Know your weapons and armor (fantasy writing series)

I have written numerous times about creating realism in your fantasy novel – the most recent about food and travel. Armor and weapons are certainly ones you need to write about with some accuracy, or you will have your reader saying, “what?” You need to research your weapon so you know it well enough to write competently about it.

Now I am not going to go into every type of weapon or armor but list a few guidelines. This is by no means a comprehensive list but one to get you thinking about the weapons you write about.

1.)    Research your weapon – You need to know the basics of your weapon and what it can or can’t do.

swordIf your hero is using a broadsword, those are heavy, and he won’t be tossing it in the air easily. A broadsword is used in swinging arcs cutting either diagonal or across the target. Your hero will not “stop” a blow with his broadsword but rather deflect it.

An Epee blade (think swashbucklers) or rapier is a light, quick weapon. The goal is to cut or stab. This would not be the weapon to cut off someone’s head. You need agility to use this type blade, which means your hero wouldn’t be wearing heavy armor.

Knives are not usually a defensive weapon. Can you imagine bringing a knife to a fight with someone with a sword or battle axe? Using a knife, you rely on speed and agility. Unless they are throwing knives, you also have to expect your hero or villain to get close to the one they are attacking.

If your hero has a bow and arrow, you should know that unlike in the movies, they don’t carry them around all ready strung. Your character will need to string the bow before using it. You should also know the distance that they can shoot an arrow.

2.)    Research your armor – Go to a museum and look at armor or at least look at some websites. Armor can be leather, mail (small links of metal made into a “cloth”) or even a rigid piece of metal. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

suit of armourHowever, remember, armor will not always save your hero’s life. It can minimize the damage of a successful blow or even deflect a weapon. But there will probably still be some damage to the wearer.

Armor is also not seamless. It has to be flexible enough for the wearer to move. That means there are points that offer less-than-optimal protection.  If someone is hit in the right spot, armor will not save them.

Metal armor is heavy. Your hero is going to be limited in their mobility. They will need help getting onto their horse. And don’t forget that there will be padding underneath to reduce the impact of blows.

3.)    Creating your own weapons – Nothing says you have to use a crossbow, a dagger or a sword in your story. Feel free to create your own weapon – magical or not is up to you.  Of course, you really should have a REASON for creating a new weapon.

Weapons reflect the culture of the character. You wouldn’t have a fine, delicate weapon used by a race of Ogres. And there needs to be a reason the weapon was created. Why create a new type of sword or armor? What did the new one do better than the current/past weapon?

And remember that all weapons have a weakness. If it is blade-heavy, your hero won’t be very agile with it. If it has a lot of sharp edges, then special training may be necessary to learn to use the weapon without injury.

Remember the weapon you create doesn’t have to be able to work in our world, but it does need to be believable – just like any weapon that you write about.

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