Ding! Ding! More Cowbell Rings for Round 2 of Dirty Fighting…

Welcome to Techie Tuesday at More Cowbell. This is the day where we cover some piece of wicked cool technology or dive into some technical aspect of writing.

Last week in Round 1, we started talking Dirty…Fighting that is. We discussed five Dirty Fighting Techniques guaranteed to amp up the conflict in your manuscript. There are twenty-two fun-filled ways to take the gloves off and have a full-tilt Dirty Dogfight so this is a multi-part series.

A summary of Round 1 – Top 5 Dirty Fighting Techniques For Your Writing

#1 – Triangulating: Don’t leave this issue between you and your conflict partner (could be a family member, friend or love interest), pull everybody in. Quote well-known authorities who agree with you and list every family member whom you know has taken your side (and lie about the ones you haven’t spoken to, yet).

#2 – Escalating: Quickly move from the main issue of the argument to questioning your partner’s basic personality, and then move on to wondering whether the relationship is even worth it. Blame your partner for having a flawed personality so that a happy relationship will be impossible.

#3 – Leaving: No problem is so big or important that it can’t be ignored or abandoned all together. Walk out of the room, leave the house, or just refuse to talk. Sometimes just threatening to leave can accomplish the same thing without all the inconvenience of following through.

#4 – Timing: Look for a time when your partner is least able to respond or least expects an argument.

#5 – Rejecting Compromise: Never back down. Stick with the philosophy that only one of you can win.

Feel free to click here for the full post to see how to use the five techniques above.

Now, we’re gonna ring our Cowbell
for Round 2 of Dirty Fighting!

Here are five MORE techniques to help you ratchet up the tension and conflict in your story.

Be sure to really wallow in them, maybe try  them out in some practice pages. I guarantee if you use the following  techniques in your character’s dialogue, you’re going to get the reader  involved.

Note: Without some training in clean fighting, nearly  everyone rolls around in the muck when they’re angry, whether they know what dirty fighting is or not. If  you haven’t scoped out the difference between clean and dirty fighting yet, go here for the details.

Below are the next five in my Top 10 Dirty Fighting Techniques.

I’ve made sure to include some examples of how to use them in your story’s dialogue and plotting. (Be sure to flex your sarcasm muscle – which is always used in a Dirty Dogfight – before you begin.)

#6 – Brown Bagging: Never stick to just the original issue. Bring up as many problems as possible, and in great detail. Think of every complaint you can from your past history and lay them all on your partner at the same time. An overwhelmed person can never  fight back effectively!

Uses: As long as you don’t go over the top with this one, this is an amazing way to get in backstory.  You’re doing it in dialogue, so it is legal, AND it makes for an easy way to end a chapter on a hook or achieve a turning point in your manuscript. If you go about this right, the information revealed in the fight will require your character to make a change.

For those of you who write in 3-Act structure, think of the end of Act 1. Great place for a Dirty Fight! If you are a Hero’s Journey fan, click here for a summary of the Hero’s Journey that I like to use because it mimics 3-Act structure, which I find easier to keep straight in my head.

The Belly of the Whale stage is the perfect place to throw in a Dirty Fight. If you really capitalize on this Plot Point (reversal) in your story and cut the MC deeply in the fight, he or she must commit to leaving their old self behind and crossing over to their new self or goals.

Great dialogue, especially an exchange that makes both the reader and the character think, is welcome anywhere in the book, but the end of Act 1 is a wonderful place for it. Turning
points are primo spots too.

#7 – Cross Complaining: When your partner complains about something, make sure you raise a complaint of your own. “I forgot to make up the bed? How about all the times you haven’t taken out the garbage?”

Uses: This technique has similarities to #6 – Brown Bagging. One key difference is that Cross-Complaining gets the most mileage when used between two very key characters in the book. You really want these two characters to be intimately twined – spouses, siblings, parent/child.

Nearly any character can be used for Brown-Bagging, because it is about achieving change in the Main Character. Cross Complaining can give you the mileage of backstory and drama about more than one character because everyone is airing everybody else’s dirty  laundry in this one.

#8 – Over-Generalizing: Use words like “never” or “always.” Ex: “You never act decent to my mother.” This will force your partner into defending his or her overall actions rather than looking at the issue at hand.

Uses: Very good techniques for diversion arguments where you need the MC to be miffed and talking over all the things that should have been said in the discussion. If you need to get to some internal monologue for the character (again, be as minimal as you can!), Over-Generalizing is a great way to prepare the way for that scene in fiction.

In the Goal-Motivation-Conflict structure or in Scene & Sequel – Over-Generalizing is a great way to get the re-action (or conflict or the change in motivation) that will help lead to a new goal.

Remember GMC can be sized up as: Character wants GOAL because MOTIVATION, but CONFLICT.

#9 – Pulling Rank: Don’t address the real issues— it’s much easier just to say that you bring home more money, or you have more friends, or you have more education, or you do more around the house. “When you make as much money as I do, then I’ll listen to you” works like a charm. Keep your partner down! There’s no need for equality in a  relationship!

Uses: I like to use something like this for a character that we want to show as unlikeable, particularly in a romance. If there is an Ex-anything, especially a deadbeat dad (sorry guys!), this is a really good technique to help show the person as unlikeable.

I mean, really…who wants someone to treat us like we’re inferior. Whether it is a parent to a child, friend to friend or love interest to love interest, this is Dirty Fighting at its glorious worst.

#10 – Using Sarcasm: This really gets their goat! “Well, lookee here at who’s so perfect all the time!” Use just the right tone and your partner may not have a good comeback. Push their buttons!

Uses: If you love snark, this will be your go-to Dirty Fighting tool. You will want to be sure to get lots of beta readers if you choose this technique because sarcasm is hard to convey on the page. Particularly if you plan to cross cultures in your book, sarcasm is something to handle with care. It reads differently across languages because it’s built on nuance.

Pretty much the only way to convey all that you want to with sarcasm is to be really precise about your character’s body language. Your words must say one thing while your actions and body language say something else.

Let’s use the above example again, but this time with body language and names:

Drake ambled up the hall to Laurie’s cubicle. He hitched himself up on top of the desk across from hers, surveying her with steely eyes. “Well, lookee here at who’s so perfect all the time!”

Now, imagine that Drake and Laurie were lovers and Laurie broke it off the night before the scene above happened. NOW you have wonderful possibilities for tension and conflict. The dirtier you fight here, the better.

Now that you’ve been rolling around in the Dirty Fighting mudpit for a week or so, do you have any good examples for me? Have you gotten ideas about how to use this in your own stories? What is your favorite Dirty Fighting technique so far? Have you come across any that surprised you? Remember, enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell!


Brainstorm: A Dirty Fighting mini-contest! Next Tuesday, I’m going to give you the last 12 techniques (just so you’re officially Dirty Fighting Apprentices).

*tapping finger against lip…deciding whether a contest would be groovy…OK, done!*

Between now and the end of August, if you send me the following, I will pick the Top 3 and put them in a post here on More Cowbell.

Dirty Fighting Mini-Contest Rules:

  1. Send a short scene, maximum 150 words (if you need 155 to finish the sentence, I’m not gonna ding you, I promise) to JennyHansensMail@aol.com.
  2. Your scene may contain a sentence at the top telling us what the fight is about (though it will be included in your wordcount). Remember Kristen Lamb’s Backstory advice…we really just want the fight. 🙂
  3. In your short scene, illustrate one or more of the classic Dirty Fighting techniques. Tell us which technique(s) you are going for.

You can use this to work out some dialog for your WIP or just use practice characters for your conversations. Have a great time with it (because I sure will)!

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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21 Responses to Ding! Ding! More Cowbell Rings for Round 2 of Dirty Fighting…

  1. Sherry Isaac says:

    Great timing for me, Jenny. My couple won’t be the ones fighting, rather, my heroine is filling in a friend after a class with the hero, and I am using that dialogue to fill in some back story (a step ahead of your post and it’s not even 8 in the morning. Gold star for me!)

    Your post has given me some great ideas, brown-bagging, complaining, because she must stay away from the real issue for 2 reasons. 1, her personality because, hark, she has not gone through her character arc yet and 2, if she goes into the real root of the problem, the problem will be solved, and we can’t let the problem be solved in Chapter 10, can we? Evasion is part of her bag of tricks anyway, and I can use it to full effect here to propel the plot problem and sliver in back story according to the heroine’s gospel.



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Wow, Sherry…it’s exciting to me when I’m ahead on anything. 🙂

      Soooo glad to be giving you some ideas for your peeps. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.


  2. Laura Drake says:

    Oh, love the brown bag one – I’m already printing these out – I’m going to highlight that one!


  3. Stacy Green says:

    Brown bagging is a fantastic one. The idea of using it to get it back story without dumping is great. Pulling rank is definitely something that ticks people off, especially guys. Nothing more fragile than the male ego.


  4. Loving these posts 🙂

    I need to re-work a fight scene (that leads into the midpoint) of my last WiP…man am I going have fun :rubs hands together: using one or two of you dirty fighting tricks.


  5. Gene Lempp says:

    Great advice, Jen. I like Sarcasm (ya think).

    Ten fantastic techniques, adding this to my craft binder (yep, I keep one).


  6. jamilajamison says:

    The MC of my current WIP is one of those gals who’s constantly fighting with someone, so all of these tips are going to come in handy! After Round 1, I started writing an argument that she has with her on-again, off-again lover, and it was brilliant. They’re both dirty fighters, so it’s a (figurative) knock-down, drag-’em-out sort of battle. *grins*


  7. Laura and Gene make good points. I should print and put in a binder for reference. Very useful tips. I already know that there isn’t enough dirty fighting in my novel yet….but I’m on draft 1. I’m just trying to get the story out. I think I will hype up the action level in re-write round 1.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Of course, Nicole. Your first draft is just where you birth the story. Maybe you need to write a “practice fight” and send it to me for the Dirty Fighting Mini-Contest!!! 🙂


  8. Pingback: Deceitful Me « Kate MacNicol~

  9. More awesome tips. 😀


  10. Pingback: Blog Treasures 8-27 « Gene Lempp's Blog

  11. Hmm… dirty fighting indeed. My favorite is the sarcastic one. 🙂 There’s something about being snarky that gets my attention.


  12. Pingback: 23 Techniques for Fighting Dirty – A Guide For Your Fictional Throw Down | Jenny Hansen's Blog

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