Heading into the Wet Blue Yonder in Fantasy

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First, I know it’s July 4th here, so I’m not expecting too much traffic for this post.  Also, why I’m going to keep it semi-short and leave it open to conversation for those that happen to be in the blogosphere.  Funny stuff will come on Wednesday and Friday, so let’s get to the topic of the week.

Many lengthy fantasy series will hit a point where the heroes need to travel to a distant kingdom.  Sometimes this is over a mountain or through a desert, but other times it involves getting across an ocean.  This brings on a new set of dangers.  You fall off your horse, you can usually get back on.  Fall of the ship?  Heavy armor sinks you to the bottom, sea monsters might be out there, you need the crew to throw you a rope, your disappearance might not even be noticed, and so many other terrifying things that simply doesn’t happen on land.  You can’t just stay in place when you go overboard like if you were lost in a forest.  Currents will move you and most of the danger is beneath your line of sight.  At least if the author chooses to use the journey for more than a casual conversation piece or does a ‘time passes’ jump.

The difficult thing with writing a scene that takes place on the water is that you really need to change your way of thinking.  A ship is a small space for characters to interact in, especially if privacy or large movements are needed.  This means I have to keep my action scenes compact and in the rigging for the more acrobatic heroes.  When it comes to casters, I have to remember that wood is flammable and they run a very high risk of destroying the transport.  Just thinking of the list of things I have to consider for a lengthy water journey is making my head spin.  Not to mention the wildlife, which typically touches on an instinctive fear of the open ocean that most humanoids have.  You’re truly defenseless in the water without magic that counters all of the challenges.

So, what do you think about adventures that move from land to sea?  What about those that take place entirely in the sea?  Can you answer without mentioning anything from Pirates of the Caribbean or saying ‘Release the Kraken’?  Have a feeling I just lost at least half of my audience with that last one.

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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36 Responses to Heading into the Wet Blue Yonder in Fantasy

  1. Water provides another great obstacle. If you have to move an army in batches they become vulnerable and can be destroyed in pieces. We have no control in the water either. There is a fear automatically built in to a scene like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s definitely a sense of helplessness that comes from the water. Even a strong swimmer can get taken out by a shark or a powerful riptide. Lakes and pools tend to be ‘safer’ in our minds than oceans. As long as you don’t live in alligator or crocodile territory.

      I’m reminded of battles where invading ships are set on fire by archers on the land or smaller ships. You really are trapped in a situation like that, especially if you’re wearing heavy armor.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Are we allowed children’s books? CS Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has several on and off board struggles between all sorts of strange creatures as well as three humans. (Nothing special about 4th July here but I do have one eye on Wimbledon.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being a boat person, I am not only enthralled by the journey, but fascinated by the places we come upon. It make be something as simple as a large sand bar in the Gulf where the water is only a few inches deep, but it’s teaming with life and that’s beautiful to see. Sometimes these broad sand bars can go on for miles. Without our depth finder, we might have beach ourselves many times. Another grand experience is cruising along in the southeast Gulf and coming upon an island to explore. I’m reminding myself all the while that I am witnessing some things that few humans do. I love the serenity of calm waters and adventure of rough. It helps to have a sturdy boat and a competent Captain. I am blessed.

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  4. Even if there’s a convenient nearby unknown island the swimmer / flounderer / escapee from the riptide manages to get to, it’s been done before – footprint on an otherwise pristine sandy beach, giant crabs – even a rather large love struck ape, etc.
    Don’t forget the classics – Jason & Co aboard the Argo 😃

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  5. beached….southeast Gulf Coast…yuck…I’ve already had lunch and I’m still not awake. Sorry about that.

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  6. adeleulnais says:

    Okay I`m so excited with this post for two reasons. 1. To give the title of a series of books which i adore. Most of the action is set at sea so I hope you can find some copies. http://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/website/index.html Janny Wurts Curse of the Mistwraith series.
    2. My second book of the Wisp series is called “The Spells of Sea Dragons.” and this time our paranoid, just out of a battle for life and death characters have to set sail by ship to a distant land which they all thought didn`t exist.

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  7. Lost me on Kraken. I think it would be fun to see a couple of casters come to the realization they can’t use fire since it would take out the transportation.

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  8. I enjoy stories that suddenly have a sea voyage in them, it’s a change of pace and can be fun.
    Yet I read too many that just aren’t done very well.
    As for swimming in armor, if it’s enchanted right, you wouldn’t have to worry, or if the person wearing armor either had a magical amulet or something that lets him fly, or a spell to let her fly.

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    • It’s pretty easy to mess up a sea voyage. Sure I’ve made mistakes at times. The hardest part is the terminology and remembering the layout of a ship.

      I’d go with a water breathing and movement spell. Flight would run risk of failing and then you splash down in the middle of the water. Though, I think both situations have that pesky fantasy world shark problem. Those things are rarely normal sized.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good points. I never thought about falling from the sky being a problem, oops.
        I’ve read a lot of books where a ship’s layout seems to change from chapter to chapter. I think you do a great job writing journeys on a ship.

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      • I realized it when I had a character riding a griffin. Figured the beast would have trouble in the water due to the large wings.

        Ship layout is always a challenge. I tend to cheat by keeping as much action on the top deck or in single rooms as I can. That way the rest of the ship doesn’t really come up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It works how you do it, so I wouldn’t say you cheat, you just go about it smarter than some other authors.
        You could write a how to book with all your tricks, tips and cheats.

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      • I’d have to read through all of my blog posts for those. 😀 It’s funny that I come up with these on the fly or never realize what I’m doing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I have a few scenes that take place at sea in Pearseus, and it’s always a bit of a struggle, but also fun. Some of my sea scenes are about the journey, too, which is nice. Sea journeys are the perfect opportunity for characters to discuss matters close to heart, as there’s so little to do on board.

    I also have a beach landing under fire, which is another kind of challenge. Does that count?

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  10. L. Marie says:

    “Release the Kraken” always makes me chuckle. But I actually enjoyed Clash of the Titans. 🙂
    I really like sea adventures, having grown up watching Sinbad movies and really loving The Odyssey. Love venue changes that bring about new dangers.

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    • I liked the original and haven’t seen the new one. Though I’ll admit I got sick of the catch phrase.

      Sinbad is a character that needs to make a comeback. I remember a corny TV show when I was younger and they tried again recently. Not sure why nothing will stick.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        I agree that he needs to make a comeback. I love that kind of story! But I wonder how they would do it in a way that would help people take it seriously. I can’t help thinking of the Prince of Persia movie, which I didn’t wind up liking all that much. The Gameboy Advance game was much more interesting!

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      • I preferred the Sands of Time game it was based on. Part of the problem with that movie is it was giving extra plot and backstory to a game based around acrobatics and time manipulation. I was disappointed, but went in with low expectations.

        I think Sinbad could work with a simple story. He’s a sailor, gets involved in trouble, and has to go on an adventure with colorful characters. Unfortunately, today’s world isn’t much for the ‘quest’ stories. Seems to always come down to flashy effects and politics.

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