I was hoping it wouldn't come to this, as I hate asking for story help from others (writers pride maybe?) but I'm stuck.
Here's the situation.
In my fantasy novel WIP, I need my main char to be able to fight properly with a sword (a Roman style gladius, if you want to know), but he has been raised in a conquered society where the citizens are not allowed to arm themselves. They have been conquered for a little over 800 years, so his father and grand father (and many more generations) have never been able to fight.
So, here's the idea I have. I want the father to give the main char a sword, but the sword has been infused with the memories and experiences of all the males in the family tree, stretching back to before the occupation. When he touches the sword for the first time, he "inherits" the memories and experiences of all of these people, and therefore is able to fight properly with a sword (seeing as how the men in his family could fight before the EVIL EMPIRE was formed).
I think the idea is OK (pretty standard fantasy fare, I think) but how corny does it sound? Is there a better way to get him to be able to fight? I was going to have him trained over the course of teh novel, but I need him to be be fully capable with a sword pretty early on, and this seemed like the easiest way to do it.
Please tear apart my crappy idea and help me build up a better one!
Like all speculative fiction ideas, it's pretty corny when you talk about it in the abstract. But it's certainly not as corny as the slugs in Heinlein's THE PUPPER MASTERS, and that's a pretty good novel.
I think if you set it up properly it can work. But just because he knows how to fight doesn't mean his body can. I know how to play the guitar. But I haven't played in 10 years and I'm not going to be whipping of Van Halen riffs if I were to pick it up today.
Simply: Have him inherit the memories, but give him an obstacle or two in the process.
Not so corny. However--be careful, you'll have to come up for a reason that the family has been able to keep the sword for 800 years without the Evil Empire discovering it (if they have no right to arm themselves, it follows that their owning a weapon would go against the law).
And I agree with Karloff. Having the memories is going to make him able to fight, but not proficient. Give him obstacles so it doesn't sound like the author needed a magic sword at that point It's all sleight of hand.
I think it will depend on your treatment. If he gains his skills too easily he won't deserve them and the reader will feel that.
You also run the risk of all the other memories and skills being likewise devalued in the reader's eyes.
To my mind it would be much better if the sword had to be gained through wit, genuine work or bravery. Perhaps it had been hidden by some ancestor and the secret of its whereabouts passed down from father to son and part of the MC tasks is to retrieve the sword.
Perhaps the sword could act as a sentient (rather than intelligent) mentor. Something that guides the MC as he practices, works or pursues a perilous journey rather than 'downloading' all these memories etc
Of course this deletes the opportunity for a 'just add water' instant hero but does allow for a situation where the sword will give him what he needs in the instant he needs it.
How terrifying would it be to go into battle against an awesomely powerful enemy knowing you have no skill that will help you but having instead to trust that the sword (your forefathers) will supply the shortfall?
How easy would it be to fight against the sword, or miss its impressions? Eventually the MC may become incredibly skilled but will he recognise that? Or will he have conditioned himself to believe 'it is all the sword'?
[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited January 20, 2006).]
Adding to what Hoptoad suggests - maybe he can only use the sword providing his motivation is unselfish and/or its power is triggered by the holder placing his full trust in it... Best Wishes John Mc...
Posts: 140 | Registered: Jan 2006
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I wouldn't go with corny -- I'd go with cliche.
Actually, it may be corny too, but it's been done so many times that it is first and formost cliche. It's a bit of a cheat, really. Author wants to bring average joe into story and instead of giving him skills and abilities that could work for the task he is set, he is given superhero skills and abilities through magical means. The sword, in particular, is one I have heard before. More than once.
Then again, most fantasy is pretty corny when you stop to think about it too hard. Most science fiction, for that matter.
It is the sort of corniness/cliche that I would be willing to overlook in the context of an otherwise good story, but I did feel the need to be honest about how the plot device comes across to me. Good luck!
I agree with Christine on both counts. It does sounds kind of like a cliche, only the real problem with chiches is not that they're chiches but that but that they almost always appear in otherwise horrible stories (the kind that would have been equally horrible without the cliche). On the other hand, the same cliche can show up in a good story without the user noticing or caring.
As I may have said on another thread recently, I rarely find myself thinking about plots and characters and cliches when I'm reading a good story, beucause I'm too busy paying attention to the people and the situations in the story. It's only when the story isn't good enough to draw me in that I start noticing outside things like writing style and problems.
I think, therefore, that such a thing wouldn't be a huge problem if it's part of an otherwise good story, and if it's a bad story than that's your real problem.
I'll add two cents: if you have way too many clichés, the story is going to be bad regardless. But one or two is okay. Not everything can be fresh or original (for one thing, given the average reader, if you put in too many new things he's going to get confused...sorry for the cynical bent, I've just received a stupid crit from one of my crit group, which essentially said, "not as good as it could be, because it makes you think after you've read it" )
Anyway. If the story is otherwise fresh, don't worry too much about the idea. Just don't make it too easy for your character to get the sword and its powers.
(edited to correct typos)
[This message has been edited by Silver3 (edited January 20, 2006).]
Another thing you could do is have the sword play with the guy's head. If I suddenly had memories and skills from generation after generation...I think I'd have problems. Like waking up and thinking I'm someone else in a different time for a while. If there's a heavy price attached to the magical object, then it stops becoming "cliche heirloom" and becomes a little more original. And interesting, IMHO.
Posts: 189 | Registered: Jul 2005
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Maybe it never worked for his predecessors because they were right-handed. It was actually thought to be a cursed sword that caused many early deaths until he got it. Or maybe instead of actual expertise, it gives him the ability to concentrate despite grave danger. Maybe he has to have the right astrological type sign (which I think there is more to than most people give credit, but which I still think is sinful and wrong )
Also, is some bad guy going to steal it at some point? That could be awesome. Another possibility is the sword isn't very strong/outdated materials. I don't know.
[This message has been edited by franc li (edited January 20, 2006).]
Various good ideas have been mentioned. I'll throw in one thing.
Simply being able to fight with a sword isn't a big problem if you're a) in good physical shape and b) inclined towards fighting. Swords are designed to work very naturally with the human body, after all (at both ends, though we've been talking mostly about the weilder-side here). Some types of swords require a lot of training to use effectively, but a short choppy sword like a gladius requires almost no specialized training at all. If you're guy is a scrappy fellow, he doesn't need anything more to use it effectively.
Having said that, I'll just reiterate the comments that you need to make this guy work for this sword in the first place and he has to pay for it once he's got it. If the sword starts putting crazy ideas into his head, and that works for your plot, then fine. But he doesn't need those memories just so that he can use the thing in the first place.
Your idea is not corny at all. A sword with extraordinary powers can be a gripping and even terrifying plot device.
I think Stormbringer, the Black Sword was my favorite. Michael Moorcock wrote a series of stories about Elric of Melnibone which made this sword come alive. Stormbringer not only knew how to fight but it had a life of its own and drank the souls of its enemies. It was terrifying because it would sometimes drag its weilder along and kill someone unintended.
[This message has been edited by keldon02 (edited January 21, 2006).]
Back into my old role as the dissenter. I would have trouble swallowing it. Simply put, I would rather see him earn his stripes than have them handed to him. Why not make him fight with the sword without training but have a natural ability. Let him make mistakes, maybe even be seriously injured by fighting somebody he has no business fighting. (Obi Wan had no business killing Darth Maul, he just caught the Sith Lord by surprise, and that was all he needed.)
Good stories are about ordinary people doing the extrordinary.
A conquered people would find ways to hide martial training in everyday routines. Several japanese martial arts arose from weapon restrictions placed on the populace. Capoeira (sp?) is a martial art concealed in dance. The MC might not realize that all the precise movements of festival dances were sword katas in disguise. The musculature and reflexes needed to expertly wield a sword need years of dedication and training. The memories in the sword would not build up those attributes unless you get into a transformative magic or ancestor possesion of some kind. Perhaps, the sword could become a character in its own right. A crabby collection of ancestral memories constantly correcting the MCs form and style, a schizophrenic obi-wan in a blade.
Yeah and building off of Grim's ideas you could call his family the local Dancemasters or someother such role that could appear as an innocous importnat cultural role to all but the intiated
Posts: 514 | Registered: Nov 2005
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Could this be more of an instinct on the part of the user to be able to use the sword, rather than just a memory? The instinct could be aroused by the sword.
I had a Shetland Sheep dog from the time it was a puppy. It never saw a sheep in its life nor was it on a farm. But whenever it was around a group of other animals, its herding instince was aroused. Its herding instinct was so strong, it even successfully herded our cats.
But this assumes "breeding" took place. No matter how good you might be with a sword you grandchildrens grandchildren won't neccessarily be more than comic-strip profanity with it unles you and all your descendents breed based on sword skill.
** Not unlike the samurai families in japan or other warrior socities that seperated the Warriors into a seperate breeding pool.
[This message has been edited by Matt Lust (edited January 24, 2006).]
Could the interpretation of hostility come from Monolith's mention of a bastard sword?
BASTARD SWORD: Also called the Hand and a Half Sword. The Bastard Sword was a European sword used primarily in the late 14th and the 15th centuries. The Bastard Sword is a long, straight bladed weapon with a rather plain, undecorated grip (as shown at left). While the blade could be used for thrusting, most often the wielder would swing it like a baseball bat. Ordinarily the weapon could be wielded with one hand, but the grip was long enough to accomodate a two-handed grip when necessary. The blade length was rarely much longer than that of a simple longsword, but because the weapon could be used with two hands (although there was really just enough room on most grips for about one and a half hands), it really couldn't be categorized as either a one or two handed weapon, making it a bastard as far as swords go. Source: http://members.aol.com/dargolyt/TheForge/bastard.htm
Depending on who's selling them, they're often called "hand and a half" swords (which is rather less catchy and sounds ominous in unintentional ways).
The interpretation of hostility is because of Matt's interpretation of rcorp's expression of thanks.
The problem here is a slight disagreement over a minor issue of nettiquete, "Is it acceptable to post a reply that is intended to shut down a topic?"
My point of view is that as long as the post doesn't denigrate anyone participating in the discussion, there's no reason to take offense. Sometimes a discussion is pretty much over. And sometimes it isn't.
Matt seems to feel that "not so subtle hints to let the thread die" or whatever are heinous and need to be unmasked. rcorp seems to feel that once he's no longer getting anything out of a thread, it should be closed down. Probably neither of them really thinks the way their recent posts would indicate, both allowed themselves to get emotional over a matter that is trivial. If threads were closed the instant anyone no longer found them interesting, there couldn't be much discussion of anything. If we kept threads alive forever simply to spite anyone that didn't find them useful anymore, most of the (admittedly plentiful) discussion would be meaningless.
So I stick with reading threads that I find interesting, and posting when I think of something to say. I don't worry myself about whether a thread "deserves" to be continued.
Matt, it isn't the sword of the people who conquered them. Its their ancient weapon, taken away after they were conquered. I use the term "Roman" only to indicate teh style of weapon I was thinking of.
Survivor, you hit the nail righh on the head. I took the response about letting the thread die as meaning "you keep bumping this even though it shouldn't be bumped."
While I recognize that the original poster may have already received an answer satisfactory for his/her purposes, sometimes threads remain interesting and interactive for the purposes of other posters beyond the scope of the original post, and therefore, the thread remains active and interesting. And that's why I'm still here.
This thread has posed some very interesting questions, and I may or may not use some of the thoughts I've gotten from it in some of my stories. At any rate, I've enjoyed reading it, so thanks to everyone who contributed.