Monday, August 11, 2008

Chivalry In Fantasy Writing - Part 2

Adulterated Chivalry In Fantasy

Just as the contaminated code of chivalry went forth with the crusades, such scenarios make for interesting fantasy civilizations. In today's culture we think any man can be considered chivalrous, but historically it wasn't so. In practice, chivalry was limited to knights, barons, and earls. Men of noble birth.

Unusual fantasy cultures present new and unique qualifications for what constitutes noble birth and chivalrous behavior. Questions to consider when developing a fantasy culture include: Are characters born into nobility or similar social distinction? Does wealth and poverty play a part? In Windwalker the distinctions presented by the racially divided society offer opportunities for underdogs to shine the light on what is truly chivalrous.

Growth Of A Chivalrous Fantasy Character

Chivalrous behavior is a matter of heart more than living according to a set of rules. Chivalrous development within the fantasy character builds on lessons learned. Lay a foundation showing how the fantasy world works. This leads readers to form an opinion of what is good and honorable. It doesn't have to be an extensive detailed account that tells the reader what to think, but rather snippets that allow the reader to learn along side the character as they grow.

Historically, a youth of noble birth went through years of training before he could be admitted into the ranks of knighthood. The title of knight was not only earned but a sign of military excellence. About the age of seven, he started his pilgrimage to knighthood as a page. He ran errands and performed humble tasks for noblemen and ladies. During the process, he learned proper manners and received an education. This was the foundation.

Training A Fantasy Character

Rites of passage open the door to creative plot basics. Youth can tend to be rather cruel or overly sensitive. Training forges the fantasy character as they move away from what is known into a new environment that tests the character's integrity. In the right scenario, times of training draw lines between internal good and evil-right and wrong. These situations not only define a character, but also draw the reader to care-to love or hate.

Traditionally, when the page reached young adulthood (about age 13) his training became serious. He moved from the comforts of home into a castle owned by a friend of his father. Within this castle, he'd live and work as a squire. This is the time he learned the skill of using a sword, lance and shield. These skills were honed in mock battles with other squires.

Fantasy Readers And Characters That Connect
Fantasy readers learn along with characters in well-written fantasy. They gain external knowledge, and through body language and internal dialog learn how characters feel.

For example, consider a squire character involved in a training tournament. Readers learn the character's riding technique. They know what he's thinking as he approaches the target. Is he confident or fearful that he will fail before a love interest sitting in the stands? If the squire's lance hits the target dead on, it falls over, but if he hits it off center, the target spins around and smacks him on the back. Readers understand the rules and feel the muscular steed beneath them. If bystanders mock, the reader feels the humiliation.

Fantasy writers strive for readers to know what the objective is and how the character feels. The character and reader become one. They know who's watching and what it means.
Knight-like Fantasy Characters
Fantasy writers learn to carry over the magic of the chivalrous past. Knighthood carried a sense of honor and could be forfeited if the knight broke his vows. Why or how a knight-like character would break his vows would of course depend on the plot and how the fantasy writer wants their character to grow. A knight without honor was regarded as a knight dead.

In the movie The Natural a young gifted ball player played by Robert Redford has the opportunity to fulfill his boyhood dream of playing major league ball. He leaves for the big city with promises of marriage to the girl he leaves behind. This knight-like character breaks his vow after being shot by a mysterious woman. His code of conduct must be proven sixteen years later when he reemerges into the baseball scene and into the life of the woman he had promised to marry.

The chivalry of knighthood historically wasn't romantic or the exciting lives we read about in fantasy today, but that is the adventure of fantasy writing. As writers, we pick up the gauntlet and run with it. Where it takes us stretches the imagination and brings the reader along for the ride.

No comments: