In my last post, I talked about creating the epic confrontation between the main character/s and the bad guy/s. Here’s two I did.
In an unpublished novel, I had a hero who must face a were-dragon. This was the climatic fight between the two characters, winner take everything. The hero, who wants to die because his life will be a living hell, must survive for the sake of the woman he loves because her life is at stake as well. So, I’ve got physical and emotional stakes.
I wanted him to face his weakness and fear of living as well as his own tendency to care more about himself than anyone else.
Since this is the climax of the novel, I wanted the fight to extend over several chapters, and I didn't want it to be boring and repetitive.
First, I thought about the weapons of a dragon — claws, teeth, fire, size, and wings. Considering a dragon's many weapons and ways to fight, I realized that I could divide the fight into three acts.
The first act is ground-fought and involves fire. The dragon will also use his human intelligence and voice as an emotional weapon.
The hero is tentative in his skill, and he's distanced himself from fights before so his weapon is a lance. He has a magical shield and armor which will help against the flame, but he can't survive the flame for long, and the dragon is creating a conflagration with the vegetation. The hero's uncertainty is also used against him by the dragon with his taunts until the hero acknowledges his feelings for his magic-using lover, and this allows her to bring magical rain to save him.
In the second act, the dragon has lost his fire because of the heavy downpour which has soaked the terrain as well as dousing his internal flame so he takes flight, and the two battle.
I thought about real-world flying warfare and the different ways a dragon can use his weapons in flight. I decided that the dragon would strafe the hero by using his claws to attack, and his wind in flight would be so strong the hero could barely stand to face it. The dragon would also use his weight to knock the hero down.
After the initial fighting where the dragon uses these methods of attack, he manages to get the hero's shield which he's used against the claws and proceeds to shred him at each pass and exhaust him because of the heavy wind created by his wings. Barely staying on his feet because of exhaustion and blood loss, the hero finally retaliates by using the lance like a spear and throws it into the dragon's underbelly.
In the third act, the dragon can no longer fly because of damaged wings from the lance so he and the hero are forced to face each other in close quarters with no retreat. The hero uses a sword.
The hero now knows his own heart and has discovered his courage. He will no longer give up the fight. The dragon has discovered that he can die in this fight, and he's afraid for the first time, but he's forced to stay because the two are locked in a mythic pattern which neither can escape.
Since the battle is in close quarters, I thought about the dragon's different weapons, and the hero's battle plan. The hero must get close enough to stab into the dragon's heart, but the dragon uses his long neck, his size, and his speed to stay safe. The hero finally uses a distraction to shift the dragon's attention and stabs him. The dragon dies.
So, the hero has won against the dragon and his own weaknesses to save the heroine and himself because of his love and courage. An epic fight with a happy ending attached.
Despite all the fighting, this final meeting between the hero and the dragon is more about what is inside the hero. He fights on despite a stronger opponent as both keep running out of options, and the hero is forced to go beyond his abilities to win. He proves he is a true hero inside and out as he faces his ultimate fear.
And, yes, a dang dragon is one heck of a bad guy for an epic confrontation, but I’ve used a dilapidated warehouse full of old hay with the kidnapped heroine drugged, and the hero with one gun against half a dozen professional killers. I did some thinking about what was there— birds to spook to misdirect the goons, sodden hay to shove off a loft on top of one, a hay hook suitable for gutting a bad guy, and common debris like soft drink bottles that the groggy heroine can toss to confuse the bad guys. So, an interesting and frightening fight to the possible death in the real world.
NOTE: The heroines were never damsels in distress with the brave hero saving them. Both had an equal part in the conclusion. To simplify the explanation, I focused on the hero. I hate wimpy heroines.