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How to Fight Write

@howtofightwrite / howtofightwrite.tumblr.com

A third degree Black Belt and an Eagle Scout share their tips to help authors create realistic fight scenes and characters.
Anonymous asked:

How much detail should go into a fight scene to make it vivid but not oversaturated with information? If the battle is between two trained fighters then should the descriptions be more quick and to the point since the fight would likely be quick? Or would it be better to focus on quick thoughts and strategies leading to the action? How does change with sparring practice or novice attackers?

The best way to think about fight scenes is that they are a cathartic end to prebuilt tension. That tension can be created in a few paragraphs, a couple of pages, possibly even a few chapters, but the fight itself (no matter how tense it is) translates to catharsis for your audience. You build to the scene, have the fight, release the tension, and then new tension seeps back in as a result of the characters dealing with the consequences.

Regardless of how you stylistically choose to approach fight scenes on a sentence by sentence level, it’s important to understand how the scene itself behaves in broad strokes so you’re not accidentally releasing your narrative’s tension out of order.

As for how to write fight scenes, there’s no right way to do it except practicing to find the tempo that works best for you and for your individual characters. Personally, I find that clear images and short visual descriptions work best for both experienced characters and for novices. One of the main differences isn’t just the speed at which the fight is ended, but the level of comfort and confidence a character expresses in their narration. (Knowledge of advanced strategy and tactics on the part of the author also helps, but, remember, what you don’t know can be learned.)

Here’s a short snippet I wrote for two characters in a practice duel. Aysun, a well-trained young woman but inexperienced and has never fought a live battle, versus Leah, an experienced swordswoman who grew up in a rough environment fighting for her life.

Blade lit, Aysun hurled herself across the chasm between pillars.
Leah grinned.
They met in the center.
Aysun rushed forward.
Leah sensed the rising arm, the flaming blade pointed straight into a thrust; Aysun ready to let forward momentum carry her strike to victory. She slowed as Aysun landed, pivoted onto a diagonal as the blazing sabre seared past into empty air. Blade up, she struck.
The sensor on Aysun’s chest glowed red.
A horn blared.
“Out!”

So, what does Aysun do wrong? In her overconfidence against an unknown opponent, Aysun rushes in. Rushing is a common tactic you’ll see in martial artists who’ve only ever fought in safe environments because they don’t worry about getting hurt. This is a novice mistake, but also one you’ll see from people who should know better. When I set out to write Aysun, I decided she’d fight via tournament rules. That’s what she knows.

Meanwhile, Leah, being experienced, takes advantage of Aysun’s mistake. She starts by running and looks to Aysun like she’s also rushing, but this is just to lure Aysun in. As they get closer, Leah incrementally slows her pace to allow herself more control over her own momentum. The problem with rushing is that if you close the distance too fast, you can’t stop in time and you run into your opponent. Leah doesn’t bother to block or parry Aysun, as it’d put her at risk of being on the receiving end of Aysun’s momentum. Instead, Leah steps out of line, allows Asyun to go past, and utilizes Aysun’s overextension to claim victory.

(We are, of course, missing the entire setup where Leah baited Aysun into this bout.)

One of the major differences you see between experts, intermediates, and novices isn’t the usage of advanced techniques, but adept use of very basic ones. They don’t game out a fight on the fly because that takes time, instead acting on prebuilt strategies and relying on trained reflexes. With advanced fighters who regularly see combat, they’re more miserly when it comes to showing the audience what they can really do. They’re aware of the exterior consequences that persist outside of the fight.

Some common personality traits of advanced characters versus novices:

Advanced:

  • Decisive - what it says on the tin. They’re unlikely to hesitate when given openings and go straight for the kill.
  • Explosive - they shift from resting into violence quickly and without hesitation when they decide the situation calls for it.
  • Selective - probably saw this fight and that one coming and will move early to avoid as necessary. Injuries mean you can’t fight when it matters.
  • Confident - confidence comes from experience. They know what they do, and they know they’re good at it. Can be mistaken for overconfidence until seen in action. More likely to talk shit pre-game. They know the value of psychological warfare. Some variants may get a kick out using this confidence to piss off their opponents so they fight angry.
  • Practical - experience leads to realistic expectations. Experienced characters don’t need to prove themselves and know to save themselves for when it matters, so baiting is harder. Most of the usual shit talk will wash off. Also, more likely to punch someone in the shoulder because punching with a now swelling bruise hurts and slows them down.
  • Brutality - not guaranteed, but not uncommon either. Here again, we have psychological warfare.
  • Fatality - unless you’re looking at a situation where killing is not allowed, they’ll lean into this if circumstances require it.
  • Sophisticated Bodily Knowledge - they know where all the major arteries, important nerve clusters, and internal organs are. (Yes, this includes knowing that stabbing someone in the armpit or groin can cause them to bleed out.) Also what hitting them does and what hitting them feels like. They’re going to be more pointed and technical with their strikes depending on what they want. More likely to break the human body down into joints and ligaments. Understands small damage leads to big results.
  • Sophisticated Psychological Knowledge - less experienced characters are not likely to surprise them because they’ve seen the same tactics before. Humans aren’t that unique. A clever idea to a novice is an old song for the experienced fighter, and one they’ve probably tried before. Fighting is more than technical, its pattern recognition, and being good at it requires understanding people on a behavioral level to predict them.
  • Room to Play - this is simultaneously a do and don’t which depends on how strict the character is. May play with a less experienced character or character with no experience if they believe they can get away with it. They know their limits. Not advised, but nobody’s perfect.
  • Spends Time Practicing - the more skilled a character is, the more rigorously they practice and the more time they devote to developing their skills. While some characters are inclined to rest on their laurels, truly advanced characters know their edge falls off without training and understand the ceiling is without limit. They’re dedicated to their skills.
  • Chains Techniques - unless you have a character fighting with a bladed weapon, and even when they do, they’re unlikely to be one and done. Blocks create openings for counters. One strike opens the door to another three and so on. (Lots of writers mistakenly try to ping pong fight scenes to draw them out. Combat isn’t turn based. If an opponent isn’t providing suitable resistance to slow them down, they won’t.)
  • Considers Long Term Consequences - familiarity with techniques means understanding what those techniques do, what the long term consequences are, and how long it takes to recover from them (if they can be recovered from at all.) The same goes for battle. Violence is escalation. Characters who solve problems with violence should face escalating problems further down the road as a result of their actions.

You might be thinking male characters, but this list is gender agnostic. It’s important as a writer not to buy into a skilled character’s bullshit. They’re working very hard to convince the world they’re invulnerable, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

Novices:

  • Optimistic - trends for a more romantic, rosier view of martial combat. Experience with the human condition hasn’t knocked it out of them yet.
  • Indecisive - for most people, it’s not easy to hurt another human being. To see their pain and suffering and to know you caused it. Novices are more likely to hesitate, more likely to ignore openings given if they don’t like the potential outcome, more likely to extend fights to their own detriment, and take hits they don’t have to. Less likely to seize the initiative and, if they do, not great at holding onto it against experienced opponents. They haven’t fully realized they can’t afford to be nice outside of safe, training settings.
  • More Tells - everyone has tells, but the less experienced a character is then the more obvious their tells are and the more they have. This can be everything between the way they stand to their techniques generally being larger in motion, more obvious in the early movements of the musculature, less energy efficient, and, comparatively, much slower than their experienced counterparts.
  • More Likely to Flinch - combat hurts coming and going. It hurts to receive hits, but it also hurts to hit someone. The closer you are to bone, the more it’s going to hurt. The harder you hit, the more return vibrations you receive. Beyond movement, these vibrations are what wears out your muscles in prolonged combat. (It only gets worse with weapons.) Proper technique diminishes some of these damaging returns, but not totally. Inexperienced characters will stop to go, “ow, that hurts.” You’ve probably seen characters on television shaking out their hand after hitting another character, that’s what this is. Pain. Inexperienced characters and novice characters are both less capable of pushing past the pain because their training hasn’t covered it or they don’t know to expect it.
  • Plays Around - there’s a point between novice and intermediate where someone’s learned enough to be dangerous (mostly to themselves)but not yet realized how little they actually know. This leads to overconfidence and overconfidence leads to playing around.
  • Less Advanced Body Knowledge - more likely to demonstrate less sophisticated knowledge of the human body, unlikely to break the body into pieces, and focus only on the major points like stomach, heart, head. Less focus on exterior limbs and joints, not a lot of thought given to pressure points outside the groin, less common arteries, or damaging musculature to debilitate. Might realize preemptive opening blow to the throat is good, but probably not thinking in those terms yet.
  • Less Advanced Psychological Knowledge - they don’t have the experience to pick up on the more subtle psychological games and are more likely to be baited. (If you’ve got an MC like this, it’s important to let them make their mistakes. Mistakes build experience and audience street cred.)
  • One and Done - most martial schools will train blocks and counters early, along with technique sets, but for true beginners chaining unfamiliar techniques won’t feel natural and there’s more likely to be gaps in their combat flow.
  • Easily Overwhelmed - much more likely to not understand what is going on or for the pacing of combat to fly out of their control.
  • Few Considerations For Long Term Consequences - novices have the luxury to be hot headed. They haven’t learned about the debilitations of long term injuries or even just the damages caused by small ones. They’re easier to write because they’re more likely to jump in with wild abandon, are met with more surprises, and have an easier growth trajectory for their character arc.

As a writer with no combat or limited martial experience, you’re more likely to start out thinking like a novice when structuring your scenes. While humans are very impressive creatures, it’s easy to overestimate what the body can fight through in comparison to damage received, especially against skilled opponents.

Ultimately, clarity and specificity in how you deliver the visual image combined with the sensation of the character’s combat can provide an entertaining fight scene. This is dependent on your writing, if you focus too much on technical details like sentence structure and not enough on the content and building up character’s decision making then the scene itself might fall completely flat.

Fight scenes are an extension of a greater whole. They’re the frosting on the cake, but the cake’s got to be tasty to begin with. Like martial combat in the real world, there’s no shortcuts, just a lot of hard work. Try, fail, reassess, try again. With practice, you’ll find your rhythm.

Michi

Anonymous asked:

This is probably not the right blog to ask, but I'm not sure where else: is there a way to write a convincing hitman? Any obvious do's or don't's?

Well, first off it's important to remember that most of the assassins you're familiar with from pop culture are pure fantasy. There's no real world analog for characters like John Wick, Leon (The Professional), Vincent (Collateral), or 47. They belong to a theoretical tier of professional assassins that (probably) don't exist.

I'm going off a 2014 article from The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, but unfortunately, it's been pay walled sometime in the last 8 years, so this is going to be mostly from memory. The authors classify assassins into four groups: Novices, Dilettantes, Journeymen, and Masters.

Novices are the amateur assassins and hitmen. These aren't really killers for hire, so much as just people who like the idea of getting paid for killing someone. When novice hitmen have ties to local criminal enterprises, it's really easy for police to identify them, because they generally don't travel to commit their crimes. Everyone in the (criminal) community, usually has a pretty good idea who the killer was, and no real interest in protecting them.

Novices who manage to pull off a couple contracts without getting caught graduate into Dilettantes. Again, not a lot to say here, these guys come from a mix of backgrounds. They're not really professionals, but they do commit the occasional killing for pay.

Journeymen are professionals. They may be ex-military, or they may simply be career criminals. As with Novices and Dilettantes, they're likely to stay close to home, which, in turn, makes them relatively easy to identify during criminal investigations. When you're looking at organized crime hitmen, they're likely to fall into one of these three categories. Street level soldiers who get tapped to carry out a killing are usually novices or dilettantes, a criminal enterprise might have some journeymen further up in the organization, at their disposal.

Masters might not exist. These guys have military, intelligence, or specialized backgrounds, they travel some distance to kill their targets, and then they disappear and head home. Here's the problem. All realistic investigation of professional assassins is based examining the failures (something, mentioned in the referenced article.) This means, if someone doesn't screw up, avoids detection, and escapes capture, we don't know anything about them. We only know about the assassins that are stopped or caught. So, let's look at those four fictional characters for a moment.

Wick is a pure fantasy character. He exists in a world with a massive conspiracy concealing a secret society of assassins, that are so well entrenched they mint their own currency. Keanu Reeves is worth watching (in the first film) for his movements, dude moves like someone with a serious combat background. The actual assassin component of the story is just thin connective tissue to tie one fight scene to the next. It's visual art and absolutely worth watching, but not because the writing makes sense.

Leon (Jean Reno, The Professional), is in the range of a journeyman. He operates exclusively in New York, and while it's not (completely) clear how he came to become a hitman, he illustrates some of the problems associated with staying in a specific geographic area. At the same time, not a terribly realistic character, and the idea that the more advanced you, the closer you get to your target is just goofy. It makes for some excellent film, but, if your job is to kill someone, you're not getting paid more to garrote them, than to put a round of .308 through their skull from two blocks away. In fact, you're probably getting paid much less, because your odds of getting out after things go sideways are almost nil.

Vincent (Tom Cruise, Collateral) is probably the most realistic prototype for a master on this list. Through the course of the film, we never get a lot of information about his background, but what little we know is that he travels. His preferred MO is to set someone up as a fall guy for his killings. He arrives in a city, receives his weapons, and intel on his targets, runs them down, and then gets out of town. He has some kind of military, possibly special forces, background. Given he's creating a reasonable cover for his activities, and given that he's getting in and out very quickly, it's plausible someone like that could exist. The most unrealistic element is just that he could carry out so many high profile killings in a single night, multiple times.

47 (David Bateson, also Timothy Olyphant and Rupert Friend, Hitman... all of them), is a bit of a nightmare scenario, but he illustrates something very interesting that has some theoretical realism to it. Now, for those who are unaware, 47 (sometimes Agent 47, or Codename 47), is the player character of the Hitman game series. (Olyphant and Friend played him in the film adaptations.) You can play the character as a complete psychopath, gunning down everyone in your path. There's not much realism in that approach. Beginning with the second game, the series started integrating a scoring system which prioritized killing as efficiently or creatively as possible. Now, creative kills were in the first game, but the only incentive was that they were often far easier than running and gunning. In it's current incarnation, the series has a strong emphasis on finding ways to eliminate targets in ways that appear accidental.

So, we have an assassin who specializes in getting in and out undetected, killing their targets in ways that appear accidental, and travels all over the world. Do you have any how hard it would be to prove someone like that existed?

Now, before I go on, I should point out, there's an inherent absurdity to the games. 47 is a 6'2” tall bald white dude with a bar code on his neck, and no one ever notices when suddenly the sushi chef gains six inches, loses his hair, changes ethnicity and happens to be the last person to be seen near the target who suddenly died of fugu poisoning. It's a running joke in the series that 47 can flawlessly blend into any crowd so long as he's wearing the right outfit.

At the same time, the hilarious thing about that joke is, it's real. When Tom Cruise was preparing to play Vincent in Collateral, something he did as personal prep was to disguise himself in a UPS uniform, and deliver packages in public. This included getting into an extended conversation with someone, without being recognized. This was in 2004, in Los Angeles, he was already a household name at this point. So, while Hitman turns the costumes swaps into a joke, there's a disturbing level of reality to that mechanic, if you look like you belong, people tend to assume you belong.

The original Hitman did have an interesting touch that the later games moved away from: You had to repurchase the weapons you wanted to take with you on each mission. So, there were no forensic ties between his guns from one killing and the next. There's a slight irony because the 1911s 47 carries are a semi-rare variant (AMT Hardballers, usually called Silverballers in game), so he's regularly discarding some fairly expensive, high-end, handguns. At the same time, he's getting paid enough to cover that, though, maybe, a slightly more common 1911 variant would probably be less conspicuous.

So, yeah, master assassins probably don't exist in the real world, and most of the assassins we know about tend to stay close to home, but if an assassin does travel, it would make identifying them significantly harder. Also, be instantly suspicious if your gardener suddenly turns into a 6'2” bald, white dude with a bar code on the back of his neck.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Why don't you just stop responding to the sexists who think women can't fight men???

Three reasons.

One is a little self serving, so let's start with that: Those posts do really well.

I'm not kidding; slapping around MRAs consistently land among our more popular posts. This has certainly been true of our recent posts, but it's a long term factor as well. In fact, Women are not Weaker than Men is the blog's most popular post by a huge margin, (it has somewhere around 24k-25k notes.) (Ironically, our most popular at this moment is the Kim Possible post from a couple weeks ago.)

Second, and this might be surprising, but sometimes they meet our criteria. So, I've talked about this before, but when I'm looking in the inbox, I generally evaluate a question based on it's general applicability, educational value, and its potential for entertainment.

With general applicability, I'm asking myself if the answer will be useful to other people. If the answer to this is no, it's very rare that I'll answer that question. The most common questions that run afoul of this are hyper-specific scenarios, questions about very specific fantasy or alien physiology (if you sent us an ask about your six limbed, arboreal, aliens, I'm sorry, that question is probably not happening.) Even in cases like this, I'll sometimes try to find ways to see if I can offer an answer that will be more broadly useful. Sometimes, you'll see questions where I veer off onto a tangent, or try to drag a larger context out of something, and this would usually be why.

With educational value, I'm asking if I can explain something that most people don't know. This will sometimes override applicability. I'll admit that sometimes I'm a bit too harsh on point, especially if it's something we've covered in the past. I don't want to get into a situation where I'm answering the same topics repeatedly, because I don't want to waste your time, though, thinking about it critically, there's probably a few of these where the answer is old enough that most of our audience didn't catch them the first time. The recent hair whip and knives questions are examples where I reasoned that the previous posts were old enough that fresh answers would be useful again.

The entertainment factor is basically self-explanatory. I don't usually set out with the goal of writing jokes, but if I see the opportunity...

Now, with a lot of these MRA posts, there's some real potential for entertainment right off the top. These tend to be poorly considered arguments, and as a result, tend to be really easy to shoot down. That, in turn, means I've got a lot of room to be particularly snarky, or to ramp the interest in some of the background information.

Third, you need to hear this.

Okay, in this case, it might not be you, per se. However, you need to hear this. It is depressingly common to see authors, even women, buy into the MRA's bullshit. Far too many accept the, “women can't fight,” lie as their truth.

This yields shitty writing.

Far too many authors, when writing their female characters, say, “but mine is different, she can fight.” These authors produce weaker characters, because they take painful, artificial, steps to keep their character from offending these misogynists.

When you step back and say, “my character is a girl, and she can fight because she has superpowers,” you are doing a disservice to your readers. You're perpetuating that myth and reinforcing it. For a new generation of girls, you're telling them that they can't fight, because of a lie you took as fact.

There is a purpose to standing up and saying, “this is wrong,” and detailing the multitude of ways that it simply doesn't mesh with objective reality, but here's one reason you should take with you: Participation.

Make no mistake, the goal of those misogynists is to diminish you, to push you to the side, and squelch your voice. Remember when that anon wrote, “One punch could end your life.” That's not an argument about the ability for men or women to function in combat, that is intended to be threatening. Joke's on them, I'm a guy. But, never forget, the people forwarding these arguments want you to sit down, shut up, and wait meekly, while they decide your life for you. And they intend to enforce this with violence, or threats of same.

Do you know what determines an individual's capacity for violence?

Socialization.

As a society, we lie to girls. We tell them they cannot fight. We tell them they shouldn't fight, and if that was applied agnostic of sex, that would be one thing. However, while we are telling girls to submit, we are teaching boys to be more aggressive. To engage in violence. We teach them to fight, and accept it as a legitimate arbiter of disputes (on the playground.)

So, when you see one of these misogynists, what you're really seeing is one of those scared little boys on the preschool playground, who has no way to exert control over their environment except through violence. Their body got larger, but they never grew up.

As an adult, they understand that violence has consequences, so they start with threats, and then transition into force.

So, do you know what determines an individual's capacity for violence?

Because socialization isn't permanent. It shapes how you look at the world, but your socialization is something you can control. This is a power you have over yourself. If you live in a world where you are exclusively told that you cannot fight, that you cannot defend yourself, that you must meekly wait for someone else to take your autonomy from you, you will believe that. So long as the only voices you hear speak that lie, you cannot change.

The difference between being able to fight, or not, is training. It's your willingness to use that training on another human being, versus your opponent's ability to do the same. It doesn't matter if you are a man, or a woman. What matters is, do you know how to reduce your opponent into 200lbs of rapidly decaying meat, and are you willing to do it to protect yourself?

Here's another lie you don't hear countered very often: “strength matters.” Humans, as a general rule, use a fraction of our physical strength. This is true for both men and women. Your muscles are literally strong enough to tear your own body apart. Your brain (not your mind, but your brain) limits how hard you push yourself, specifically to protect you from your own body. One side effect of adrenaline is that it becomes very easy to accidentally hurt yourself because you will override your body's own limiters. In case it's unclear, what I'm saying here is that, when threatened, it is quite possible to temporarily give yourself superhuman strength. Now, it will hurt in the morning, and I may be biased, but I think abused muscles, and even broken bones, are far more appealing than being autopsied.

So, why do I continue to speak out against these misogynists? Because they're full of shit. They can't tell me what to do. They can't tell you what to do. The only power they have over you is what you surrender to them.

I'm telling you: You can fight. It's not easy. It's a skill like any other, and it requires training. Just like any other skill you can have excellent teachers or poor ones. But, you can fight.

Humans are a scary species, and when provoked we are a lot harder to kill, and a lot more dangerous, than we appear. If you think that our sexual dimorphism is significant enough to change that, it's not. It's not even close.

You can fight.

And those misogynists can go fuck themselves.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

I was recently visiting the Archiginnasio of Bologna, home of the world's longest continuously operating anatomical theater, and also the birthplace of plastic surgery, apparently, which was invented to help all the noblemen getting their noses ruined in duels. So, I was wondering-- what other sorts of survivable injuries could you get from fencing? Could you tell that someone was a fencer from what scars they had?

So, this is a subject I'm a little shaky on. Starting sometime in the 19th century, fencing scars became fashionable among German and Austrian nobility. Fencing was a major academic sport in those countries, and, as a result, fencing scars, became socially attractive.

It's not really possible to distinguish between a fencing scar and a scar inflicted by a sword in combat. Some industrial injuries could also mimic the appearance of a fencing scar. That said, with a little context, it should be feasible to identify someone's scar as, “probably,” being from a fencing mishap.

A fencing scar showed that the individual was from the nation's elite (either as actual nobility, or that they were from a family with sufficient means to put their child through an advanced education.)

Specifically, the fencing scar was fashionable in Germany and Austria, the practice didn't catch on elsewhere in Europe, and these kinds of scars would effectively identify someone as having been educated in one of those nations.

Notably, most fencing scars would be on the face, there's a lot of visual diversity, but the overall style of scar is (mostly) recognizable. (You can image search, “dueling scar,” if you'd like visual examples.)

Dueling scars tend to be deep, smooth, cuts, often on the face. They may be straight, or have an arc to them. It's rare to see jagged patterns it's also rare to see fencing scars elsewhere on the body (for reasons I'll cover.) Ironically, the scar across the eye that you see on many characters may be designed to mimic a very risky fencing scar, where the blade tip missed the eye by millimeters (or, didn't, in cases where the character's eye is gone) Notably, these are frequently depicted across the right eye, which is more significant than it initially appears. In most cases I've seen, the scaring is on the left side of the face, which makes sense given they were inflicted by a right handed fencer. So, a scar on the right side of the face would be even more unusual.

There's two historical myths about the fencing scars that I can't really corroborate, so these could be false.

The first was the idea that some fraternities would carefully engineer practice bouts with the intention of consequentially inflicting a scar on one of its members.

The second was that some students would intentionally aggravate their fencing injuries to encourage scarring. Encouraging scarring is possible, so, the myth is plausible, but I can't find any confirmation.

Fencing is designed with the intention of being (relatively) safe, so most injuries you're likely to experience will be survivable, and won't even be particularly severe. The entire reason that these facial scars occurred was because of students deliberately fencing without face protection. (In case it was somehow unclear, you're not supposed to do that, so this entire fad was based on individuals not wearing their sport's safety equipment.)

The fraternities that originally popularized these scars still exist, as do larger intrafraternal organizations. (There's roughly 300 different fencing fraternities today.) However, the scars themselves fell out of favor during the early 20th century. I can't give a specific date or cause to this, though I suspect that stricter commitments to safety were a major factor in the decline of these kinds of injuries.

So, could you recognize a fencer by their scars? Probably, with some potential for error. More significantly, at the height of it's popularity, this was a kind of scar that would be recognizable to non-fencers, and to a certain extent, still is today. Fencing scars are still recognizable (and, still used in character visual design), even though most people don't realize, that's what those scars originally referenced.

-Starke

When fighting a beast(Boar, Bear, Lion, Wolf, ect.) with a weapon, do you stick to the manuscripts, techniques, and disciplines that teach you how to fight other humans? Or do you just improvise and/or adopt a new style of fighting?

Avatar

None of the above.

Hunting animals is an entirely distinct skill set and methodology from battlefield combat or dueling. In the case of boars, there was a separate kind of spear specifically designed for hunting them. The boar spear has a heavy cross guard designed to prevent the animal from migrating up the shaft and killing its wielder. That whole, bad ass moment when someone's been run through, but pulls themselves further down the blade? Yeah, boars will do that, and then kill you. In some cases, the animal will even survive the experience. Boars are not a joke.

I'm less familiar with the specific methodology for hunting boars, and what little I know about dealing with bears is from not wanting to kill it, and instead simply driving it off.

Wolves in Europe are an interesting topic, because they posed a threat human settlements. Even as late as the 18th century, there were still recorded instances of wolf packs killing multiple citizens. There's an infamous case in 1450 (I'm aware that Wikipedia dates this attack to 1439), where a pack of wolves reportedly killed forty clergy in Notre Dame Square, before escaping. They were later lured back into the square, trapped there, and picked off by a mix of bowmen, and thrown objects. While the Notre Dame killings are the most famous element of that story, the pack of wolves had been stalking Parisians for a few years by this point (that 1439 date is not completely wrong.) Most of these mass attacks (and this phenomena wasn't limited to Paris), tended to be late in particularly brutal winters (1449 to 1450 was one of these), which meant the wolves were starving, as were many of the people they preyed upon. (If you're interested in reading further on this, there's a lot of information on the “Courtaud” wolf attacks, and the full history is fascinating.)

There's also a story about German and Russian troops in The First World War, entering a temporary truce in the Vilnius-Minsk region (around the modern border between Lithuania and Belarus), to deal with an unusually aggressive, starving wolf population that was preying upon both side's soldiers.

Hunting wolves seems to have been a more ad hoc arrangement, finding ways to lure out, and eliminate the animals. Most of the wolf hunts that I find were either in cases where packs had become especially problematic, or with specific individuals.

As for hunting lions, I'm not familiar with that process at all. At least, not in a pre-modern context. I was under the impression that African lions weren't particularly prone to hunting humans, but, it appears I was mistaken. I'm seeing news articles as recently as last year talking about lion attacks on humans. Though, some of the interviews make this sound like it may be a modern side effect of the lions becoming acclimated to humans. With an estimated 20k remaining African Lions in the wild, and that number has been rapidly dropping, it's a bit of a messy situation.

There's an interesting side note in those news articles, one mentions that African shepherds used to carry (and may still carry) swords to deal with potential lion attacks. This is literally the only time I've ever seen someone mention using a sword to deal with a wild animal as the preferred weapon. This may relate to the specific circumstances where the shepherd is likely to encounter the lion, at relatively close ranges. Usually, the sword is undesirable, because it puts you in strike range of the animal, which is why I assume it's for close range encounters.

On a slightly more disturbing bent, there is a correlation between hunting animals and stalking and killing humans. Hunting most animals depends heavily on the hunter's ability to track the animal, predict and manipulate its behavior, and these techniques can be easily applied to tracking humans. Of course, humans are far more unpredictable, especially if they realize they're being tracked. Humans are harder to manipulate (though there plenty of examples of individuals setting traps by playing on “normal” human behavior.)

(I'm just going to add, when I say, “humans are harder to manipulate,” that could, absolutely, be self-delusion. I'm fully aware how easy it is to manipulate another person, especially with effectively baited traps, so I'm not completely sure we are more resistant to them than animals.)

So, a soldier will have a completely different skillset from a hunter. It's possible for someone to be both (for example, a soldier who learned to hunt before joining the military.) Scouts, and other irregular forces that operate away from the front lines. Maybe even ex-soldiers who've turned to banditry. However, the methods of hunting, are very different from fighting. Hunting humans can be applied even in military situations, just, not in open combat.

On that note, there is one hilarious historical footnote, where Australia attempted to go to war against the Emus in 1932. The Australians lost.

So, no, when you hunt an animal (human or not), that is entirely different from how you fight another human.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

There's also the robustly tested physics equationp=mvor momentum (p) is equal to mass (m) times velocity (v).Mean mass of a male population is reliably, and considerably higher than a female one, as is maximum velocity

So, first, a piece of advice, “equationp=mvor” is not a real physics equation, certainly not the F=MA one that you're trying to reference.

Now, do you understand how stupid citing this equation is in this situation?

First of all, F=MA, or P=MV, don't actually concern themselves with maximum velocity. If taken literally, “maximum velocity,” means a grain of sand striking with enough force to vaporize you. Since you can't vaporize people with your hands, I think it's safe to say your arms are moving a little bit slower.

“But, wait,” you cry, “girls are small!” And, you know what, that's true (sometimes.) The average weight of a woman in the US is ~167.6 lbs (this number is technically a little higher, because the data set I'm looking at is indexed by age.) In turn, the average male in the US weighs about 197.9lbs. But, there's a fatal problem with this thought process. You're not hitting people by leaping from passing buildings and slamming into them. You're (in theory) punching people. Now, this may be a shocking revelation, but your hand weighs a bit less than 200lbs. And by a bit less, I mean, on average about 1.2lbs. The average woman's hand weighs about 0.8 pounds. So, that sounds significant, right?

Well, not that much, actually. You see, when you sit down and start calculating something like F=MA, you're normally worried about calculating fairly chunky numbers, like that grain of sand example above, where if you try to solve for F when F=Mc... it doesn't matter, because c is goddamn infinite. (Technically, it's 3x10^8m/s, but the result is sufficiently extreme that, “infinite,” is close enough.)

So, what you've actually proven here... if a man steps off the curb in front of an uptown bus going 60mph, he will do more damage to it, than if a woman performed the same feat. Though, at that point, you're basically claiming you're an inferior fighter to such martial arts masters as, “a light pole,” “a slab of concrete,” “a mule deer,” and “an octogenarian oak tree.”

My money's on the mule deer.

While physics is important, we're talking about an object that weighs, on average, about 1lb, hitting another squishy sack of meat, traveling at about 15mph. But, there's a problem here, boxers frequently punch at speeds of up to 35mph. And if you remember the physics a moment ago, you'll remember that this is multiplied. Going off of simple raw kinetic force, that punch is going to be hitting over twice as hard. This eats the that .8lb vs 1.2lb average weight differential.

And it gets worse. Smaller martial artists and boxers find it much easier to reach even higher speeds. Small men and women, with a martial arts backgrounds have had strikes clocked at 45mph. At that point, they're basically tripling the force of their impact, before you try to account for their smaller hands, which still doesn't drag them below hitting with more than twice the force you can muster.

So how does this happen? Well, it's physics. It's easier to get a smaller object moving faster, than a larger one. F=MA, works both ways. The force you have to put in is related to the mass of the object and the desired speed. So, for a woman, it takes significantly less power to get their hand moving at speeds your muscles simply cannot match. Ironically, this is one place where smaller men do lose out, because, while their hands are smaller overall, they're still larger in relation to their body mass, than a woman's. (Each hand is ~0.65% of your weight if you're male, if you're female the average is ~0.5% So, if you have two 120lb fighters, with one being male and one being female, the woman's hands will be lighter than the man's. And, if their training is roughly equivalent, it's likely she'll still have an observable speed advantage.)

Also, in case anyone's wondering, the overall statistics for your arms exhibits similar sexual dimorphism; women's arms average about 5% of their total body, with men their average is about 5.7% of their total weight. (Those statistics are for each arm, so for women, about 10% of their total body weight is in their arms.)

Things get a little more interesting when you look at the legs, a larger portion of a woman's total weight is in her legs (~18.4%) versus men (16.7%). This creates a situation where the small man might have a marginal speed advantage for kicking.

There's something else I'm skimming over here, but it's important to remember when you try to dig out physics in combat: Fighting is not turn based. It's not like, “oh, the girl got to go first, but I'll hit her after her turn's over;” that never happens. A speed advantage frequently means you don't get to respond. You get hit, and then while you're trying to recover, you get hit again, and while you're trying to recover from that, you hit again. Until you are neutralized.

Any competent martial artist, with a practical background, will know how to neutralize you before you can figure out, “buh, wait, it's supposed to be my turn now.”

Now, physics does teach you something important in this situation, someone with a martial background (whether that's sports, recreational martial arts, or practical hand to hand training) will hit more than twice as hard as your untrained ass. That obliterates, your, “buh I'm bigger, I can hits harder,” margin. And as the cranial injuries stack up, and you start slipping out of consciousness, “but I'm bigger,” doesn't fucking matter.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

So my character uses a magical glove and a staff to fight. Would wearing the glove be cumbersome or a hinderance while wielding a weapon?

I don't know; are these magical gloves cumbersome or a hindrance?

You can use a staff in full armor. In fact, most pole-arms are a design evolution of staves. So, simply needing to wear gloves isn't going to interfere with one's ability to use a staff. Staves are one of the archetypal magic user's weapons, though it's not always consistent whether the staff is a magical focus, a martial weapon, or both. So, if there's a problem, it's not with the staff.

The glove is what I really can't assess in a vacuum. If it's just a basic fabric or leather glove, then, handling a staff with that isn't a problem at all. It may take a bit of getting used to, if the user is familiar with wielding their staff without a glove, and is expecting tactile feedback, but that's not a huge deal.

Even most armored gauntlets won't, meaningfully, interfere with using a staff. Remember, gauntlets are designed to allow the user to wield a weapon in their hand, and if they interfere with that, they're not doing their job.

So, how can this go wrong?

If the staff is actually a magical weapon in its own right, and the wielder needs to have direct skin contact with it to keep it enabled or charged, a glove would get in the way of that.

If the glove's role as a magical focus was somehow fragile. For example, if it requires precise powders arranged on the palm and then smudged into it, using a weapon in that hand could easily disrupt the designs. (Incidentally, this could also be an issue, without a glove, if your character uses body paint designs as their magical focus.) Delicate wires inlaid into the fabric that will fail if they're damaged would cause problems. Magitech lenses or crystals built into the palm of the glove would be a major issue, and could easily be broken in melee combat. Even just general wear and tear on the glove could cause serious problem in prolonged combat, and if that is serious enough to cause the glove to fail, it would make holding any melee weapon with that glove a serious problem. (Similar to the wear and tear, minor injuries could also be an issue with tattoos as magical foci.)

There's a lot of ways to put your thumb on the scale, if you want to block your character from using their magical glove in melee, but, if it's a fairly normal glove, beyond its role as a magical focus, there's nothing preventing using a staff while wearing it.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Can a character be really strong and not show large muscles? I've been playing a human barbarian D&D character, who has 19 strength at the moment and looks skinny with barely defined muscles. People laugh at me and say no way that guy is strong. GM shrugs and says it's fantasy. Am I doing something too unbelievable?

Not really, just a little weird.

Massive, clearly defined, muscles aren't, really, a sign of strength. Your muscles swell due to lactic acid. This is, incidentally, the same reason you feel sore after working out (if you're out of the habbit.) So, when you're looking at someone with huge, bulging muscles, more often than not, you're actually seeing swolen muscles that are being delibrately abused to produce that result. Who knew being swole was unhealthy?

Significant strength tends to result in bulk on the frame. You'll frequently see this with power lifters, where they're clearly muscled, but it's not the large, buldging, muscles of someone like Arnold.

So, is it realistic for someone with a STR score of 19 to be lanky? Not really. It's no more realistic than having them look like Schwarzenegger.

So, it's harder to track in 5e, but for reference, the normal attribute range for a human is 3-18. (Back in the day, you use to generate these values by rolling 3d6.) A score of 10 is average (which is why 9 and 10 don't have any modifiers.) This is a long way to say, 19 strength is borederline superhuman. Of course, starting in 4e, it's pretty possible to pump a human character's main attribute to 20 at character creation (this has always been possible for some racial picks, but humans didn't have access to innate stat modifiers until relatively recently.)

I'll admit, this is a personal bias, but when it comes to roleplaying game systems, I always find it really useful to, “ground,” the values of attributes to what they specifically mean. In some cases, this is as simple as attribute ranges having a descriptor, in others, knowing what the floor and ceiling are. While I'm fond of a few RPGs that have (basically) uncapped attributes, (mostly ARPGs; Grim Dawn comes to mind immediately), not being able to know what the attributes descriptively translate to on my character is kind of a turnoff.

This creates a situation with D&D, where there are grounded meanings for your attributes, but the explanations for them are (as far as I know) mostly restricted to fluff, these days. However, fluff is pretty important for establishing who your character is, or in this case, how they look.

It's also worth remembering, with D&D, that your strength attribute isn't just your character's physical strength. It's also an abstract assessment of their, “physical power,” (whatever that means, and yes, this is listed in addition to strength), and their athletic aptitude. This creates a somewhat counterintuitive situation, where if you were to roll up a long distance runner, they'd justify a high strength score, while also being very lean. I can't remember if it's D&D, or if this from another game (I know this was the case with the Star Trek CCG in the 90s), but I believe a character's aggressiveness is also a factor in their strength score. Meaning, legitimately, you could have a fairly scrawny character with the personality of a chihuahua, and justify a high strength score, even if they weren't particularly strong. D&D can be weird sometimes, and it's best just to roll with it.

Barbarians aren't really my jam, when it comes to rolling up characters. I tend to gravitate more towards sorcerers, bards, and rangers. If I was trying to come up with a physical description of a barbarian, I'd look at where they were from and choose according to that.

If they're coming from a desert environment, then I would tend towards the clearly defined musculature, not because they were abusing their muscles, but simply because of perennial dehydration. With this fading some if they moved towards a more temperate climate, though my suspicion would be, outside of a few exceptions, they'd probably still, habitually, ration their water far more tightly than they needed.

If they're coming from a cold environment, then I'd tend toward someone stocky, and even to an extent fat. Specifically because high-fat foods offer significant advantages for someone wandering in the wilderness, punching out monsters in permafrost. That fat would be an energy reserve that they carry with them wherever they went. This is a character that I would probably, explicitly describe, as being much faster than, “you'd,” expect, simply because it runs hard against expectations. It's also realistic, because fat can hide whatever physical conditioning you have.

I could see a barbarian coming from a nautical environment (perhaps an archipelago) being very lean and extremely athletic. I wouldn't go so far as to say they wouldn't look muscled, but more like a competitive swimmer. In that case, I could certainly see one that's lanky. I could also see the potential for characters to botch their wisdom checks, and thinking the character didn't have much in the way of muscles.

In a similar example, I could also see the potential for a barbarian from temperate mountains, who can spider monkey their way up a sheer cliff, and looks (again, to the untrained eye) like they're kinda lanky or scrawny, because their muscles are fairly compact.

For better or worse, most of the time barbarians are established as coming from outside of civilization, so, finding a background environment that would suit your character's appearance can go a long way towards explaining and justifying them.

Because, “it's my fantasy,” is enough to roll with something, but in a lot of cases, you can take that as your initial interest, and then step back and start asking yourself how someone would become that fantasy. This will make your characters feel more organic, and may help you expand that fantasy out, into something that's more compelling, even for you. The goal is to create a situation where the other players at the table don't question your fantasy, because it feels like part of a credible whole.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

This might be a little different than questions you usually get but do you have any advice on how writers should deal with innovative ideas/realism/information in our works vs the ethics of potential infohazzards? I feel like it can be a fine line between writing something compelling because it's grounded in realism (like you'd find in a political or technical type thriller) as to be actually possible and putting an idea out there that could genuinely cause harm if executed.

The simple answer requires accepting a very real truth, you are not responsible for what other people choose to do.

You’re not.

Yes, there’s a vast difference between imagining a scenario and executing that scenario in the real world. Yes, there’s always a chance that someone may take the information you provide and do harm to either themselves or others. What happens to your work after you put it out into the world for consumption is outside your control, but you’re also not responsible for what others choose to do with it. You inhibit your creativity and harm yourself trying.

“Ethics of infohazzards” is a psychological trap. It pompously takes the grandiose position of assuming that only you are in possession of this knowledge and therefore only you are responsible for it. Your ideas are dangerous and need to be controlled in case they inevitably cause harm. The trap is infohazzard ethics make writers feel good, like their ideas are important, even dangerous (maybe they are, maybe they aren’t) while simultaneously providing the easy out of not sharing those stories and ideas where they might not be as well-received. 

At the end of the day, these so-called ethics are just a complex form of ego stroking that bait writers into a comfortable, illusory feeling of control and allow them a feel-good reason to avoid the potential sting of rejection.

Since you can’t control what others do, there’s no point in worrying about it. So long as you, yourself, are trying to avoid actual harm (while remembering you can’t control what others take offense to) in your presentation of the real people or cultural groups in your novel, then you’ve done your due diligence. 

You can’t please everyone.

You can’t control anyone other than yourself.

You’re not the only one putting “dangerous” information out there. On the simple writing front, there are countless other authors (not to mention films) already doing the same thing. There’s no reason to hold yourself back or diminish your own chances over some imaginary person’s potential actions.

You’re not responsible for other people’s decisions. You are not driving them to do something. They would have done it with or without you. You don’t have that kind of power. In claiming, “I was inspired by” they are just trying to pass the blame for their own horrific actions onto you.

You can only do the best you can at writing your story and hope it has the impact you want.

Forget about infohazzards. That’s the best advice I have.

Michi

Anonymous asked:

I've got a protagonist and an antagonist who are part of small rival kingdoms with their own armies. Guns and other such items don't exist (and I have a plausible explanation). They want to kill each other. How can I allow them to enter in combat with each other multiple times and have both of them walk away alive and able to fight another day (even if it takes a few months of recuperation) and still make it realistic? They're both trained in combat, one uses a spear and the other uses a sword. I need to keep them alive for Plot but also need them to fight for Plot and I don't know how to write them realistically fighting without dying. Also there's magic involved so healing is slightly less of a problem but necromancy doesn't exist.

So, something useful to remember about most feudal societies: There are much larger pressures acting upon the individual participants. You could have two kingdoms who want to eradicate one another, but, aren't able to because it would result in fatal reprisals from other powers.

Narratively, stories like this tend to operate in a bipolar structure (in this case, bipolar literally means that there are two relevant powers, your protagonist's faction or alliance, and those who they're arrayed against.) However, in many historical cases like this, there would be a wide array of other competing states (or kingdoms, if you prefer.)

The entire system maintained (relative) stability, because any aggressive action by one participant would leave them weakened and vulnerable to other nearby powers. In European history, this stability was further, “encouraged,” by the Roman Catholic church, whose scribes were often responsible for reading and writing the diplomatic missives sent between lords, with those communications not always, completely reflecting the original intent of their illiterate kings.

So, while full mobilization against a rival kingdom is an option, it's a very dangerous one, even if your king feels they're in a relatively strong position with their other neighbors.

And then they want to kill each other. This is pretty reasonable. However, it's very dangerous for your character.

There a lot of social structures in Medieval Europe were designed to keep anyone from killing the nobility. A bit part of that is the risk of reprisal from your neighbors, or a larger power. Defeating a hostile king on the battlefield would often see them captured and ransomed back to their relatives (or in some cases, simply held hostage for years because their relatives were happy with their new throne, and didn't want to cough up the cash to recover their lost lord.)

If your king wants to kill their rival, they're going to need a very good cover for that slaying, or they'll be branded as a kingslayer, and may face serious consequences, up to and including the loss of their title, excommunication, or a coalition of the dead king's relatives coming for them, with the assistance of other kings who aren't eager to be the next name on your character's hypothetical climb to the top.

Also, again, if we're using Medieval Europe, there are a lot relatives spread around. The nobility in Europe mingled and intermarried, creating a fairly complex web of different blood relations. So, while your character's rival may not have any relatives at home, it's quite possible that he'd have siblings and cousins in dozens of other nearby kingdoms, and potentially even be a blood relation of your characters as well.

There are exceptions to this, such as if they're a non-royal usurper, but in that case, they wouldn't have any protections, and your character would probably have a pretty easy time forming an impromptu alliance to stomp them out, before “restoring” someone with a legitimate claim to that throne. In that case, if their rival really was a peasant usurper, your character could probably get away with executing them on the battlefield with little fanfare. However, if they're actual nobility, even if their claim is shaky, that kind of a killing could have serious consequences.

So, the short version is, your character probably can't politically afford to kill their rival. It really is that simple, and they'd need to find a way to politically insulate themselves against the consequences, or make sure that their rival's death in battle looked like a normal casualty, and not a directed murder.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

How feasible would a double-sided spear be as a weapon? As in a spear with a spearhead on both ends.

Double-sided spears probably exist and I’m too lazy to look up variations because this definitely sounds like an experimental weapon someone at some point in history tried, but the main reason they don’t get used much or never caught on is two-fold.

  1. Historically, the spear was primarily used as an infantry weapon so potentially stabbing your fellow soldier behind you isn’t great and limits the weapon’s use.
  2. You would be limited to wielding the spear from the weapon’s center and unable to maximize your reach and leverage by holding it from the back end. This is important because it removes the spear’s advantage in one on one melee against shorter weapons.

Ironically, you give up more than you gain by putting a blade on both ends. You don’t need pointy ends on both sides to achieve maximum damage when blunt force trauma works just fine. The spear’s flexibility is what makes it such an attractive weapon.

Now, if you want to go full Darth Maul, give up the reach advantage and the potential battlefield use for a flexible solo-combat weapon that can attack with two ends while only being wielded off the balance point at the middle, then sure. If you’ve decided to move that direction, you’ll want a weapon that’s more halberd or naginata, a curved blade rather than spear. One that will likely be shorter in length than the average spear as well. The reason is that you gain greater rotation off the staff’s central balance point, and that lends itself to a fighting style built from angular cuts rather than forward thrusts. Quick strikes on off angles that are difficult (but not impossible) to counter. Heavier ends increase momentum, leading to more powerful strikes not unlike a greataxe, which are not strikes your opponent will want to block. Spinning the weapon in a figure-eight pattern and keeping it in constant motion would be vital to the success of this fighting style, which again locks you into a very specialized form of combat that’s not great for general use. It would, admittedly, probably look very cool in action.

Just remember, looks aren’t everything. More importantly, writing is not a visual medium. If you’re planning to write rather than draw or choreograph live action fight scenes for this weapon, you’ll need a solid grasp of staff combat in order to get a visual feel or the sensation of it onto the page. You’ll also need it to understand the weapon’s applications and uses to build a convincing illusion.

Regardless of what you choose to call this staff weapon, it isn’t a spear. It will not function like a spear outside of minimal similarities. It cannot be used like a spear or fulfill the same combat role. It isn’t a replacement for the spear nor will it act like a slightly enhanced spear. Like so many other longarms in this family, it is its own weapon with its own specialized uses and strengths. What those specialized uses and strengths are will be up to you to establish and convey to your audience. 

Inventing your own weapons means you give up the luxury of cheating off history’s notes and other established martial styles. That’s the trade off. You might be able to cheat off other more recent media though, so look around. You wouldn’t be the first person to look at this concept and go, “that’d be really cool.” (Just make sure you’re doing your research and not inventing a weapon that already exists because you didn’t cast a wide enough net and then use it badly like some other authors.)

The important thing here is not to embrace arrogance and assume that any idea you have hasn’t already been considered by someone else. The history of martial combat is a vast exploration of weapon styles and evolutions, some remained dominant because they worked. Others faded because they didn’t, or did for a time before being overtaken by new inventions. There’s a lot out there to dig through.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your idea or that the concept is necessarily a bad one, just that in your quest to create the ultimate weapon to give your character an advantage, you should ask: if not, why not?

Weapon styles to review should you be interested in developing a fighting style for this thing: basic staff techniques (you need to know how a weapon functions and moves without blades before you give it blades), shaolin or wushu staff martial arts for maximum spinning, the claymore, possibly the halberd, and the naginata.

-Michi

Anonymous asked:

Grown ass people don’t understand the physical disparity between men and women. One punch could end your life. A woman cannot do hand to hand combat with a man

Anonymous asked:

How feasible would it be for a character to have a hair whip, as in a long braid with something like a morningstar at the end? There's def some leeway on my end where I could go "their spine is magically augmented to keep this from Literally Killing Them and causing brain damage" but I'd love a more informed opinion on it

I'm going to go with, “no.” “How feasible?” “No.”

The strain on the spine is something I'd worry about, though that's a relatively minor concern. The first three things that come to mind are:

How do you sit down? This is a situation where if your character is knocked on their back, there's a real chance their weapon would end up between them and their spine. Landing on a morning star does not sound like a good time, even if they're wearing armor. Especially if this happens after they're knocked off a horse, a roof, a table, or basically anything else above floor level.

Second, if their weapon gets stuck, or an enemy catches their hair, their foe now has (limited) control over their head. This is a very bad thing.

Third, they need to break eye contact to attack, and because they're whipping their head around, it's going to leave them vulnerable for an extended period where they cannot watch what their foe is doing.

The more I think about this, the more problems I start to see.

If their hair-flail is ever cut, that's it, they'd need to grow out their hair before they could use it again. This is a limitation for a lot of biological weapons.

Of course, actually hanging and swinging heavy objects from your hair would be somewhat unpleasant. It's likely to not be as bad as having your hair pulled, since the flail would probably be mounted on a tight braid or ponytail, but it would still be jerking your scalp around.

It's also worth remembering that, in order to do this, your character would need to have very long hair. Probably, at least, waist length, if not longer.

I'm honestly not sure how great the risk of a self-inflicted concussion would be from using this. Because hair doesn't really transmit the shock of impact back to the scalp.

Since you brought up magic, there are characters who use their enchanted hair as a weapon (I'm failing to remember any specific examples off-hand, but the motif does exist.) In that case, the hair is often semi-autonomous, striking and reacting under its own power. It's a peculiar bit of fantasy, but it's an option, and it can bypass some of the issues I mentioned above. Critically that the hair will be much harder to capture, as it remains active, and may even restrain someone dumb enough to try to grab it. It won't force the character to look away from their foe as they whip their head around to generate momentum, and, ironically, it would be easier to avoid sitting or falling on their hair if they have fine control over it.

Generally speaking, weaving weapons into your hair is a pretty bad idea, with the specific exception of using your hair to conceal weapons. That's a slightly weird concept, but, things like a stiletto disguised as a hairpin, is a legitimate, potential, assassination tool. (Somewhat awkwardly, stiletto hairpins are a real hairpin style, and not a weapon, so it's a little harder to assess the the history, but any sturdy hairpin can be used as a weapon if needed, so I'm fairly confident in saying a character could credibly have a hairpin intended as a disposable assassination tool.)

As for something larger, you'd be playing for unrealistic absurdity, which may align with your goals. For example: A character who casually whips a katana out of her hair, would be pretty goofy, but it would solidly establish the kind of story you'd be trying to tell.

Also, it's probably important for me to point out, if you're going toward the fantastic end of the spectrum, this is a fantasy that works better in visual media, so comics, games, animation, and film. It can be done in prose, but it will be considerably more difficult.

So, like I said at the beginning: “How feasible?” “No.” This is a specific kind of fantasy that really only works if you commit to the extreme. Trying to make it, “grounded,” or dial back the insanity, is very likely to be underwhelming. I guess an alternate answer would be, “How feasible?” “Only if you go big.”

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Do you know any weapons that are easy to wield one-handed or sitting down? It's for a character with a cane, she has a disability that hobbles her movement. Currently the only thing I can think of is a gun, but I kinda want to get away from them right now. Is there anything good or is a gun the only choice?

The movement restriction is a huge problem, this will even get in the way of her using a firearm.

The issue is that movement is a critical component of combat. If your weapon, literally, cannot reach your opponent, you have no way to attack them. If they can attack you, and you cannot reciprocate, you will lose. Given one of the options was a handgun, it's reasonable to assume these are fights where losing will result in her death.

Worth remembering, she may still be incredibly dangerous. To carry on a theme from the previous post, a character with serious mobility issues could still shank someone without warning. If she's planting a knife in someone's throat, or running it into the base of their skull, before they know she's hostile, their relative mobility isn't a practical advantage.

The problem with firearms is twofold.

Unless we're talking about some hypothetical future-gun, she'll eventually need to reload it, which requires both hands. It's certainly something she can do, but may require she stabilize herself first, probably by leaning against a wall, or something similarly sturdy. Ideally, something her foes couldn't get through. (This depends on exactly how her mobility affects her. If she can stand unaided, she may be able to put her cane in the crook of her arm while reloading.

If her firearms options are smooth bore musket pistols, things are going to get a lot more complicated. She won't be able to reload without solid cover, and her best option may be to carry multiple ready to fire pistols. (This was a somewhat unusual practice, but did appear in history. One of the most famous examples was the pirate captain Edward “Blackbeard” Teach, who carried six loaded pistols when going into battle. Six would be a bit extreme, though a second pistol would be quite reasonable.)

The second problem is that she has limited ability to adjust her position, and limited options for concealment. She won't be able to duck behind concealment, or run to get to safety from unexpected gunfire.

Worse, and this may not be a factor, but personal experience dealing with my own leg injuries, walking on the impaired limb is far more physically exhausting than on a healthy one. The chronic pain, quite literally, wears you out.

So, in the interests of writing what you know, when approaching a character with a physical impairment like this, it's important to remember this is someone who is needs to expend significantly more energy to cross the room, than you'd experience. This can result in someone who is perpetually worn out, but it can just as easily result in someone who hides a frighting amount of willpower, and has absolutely zero time for anyone else's shit when she's starting to run ragged. These aren't, necessarily binary states, and you have a character who could easily transition into someone borderline unrecognizable when she's had to engage in significant physical activity.

This is also a situation where you'll see severe diminishing returns depending on how much violence they engage in. If she's regularly getting into gunfights, it's likely to strain credibility, and the audience will become desensitized to her shooting (or stabbing) people, however, if she hauls off and executes (or assassinates) someone with little to no warning, that has the potential to be far more impactful. Given her injury, she'd be very likely to try to ensure that she has people around her who she can use to engage in violence for her, if this is a regular part of her work. Potentially even to the point that the audience may forget that she is personally dangerous, so that when she does haul off and shoot someone, it's (at least potentially) startling. This can fit neatly into a structure where her foe has removed her allies with the intention of taking her out while she's vulnerable, only for her to drive a purloined letter opener through their eye socket.

An approach that may work for you, when staging out this character would be to maintain a kind of inverse rule of three. You have, at most, three opportunities for your character to get violent, or cue your audience in that the character is violent, before the audience accepts that as a part of their identity. This means, you want to avoid that third incident, if possible, or accept that it will carry significantly less weight than the second time. This could be structured as an unusually graphic threat of violence (possibly by someone else) earlier in the story, a single explosive outburst of violence, and a final, less intense, instance during the climax. (In the context of the rule of three, you're explicitly skipping the second stage of confirmation your character warns someone that she's violent, but never reinforces that, she simply goes for the kill, or using violence as your reinforcement. You can also bury an establishment and reinforcement, by downplaying the severity of what she's about to do, while still maintaining a traditional rule of three structure, warning your audience that, “no, really, she's going to do something utterly horrifying,” but not giving them the tools to appreciate how hard she'll go.)

Somewhat obviously, this is your character, and you can do what you want with them, but you'd probably benefit from carefully rationing out their acts of violence to preserve the amount of weight they carry with the audience. Also, this is a character who has to pay (physically) for everything they do, they can't afford to screw around, if they're willing to kill, they'll do whatever it takes to end a fight before it starts because they can't afford to get into a war of attrition.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

I noticed that a lot of your questions deal with how fast you can kill a person, but if you're in the middle of a fight, it seems like the more salient question is with what speed you can disable your attacker so that they stop attacking you. So...if you were armed with some kind of blade, you really knew what you were doing, and you were the one to attack first, how long would that take? Seconds? Minutes? Thanks!

Fractions of a second. We've said it before, but knives really excel as ambush weapons. Their size makes them easy to conceal, but also allows for speed. In the hands of the skilled, knives are frighteningly lethal.

The ability for a knife fighter to, “go first,” means there is no fight. In fact, a practiced knife fighter can reliably end their target before their opponent has even realized something is amiss (assuming the knife fighter didn't, accidentally, tip them off beforehand.)

From an anatomy standpoint, there are so many places you can put a knife that will result in a lethal bleed. In most cases, the victim will have time to realize what's happened after the fact, but they'll already be mortally wounded.

Knife combat gets a bit more complicated against an aware opponent. Even then, we're talking about a fight that will last seconds at most. Knife wounds have a cumulative effect on the victim, and it's very difficult (unless you're wearing armor) to avoid taking stray cuts while defending against a blade. There are ways to neutralize and potentially capture your opponent's blade, but this is some really advanced stuff. In most circumstances, it won't apply.

If you know your anatomy, and know how to use a knife, they are very efficient tools for dropping someone.

Now, on the question of how long it will take them to bleed to death, that can easily stretch into the minutes, especially with, “less vital,” strikes. It will vary based on exactly what the knife damaged. But, they're likely already neutralized by that point, and in no condition to continue fighting. If eliminating the victim in a shorter time frame is really that critical, the knife fighter can follow up with an additional strike.

Also, worth knowing the repeated flurry of strikes, (IE: someone getting stabbed 20 or 30 times) isn't going to be the product of a professional. That's more in the range of someone who's very, “emotionally engaged,” with what they're doing, or doesn't know what they're doing and is hoping to hit something important on the way through. Unfortunately for the victim, this kind of mass hit pattern does tend to yield pretty decent results. Even if none of the strikes are individually fatal, the sheer volume tends to result in fatal blood loss.

That said, if someone doesn't know their A&P, stab wounds tend to be pretty survivable. You've got a better than 90% chance of surviving if you're stabbed by an idiot, and are able to get medical attention. So, while talking up knives a minute ago, it is important to remember that this is only in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing.

The short version of your question is, less than a second; knife fights are stupid fast.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Will you be updating your non-tumblr site anymore? The last post was back in April.

Somewhat frustratingly, (and for fairly obvious reasons), it never made it to the website, because I'm still getting errors when I try to schedule posts over there. (And, I did try to schedule that post on Wordpress.)

The very short version is, something about GoDaddy's Wordpress Managed Hosting broke, it doesn't happen on the staging version of the site, it doesn't happen when Customer Support tries to run the site on their hardware and check, it only happens on the live site. It's extremely frustrating, and probably an issue with the physical hardware the site's hosted on, but Customer Support has been less than helpful on the subject. (Specifically, the system that broke is one that they claim isn't used by managed hosting... even though that's a fundamental element to how wordpress servers work.)

For an off-Tumblr site, we have been posting to Patreon reliably since the Wordpress site finally stopped accepting posts, which also means that Patrons are now getting Q&A posts 3 days early, (before it was ~24 hours via Discord.) Once those 3 days are up, it's visible to everyone over there. (The biggest issue is simply that there isn't a unified search option between posts on the website, and posts on Patreon. And, we are still working on trying to get the Wordpress site operational again, but at the moment, I can't estimate when that will happen.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

How effective would snow be as a makeshift rifle suppressor, i.e; If a person were taking their shots with the barel in a snowdrift or packed snow in front of it? The climax of my story involves a character providing cover with a hunting rifle during a winter night and I wasn't sure how much/if it might help deaden the sound and muzzle flash or what effect it would have on the bullet's penetration/trajectory/etc (if any).

Completely ineffective. It would also raise questions about how she'd be able to effectively sight her targets.

So, you have two problems with this plan. First, supressing a gunshot requires trapping the escaping gasses. The actual sound you hear is the powder burning off, so, you need to keep that contained. Rigging up an improvised supressor is possible, for someone with the technical knowhow, and enough raw parts.

There is an, “action movie,” improvised suppressor that drives me up a wall, but actually works. If you have the tools to get a solid seal around the barrel, a plastic bottle does make a functional, single use, suppressor. Importantly, it's still going to make a lot of noise, but it will dramatically reduce the sound of the initial gunshot. Any follow-up shots will be at full volume; stripping and replacing the bottle is probably too complicated to do while providing cover, so this is a one shot trick. It also won't hide that that the targets are getting shot at, but it will make identifying the source of that first shot much trickier. It's also worth remembering that there's a pretty decent chance the bottle will obstruct the sights (or optics), so it is a valid solution, but it has some serious drawbacks.

The second problem you have is your ammunition. With a handful of (exotic) exceptions, rifle rounds are hypersonic. That means they travel above 343m/s, which means they make a tiny sonic boom as they travel. This is the characteristic crack of a rifle round (and many pistol rounds.) The only way to avoid this is by using subsonic ammunition. The ballistics on subsonic ammo tends to be pretty terrible. You don't want to fire this stuff if you don't absolutely have to.

There two very notable subsonic rounds. The first is .45 ACP. A lot of standard .45 ACP has muzzle velocities around 250m/s, which means it lacks that unsupressible crack. The other round is 9x39mm. This is a Russian round designed for a small selection of rifles intended for covert operations. The AS Val, and VSS Vintorez. Since it's introduction, it has also seen use in a few unsupressed firearms. The OTs-14 Groza (Thunderstorm), and the SR3m Vikhr. The cartridge has a muzzle velocity just under 300m/s, and the basic idea was, if you have to reduce the velocity, you can just increase the mass of the bullet. The AS Val and Vintorez were both late-Soviet designs, and while the cartridge is unusual, it is a noteworthy example of a round designed around the speed of sound.

The snow drift would hide the muzzle flash (to some degree), and that's the only thing it would be good for, but this comes with other problems. If you're hiding behind something and shooting through it, you can't see to shoot accurately through it. Unless the hunting rifle is something truly unual, (like an MAS .223), the scope is going to be pretty close in line with the barrel. (Before you get too excited by that example, a MAS .223 sold at auction in September 2019 for $28,750, and another example sold at auction last year for over $40k. This is an extremely rare, and expensive firearm.)

Shooting through a snow drift (or, really, anything else) also has the risk of hitting something inside the drift. This depends on how well your character knows what should be there, but it would be a pretty horrible way to discover the drift is concealing a concrete traffic barrier, or something similar.

Unfortunately, the snow drift is almost certainly concealing snow within. This is the biggest problem with this plan. Snow is surprisingly good at stopping bullets. This should be expected when you consider that water is one of the preferred mediums for stopping bullets in forensic examinations. Trying to put a bullet through a meter of snow is likely enough to stop it. As in, the bullet never comes out, or is already tumbling with very little remaining inertia. If you try to shoot through a snow drift, you're not going to hit your target on the other side. Even just 30cm of snow is enough to destabilize and significantly slow your round. (That number depends on a lot of factors, primarily the bullet used.) This will have the unintentional side effect of dragging your round below the sound barrier, but the cost is that you can't intentionally hit anything with it. It's already going to be tumbling and end up wherever it feels like.

The best option with a situation like this would be for your sniper to find someplace they're relatively concealed, and then be careful with their shots. The ideal approach would be to keep moving, repositioning after each shot, though that might not be an option. They might conceal themselves in the snowdrift, with their rifle and scope peeking out. It's not going to do anything about the gunshot, but it will make them harder to spot before the bullets start flying. And, while the snow wouldn't completely protect from incomming fire, if they took cover behind it, it would give them better odds against getting hit fatally. A full meter of snow would stop most rounds from getting through.

So, yeah, there are options here, just not the ones you were thinking of.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Can I ask about how effective substitute bulletproof stuff would be? Anything on or carried by the person (flask, book, vase, etc) that might soften the impact. I've seen this multiple times in fiction but I have no idea how much is exaggeration, especially when type of bullet/distance is a factor. How about injuries from shattered objects? What I read before, the vase shattered and thus wasn't shot but ended up with multiple cuts from the shards.

So, there's an element of truth to stories about someone's bible or cigarette lighter stopping a bullet, but there's a very specific context to them.

The short version is, not all bullets are created equal. There is a world of difference between a .22 and 12.7x108mm. And, in the latter case, there is no body armor in the world that will protect you from the hit.

The NIJ classifies body armor with a Roman numeric system, going from Level I, to Level IV, with several “a” classifications mixed in. Examples of Level I body armor are primarily antiques. These won't stop modern bullets at all. In fact, the official documentation from the NIJ no longer lists cartridges that can be used to test Level I class vests.

Level IIa body armor is rated for light pistol hits. It's tested using 9mm and .40 cartridges. (If you dig into the official documentation, it will list the exact cartridges used, down to grain and muzzle velocity.)

Full Level II vests are rated for most modern handgun rounds. They're tested with 9mm at significantly higher speeds (this approximates being shot at very close range with a 9mm rather than being hit at medium range.) They're also tested with .357 Magnum.

Level IIIa vests are tested with .357 SIG, and .44 Magnum. Realistically, outside of something exotic, like the FN Five-Seven, this will stop handgun rounds.

The jump from Level IIIa to Level III is pretty significant. The armor more than doubles in thickness (in most cases), and is rated for rifle fire. Level III armor is tested with 7.62mm NATO, so this will stop bullets from most assault rifles.

Level IV armor is rated against armor piercing cartridges. It's tested using, “.30 caliber armor piercing (AP) bullets,” which, ironically would include 7.62mm AP rounds, but in this case the NIJ specifically tests with .30-06 AP cartridges.

There is also, technically, a “special type,” armor classification. What this actually means is that a federal agency needed an armor type rated to deal with a specific cartridge, and then had armor tested against that cartridge.

Finally, there are + ratings (ex, Level IIa+, or Level III+), but these are not official designations, they're more akin manufacturer advertising.

There is nothing above Level IV, and there is no IVa.

Incidentally, what the NIJ is doing, is actual, “bulletproofing.” The term, “bulletproof,” if often slightly misused. The technical term for the armor would be, “bullet resistant.” “Bulletproofing,” is the act of verifying that armor is resistant. (Which is to say, pumping a round into it, to prove its effectiveness. Though, in modern times, this will often mean pumping a round into another example of the same armor.) Colloquially, it's fine, because an item that has been bulletproofed will resist gunfire (at least up to what it's rated for.) But, the terms are slightly distinct.

Somewhat obviously, incidental objects don't even rate to Level I. However, bullets are physical objects; as they travel they will lose velocity, and with that the ability to penetrate armor will decline. This is what creates those situations where someone's paperback novel stops a bullet. It's not viable armor in its own right, but in the moment it was just enough to keep the round out of the victim.

As a bit of trivia, this was the “real danger” of Teflon coated rounds. The bullet would experience less atmospheric drag, and maintain its speed for longer. Though, I'm not sure how much this realistically affected the bullet's velocity. The manufacturer claimed it was a 20% increase. Ironically, Teflon coatings reduce wear on the barrel. It's good for weapon maintenance. Either way, in the face of political pressure, Teflon coated rounds dropped off the market in the 90s.

So, that Level I armor must have been pretty terrible, right? Well, no. Level I armor was never exceptional, but it did function as armor against handgun fire back in the 70s. For those who don't spend a lot of time with firearms, it can be pretty easy to view modern firearms as a somewhat flat continuity, with some minor innovations along the way. This is reinforced when you start seeing cartridges like .30-06 or .45 ACP floating around. In fact, both of the most commonly used handgun rounds are over a century old at this point. Compounded on top of that, a lot of very dependable firearm designs are pretty old. The M1911 draws its military name from the year it entered service, 111 years ago. Bolt action rifles are entering their second century in use. Pump-action shotguns have been around since the 19th century.

Except, there has been a lot of innovation, and not all of it is immediately apparent. There have been significant changes to powder composition over the last century. Even when you ignore newer cartridges (like, 10mm Auto or 5.7mm), you're still dealing with bullets that are more effective penetrating armor today, than the ones produced 40 and 50 years ago.

The unfortunate result is, the chance of an incidental object stopping a bullet is worse today than in the past. It can still happen, but it's not likely. (Then again, it was never particularly likely.)

Also, someone getting saved by an incidental item at close range hasn't been especially likely in a long time. It's feasible in a setting where characters are using black powder pistols, but against a modern service pistol, it's probably not happening.

As for your question about shrapnel, that 100% happens. As I've said repeatedly, bullets are physical objects; they hit things, they break things. When they break things, those objects tend to react with a degree of force. I'm not sure on the exact physics of a vase, but you can easily get showered with broken glass, hit with concrete or rock chips, take a hit a bullet that shattered on impact, or any number of other unfortunate interactions between the bullet and your environment.

That last example is one of the nastier dangers of bullets. It's basically impossible to do it intentionally, but if a bullet strikes a hard surface, at the right angles, it can shatter into a spray of metal shards. In some cases these will cut through bullet resistant armor. You have sharp edges traveling at obscenely high speeds, and the results are gruesome.

If that wasn't bad enough, these things bounce. Bullets can ricochet off of surfaces. At that point the ballistics are pretty scrambled, the bullet will be tumbling through the air, and it won't have much range, but if it hits someone, it's going to be really messy in there.

To be clear, gunshot wounds are bad, You have a chunk of metal getting punched through your body at high speed, tearing out anything that gets in the way. A tumbling round, can be far worse because it's tearing more erratically through the body. Also, where a normal bullet would likely punch through a bone on the way out, a tumbling round is more likely to bounce off and continue tearing through the soft tissue.

Shrapnel of any variety is bad news, but it can easily turn fatal if the debris hits anything vital. As with a tumbling bullet, there's a real risk of it bouncing off (or getting stuck in) bones. Now, if it hits a bone on the way in, that's probably a good thing. It's far better to have shrapnel wedged into one of your ribs on the outside of your torso, than having one that got into the rib cage.

For the specific example of a vase, I don't know. I'm a little dubious that it would strike the victim with sufficient force to do much more than surface cuts, but at the same time, I wouldn't write it off completely. Random objects in the environment getting hit by a stray bullet can still pose a real danger to anyone there.

As for a vase stopping a bullet? Probably not. If it was some heavy steel design, maybe, but that's not the kind of thing most people just carry around. With a ceramic vase, nearly any bullet will punch right through that.

-Starke

Anonymous asked:

Do you have any thoughts on making characters like Kim Possible more realistic for stories aside from aging her up? While still keeping the spirit of her, that is.

You can't make Kim Possible realistic because the superspy genre runs on implausibility, the superspy aspect of her persona only works in the genre's unrealistic space. If you try to run a superspy in a realistic world, you either get a dissociative psychopath or Jason Bourne (from the books, not the films) who is still pretty close to being a psychopath rather than your regular spy. To write a “realistic” Kim Possible, you'd end up with your run of the mill, hyper competitive, adrenaline junkie cheerleader without any superpowers or supergadgets and a school board that's not particularly thrilled with her antics. We're talking Buffy levels of burn down the high school. (Buffy did burn down a high school.)

The imporant thing to understand about Kim Possible if you want to deconstruct her character and pul her out of the genre where she currently works is that Kim isn't a character aged up. She's a character aged down and reformatted for a tween to teen audience. If I aged Kim Possible up, I'd have Get Smart's Ninety-Nine or a member of the original Charlie's Angels (take your pick) or a non-powered variant of Shego. Her contemporaries are the girls from Totally Spies, which are also a Charlie's Angels riff, and arguably even more insane than Kim is. To fully grasp Kim Possible as a character you want to write rather than a piece of media you consume is you have to understand her archetype and where all the pieces of her character come from. Those pieces are derived by material that proceeded her in the superspy genre.

This is what author's call a Lit Review.

When you find a character you like and want to use, instead of trying to copy what you see you go deeper into deconstruction. Deconstruction is just a fancy word that means you break everything down to it's base components and take it apart to understand how it works and functions as a whole so you can rebuild it in your own image. In the case of Kim Possible, a simple deconstruction isn't enough because she isn't a character, she's genre loci. (It fun play on genius loci, it means she's a personification of the genre rather than a person or place. She is by nature a formalistic entity, which means she only exists as part of the formula. That's why you're having difficulty writing her as a “realistic” character. Formalistic entities do not function in the real world.)

To understand Kim Possible as a character, you have to understand Kim Possible as a formula. Worse, you have to study two different genres because she's fusion of two different formulas that are both equally unrealistic. Fortunately, the superspy and the superhero genre have enough cross-bleed that you only need one. You'll have to do a comprehensive review of both the superspy genre and the teen dramedy genre (Saved by the Bell, 90210, Boy Meets World, Sweet Valley High,you know, the John Waters version of high school. If you've been consuming mainly CW dramas like the current iteration of Riverdale you have the wrong era and will have to start all over.) For a comprehensive lit review, you have to go all the way back to the beginning with the original James Bond and watch them in sequence, then watch Get Smart (by the time you get here, you'll have the same degree of contempt for Bond as Mel Brooks so that works in your favor), pay special attention to Ninety-Nine the original avatar of the female superspy, and then watch Charlie's Angels, the original TV show not the movies. By this point, you'll understand all the pieces that went into Kim's creation and then you'll be able to independently pull them out keep what you want.

If that sounds like a lot of work, you're right. Picking one isn't enough because she has pieces of all of them, and they're all influenced by their predecessor. Ninety-Nine is a direct reaction to the treatment of women in James Bond, and Charlie's Angels are an adaptation of Ninety-Nine as James Bond. A lot of female superspies are direct references to James Bond (whether they want to be or not) and Kim Possible is no exception. The show is full of James Bond injokes and many of her villains are direct references to Bond villains. The old Sean Connery Bond villains. (Much as it's in the name, you don't need either the original Mission Impossible or the film remakes. If you want to watch the Peter Graves era for an even more comprehensive experience, go right ahead.)

You don't understand Bond? You don't understand Kim.

Teenagers don't make for good spies in a realistic world. They're not emotionally mature enough to do the job. That's not an insult. When you're a teenager, your brain is still maturing, you're halfway to being an adult, but you're still growing into yourself and a lot of what you're experiencing you're experiencing for the first time. Experiences that feel like the end of the world to a teenager, are just Tuesday to an adult. You don't feel emotions the same at sixteen and twenty-five, or sixteen and thirty-five, part of that is experience and part of it is the intensity of our emotions decays over time. Adults are also better at hiding what emotions they do feel. These are all reasons why adults seem so unfeeling to teenagers.

Worse, for the realistic Kim, she comes from a stable home environment. She's got loving parents, appreciative, supportive friends, and lives a happy, well-adjusted life even without saving the world. She doesn't have the cynicism, suspicious nature, mercurial adaptable behaviors, and survival instincts that broken homes and abusive environments train in young. In the real world, evil passes itself off as good. There's no colorful costumes or villainous laughs or soundtrack to point out who you can't trust. The friendliest, nicest people are often the first to stab you in the back. Appearances deceive and ingrained biases cloud perception. Spies are not well-adjusted people or emotionally healthy. It's a lot easier to talk someone off a cliff if you are also on a cliff. The point of a spy is that they're a bad person. The superspy genre is an escape from the realities of being a spy and it was originally written by a former spy.

The kid from the broken home learns early that people behave differently in different environments, and they need to be wary until they determine if the person they think they can trust is someone they can actually trust. Often the most well-intentioned people make bad situations worse trying to resolve conflicts they've chosen not to understand. At the same time, people wear masks and not all secrets are nefarious. To be able to determine the difference between someone acting supiciously (hiding a secret) and someone who is actually nefarious takes practice. This is even a common subplot in teen mystery dramas for teenagers (and adults) to be misled by their own prejudices and their inability to tell the difference between types of suspicious behavior. There's the secrets that don't matter and the ones that'll get you killed and they can be the same secrets. Understanding the faceted nature of people, fully analyzing their personalities so you can predict their moves without being a fully mature person with your own experiences to draw from? That's hard. It's a difficult ask for adults who are professionals.

You can't keep Kim's optomism and turn her into a traditional spy. The traditional spy needs to both be able to see the worst in someone and then use that dark nature against them. They collect secrets and vulnerabilities so they can turn the average person into an asset later. They can't do everything themselves, they need to be comfortable with using people and with the part where using those same people will get them killed. There's elements here that do mimick high school, but it's a much more dangerous game with much higher stakes and a lot less room for error. A teenager this manipulative this young is either a narcisscist or a sociopath, and even then they won't have refined their manipulation to the point they can carry it off like an adult. (If you hav e a difficult time comprehending this concept, you are stilll a child. Enjoy it while you can.)

You also can't really do Kim Possible in the CW mold while keeping her Kim Possible. The same problems as the spy to superspy genre apply. The Vampire Diaries approach to teenagers is antithetical to the John Waters high school. Someone's going to have to be the cynic, half the cast are lovable assholes, evil will prevail over good on a regular basis, and everyone in the CW's world will be varying shades of gray with dark secrets. CW teenage dramas are gritty (and not particularly realistic either, even if they are entertaining.) You can't put James Bond and Frank Miller's Sin City in the same place and play them both straight. Superman's ideals and morals don't function properly in The Boys universe. That optomistic view of humanity isn't supported. If you want optomism in your narrative, you need to fight for it.

An optomistic character can succeed in a cynical world and keep their optomism while making tragic mistakes, but they need to be supported by the author and story's structure. A careful balance has to be maintained between hope and darkness, and it is very easy to go past a character's point of no return. It's easy to become cynical, it's easy to embrace nihilism especially in the face of tragedy. Kim Possible is not a character designed around the idea of moral fortitude. She's not a character who has to fight for her beliefs in a dark world. She doesn't have articulated morals or a philosophical outlook, she just does what she thinks is right. A character doing what they think is right in a cynical story sets the stage for events to fall apart in a tragic ending.

The question is, do you want a realistic version of Kim Possible or do you want a version that you feel is going to be more serious, and literary, and will be accepted? As much as it's currently in vogue, cynicsm and nihilism aren't automatically better or more mature storytelling.

Kim Possible is accepted. Kim Possible being unrealistic is not a failure of the material. She's supposed to be a teenage comedy pastiche of the superspy genre. She works because she embraces both genres in all their corny cheesiness wholeheartedly and without irony. Even when Kim Possible is at its most tongue and cheek, Kim herself is never the joke. The mirror between Kim and Shego is intentional. It's good practice to have your villain be a jaded, cynical, dark version of your protagonist (with better comedic timing.) Shego is cynical so Kim can be optomistic.

Kim's ideals and morals are designed for a more hopeful world than the one we live in and that's fine. James Bond is one of the most iconic film heroes of all time. Get Smart and Charlie's Angels are both beloved to this day. Kim Possible and Totally Spies were successful media properties. A market exists for teenage superspies. While Harriet the Spy is probably the closest to a “realistic” Kim Possible you're going to get, I think you're looking for something else, something more adrenaline filled, something exciting, and that's okay.

You don't need realism. You need a world that feels plausible enough your audience will embrace it. That's just good worldbuilding and understanding your genre. You don't need to be the next Game of Thrones, you don't need to be (the new) Casino Royale. Don't be embarassed by the silliness, don't be worried if the story is serious enough, skip off into the sunset with your catchy theme song and naked mole rat. Tell the story you want, the story that you love.

And do your reading (and watching) because the more you understand, the better you write. If you can't take Kim Possible at her worst (Roger Moore) you don't deserve her at her best.

-Michi

Anonymous asked:

Could a character learn martial arts from watching unchoreographed performances? Yes, it's certainly for entertainment but all unchoreographed which means the moves people are making are also actual combat moves and not just going for pure spectacle. Why is this performance and not just MMA? It's not a competition, usually not 1 on 1, no focus on evenly matched combatants, and weapons are allowed doesn't even have to be the same.

So, the short answer is no.

This is a little like asking, “can I learn to perform surgery from watching videos of medical procedures?” While you can certainly pick up some insights along the way, you're not going to learn nearly enough to perform the acts depicted.

Learning from uncohoreographed combat, even when you already know what you're doing, is trickier than you may realize because combat is messy. Perfect form and execution is something you strive for during practice because your muscle memory needs to be good enough to still perform effectively when you have someone actively trying to interfere.

As someone with an actual martial arts background, you'll pick up more from watching choreographed demonstrations than unchoreographed ones. Again, the techniques are (probably) being performed properly, the camera work (or cinematography) should be giving you a pretty clear view of what's going on, and how the technique work. In some cases, you may even have an explanation for how the technique is performed.

You'll get none of that from watching two people scrabble around.

Similarly, without a background, you really won't know what you're looking at. So, things like assessing an overall skill level or weakness requires knowledge you simply wouldn't posses.

When it comes to being able to use martial arts effectively, the single most important factor is muscle memory. You can't generate muscle memory from watching a video. More than that, simply trying to copy what you see, without understanding how it's done, can actually be a detriment to learning martial arts later. You have to untrain that muscle memory, before you can retrain it.

Ironically, this is something you've probably experienced in your life without realizing. Think of all the martial arts you've seen in films, and then realize that (unless you've actually studied martial arts) you probably have, at best, a rudimentary understanding of exactly what's happening. You also (unless you actually have a background) aren't going to be able to successfully replicate what you've seen.

A major example of this is not knowing exactly where the martial artist is putting their weight. Without knowing that, it becomes nearly impossible to replicate their stance. In a combat situation (so, your unchoreographed video), their stance is likely to be slightly sloppy as they adjust to the situation, meaning you're not even getting a good look at what their stance is supposed to be. If you can't accurately replicate their stance, you're not going to be able to emulate their fighting style.

This is before you realize there are a lot of techniques that are deceptively simple looking but require some very specific knowledge. I'm thinking specifically of throws and joint locks, but an exhaustive list would be much longer than you may expect. (Systema is an entire martial art that could be grouped under this heading. It is subtle and difficult to read.)

There's one last problem here, and this is just something to understand about trying to understand what someone is doing. In entertainment, it's fairly common (actually, necessary) to exaggerate martial combat, so that viewer can parse what's happening. Martial artists go much slower than they normally would, because going at full speed will skip frames. Movements will be bigger to make them easier to read.

In actual combat, martial arts will go faster, and it will go tighter. Meaning, while you're viewing it, you'll have less visual data to work with. A major consideration when you're in a fight is making your sure your opponent doesn't have the opportunity to respond. Denying them information until it's too late is an important tool for that. Even understand that you're seeing this is something that requires prior knowledge.

When you're fighting someone, it's important to minimize your movement outside your silhouette. This is simply exploiting how the human brain processes visual data. Your brain looks for the edges of things first. Then it figures out what's inside that edge. If you're fighting someone, and your hands are positioned in front of you, their brain will identify your outline first, meaning your shoulders, your head, and your torso. If your arms are away from the body, these will get picked up in that first pass. However, if you pull your arms in, have them between them and your torso, they become something that gets missed on that initial sweep, and then they need to process them separately. Combine that with the realization that we're talking about combat happening at speeds where this kind of processing matters.

Finally, there's one last issue, combat is competitive. Just because you're watching who won, doesn't mean they were skilled; just that they were better (or luckier) than their opponent. We're not setting the bar very high here. Most people have no clue what they're doing in a fight. If you're watching a video of some alleyway brawl, without any formal training, you have no way of assessing whether the fighters you're looking at actually know what they're doing, or if they're just getting lucky in the scrabble.

You can learn from watching others. The more you know going in, the more you can pick up from the video (assuming there's anything of value there), however, you cannot go from zero to any kind of proficiency from just watching videos. You need actual training to get that far.

-Starke