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. I believe this is specifically John Truby’s term. More commonly 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.Mythcreants
I’ve also seen it called The Dark Moment.
Here it’s called a Black Moment:
Do you have a black moment—a point near the end of the manuscript where your character has lost something or someone extremely important to him/her and all appears to be lost and failure seems inevitable? This usually happens right before he/she has a revelation or a breakthrough of some sort and throws him/herself back into the intensified conflict with a new determination, leading into the climax.Naomi Edits
I’ve also heard it called ‘The Big Doom‘. Whatever you call it, this part of a story looks like this:
- 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 main character. The main character has to come close to death, perhaps metaphorically rather than actually.
- So, how to portray a battle… metaphorically? Sometimes this involves playing with spatial perceptions in some way. For example, in her re-visioning of Peter and the Wolf, Angela Carter makes use of mise en abyme. Other techniques include playing with scale, making use of The Overview Effect, or otherwise inducing some kind of spatial horror.
- The battle sequence can also look like not much at all. As Captain Awkward says in a post about running into family after estrangement, “anticlimax – a good outcome on paper, since it means nothing escalated – can hit some of us as hard emotionally as anything we feared would happen.” A non-battle, when expected, is also a ‘battle scene’.
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.