Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fantasy Character Skills - Swordsman - Part 3

Well Rounded Characters

Develop characters with strengths and weaknesses. No one is proficient at everything. A squire's training covered everything from code of conduct to social skills including courtly etiquette, dancing and jousting. They practiced fighting with sword and buckler, learned acrobatics, fighting with a quarterstaff and how to operate siege weaponry.

Each aspect of training offers room for the plot and characters to take new direction. A character full of self-confidence on the practice field may feel shy and even timid on the dance floor. As a whole, the sum of experience should take your character from boy to man, girl to woman or man to changed man and so on. The process engages the reader, make them care, and keeps them reading to learn what happens next.

Swords in Fantasy

In fantasies like The Sword and the Stone by T. H. White, Arthur went through this maturing process. The sword plays an integral role within the plot when the king dies without an heir. The prophetic blade found thrust through an anvil on a stone in London bears an inscription that presents the central theme of the story. "Whoso Pulleth Out the Sword of the Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of All England."

In fantasy, the sword itself can take on a role almost as if it is a character. In T. J. Glenn's Warrior Priest, crystal swords grown magically from the blood of the warrior make the weapon uniquely part of the warrior. Swords grown from blood crystal connect with the owner almost as if it is part of their body.

In Star Wars, the sword-like lightsaber forms a blade-like shaft of pure energy. It hums, shimmers and can cut through almost anything in the hands of a Jedi. The magical element of the Force allows the Jedi to predict and deflect incoming blaster fire. The color of the energy forming the blade tells viewers whether the energy is from the Dark Side or the Force.

Crafting a Fantasy Sword

Fantasy writers involving a sword as a significant part of the story line must make the weapon unique and interesting. In medieval times, the sword served as the knight's main weapon. Is the sword in your story the main weapon or a treasure sought? Consider what the fantasy sword can do, what it can't do, and what your character knows and needs to learn.

Here's a bit of detail to consider as you fashion a sword on the anvil of imagination. Double-edged swords bore a groove called a fuller that runs the length of the blade making it lighter. Decorative handles also worked as counter weights making the sword easier to handle. However, if your character is fighting futuristic armor plated foes, more pointed swords make for better thrusting through gaps between the plates.

Historically, sword handles included decorative details like fish-tails, fig-shapes, and other unique-shaped pommels. Take an element unique to your fantasy world and incorporate it in the sword—stamp it with the maker's mark. As you design the sword handle, think of your character's fighting style. Handles for one-handed swords were shorter, whereas swords built for two hands added enough length to be gripped by two hands.

Today's photo provided by
sjtodey at

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