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15 Writing Tips From a Pro So You Can Start and Finish Your Book With Success

However, as you write towards your duel scene, keep in mind that ideal from Prince of Egypt. If you find a way to make your antagonist and protagonist not only equal in power but in honor and purity of intentions as well, do so. And if you can manage to make them not want to fight at all but boxed in by circumstances, it can be heartbreaking. (Just remember they still have to be fully conscious actors.)

What you need to have in place, though, is all the scenes pointing towards the eventual duel. If you don’t have that… make a note on one of your note pads (or postit notes. Or napkin. Or novel diary. Or whatever you use to keep track of) to revisit it in re-write. You’ll probably find just a little tweaking will do to point to the inevitable clash.

Also, if you can – sometimes one can’t – stay away from clichés in establishing the motives of your villain. It’s not as important with your main character, weirdly.

“But Sarah, you just said the sibling rivalry between Moses and Ramses is a cliché. And you said it was a good setup.”

It’s not quite a cliché. It is a pattern that is found again and again whenever a society gives disproportionate power and responsibility to the older son. (That is most societies until recently.) It rings true that way.

The clichés I’m talking about are more the ones which act as a cop-out and make the villain less than a full actor. Stuff like “he was hurt as a child, so he—” or “He was bit by a dog as a child, and so he wants to kill all the dog-people of Tryffar.” Real people are not like that and are not that simple. Viewing slaves as a patrimony of your race? Sure, it’s been done. Desiring to exterminate all slaves because one looked at you cross-eyed when you were two? That’s not just poor storytelling, it’s poor psychology, the sort of discount-rate Freudianism even Freud didn’t believe in.

You can make your character as traumatized and abused as you wish, only remember to make him a fully conscious actor, despite and through it. His upbringing and his sense of duty might be boxing him, but he still can choose to follow through with it as a fully conscious and sane individual. And if possible make his worst actions come from his loftiest intentions, because in real life, they so often do. Overreaching often leads one to have to “cut moral corners” and brings about the type of situation where one convinces oneself the end justify the means.

It hardly ever does.

So, keep that in mind as you near your duel point. And if you feel you already botched it, take heart. You can always clean it up in revision or, as a video making friend of mine says “you can fix it in post.”

Now, on your mark, set, get ready for the duel.


images courtesy shutterstock / Mike Heywood / Patrick Foto