Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What Does The Weapon Say About The Warrior? Tips For Writing Fighters in Your Fiction

We love fighters. From knights in shining armor, to scoundrels in space, to special forces soldiers coming out of retirement for one, last mission, we cannot get enough of them. Even if they're in a supporting role, like Bruce Lee's Kato or Anthony Simcoe's Dargo, we can't help but fall in love with our warrior characters. Whether you're writing epic high fantasy, gritty modern realism, operatic sci-fi, or any of a dozen other genres, though, I've got a tip for you.

Let your weapons do the talking.

It's worked pretty well for me, so far.

What Do Your Weapons Say About Your Warriors?

Weapons can say a lot about the people who wield them, and you should use that as a way to show your audience things about these characters. For example, the handsome young lord who comes to court may have the curling locks and easy smile of a dilettante, but the straightforward sword he carries shows long, hard use. Does your hardened mercenary carry an army-issue weapon, insinuating a history and comfort with the weapon, or does he pack a custom pistol made and weighted for his hand alone? Does your character carry a big stick, or a small knife?

Or something you never see coming?
By describing your character's weapons, you are subtly telling your readers things about them. Hard-hitting weapons like the greatsword, an M-60 machine gun, or a warhammer, suggest that this person is about power over finesse. A well-used weapon, like a knife that's been honed over and over again to a razor edge, suggests that your character is comfortable with the weapon, as well as the inherent violence of it. Someone who carries a pompous weapon, like a gilded court sword, or an over-sized Desert Eagle handgun, may value flash over function.

You aren't directly saying these things, but readers will pick up on the clues if you throw them down.

Let's use some more direct examples. Lord Aaron Vox is a noted duelist. He goes nowhere without his blade, and he's never shy about tossing down a gauntlet when he feels slighted or challenged. His sword is a light, short-bladed rapier made for a quick draw, and a fast thrust. The hand guard is intricate and gilded, but provides complete protection for his grip. The weapon, like the man wielding it, seems pretentious at a glance, but is deadly just beneath the surface.

What about Smiling Jill Jones? A pretty little thing, she keeps a five-inch flick knife up her sleeve in case she needs it, and she's been said to leave her mark freely. At a glance what you have is an attractive girl, perhaps with a bit too much party in her. A hidden weapon implies there's more to her than meets the eye, and a switchblade says that she's dangerous, not shy about illegalities, and that she can go from flirty to deadly at the touch of a button.

The Marks Weapons Leave on Their Wielders

Even if your fighters aren't packing the tools of their trade in every scene, their weapons will leave a mark on them. Other warriors will recognize it in them, and even people who haven't lived a dangerous life will feel something unusual about these characters.

Take that, and run with it.

There was just something a little odd about him...
It doesn't have to be something as blatant as dueling scars along the cheek, either. For example, if someone has put in hours upon hours of swordplay, that's going to cause blisters. Those blisters will turn into callouses, and anyone who shakes that character's hand will recognize those marks. Someone who's used to carrying a gun on his or her hip will have a certain walk, and a certain twitch toward the weapon's location whether or not the character is actively carrying it. Heavy weapons, like maces and axes, are going to lead to increased muscular development in the wrist, arms, and shoulders as users develop more and more power. A lifetime spent around firearms could result in hearing loss, and someone who's spent a long time on the other end of a scope may have a particular thousand-yard stare that puts a shiver through you.

All of these tics developed over time are ways to subtly hint at a character's nature and skills, without making the reader sit through an unnecessary fight scene for your warrior to show off. These kinds of descriptions work as build-up, hinting that when the gloves finally do come off, the fight is going to be well-worth watching.

Also, if you're looking for what to do when it's time to flick the safety off, check out Author's Fight Club: Rules For Writing Better Fight Scenes.

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1 comment:

  1. Nicely said! While I'm not a writer at this time, I relish the work of those who have done so well. Thanks for some seriously great advice!