and / or researching the subject. The author does advise the reader to take martial arts or self-defense classes as a superior way to learn what he is trying to teach. What this book has going for it is that it’s only a 43 page (and a couple of dollar) investment. If one is interested in getting a much deeper understanding of the topics covered, I would recommend a combination of Lt. Col. David Grossman’s On Killing in conjunction with any number of full-length martial arts books (I’m reading Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do presently, and it’s certainly an excellent candidate.)

To summarize: this book is useful to teach one about realism in fight scenes, and not about structuring such scenes. There are only three examples (2 short and one long) in the book—none from what would be considered exemplary works. If you’ve taken a martial art or had military or law enforcement experience, there’s unlikely to be anything new or intriguing in this book. Even if you just watch MMA regularly and / or read about fighting or combat, there’s a good chance you won’t learn much.

However, if watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Rumble in the Bronx and say, “So that’s what a fight looks like,” you should definitely give this book a read.

View all my reviews


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