Monday, May 5, 2008

Fantasy Character Skills - Swordsman - Part 1

In medieval fantasy settings, and even futuristic fantasy worlds, writers lean toward swords or sword-like weapons as a favored choice. As writers, it's important to convey realistic detail so readers see the sword in their mind's eye, feel it and know how to use it. Fantasy writers must learn how to verbally swing, slash, jab, jump, gyrate, tumble and roll through the acrobatics necessary to avoid the blade of an enemy while engaging the rules of honor that dictate honorable swordsmen behavior. (What is honorable may change from one world to the next.)

Fantasy Character Skills

Equip fantasy characters with needed skills and resources to make the plot work. Swords make interesting weapons; the fight becomes personal—face-to-face. Samurai swordsmen prized their swords, how does your character feel? Does his sword hold sentimental, spiritual, mystical or superstitious value? Did the character inherit it, earn it, buy it or find it?

Samurai also carried a smaller sword thrust through their belts. Defensive strategy positioned this smaller sword with the cutting edge upward. This allowed swordsmen to deliver a swift, lethal blow from scabbard to target in one move. When the enemy pins your character into a tight situation, what avenue of escape have you created? What skill sets does your character have to fall back on? Research history for interesting techniques, mixing and matching skills to create a unique warrior type character (even a reluctant warrior).

How do soldiers or military characters move about your fantasy world? Do they ride steeds? March in rows? Travel in an underground tunnel system? Roman soldiers traveled on foot. Each one carried a short sword, a dagger, a spear and a shield. Soldiers' backpacks included provisions like cooking pots, bedding and enough food to last up to three days. How do your characters survive in the field? Do they travel in troops or is your character a lone wolf? Does almost everyone carry a sword or is that reserved for an elect group?

In the realm you've created, who fights and why? Is every character equal? Is slavery permitted? Is war a military function? In ancient Rome, slaves captured in battle could sometimes earn freedom by fighting wild animals in the arena as gladiators.

Tomorrow: Fantasy Character Skills - Swordsman - Part 2

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