Unlimited Ammo and One-Handed Greatswords? (Part 1 of a Series)

Cloud from Final Fantasy 7

We’ve all seen or read about it.  An 8-shot revolver having 10 bullets?  An enormous sword being wielded by a slender warrior?  Standing a few feet away from an explosion and not getting touched?  These can be great scenes and effects to use, but you trade believability for this.  The only way to pull it off is to make it a standard for the world and that only works with melee weapons.  Take Cloud for example.  He’s an enhanced human and in a world where other people are wielding gigantic butter knives, so he can get away with it.  If your guy is the only one who can do such an act without any explanation then you’re probably being lazy.

The next few Wednesdays I’m going to post about this topic and hit the three major combat categories.  Range, melee, and bare-handed each have their own rules and research requirements.  I’m still thinking about one on explosions/lasers/magic, so we’ll see how that one goes.  For today, I’m going to do an overall.  I’ll end this entire series on a ‘How to Write Action Scenes’ list.

This might be me nit-picking or being paranoid about my own writing, but you how to know your weapons if you plan on using them.  Not down to the final part unless you’re having a character take a gun apart and explain it.  You need to know how they work, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their maintenance.  For example, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe had it right.  You have to clean off your sword.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a book or seen a movie where somebody sheathes a bloody blade.  It’s horrible maintenance, at least that’s how I see it.  The blood would dry in the sheathe and the blade can rust.  As for magic blades, show some respect for them.

The key to solving this issue is research.  I’m not talking about reading fiction books and watching movies to see what has been done.  You’ll get an idea of what you can get away with like the jumping through air while firing two guns cliche.  Another favorite is the precision hurling of full-sized swords, which weren’t designed to be thrown.  A hilt is not aerodynamic.  I’m rambling, but my point here is that you should know what you’re doing with weapons and combat to make it clear and somewhat believable.  A reader/viewer might be willing to give you some leeway on a few issues, but don’t push it.

Here is what I do for my weapon research.  Remember that I work in fantasy, so this is mostly for melee weapons and bows:

  1. Research the specific blade or bow that I want to use.  By research, I mean read about their use and analyze pictures of the weapon.  Get it in your mind.  For example, I looked for sabers to get a better idea of Luke’s fighting style.
  2. See if you can find videos that show the weapon being used.  It’s not easy for melee weapons when you get to the obscure, but it really helps you get an idea of the limitations of a weapon.  For guns, it can help you see how it is held and the power of the kickback.  Is that the term?
  3. When writing an action scene and putting in the moves, feel free to stop.  Then stand up and slowly try to imitate the actions.  Go for a few moves to see where they will lead because many times you will write into a trap.  For example, your hero swings and misses, leaving his side open with no hope of recovery.  Oops.
  4. Learn it yourself.  If you have the opportunity to get some hands-on practice then you should take it.  Try archery for your bowmen and fencing for your swordsmen.  Visit a firing range if you wish.  One thing that I’ve done at times is friendly sparring with fake weapons.  There are groups for this kind of stuff and I’m sure they would let you in if you asked them to help.

Those are the big rules of mine when it comes to combat research.  As with most things, research is key.  Hopefully this series of informative posts helps people with their action scene writing.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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67 Responses to Unlimited Ammo and One-Handed Greatswords? (Part 1 of a Series)

  1. Jade Reyner says:

    Excellent post – really interesting and useful. Thank you! 🙂

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  2. cnmill says:

    You got me with the picture of Cloud.
    FF VII is my all-time favorite video game.

    Very good points with all of this, for sure.
    It’s SO much easier writing about things when you have – even the most basic – knowledge about them, especially when it comes to weaponry and the like.

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    • I love FF9 out of the series. Something about the music, the story, and the characters pulled me out of reality better than the others. I still tear up thinking about some of those scenes, which means I’m a sap.

      I’ve been asked a lot about my action scenes, so I figured I should do a series on them. A lot of authors stay basic or depend on a reader’s ignorance on the subject. You can get away with it on melee weapons, but I know people are really touchy about gun facts.

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  3. tjtherien says:

    just wrote an action scene for my story…it’s posted on the community story board… my characters weapon is a stone age spear… I’ve yet to have my character use the spear as a range weapon and his use of the spear in melee is still clumsy which I imagine a stone age boy of around twelve would be… had he not had help he would have lost his fight… I just couldn’t see a twelve year old boy coming out on top in an encounter with a full grown wolf, so the boy was injured and had it not been for his companion the boy would have been munched…

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    • That’s how an action scene should be. Take in your character’s age, abilities, and weapon into account. Otherwise, it comes off as silly and ridiculous. Even fiction needs a touch of reality to draw the reader in.

      Like

  4. Great post! 🙂 Fantasy physics.

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    • Yup. Going to have to do some research for each part. Mostly the guns because I’m not very knowledgeable about those.

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      • tjtherien says:

        hold the rifle really loose against your shoulder and put the sight right next to your eye…lol…don’t do this…don’t have your character do it either… when I was in the Reserves we instructed a few annoying recruits to do just this… result a few dislocated shoulders and black eyes…if you are right handed a gun will kick up, back and to the right if you are left handed it is awkward as most guns are right handed but it will kick up back and to the left… each shot will do this and compensation will need to be made. breathe deep aim hold breath squeeze trigger, exhale… also fully automatic weapons should be fired in short burst basically holding the trigger down for as long as it takes you to say sonnofabitch… if you would like to know more from first hand as I said I am ex-infantry… just message me through facebook page or my email. the weapons I trained with are obsolete now, if they weren’t then (Canadian Army we fought WWI with clubs WWII we fought with bows and arrows…joking but not far off) but general aspects remain the same…

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      • Thanks for the info. Maybe you should write the ‘how to use guns in writing’ part of this series for next Wednesday. I stick to medieval weapons because of my genre and I cheat using magic. I’m a coward when it comes to this kind of stuff. :/

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      • tjtherien says:

        there are those more expert than me when it comes to firearms, but if you would like me to share my knowledge I would…there are also some psychological aspects of guns that should be covered and not just basic mechanics

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      • I think the psychological are ignored more than the mechanical. If you want to write up a guest post about it, I’d be more than happy to post it.

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      • tjtherien says:

        I will knock off a post and send it too you by sunday… that will give you a couple of days to decide if you want to use it…

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      • Thanks. I appreciate it.

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      • tjtherien says:

        ok done…how do I send it to you…??? I know I’m a dummy at these things…lol

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      • tjtherien says:

        ok that I know how to do… let me know if you want anything changed… I normally don’t edit, but out of respect to you, your craft and your blog I will edit anything you feel needs it.

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      • You got it. Want me to post it early or stick with next Wednesday?

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      • tjtherien says:

        it’s your call…your blog… you might want pictures…

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      • I’ll look for a few. Great post. Very informative and concise. Surprised about the point about aiming.

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  5. burnham50 says:

    Sudanese from FF9 was always more your kind of character anyway I felt.

    And yes, either kickback or recoil are the acceptable terms there.

    Like

  6. burnham50 says:

    Zidane from FF9 was always more your kind of character I felt.

    Also, kickbacks or recoil are the acceptable terms there.

    Like

  7. Nice post! Yesterday I blogged about a website I stumbled over while researching fight scenes. I think you’ll find it helpful! http://pelicanfiction.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/tuesday-tidbit-writing-about-superheroes/

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  8. This is somewhat unrelated, but I’ve always been terribly amused by Sora’s keyblade in Kingdom Hearts. It isn’t actually a blade, because it’s a KEY … so it’s more like a key-mace, because he uses it to bludgeon his enemies until they explode in a shower of health and munny balls. But I suppose keyblade sounds better than keymace, lol.

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    • That weapon went through my head, but I might have a small solution to that. The teeth are sharp and edged. In most video games, you strike with an edged weapon and it has the visual effect of a blunt weapon.

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      • Hmmm … see, I’d thought of that, but I wonder if Disney would want to avoid sharp edges because it’s Disney and Disney doesn’t like violence/bloodshed? Then again, the whole point of the game is bash villains into nothingness, so … yup, keyblade could very well be bladed 😀

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      • Disney hates violence. Except for Ursula getting impaled, Scar getting eaten, Gaston getting tossed off the roof, Clayton getting hung, and every other villain’s death. 😉 Even in games with violence and blades, they make an odd smack sound instead of a slice.

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      • Bah! You and your logic 😛 Okay, Disney doesn’t hate violence, Disney hates bloodshed. And swordplay in cartoons. I’ve been trying to think of an instance in which there’s a sword fight in a Disney cartoon — not just a character using a sword, but an actual sword fight. Can you think of any?

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      • Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood had them.

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      • Yeah? Excellent memory! Those are two of the Disney movies I’ve seen the least, so that would explain why I didn’t remember that. All I remember from Sword in the Stone is that song where Merlin sticks his house into a bag, and then the times when they turn into assorted animals. Aw, now I want to watch it again, lol.

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      • I grew up on those two. They were my favorites. Didn’t Mulan have some sword fighting too?

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      • Mmm … yeah, probably. Man, I’m dropping the ball here, lol.

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      • Don’t worry. Disney does a good job making people forget those parts. Though, we should remember that Wolverine and Punisher are now under their brand.

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  9. L. Marie says:

    Thank you so much for posting this!!!! This is so useful! I’m glad you started this series.

    Like

  10. sknicholls says:

    I only know guns because I have had experience with them and that has been limited to hunting weapons, and that is limited to like the .410 shotgun, .22, 30.06 rifles, 12 gauge shotguns, and an occasional crossbow. The only hand held weapons are like .22, Glock 9mm,, .45, and once at a firing range, a two handed 50 caliber weapon that nearly blew my arm off. I would be one of those “Not so Knowledgeable,” readers that remains clueless and keeps reading without another thought about it 🙂 I would also be one of the fantasy characters that ends up dead.

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  11. Aldrea Alien says:

    Small people picking up big swords one-handed … yeah. Never got that. Unless it’s a magic sword, then I’ll go along with you. They had that in the Belgariad. I laughed when they took the magic gem off the pommel and he buckled under the weight. Note to self: take heavy-ass sword off back first.

    One of the many reasons I’ll always be a fan of David Edding’s works.

    Like

    • I think it shows a little bit of laziness. In fantasy, it’s so easy to explain. A magic weapon, a non-human wielder, or something. That’s why I’m careful with weapon sizes compared to the users.

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        To be fair, the giant sword was mostly for decoration, he’d been wearing a normal sword for much of the time. Now I think about it, I believe it was the Malloreon series in which he actually carried it.

        Robert Jordan comes to mind with the normal-sized magic swords though and the ability to use said weapon was gained over time via training. Oh, hey … there’s another thing which can be skipped if the sword is magical. Because, you know, experience can be gifted to the chosen one via the sword cause it’s … magic.
        *eye roll*
        This is why I don’t do magical weapons. I’d much rather make the person a mage and give them the training to deal with the world. Or have them fail, like in my last story where the MC was barely able to lift the sword she’d swiped off the agonist.

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      • I use magic weapons sparingly or have the characters be adept at using the basic weapon. One thing I never understood was why a master swordsman needs extra training on a sword that he already knows, but this one happens to through fireballs. If a character knows how to use the sword then extensive training on the magic part of it shouldn’t be necessary.

        As a writer with a fantasy series, I can understand the point of using magic to train someone. If my hero gets a magic sword in the middle of a book, I don’t want to stop the plot for him to train with it. Not saying to have him master whatever magic is there, but you have to factor in learning while the plot continues. I’m not sure how Jordan did it, but I’d hope he didn’t have the villains take a siesta while the heroes figured out the new weapons. 🙂

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        I cannot be precise because it was some time since I read them, but I’m pretty sure by the time they got the magic sword (book three, I believe), they sort of had an idea of what it was and how to use it … sort of. I haven’t read the last in the series (mainly because I can’t afford it and also because I want to re-read the other thirteen), but I believe that’s when it comes into play. A lot of the time, they resort to normal weapons because its reliable. Of course, by normal weapons, I mean magic as well.
        Which they had to learn to use, generally while on the road to stop some flare-up or the other stirred up by those opposing them, which means they don’t always win. But, thanks to Jordan, I’ve no desire to piss off a blacksmith with a hammer. He’s scarier than the guy with the sword.

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      • Blacksmiths are always dangerous. Very muscular and tough. They’re very quick to hit things with a hammer.

        Sounds like the magic weapons would also depend on the magic system of the world.

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        Totally depends on the magic system.

        And fortunately for the MCs, most of the blacksmiths I read tend to be level-headed. And, for the most part, honest. Unless he’s working for the agonist, then he can be deceitful. Must be some kind of blacksmithing code.

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      • I notice a lot of dwarven blacksmiths. They seem common.

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        Not a lot of dwarves or elves on my shelves, but dwarven blacksmiths make a lot of sense. Then again, the early influence of Norse Mythology along with LotR and Discworld have likely left their mark there.

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      • LotR is a big influence on fantasy races. It’s hard to do any without people thinking about them.

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        Ain’t that the truth.

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  12. This is a great topic and idea Charles!

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  13. And “Getting the weapons right” is why I don’t fantasy fiction! LOL. So glad to see you putting a lot of work into making it believable, if you want to attract the right readers it has to come across correctly! 🙂

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  14. Pingback: Pointy End Goes Into The Other Man | Legends of Windemere

  15. Pingback: Weapon? Who Needs a Weapon? (Part 4 of a Series) | Legends of Windemere

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