I hope you don't mind if I copy and paste a couple of things? I have two lumps I've chucked around here and there in the last couple of weeks - one part of a fic, one a large chunk of advice on battles that I wrote up when I was bored. First, I think, the advice:
Oh, by the way. The original question was essentially 'Do you like to write/read Pokemon battles?'. I think it pretty much applies here, though.
I tend to avoid battle scenes if I can. I hate writing them, simply because every time I do, they seem so horrible and wooden to me, much like the kind the OP was lamenting so vociferously. In any case, that's one of the main reasons why I chose to start Champion Game after the E4 and Champion battles, rather than at the beginning of Ren's journey. I did put one in recently, however, and on the whole it seemed somewhat well received. (That is, I've had one person say they like it, and nobody say they dislike it. It qualifies!) So this of course brings us back to the original question: how do I write them?
Pokemon battles in fanfiction, and my corresponding methods of writing them, vary as much as the characters participating in them do. Some battles might focus more on the 'connection' between Trainer and Pokemon, because that's what the Trainers themselves focus on. Others are extremely straightforward and aggressive, with Trainers simply bawling attack after attack and Pokemon butting heads repeatedly in the arena. (That type's a little more difficult to pull off well, but it's certainly doable.) And of course, the style of my writing will follow. When reading a high-pressure, high-stakes battle, a reader doesn't want to be distracted by too much of the atmosphere. I'll throw in the odd mention of the spectators' (if any are present) general 'mood' and that'll be about it. The rest of the scene will be devoted to the movements of the Pokemon. As well as that, there won't be any big words or words with obscure meanings. Not that I want to patronise my audience - it's just that when the pressure is high, it needs to stay that way, and it's one of the best ways to make sure it does so.
Likewise, when I'm writing about a battle between two newbie Trainers, the focus will likely be on their interactions and how they learn and grow from the battle. There'll be a lot of nervous laughter, perhaps some hyper-masculine showboating and general grandstanding for the benefit of their audience, and some silly mistakes accompanied by taunts from the opposition. The Trainers will banter and laugh, or - depending on their relationship - glare at and bait each other.
In Champion Game, the main character is a funny sort of battler. He instantly calculates possibilities, chances and risks in his head and reacts accordingly. So for his first battle, I set him up with an opponent - Roxanne - who would play well off that. She's generally a smart girl, and one who I imagine would be just as interested as I am in what a Trainer thinks while battling. As a result, when Ren pulled out his 'predict and react accordingly' strategy, there was a good bit of discussion on the topic. It was a little clumsy in that nothing much was going on in the battle while Ren explained his deal, but it does kinda seem like the kinda thing they'd both do - drop everything when something interesting came up, that is.
In future, we'll probably see Ren's mind working, catching glimpses of his thought process as he comes to each decision. I won't have him explain it again each time, of course, but it'll be interesting. The best way, I think, to have Pokemon battles remain 'fresh', is to have a Trainer who does something differently to everyone else. That way it's not quite so predictable. For example, if Trainer A would normally feint with Wing Attack before switching to Aerial Ace to catch Trainer B off guard, we'd have Ren come up against Trainer A. The reader would expect A's gambit to work, because it's been seen to work before, but if Ren predicts it and counters accordingly, it gives the battle a whole new twist.
I like to apply this in different ways. One of my biggest nitpicks I have with people who write battles and OT fics in general is that they tend to have characters who battle very, very similarly. There's no such thing as a strategy, no personality. Characters will be different enough, for sure - Alfred will be calm and cool, while Bob is hot-headed and rash and Charlie is an arrogant womaniser - but when it comes to a battle, it's all just BLAH BLAH BLAH same-old, same-old. So how do we mix it up? We look at each character, and decide what influences their battling style.
Perhaps we have a blind girl. (We do. Or, at least, we will.) She's been unable to see since the age of six, yet she overcame this disability to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a Trainer. What does this tell us about how she battles? Nothing, right? Wrong! (oh lord, I'm preaching. Sorry, but bear with me.) It tells us several things about her.
She's determined to succeed.
She's used to adversity of one kind or another.
She may have suffered some kind of discrimination due to her blindness.
And she's blind. Duh.
Each of these things tells us something different about how she will (or may - remember she's your character, here. You dictate everything) battle. Let's take a look~
She's determined to succeed. - This means she wants to win more than others. Perhaps she'll even resort to using dirty tricks in order to achieve victory. Maybe she'll rage at you when it looks like she's going to lose. By the same token, she'll likely play strongly but safely from the get-go, not taking risks, but trying to ensure her victory.
She's used to adversity of one kind or another. - She's not just going to give up. No matter what you hit her with, she'll keep going. She won't surrender to you just because it looks hopeless.
She may have suffered some kind of discrimination due to her blindness. - If you mention her disability, she might snap. Perhaps she's sick of being teased, and will get extremely aggressive in response. As a result, she'll throw away her 'play-it-safe' strategy and go all-out with attacks.
And she's blind. Duh. - This, of course, is perhaps the most important factor. Because her sight is impaired (one of the more important senses in a Pokemon battle, for sure) she'll have to rely on her others. By this logic, let's say she has extraordinarily sensitive hearing. This means that if she comes up against an opponent who uses a silent Pokemon, she'll have trouble. On the other side of the same coin, she'll be able to pick up on things a normal Trainer couldn't, such as the sound of a Pokemon shifting its footing to launch an attack.
All these factors will comprise her battling style, and I think it's these that are most important when writing a battle. Note that I built out that somewhat interesting battling style from just a couple of sentences about this girl. I don't know where she comes from, what her family's like, or even her name, and yet all of these will have an impact as well. Characters are alive - they're not just pixels on your screen anymore. Every Trainer in every Pokemon game ever behaves somewhat similarly, battles the same sort of way, uses the same sorts of strategies. It's perhaps a good idea, at the creation of a character, to write down his or her battling style. Make sure it fits with their personality and history, and make them interesting. I don't want to read a fic about cardboard cutouts battling each other, do I? I want to read about people.
Now, let's look at the other side of the spectrum - Pokemon. While not so varied and unique as humans, each Pokemon will battle differently. Zangoose is aggressive. Clefable is defensive. Audino refuses to hurt its opponent. Each of those will have their own personalities, again depending on their history. This influences their battling style as well.
Something I like to see is when a Trainer's method clashes with his Pokemon's. For example, someone who enjoys pummelling his opponents into the dust attempting to make his Plusle do the same. Often, there'll be friction. Better yet is where the Trainer doesn't exactly clash with his Pokemon, but misinterprets their personality/abilities, causing them to do worse than they normally would because the Pokemon isn't fully in tune with its true potential.
I tend not to look at the Pokemon side of the battle so much, personally. Because while they're friends and partners, for sure, at the end of the day, they're just tools to help a Trainer win a battle, much like spells in Final Fantasy or fireballs in Mario. Different writers will put more or less emphasis on the Pokemon aspect, but I tend not to attach much significance to them. While I do respect their essential role in any battle scene, they are, to me, secondary players to the Trainers - the ones who are actually battling. They're the ones who have something to lose, something to gain. I won't by any means downplay the importance of Pokemon in a fic, but to me, it's just not a central concern.
Maxie's eyes widened. “I-interesting,” he said, his confidence apparently shaken. “I wouldn't have thought it would occur to a Gym Leader to deviate from official League rules . . .”
“There are no rules when it comes to you, Maxie,” Flannery said, her own security boosted by the wall of formidable Fire-types between her and the miniature moving mountain that was Camerupt.
Maxie's expression soured even further. “Fine!” he spat, tossing down two more Poke Balls. A black and grey canine bared its sharp fangs ar her, accompanied by an incensed-looking purple Pokemon that fluttered swiftly around the ceiling of the cavern on sharp, bladelike wings. “Crobat!” Maxie barked. “Get her!”
Flannery's eyes widened as the Poison-type dived straight for her with a speed she wouldn't have thought possible. She didn't have time to move or react, but just as she closed her eyes and began to flinch away from he incoming attack, a gout of fire rumbled across in front of her. She felt the heat wash past her face, just barely avoiding singeing her fringe. Crobat swerved out of the way at the last second, evading the Flamethrower attack, but also losing its target.
Houndour barked helpfully, wagging its stubby tail. “Thanks, boy,” she breathed. That was a close one. “Attack the Trainer directly, will you?” she demanded irritably. “Scum.”
Maxie shrugged carelessly. “You said it yourself, *****. No rules.”
Flannery bit her lip. Fighting to retain control of her anger, she took a deep breath. She felt sweat break out on her forehead as her gaze flickered between Maxie and his three Pokemon, all of which held their positions – for now. She wasn't going to let them spring another surprise on her. Still, although she had numerical advantage, there was no way she could successfully command all five of her Pokemon at once in the heat of battle. She would just have to try her luck.
“Fine,” she ground out. “No rules. But I'm taking you back with me, even if I have to drag your smoking corpse down the mountain!”
(Scene break, then we come back to the battle later.)
Flannery ducked as a blast of flame scorched the air above her head. She wasn't sure which Pokemon it had come from, but there was no time to find out. Improvising on the go, she made a concerted effort to rally her troops – for, she realised, that might as well be what they were. She was a commander on the field of battle. While normally there was just a Trainer and one, maybe two Pokemon, she now found herself trying to coordinate five at once.
“Torkoal, Magcargo, hold on in the middle there! Arcanine, Ponyta, try and get around the sides! Houndour, cover the back with some Flamethrower attacks!” To their credit, her Pokemon adapted to the situation as well as she could have hoped they would. Without needing to be directed into specific techniques – something for which she was endlessly grateful – her battalion of Fire-types spread out as she had ordered. While the cavern was low – the Magma grunts clearly had not thought a high, arching ceiling a necessary architectural feature – there was a surprising amount of room to maneouvre.
Her two sturdiest Pokemon, Magcargo and Torkoal, remained directly in front of her. Magcargo breathed a small gout of flame which spread and solidified into an orange-tinted barrier that covered the area directly in front of it, while Torkoal braced its legs against the ground and steadied its shell, waiting for further orders. Arcanine and Ponyta, swift as the wind, but far more deadly, swept forwards on both sides, pinning Maxie and his Pokemon against their stack of crates.
Arcanine roared and leapt for Mightyena's throat, its fangs gushing flames, while Ponyta loosed a blast of fire at the still-fluttering Crobat.
“Evade!” Maxie hissed. Both of his Pokemon dove out of the way, but before either Arcanine or Ponyta could react, a double stream of fire blasted across the air from the mouths of Houndour and Torkoal, collecting both of Maxie's Pokemon as they hung in midair and smashing them against the wall behind Maxie, scorching and blistering.
“*****!” Maxie swore and directed his charred Crobat towards Flannery's Arcanine. “Get it! Kill it! Poison it, something!” Wings whirring at impossible speed, the purple Pokemon shot towards Arcanine faster than Flannery's eyes could follow.
“Move!” she shouted desperately. She knew how much damage a well-trained Crobat could inflict, and was in no mood to see one of her prized Pokemon on the receiving end of such an attack. Arcanine leapt, an orange blur to match the purple one, but Flannery could not tell whether it would be able to evade the attack.
Ponyta, however, had not been idle. Recovering from the sudden movement of its intended victim, it turned its flames on Crobat, a second blast of fire clipping Maxie's Pokemon and sending it spinning off course.
Unfortunately, Camerupt had not been snoozing either. “Blast them!” Maxie screamed, throwing himself backwards. In reply, Camerupt roared thunderously, fire exploding from its mouth and nose, as well as – far more worrying to Flannery – the twin volcanic craters on its back.
Fire, all-consuming, ravaging fire, mushroomed up from the centre of the room, sucking up a large quantity of oxygen and almost blinding Flannery with its beautiful, terrible light. Panicking, Flannery instinctively threw her arms in front of her face as the fire approached, but just as the inferno was about to hit the mouth of the passageway where she stood, Magcargo thrummed mightily and upped its fire output. The gentle trickle of fire that had been feeding from its mouth into the protective screen in front of it intensified, becoming a torrent of white-hot lava that blasted forward in a wide arc, crashing through Camerupt's wall of fire and rolling across the enormous, blunt-nosed Pokemon like a wave.
Camerupt roared again, this time in pain and confusion as it shook itself free of the rapidly cooling lava. Capitalising on its distraction, Torkoal and Houndour took the opportunity to blast it with powerful flames as well. Although Camerupt had some natural resistance to Fire-type moves, it was noticeably weakened by the onslaught.
Maxie's face twisted in rage. “Mightyena!” he snarled. “Get in there!” When no response was forthcoming, he glanced around in confusion. Largely unaffected by Camerupt's scorching flames, Arcanine had pinned Mightyena to the wall with one powerful paw. The black and grey Pokemon struggled feebly, teeth bared in a ferocious grimace, eyes blazing red with defiance, but it was held firmly. Arcanine roared proudly.
“Good work,” Flannery congratulated him. With Mightyena out of the picture, she definitely had the advantage.“Now we just need to-”
“Enough of this!” Maxie roared, slashing his hand angrily through the air. “Camerupt, tear it all down! Earth Power!”
Camerupt bellowed its rage and pain, the sound shaking the entire cavern. The vibrations, however, carried on after Camerupt fell silent, growing stronger and stronger. Chunks of rock started clattering to the floor, dislodged from the ceiling and walls by the fearsome shaking. Camerupt grunted and snorted, stamping its feet as it stood proudly amid the rockfall. Large cracks began to appear in the floor, the rumbling noise still growing ever louder.