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Monday, January 18, 2010

How to Get Your Heroine Out of a Headlock

Hi there! This is a special guest blog by Matt and Natalie Duvall. Matt was a pro wrestler for over ten years, including TV tapings for the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment). Natalie and Matt have also practiced martial arts and self defense for nearly four years. Both are writers, and met while completing their master’s degrees in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. Natalie is currently working on a regency historical romance, and Matt is writing something he calls “women’s adventure fiction.”

First off, we’d like to thank FF&P for allowing us to write this guest blog. It’s always exciting for us to talk about two things we love--writing and fighting. Often, writers and readers assume that there doesn’t need to be a lot of physical action in a romance. While they’re technically right, good action can build more believable characters, and make your story even more exciting. Think about the physical elements in a book like Jennifer Cruisie’s Getting Rid of Bradley. While Cruisie may have been able to tell the story without it, the action took the book from good to great.

The key is to make the action believable and pseudo-realistic. Much like great dialogue doesn’t mirror real-world conversation, great action doesn’t mirror an actual fight. For both, though, it’s important to know what things work, and what don’t, so you can give the illusion of reality (a paradox that is a whole other blog). We’ll go into greater detail about this during our workshop next month.

Until then, we offer you these quick tips for getting your heroine out of a headlock. Just in case you don’t know, a headlock is when somebody grabs somebody else around the head, and squeezes.

 • Scream. The first thing to do when you’re attacked is give a full-bellied holler. Man, woman, or child--we recommend screaming as a great attack icebreaker. It can startle your opponent, and it can be a great way to bring help. It can also be a great way to have somebody not respond--why didn’t the hero come when the heroine called?

• Hit the assailant in the groin. When screaming doesn’t work, or help is slow to arrive, your heroine should try to hit the attacker in the groin. If she’s in a headlock, she has both hands free, and is turned with one side toward the assailant’s body. So go ahead and give him (or her--it works on women too) a whack in the sac.

• Grab hair/nose/eyebrow rings. Your heroine screamed, whacked the baddie in the baddie, yet is still struggling to break free. Her other hand is available to pull hair (great if the attacker is a woman), lock a finger in the guy’s nose, or jab a thumb into the eye. If it’s a serious situation, any of these moves can help your heroine get out of there.

• High heels. If your heroine likes to wear high heels, she can scrape a heel down the guy’s shin or stomp her spike into (and possibly through) the top of his foot. Either of these techniques should make him release her from the headlock.

These are high percentage moves--they’re not guaranteed to work, but they have a pretty high success rate. There are also some things that probably won’t work so well.

• Reversing the headlock into a top wristlock. This may have worked for Hacksaw Jim Duggan when he was feuding with Andre the Giant, but those men are highly paid professionals. Plus, the attacker could reverse the top wristlock into a hammer lock (which twists the person’s arm behind their back), and then you’re back to square one.

• Picking the attacker up and suplexing (pretty much another word for dropping) him backwards onto his head. This is another pro wrestling move, and is possible, but make sure that you’ve established your heroine as a genuine bad ass with a strong wrestling/weightlifting/martial arts/other sport background.

• Sticking around to taunt the bad guy. Any of the moves listed above work to get your heroine free, but remember that they offer only a few seconds of reprieve. After that, your attacker is going to be pretty upset.

Hopefully these tips will give you some ideas for adding action to your work in progress. As a last bonus tip, we suggest you find a friend (or, if you’re really devious, an enemy) and role play your action sequence with them. See how easy it is to break free when somebody bigger than you has you in a headlock, or a bear hug. Try different techniques (with a lot of control and any necessary padding) to get loose, and see what actually works for you. Just remember, the simpler the better (plus the easier to describe!).

Have fun, and don’t hurt anybody – except for that fictional bad guy!

Matt and Natalie


Heather Howland said...

Thanks for the tips! Whack in the any-gender sac, grabbing eyebrow rings, stiletto THROUGH the foot... adding these to me heroines' repertoires :-)

Looking forward to the workshop. Gotta get in touch with my inner badass to get these action scenes just right!

slkpcme said...

To register for the class and learn lots of other ways to fight back...


Jessa Slade said...

Yikes, even thinking about some of those moves (thumb in eyeball especially) gives me the squicks. I think I need to establish that my heroine is waaaay badder ass than me :)

Natalie Duvall said...

Heather and Jessa,

Good luck bad-assing your heroines! :-)

Elbows are also great things to use (and superpowerful AND less squick-worthy). Elbow to the throat, elbow to the nose, elbow to the groin, elbow to the inner thigh...

:-) Natalie and Matt

heidi ruby miller said...

Natalie and Matt:

Thank you so much for the tips!

This was great for those of us who have difficulty writing a believable, yet entertaining, fight scene.

I can only imagine how much knowledge one could glean from your workshop.


jessi said...

I'm sorry, I had to leave yesterday before I had a chance to comment. Wanted to say thank you for the details. When you've never been in a situation like one you described, it's hard to make it seem real to the reader. The class sounds fun!

Jason Jack Miller said...

When Heidi said she wanted to practice some of the stuff Nat and Matt blogged about I didn't know I was going to be taking one in the man-sac.