Being a fiction writer is an odd profession – your bread and butter is in lying (or – if we want to be diplomatic about it – making things up.) We try to insert enough reality into our fantasy to give it a feeling of truth, but ultimately what we give our readers is the part outside of that reality – otherwise, why does a writer exist?
I worry a lot about how many things I don’t know – how my ignorance might leave holes in my story, where someone reading it will say “No, that is NOT how those things work!”, followed by vigorously throwing my book out the window (or – if I’m lucky – against the wall, in which case there’s a chance the MIGHT pick it up and resume reading.
Take sword play. It’s been ages since I took fencing, and I remember how it feels to fight, but I remember very little of the forms and terminology, and besides that, I was fighting with foils, and I believe our instructor was teaching the Hungarian style. Even if I could remember the terms, it’s not the same as someone using short swords or scimitars; the forms and terms would be different. I worry about how I describe sword-fights in Swordsmaster, and some knowledgeable reader seeing my incongruities and performing that book tossing exercise.
Then there’s the fact that most people reading my book (PLEASE let there be readers!) don’t know a wit about sword-play, or the specific type of weapons that my characters are using. Even if I had the expertise, I wouldn’t want to drown these people in the minutiae of technique – that isn’t the same as making the story come alive and will probably put them to sleep.
Robert Jordan used and interesting device in his The Wheel of Time series. There are several points in the books where expert swordsmen are fighting, but rather than describing exactly what is happening, he has come up with creative names for the sword forms being used in the fight, such as “Apple Blossums in the Wind”, “Leopard in High Grass”, “The Falcon Stoops”, or “The Viper Flicks Its Tongue”. As he describes a fight, he often just lists the forms as each swordsman flows from one to another, and even though he never actually describes the forms, the flow of names is enough to evoke an image of the fight in the reader’s mind (at least it does in mine.) And as with all literature, no matter how good the writer, two readers will never see exactly the same image.
The flow of names suggests the move without having to describe it, adds color to the swordplay that gives it a feeling of expertise with NO factual basis. Jordan manages to engage the reader’s imagination without having to be an expert (I wouldn’t know whether he was or not, but if he had tried to describe in exact detail what was happening, the action would have bogged down, and he would have lost me. This is true artistry – to pull the reader into the story without making the reader work himself to death.
William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Reining Cats and Dogs” – can be found in many places, including:
• Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
To CONNECT WITH HIM (and LIKE and FOLLOW), go to
• His site on WordPress: https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri