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.