Action Blunder

You have a hero love and a villain we hate. The hero has kicked many asses on his way to the villain, and the villain has kicked even more. If you’ve done your job properly, the fight between the hero and the villain is – at best – evenly matched. Better yet, the hero is outmatched enough that we don’t see how he can win this one. Now it’s time for the throwdown.

You’ve done most of the heavy lifting. Nearly all of the really difficult work is behind you. Yet even though this fight is the payoff you’ve worked so hard to earn, you can’t get cocky. One trial remains: the resolution of your final battle. Step lightly. Disaster awaits the unwary.

Today, I come to warn you of one of the most dangerous traps. A resolution to battle that is sure to leave your audience bitter and dissatisfied. They may not recognize which misstep is responsible, but they will not be pleased. This pitfall is a combat technique which properly executed cannot be defeated.

Look back to an earlier point in your story. At any point does either your hero’s mentor or the villain demonstrate something that when properly executed cannot be defeated? Did you insert this scene so that either:

  1. Your hero can catch the villain in it to finally succeed?
  2. Your villain or hero can use it, only to see it miraculously defeated before their eyes?

If so, repent while there is still time. There are few reasons for any technique that properly executed cannot be defeated to exist in your story. There are even fewer reasons for them to serve as a plot device in your final battle. The first reason may seem more incorrect than the second. After all, we’ve all seen too many battles where a hero is pounded only to suddenly win with a well timed Crane Kick to not cringe a little at it.The second, though? What’s so bad about that?

The only thing worse than inserting a Super Move into your story and using it is inserting a Super Move and then running kryptonite over it it in a cheap attempt to create tension. If you’ve decided a move that properly executed cannot be defeated has a place in your story, go all the way with it. Make the move as cool as it is unstoppable and make us cheer when the villain is pounded into the ground with it. Using it at all is a bad idea in most situations, but is still superior to showing us a BFG in Act One only to have the villain laugh it off in Act Three. Trust me, our tension has not increased. Only our frustration.

If your hero is unable to defeat the villain without something that properly executed cannot be defeated, perhaps your story was meant to be a tragedy.

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One Response to Action Blunder

  1. brennen says:

    It’s funny, but I just watched _The Karate Kid_ the other day for the first time since roughly 1989…

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