All complete narratives feature a battle scene. No, that doesn’t have to be a literal battle scene, Lord of the Rings style. In fact, we should be thinking outside that box altogether. One thing I love about Larry McMurtry’s anti-Western novels (especially Lonesome Dove) is that he condenses the gun battles and torture scenes in favour of character conflict.
I often feel the battle sequence in a movie goes on too long. I feel this way about the children’s animation Monster House and also about the Pixar animation Inside Out. The former happened because the plot was too thin in general, the latter because a female myth structure should more naturally be shorter.
WHAT IS THE BATTLE SEQUENCE?
Not everyone calls it the battle sequence. In fact, that is specifically John Truby’s term. More traditionally it’s known as the climax.
When your character reaches the climax, everything is stacked against them. They think fast, piecing together clues in their head. Usually, those clues are tidbits of knowledge you’ve placed earlier in the story, along with hints the main character observes in the moment. The protagonist assembles these clues into an important realization. Then they use their newfound understanding to win the day.
- Throughout the middle of the story the main character and opponent engage in a punch-counterpunch confrontation as each tries to win the goal.
- The battle is the final conflict between main character and opponent and determines which of the two characters wins the goal.
- A battle can be violent or it can be of words. In an action thriller it will probably be violent. In a rom-com it will probably be verbal.
- The battle is an intense and painful experience for the hero. The hero has to come close to death, even if only metaphorically.
The battle sequence looks quite different in the female myth form. Namely, the fight will be internal, externalised as a representation of the main character’s psychology. These stories avoid sturm und drang.