Most of us, thankfully, have no personal experience with violence, but many of us write it in our books. In today's podcast, I discuss our attraction to violence and how to write convincing fight scenes with Jarrah Loh. If you prefer video, you can watch the discussion on YouTube here.
Jarrah Loh is the author of Ultimate: The Complete Guide to UFC and Mixed Martial Arts and the creator of the fiction series Cageside Chronicles, YA fiction for the warrior at heart. Jarrah is also the editor of Inside MMA and International Kickboxer.
- How Jarrah got started writing young but then thought it could never be a job. He got into some trouble in his youth but later developed self-esteem and confidence through achieving his goals. He went back to University to do professional writing and editing and ended up getting a job with Blitz Publishing, Australia's premier sports publisher. Jarrah talks about being focused and driven, doing anything it takes to succeed. Martial arts have helped him with discipline over time.
- Jarrah's first book was Ultimate: The Complete Guide to UFC and Mixed Martial Arts. UFC is the fastest growing spectator sport in the world and is basically two fighters in a cage with no extra gear. After writing articles about it, Jarrah was approached by a publisher to write the book. He turned the outline around in 24 hours and got the publishing deal based on his platform and expertise.
- We discuss the attraction of violence in UFC. There's no purer competition so it is more of a vicarious experience, the excitement and physicality of the fight. It's not a big over-the-top show like boxing and some of the other sports. It's more realistic. Humanity has always had an aspect of violence so we are drawn to it, especially since we don't live a very physical life anymore and most of us experience little physical danger. Jarrah explains there's a difference between fighting and violence, two people in competition vs rage driven aggression.
Tips for writing realistic fight scenes
- (1) Watch some fights, not just movies. Jarrah does recommend UFC as the closest to a street fight
- (2) Go get in a fight – but in a controlled environment, for example, a martial arts class. You will be shocked by how you feel. I mention that I went to a Krav Maga class (as Morgan Sierra, my protagonist, is ex-Israeli military). They kicked my ass and it took me days to recover!
- (3) Don't explain the fight too much, but describe the heat and fury and emotion of a fight rather than the exact physical movements. Keep the pace moving.
- Gender differences in fighting. UFC are just introducing a women's division and there are women fighters. Jarrah explains that the female fighters he knows have a lot of self confidence, for example, Bec ‘Rowdy' Hyatt, has 2 children and went from overweight to a champion fighter who turned her life around with martial arts.
- Jarrah is writing Cageside Chronicles, aimed at the YA market. A young man grows up in Mexico, lacking in confidence and beaten up, but over time finds confidence through martial arts. We discuss the potential controversy around fighting books aimed at the YA market, in the context of The Hunger Games and how a fighting life is a good metaphor for any kind of struggle. Jarrah says The Karate Kid was an influence on him and actually the feedback has been great on the book in terms of teachers able to give boys something to read.
- On self-publishing and why Jarrah turned down a publishing deal to do it himself. How an author is just another number to a large publishing house and on balance, the money is better as an indie and you have to do the marketing work anyway. As an editor and knowing graphic designers, he had the team in place to create a professional package. We talk about empowerment of the author, which is also a key part of Jarrah's life.
- On being in Australia and selling primarily to the US and the UK. Jarrah mentions that the Kindle isn't so popular in Australia but the iPad is much bigger there.
You can find Jarrah at his site JarrahLoh.com and his books on Amazon including Cageside Chronicles, YA fiction for the warrior at heart, the first one in the series is currently available for free.
If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy: How to write fight scenes with dark fantasy author and martial artist Alan Baxter
What do you think about violence in books? Please do leave any questions or comments below.