Finally found something my characters and I agree on: Weapons are cool. Different personalities prefer different weapons, different settings make different weapons available, but overall, it's a fact in my world - weapons are just plain cool. Ohhh... wait... that means I have to write scenes with weapons. I have to have fight scenes, with weapons, written in a way that makes sense and shows a great action sequence. But I've never actually used most weapons before.
Guess it's time to learn!
Academically, at least. Here's a good example: Kallizar (when not using her magic) often carries a staff. It's tall and thick, like a good walking stick, and made from solid wood. On paper, it's sweet - she can whip it out and kick some ass... but then what? She carries it a fair amount even when not in combat. No big deal - until I made a staff for myself and walked around with it all day. Guess what? Big, solid walking sticks are heavy. And they make your hands hurt after a while, especially if you have to grip them tightly - say, for instance, if you were fighting? So I learned some valuable information by having the real thing in front of me, physically, and by being able to interact with it and use it the way I was trying to write it. Short answer to the problem? Kallizar doesn't carry the staff nearly as often now. It gets in the way a lot, it's heavy, and it's not terribly useful for most situations.
Example the second: Akitis fights with a slew of knives, usually by throwing them but she's good in close combat, too. She's got a whole belt full of them, and they range in size and weight from finger-long slim shivs to dirks longer than my forearm. Now, Akitis is on the thin side, but she's no weakling. She's grown up using knives and defending herself in hand-to-hand combat, so she's way more skilled than I am. But it was still a learning experience for me when I went to Scotland one spring and visited several shops that boasted blacksmith crafts. I got a chance to handle about a dozen different knives in various sizes and it was incredible how unique they all felt in my hands. I even ended up buying a dagger for myself. It's much heavier than anything Akitis would ever use, and it's meant to be more decorative than functional, but it still gives me something solid to return to when I'm looking for some good knife descriptors.
Third thing - swords. They're a lot like big daggers, right? I know the basics - I've watched plenty of TV and movies with sword fights. Oh, except that's all staged and choreographed, too... hmm... Well that's a bit of a conundrum. I can't buy a sword (those things are really expensive!) and I seriously doubt a class on proper fencing etiquette is going to be helpful when I am working on a pirate attack sequence. Parry! Thrust! Fail. But what I do have is still pretty good - my husband is a black belt in Tang Soo Do and has studied some kendo (traditional sword-fighting, usually Japanese). He's got some sturdy wooden kendo swords and I've been able to see a few of the basic forms. Granted, my pirates aren't going to be using kendo art when they're ransacking another ship, but I can at least understand and better write how the captain might hold his sword and bring it down or across when attacking an enemy. And again, in Scotland, I had a friend who was lucky enough to purchase a sword (actually, the sword that matches my dagger :) ) and I got to hold it. Holy whoa, was that heavy. Yes, I am a weakling, especially compared to a long-time pirate sailor or a military man, but it still was a sharp reminder that swordsmen are strong. They aren't always huge and perfectly chiseled, but they're strong. Even disarmed, they'd likely be a fearsome opponent because of their sheer strength.
Next up, and not something you'll find featured in The Immortal Flames (although they do make quite a few appearances in my other stories): guns. I've had characters fire guns, get shot at, get wounded by, and get killed by guns (or bullets, I'm not going to argue over that). And here's where I have the least personal experience. I've shot a BB gun, once or twice, about twelve years ago, and that's pretty much been the extent of it. No hunters in the family, no family heirloom I can steal away for ten minutes of intense study. So in this case, I do research. Yes, a chunk of that research is watching various TV shows and movies to see relative sizes of handguns vs. rifles, etc. Some of it is also internet, learning names for different guns and what types of bullets/ammunition they take. And some of it is even playing FPS (first-person shooters) games on my computer to see what types of guns get reloaded in what ways, how hefty the recoil might be, whether it's likely to take two hands to fire, and so on.
Plus, I get to play video games for research. Awesome!
The final weapon I wanted to touch on is what I always refer to as a natural weapon. That could mean a vampire's fangs, animals' teeth and claws, or, for Sorcerers in The Immortal Flames, the magic in their blood. Kallizar doesn't need a physical weapon to focus her magic. She crafts spells through careful pattern design and logic and creativity, but all she needs to do to activate it is bring it forth. She's not bound by the limitations of what's physically accessible - which is good, because when she needs to cast a spell on-the-fly, even a gesture might be too slow. It becomes a reflex, a habit, a part of her every day. Sure, she spends lots of time practicing, crafting new and better spells, but they take time. Ones she uses constantly, like summoning and dismissing her staff, or grabbing the wind to carry her voice over long distances, are so commonplace she doesn't even do it consciously. As the saying goes (at least in my family), practice makes permanent. It may not be the perfect spell, but do it enough, and it'll be at the ready in your mind forever.
There's more in my weapons locker, but I think that's enough for one peek. Expect an update in a day or two with pictures of some of these things, and maybe a surprise or two!