Writing Fantasy – Keeping it Real? Part 1 – Swords

Hi everyone, I thought I would start a new blog series about what I’ve learnt since I started writing fantasy novels. In this first part, I’ll be covering the issue of fantasy weaponry with a special focus on swords.

In the Sundered Crown Saga and in other fantasy series, swords are typically the weapon of choice used by the characters. There is something special about them, something that ignites the imagination as well as looking pretty bad ass. The use of swords in fantasy goes all the way back to the Greeks and probably the most famous of them all Excalibur from the Arthurian legends.

In fantasy worlds, we can be as creative as we like but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to fix some things in reality. A prime example of this is when in some stories the character is described as drawing their sword from a sheath on their back. In Hollywood, this is used a lot, but if you tried to do this in real life you will encounter some pretty obvious disadvantages. When writing, I try to think about what would be the most practical way for a character to do something.

Let me give you an example –

 

The knight had his sword drawn from the scabbard at his waist. Ahead of him and barring the road were two warriors, currently oblivious. Both had swords and daggers sheathed in scabbards on their backs. The knight advanced towards them, his steel plate clanking and rattling as he went. At hearing the noise the two warriors ran forward to challenge the brave lone knight.

“You must pay a toll to travel down this road,” the taller of the two demanded.

The knight chuckled heartily causing the warriors to glance at each other in confusion.

“What you laughing about you loony?” asked the other.

The knight stopped laughing and raised his helmet visor.

“I will not pay your toll. Instead, I bet I can best the both of you in three moves,” the knight boasted heartily.

The two warriors sneered at the knight’s bravado.

“You really are a loony. Alright then, you’re on.”

The knight took a step back and held his sword in front of him.

“En garde!” cried the knight.

The warriors set about drawing their swords from the scabbards on their backs. The first gripped the hilt of the weapon and pulled. The sword was stuck. He couldn’t draw his blade, his comrade had the same difficulty. Their draws were limited by the lengths of their arms so that the blade got stuck in the scabbard. All the while the knight chuckled to himself and shook his head at their stupidity. The two oafs before looked foolish as they struggled to get their swords in hand.

“Style over practicality,” the knight muttered as he stepped forward and thrust his sword into the taller warrior’s chest. The man gawped at the knight in stunned surprise, he’d not even managed to pull his blade from its back sheath.

At seeing his comrade fall the second warrior bent over and using two hands gripped the hilt. The sword finally slid free, but the man was panting with the exertion of the impractical movements he’d had to make.

“1 for 1 so far,” the knight laughed.

The warrior swung his sword but the knight easily deflected it and brought his body in close so that the two men were now face-to-face. The fight had become a test of strength. The warrior sneered he could take the knight all he had to do was draw the knife from the sheath on his shoulder and he could….’slick’ his eyes went wide and the knight stepped back. In his offhand, he held a bloodied dagger.

“As you can see, a dagger sheathed on my belt was far easier to use than the one you have strapped on your shoulder. Huh, I daresay I beat my record. 2 for 2 it is,” the knight said.

The warrior slumped to the ground a deep puncture wound in his gut.

“Style over practicality, not worth it,” the knight called over his shoulder as he carried on his way.

 

*

These two Youtubers cover this subject really well so check them out –

 

 

As you can see it might just be a little thing but the way in which a sword is carried can have a huge effect on a scene. When it comes to fight scenes you need to think about how practical something is. It’s tricky in worlds of magic, but even so it’s best to try and keep some aspects grounded in reality.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog. Next time I’ll be covering the topic of armour.

Is there anything specific you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch via social media.

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One thought on “Writing Fantasy – Keeping it Real? Part 1 – Swords

  1. A very good post, Matthew. I believe in keeping a certain amount of reality in my fantasy, too. You can’t have ‘and with a mighty leap he was free!’ Even fantasy has to be believable. Thanks for the links to the videos too. I look forward to your post on armour.

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