Pokémon fanfiction is a subject that, for the most part, I've been struggling in. Delivering an engaging plot... making the characters likable and believable... The thing that got me interested in writing fanfiction in the first place was to make teams of all my favorite Pokémon, like Gallade, Gardevoir, Blaziken, Roserade, Froslass, Eevee, most of its evolutions, and have them get into exciting battles. Next to that motivation, everything else, the things that truly make a story, were secondary. As one would probably expect, my story wasn't all that good, and it took me time to realize it. I look at the high praise other writers receive, and wonder, “Why can't they say that to me?” and I grow ever more frustrated when no one even bothers to offer constructive criticism, encouragement to continue, or anything for that matter. After so much frustration, it just doesn't feel like it's worth it anymore, and that I'm best off returning to my original fiction. However, there is one thing in my struggles that I have had confidence in: fight scenes. It's not like I'd received much in the way of external validation, but I just feel that's what I can admit pride in, so I decided to extend my tactics to the people that are struggling on the subject, and help make their Pokémon battles exciting and stylish. Before I begin, I should say that everything to come are just suggestions. I'm not saying I'm the final word in Pokéwarfare, and you'll agree with everything I say. Hell, some of you might even think I'm full of crap. Still, if you are able to combine some of this advice with your own style, then more power to you. Bottom line: these are the things that have worked for me. Your own preferences may differ. Now, without any further ado, let the training begin! Part One: A battle between still sprites? Yeah, that'll work! I'm sure we all know better than this, but I'll cover it just in case. Don't get me wrong; the battles in the games are exciting, especially between two humans, doing what you think is the best move and trying to predict your opponent's intentions. This is something that would be a good aspect to incorporate into your fight scenes, but as for how the battles themselves are depicted, not so much. In the games, all you see are a pair (or four) of motionless spites exchanging attacks, and unless one's accuracy is lowered, or the other's evasiveness is increased, most of those attack will hit, not showing how the battle beyond that. You could argue that you could use the Stadium games, Colosseum, and Battle Revolution instead, but in a way, those are even more vexing. I can't help but frown when I see something like “Gallade uses Leaf Blade” and Gallade awkwardly runs straight up to say, a Rhydon, pauses briefly in front of it to extend its blades, and the Blade Pokémon delivers its devastating attack without the Drill Pokémon trying to dodge, counterattack, or even raise its arms to defend itself when it had more than enough time to do so. At least on the handheld games, you have more room to picture stuff. Now just because something has a 100% chance of hitting in the games doesn't mean it has an equal chance of hitting in your story, and I don't just mean attacks like Thunderbolt and Ice Beam, but even the attacks that hit no matter what, like Aerial Ace and Aura Sphere. If Pokémon are living creatures, instead of machines, like some critics say about 4th generation Pokémon (yeah, Gallade looks like a robot... a freaking cool robot! I wanna build one!), then they should feel pain. It's a known concept that the fact that living things can feel pain is actually a strength, because through that, they know what's dangerous and try to avoid it, and the same thing should apply to Pokémon (even the ones that come off as robots, like Porygon and Magnemite). A Pokémon should know when danger approaches and react accordingly, not a Grass-type acting like, “A Flamethrower attack is coming. It'll hurt, but that's alright, so I'll just stand here.” No, it will try to avoid pain the best it can. It may not always succeed in doing so, but it will at least try. It will sidestep long range attacks, it will jump if it sees a Ground-type attack coming, it will try to block and soften the blow from punches. Just make it believable. However, there is one thing in the games I suggest you follow... In the games, a Pokémon can only use four attacks in battle. Should this be the same way for your story? Actually, yeah. I'm not saying I buy into the idea that a Pokémon can only know four moves to the detriment of all others (Machop trains in all styles of martial arts, and yet, it can only perform four moves? I call BS on that), but for the sake of writing, please try to limit a Pokémon's repertoire to just four moves per battle, though, to be clear, the same Pokémon doesn't need to know the same moves for every battle, like in the games, once you've optimized your Pokémon's moveset. For example, a Charizard could use Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Slash, and Aerial Ace in one battle, and then in another one soon after, it can use Flamethrower, Fly, Flare Blitz, and Dragon Rush. Why do I feel this is necessary, you may ask? Well, I learned it the hard way. You see, in my story, I was writing a battle, where a single Electivire took on four of a trainer's Pokémon. The trainer sends out an electric-type, Electivire uses Earthquake, the trainer sends out a psychic-type, Electivire uses Thunder Wave, then Thunder, the trainer sends out a grass-type, Electivire uses Flamethrower, then Iron Tail, finally, the trainer sends out a ground-type, Electivire uses Ice Punch. That's six moves in one battle. I wanted to show how strong that Electivire was, but when I looked back on it, I realized, “Hey... this is actually kinda cheesy!” Yes, Electivire can learn all those moves, but when you have a Pokémon that is naturally equipped to deal with every single situation under the sun, it gets a little lame, hence you need to limit it a tad. Finally, if you see the need to exceed the limit, you may be having the battle drag for a bit (more on that later.) Part Two: The anime, and the things about it that bug me more than Caterpie (IT'S A PUN!) It's been a long time since I watched the anime. Nowadays, the only exposure I get to it is in the form of AMVs that show struggles, with clever footage editing, making the battles look more epic than they probably were in the actual show, and awesome music to replace the 4kids dialogue and the voice acting that is physically painful to listen to (an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7bE6NebW3w. Aw yeah! Go, Gallade! You're my man! Subscribe to this guy. He does good work.) Now, the anime naturally does a better job depicting battles than the games, since we are shown more than just still sprites, but there is still something to be desired. Even after a full decade, there is one thing that had not sat well with me and has haunted me since. During the episode where Ash battles Misty at Cerulean Gym, Misty's Starmie (or was it Staryu? I forget) goes flying at Ash's Pidgeotto, and Ash commands, “Pidgeotto! Dodge!” and the Bird Pokémon obeys. What bothered me about that was Ash actually had to command Pidgeotto to dodge, as if it wouldn't otherwise. This seems to tell me that Pokémon are absolutely useless without directions from their trainers. Now, getting back to what I said earlier, Pokémon, and living things in general, try to avoid harm, and they should without their trainers' direct consent. After all, I'd like to believe that a Pokémon acting independently to ultimately maintain an advantage in the battle would please the trainer, regardless. Pokémon are creatures that can think for themselves, and are more than just mindless pieces to be manipulated in their trainers' game. The point I'm trying to make is that the trainer should not dictate every last action their Pokémon makes. If a Pokémon needs to dodge or block, it dodges or blocks. If it feels that it could get into a more advantageous position, it does so. Still, it's not like a caring trainer shouldn't try to encourage their Pokémon to avoid harm. Here's an example to illustrate my point: “This ends now!” declares Lance, “Finish it, Dragonite! Draco Meteor!” Raising its arms, Dragonite's body starts to glow. It takes to the sky and fires a volley of large powerful blasts, made up of an intense bluish energy. They start to rain down on Meganium's location. “Quick, Meganium!” yells Ethan, “Run for it! Get outta there!” See? In this context, Ethan isn't giving his Meganium an order. He's expressing concern, and trying to encourage it not to get hurt. If the trainer should shout out to his Pokémon about anything in regards to avoid damage, it should be in a way that shows that he cares, not just telling it what to do. Part Three: The harsh reality of Pokéwar For the most part, I'm done talking about how to not follow the games and anime for your fight scenes. Now let's talk about how actual battle is conducted. Also, some of this advice may not just apply to Pokémon battles, but fight scenes in general. Now, the fights don't have to be realistic, at least not entirely. In fact, the less like a real fight, the better. After all, most real-life brawls are brief, messy, and hectic. It's not like watching a game of Street Fighter. I'll get to how long (and short) a fight has to be to be considered acceptable a little later, but for now, all I'll say is to not end it too soon, like simply having a Vulpix using Flamethrower on a Snorunt and ending it. Let the reader savor the scene, like then having the Snorunt jump over the Flamethrower attack and firing an Ice Beam down at Vulpix from several feet in the air, which connects with its back, freezing everything, except its head. However, Vulpix quickly thaws itself out with an Ember attack, and attacks with another Flamethrower, just as the Snorunt is landing and temporarily defenseless, and that knocks it out. A little more drawn out, but not too long, overall. Still, that isn't to say the fight should be completely removed from reality either. Do things that make sense in real life, like not having a Pokémon just rush in for a close-range frontal attack, and instead attempt to throw the adversary off with a feint, take advantage of the terrain, or attack an opponent's blind spot. Also, try to keep a firm sense of timing. If a Pokémon is using Thunderbolt, and the electric attack is rapidly approaching its target, the trainer won't have time to say something like, “That's not gonna work!” Instead having him quickly give his Pokémon a command to counter the Thunderbolt, have said counter be successful, and then make whatever taunts the trainer feels like. Now, let's talk about injuries. If you read even just a few Pokédex entries for Pokémon, especially the fully-evolved ones, you'll know that a Machamp can derail a train with one punch, an Alakazam has an IQ of 5,000, a Golem can shrug off dynamite blasts, a Hitmonchan's punches are so fast, they could leave a burn, a Flareon's internal temperature and the fire it breathes can exceed 3,000 degrees, a Gyarados can level an entire city if really pissed, etc. Clearly, Pokémon are super beings, and it wouldn't be a farfetched assumption that they can withstand quite a bit of harm. Of course, they have their limits, since they do eventually lose their will to keep fighting, and faint. Powerful they are, invincible they are not. While they can take far more harm than a human can, and still keep fighting, they should still react to some things in a way humans do. That means, they bleed when cut, their limbs can be fractured, they can be bruised if hit hard enough, and, as we all know, they can be poisoned, paralyzed, frozen, and burned. If things like that happen, they should react to those injures realistically, like limp if their leg gets damaged and unable to use an arm if it gets broken. If a Pokémon is in the “red zone” on their figurative life bar, they'll be tired and will themselves to continue fighting. Finally, seeing as Pokémon battles are not fights to the death, don't go saying things like, “Its deadly Flamethrower attack,” "Its fatal Fissure attack," or “Its lethal Slash attack.” Also, when describing damage, don't say it in a way that constitutes a mortal wound, like, instead of saying “The blade pierced its heart,” say, “It was slashed across its chest.” When it comes to injuries, you can be brutal, just not cutthroat. Besides, a Pokémon will be as good as new, no matter how badly it was beaten, thanks to some good old deus ex Pokémon Center. Part Four: Gotta catch 'em all... and then write about it Trainers having their Pokémon battle is only a third of the formula. The other two thirds are training them, and, as we're about to cover, capturing them. Wanna hear something funny? I found the battles in the Pokéwalker to be more believable than the ones in the actual game. Why? Because the Pokémon you're trying to catch actually make an effort to escape. That's what it should be like in your writing as well. A wild Pokémon would attack, trying to find food, or whatever, but when the trainer's Pokémon prove to be too strong for it, it will try to run to avoid being captured. It might not succeed, but it makes it more realistic that way. Part Five: The pen typewriter Word program is mightier than the sword Now that we've talked about the ins and outs of depicting a Pokémon battle, let's talk about the actual writing. This is probably where you may disagree with me, if you haven't already, so I'll remind you again that these are only suggestions. First, how battles are written may differ, depending on their presence. Now, no matter what, a battle needs to touch on the details, like what attacks look like, how a Pokémon had been damaged, what is running through the trainer's head, etc. However, how much detail is needed is a variable. If the story is generally about something like loving and caring for your Pokémon, and groovy stuff like that, and there are only a small handful of battles in the whole thing, there's no harm in being more detailed. On the other hand, if your story is generally about Pokémon fighting, like a trainer on the road, aiming for the top, and having to beat Gym Leaders, the Elite Four, and maybe an evil organization of trainers, and you want every battle to be an exciting rush of literary adrenaline, it may help to just touch on the most important aspects of the battle, and just a few other things. Why do I say that? Because if you want your battles to be exciting, it helps for them to be fast-paced. Again, people will probably disagree with me on this, but to me, reading something like, “With a resolute gaze, intent on victory, Matt commanded his Houndour to perform its dreaded Flamethrower attack. With an obedient bark, the fire-type obeyed. With a deep breath it released an intense stream of dazzling flames of red and orange, capable of melting even solid stone,” is like an action movie pausing itself in the middle of an awesome fight sequence, just to make the viewer admire the scenery. Changing it to something like, “'Let's finish this, Houndour!' yells Matt resolutely, 'Take it down with Flamethrower!' With a bark, the fire-type opens its mouth, releasing a stream of intense fire,” just makes the action flow much more quickly, and is therefore, faster-paced. As I said before, adding a little extra action for a fight to let the reader savor it is a good thing, but don't let it drag on for too long. Pokémon is not Dragonball Z, and it doesn't need to have a cornered Machop using Focus Energy, evolving somehow, becoming a thousand times more powerful and having the battle last another ten pages. A battle between trainers consists of several small battles between their Pokémon, and having four full pages talk about how an Ivysaur defeats a Steelix, when each trainer still has five Pokémon left to send out, is just annoying. If it does, a battle is no longer exciting, and just becomes long-winded and boring. Also, try to have each battle be significant to either the plot, the characters, or the Pokémons' progression, in one way or another. If a battle pits your main character against a nameless trainer, and during it, one of your character's Pokémon evolves or learns a new technique that proves invaluable for the duration of their story, or if the nameless trainer is impressed by one of your character's Pokémon, and he trades one of his for one of your character's resulting in a new edition to the team, it's worth it. If nothing of the sort happens, you're only wasting time, no matter how cool that battle may be. Besides the development of the trainer and his/her team, other times battle means something is if it's against a Gym Leader/Rival/Elite Four member/Champion/high-ranking official of an evil organization/some other major opponent, or if an important new trainer is being introduced, and you want to show his or her's personality, skills in comparison to another trainer's, and Pokémon through an introductory battle. Finally, be sure to space out the battles. Don't just have a whole bunch take place in rapid succession, as that would wear out the reader. Be sure to have a considerable amount of story go by before you move on to your next exciting encounter. Part Six: Pokémon Battle: Trainer's Side So far, we've talked about the Pokémon's side in a battle, but a Pokémon battle is a two-fronted struggle: the physical battle between the Pokémon, and the battle of knowledge, wits, taunts, and deception between trainers. Trainers command their Pokémon what moves they want them to perform (and not tell them to make an obvious dodge, hopefully), but, as you'd probably read elsewhere, it's boring if barking orders is all they do. What they should do is make occasional comments outside of issuing orders, like taunting their opponents, or cheering their Pokémon on. In fact, it's a good time to show the difference in their personalities. Since (most) Pokémon can't talk, their trainers will have to do the talking for them, and it helps spice things up, and even add in a personal twist, as opposed to just straight-up battling. Okay, when I said that battles are best when they're fast-paced, that was actually only a half-truth. The other half of the truth is, it's okay to slow the pace a bit when the time is right, like when a Pokémon is down and the next one is being decided on. As I said, just a couple paragraphs ago, a Pokémon battle is a struggle of wits, knowledge, and deception between trainers. That means, the logic they use to overcome one another is as much a part of the battle as the Pokémon that are fighting, so make sure the reader sees the reasoning behind their choices, like what Pokémon they will send out to counter their opponent's Hypno. In such a pause in a battle's flow, you can take some time, and take a paragraph or two, to describe what a trainer is thinking. Battle is a difficult thing to get down, as it's hard to think of decent choreography, and find the balance between too long and too short. Still, practice does make perfect, so good luck in your writings. If you have any other suggestions or counter-arguements, please be sure to post them. Other than that, I would like it if people used this topic to show off their literary depictions of Pokémon battles, whether they be ideas you had suddenly come up with, copied and pasted from a story you posted elsewhere, or if you were like me, and had great battles in mind, but weren't quite as invested in the rest of the story. Also, if the battle is part of a bigger story, it would be nice if you briefly talked about the important characters that will be shown, prior to posting the actual battle. Hey, if the battle is exciting and the characters and their Pokémon are cool, you just might attract new readers if you have the full story posted elsewhere. Actually, I'm writing a Pokémon battle to serve as an example, but it's still a work in progress, so I'll post it later.