Friday, June 13, 2008

Fighting for the Castle in Fantasy Writing

Castles situated on a high, hard to reach locations makes storming the castle a tapestry of interesting plot threads that offer opportunities for rich, vivid imagery when writing fantasy. To create a realistic scene, writers must know enough history to make a castle attack authentic from either side of the battle.

How To Capture The Fantasy Castle

To capture a castle, attackers must get beyond the walls. When writing fantasy, hold onto enough history to make it real. Fantasy writers should offer hints of how to capture or defend a castle throughout the plot threads. Don't offer too much detail, but put the pieces in place so that when the attack takes place, and these same pieces come into the picture the reader understands what will happen and how it works.

Because of the formidable design, historically, the safest way to capture a castle was to starve out the occupants. However, this wasn't as easy as it sounds. Remember those store rooms beneath the hall in the keep? If the castle residents had fair warning of an impending attack, they could hoard enough food and drink to survive a lengthy siege.

If castle occupants make adequate preparation to wait out the siege, it increases tension and conflict in the storyline. Action can advance as armies resort to weaponry of the era. Weaponry opens opportunities for the fantasy writer to create similar but unique weapons constructed specifically for the story-the fantasy version of the secret weapon.

In reality, many lost their lives trying to breech castle walls. Catapults hurled stones to weaken the wall, but as attackers stormed the castle, a barrage of arrows sliced through the sky from the arrow loops.

Another tactic to capture the castle was to fill the moat with rocks and fashion tree trucks into a rough semblance of a bridge to make crossing possible. Once the advancing mob reached the main gate, a large, heavy beam was used to ram the closed drawbridge until it gave way.

One other weapon used to break through the castle walls were storming towers. These wooden constructions (covered in wet hides to prevent burning) were rolled against the wall to work as a ladder.

Defending the Fantasy Castle

When writing fantasy, the writer can also learn from history to defend the castle. If you check the article (link)Social Classes When Writing Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, you'll learn that the army defending the castle was usually comprised of the lord of the castle, his knights and villiens who agreed to fight as part of their service due, along with vassals paying homage and those who served the vassal in a like manner. At times professional foot soldiers were hired to fill out the ranks, and even knights were known to rent out their fighting skills.

As attacking armies assaulted the castle with storming towers, defenders shoved the wooden structures from the wall and into the mob because once the first wave of attackers made it over the wall, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat to make it easier for their comrades to join them.

Other deterrents used to keep the enemy at bay were things like pouring boiling pitch from the top of the wall onto the army below, and of course the swarms of arrows whistling into the angry mob.

If your attackers break through, it results in bloody hand-to-hand combat, but that's okay. You're readers know where they are at every turn, how to escape, and engages the readers to keep reading to see your characters through the entire ordeal.

1 comment:

Boom said...

A wizard could freeze the moat solid and everyone could run across =D