Sword play for Characters, Battles, and Fighting in a Fantasy World

This year I will attempt to make this blog more interesting by throwing out my thoughts, ideas and experiences used to create my books.  I know many great authors have shared their ideas on how to write scenes, develop characters, etc., but I want to take a slightly different tack.  My goal is to outline areas of inspiration and research which led me to develop my stories. 

Specific to my Clovel Sword series, I was unsure whether to start with the shield (based upon the god’s weapons my characters are seeking) or the sword.  After some thought, I decided upon the sword due to its central theme within the series and the basis for nearly all battles within the stories.  I won’t bore you with my interpretation of the history of sword development, suffice to say, the swords is not just a great weapon for close in fighting but one of the very symbols of power.  Obviously essential to many stories through history and fantasy, the sword can be the main character.  In my series, the Clovel Sword is something valuable due to its ability to kill something nearly immortal.  With such a weapon in hand, Urith becomes renowned for his battle prowess across the lands.

For this bit of book development, I didn’t have to go far for resource material.  There are many instances within history (and the Internet) of the sword’s role that it could be nearly cliché (at least I hope not yet…).  As I looked for something which would align with the concept of my world, I took the similarities of my Esterblud warriors with Vikings to develop a concept of a particular rugged sword that would be in the hands of my central character.  However, the typical Viking sword runs from 36 to 39 inches which was too small for my giant Urith and his nephew.  Thus, I went with a long sword which ran out to about 51 inches and could be easily used with two hands.  Add to it, a bit of history that certain Viking swords were made with a type of high quality crucible steel.  These swords were highly prized and very strong.  That type of combination became the basis for the Clovel Sword. 

Rather than focusing upon the weapon itself (aka, Arthur’s Excalibur, Charlemagne’s Joyeuse, etc.), I’ve tried to marry the design of the sword with how a warrior might use it in battle.  To do this, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the television and Youtube.  Looking at re-enactors and others who try to carry on the tradition of swordsmanship has been extremely beneficial to understanding the scenes I wish to portray.  Add in a bit of role playing with my son using some of his sword collection to replicate the battle scene is a way to get the action down as realistic as possible.  Side note:  Remember, during the research with your child, they REALLY get into trying to strike you down…..it can be fun if painful experience for you.

That thought leads me to the question on how to handle the violence within the story.  Let’s face it; fighting close combat with sharp and heavy weapons is a brutal, bloody affair.  In my opinion, how far to take the violent depiction of one human trying to kill another requires walking a fine line.  I found that gratuitous descriptions or blow by blow encounters will put off many of the readers or become boring, similar to how commercials now blast at you incessantly, making you tune them out.  While I can write through the scene quickly, something within each scene normally requires me to come back later with a lot of clean up to strike the balance.

Attempting to balance the action with the consequences is not an easy task.  I don’t have a quick and simple solution other than work through the logistics of the scene (I use some outlining as needed).  For instance, if you have a character taking on multiple enemies, how do you pace the fight, what are the natural reactions to each stroke of the weapon(s)?  Keep in mind that each of your enemies is seeking to take advantage of the fact, in this case, that your character is outnumbered.  A sword striking someone in the back may not go through the chainmail but it will damn well hurt. Putting yourself in the place of your character, how would you react to this?  

For me, the use of role play along with a lot of research adds a needed degree of realism to a fantasy world.

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