THEME

amandaonwriting:

Bookshelves
myidealhome:

functional closet in the entryway (via Stadshem)

davidfarland:

image

When I’m judging stories for Writers of the Future, I don’t have time to write comments on every story that I reject, so today I’m going to start a series of articles that will tell “What’s Wrong with Your Story?”

As I read, I silently go through a mental checklist, looking for weaknesses. So here is a test. Look at the following paragraph and see if you can figure out why I would reject this tale:

Joshua lay in bed, mind blank, as the kitchen faucet dripped. Plop. Plop. Plop. Out in the living room, the cuckoo clock began to chime, and the cuckoo came from its little hutch and whistled three times. Joshua considered climbing out of bed, turning on some late-night television, but the very thought bored him. Some people die from bombs, he thought, but I shall rot away from this tedium… .

I read several stories similar to this today, and I rejected all within a page, since the author wrote about the protagonist’s tedium ad infinitum.

The problem of course here is that there is no significant conflict, certainly not enough to instantly grab your reader.

There are three things that you as a storyteller need to deliver in his opening pages:

1) a character—preferably one that is likeable or interesting

2) a setting—hopefully one that is intriguing

3) a substantial conflict—one that instantly pulls the reader into the story.

My mentor, Algis Budrys, had a rule for submissions. He said, “If they don’t have a character, a setting, and a substantial conflict within two pages, it’s an automatic rejection.” Why? Because your average reader won’t bother to keep reading your tale if those three things don’t appear quickly.

Not all conflicts are substantial. A character who is bored doesn’t have a conflict that will carry a tale. A character who is engaged in inane conversation, or who is waiting at a traffic light, or who is sitting and thinking—all probably lack sufficient conflict to start a story. I could go on, but I think that you get the idea.

Very often, I’ll find that a story like this won’t really become engaging until five or six pages in. It’s as if the author is trying to warm up.

So what do you do as a writer? You cut the pages where the character is sitting on a log, thinking. You rip out the scene where he’s bored. You delete the crud where he and his buddies exchange stupid jests at the bar. That’s all fluff.

The story has to kick into high gear as soon as possible.

When you write a scene, even a two page opener, ask yourself these questions: Do I need this scene? Is it engaging? Does it start out strong and get stronger toward the end, or does it fall flat? Do I introduce the conflict, characters, and setting smoothly? If I don’t get to the main conflict of the story in the opening two pages, do I at least have a compelling conflict that will carry the reader until he reaches the inciting incident?

On this last note, remember that you don’t always have to lead with your main conflict. It may be that your protagonist is going to find himself in battle with a demon throughout the book, but perhaps he doesn’t make that discovery for twenty pages. So you can have a smaller conflict, something fascinating that holds the reader until that main conflict is introduced.

So if you get a rejection, look to see if the opening conflict feels insignificant.

pureempath:

i —— foreword

Fairly recently I realized that a lot of writers and US citizens alike don’t really know and fully understand their rights when being arrested/interrogated.  This is mostly a writing guide but if you’re a US citizen this stuff is just useful to know.  Basically, the police won’t tell you most of your rights aside from what you know — but they don’t even explain those.  I hope this helps. 

ii —— being arrested

If you are not served with a warrant, the police can not arrest you.  They can say they have one, but unless they show it to you, you don’t have to cooperate with them.  Upon being arrested, you will be read your rights.
        “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say           or do can be held against you in the court of law.  You           have the right to an attorney, if you can not afford one           you will be provided one without any cost to you.”
Every so often the police officers fail to say this to the suspect before the questioning session and usually that results in negative consequences for the officers involved.  What they don’t tell you is that you are allowed to have an attorney present before and during your questioning.  They also don’t tell you that what you don’t say and do can be held against you.  An example of this is, say you’re being accused of murder.  If you sit there expressionless and stoic while they’re telling you that you killed your mother its gonna seem suspicious and they can use that in their favor.  Now, in that same respect if you sit there sweating and vehemently denying it — they can use that against you as well.
Alright, they also don’t tell you that you can accidentally forfeit your ‘right to remain silent’ (fifth amendment right).  If you say “I didn’t kill my mother.” you just gave up your right to remain silent.  They will likely try to provoke you to say something like this that will make you give up this right.  That’s why you want a lawyer present during and before your questioning.

iii —— interrogation techniques

There are a lot so I’ll only be outlining a few major things.  Additionally, this guide is only applicable to lawful interrogations of arrested individuals that are US citizens and do not fall under the “terrorist" category, because military interrogations are quite a bit different.  I might touch on that later.
The room is set up strategically.  In almost every interrogation room, there is a table, two chairs, and a mirror/one way glass.  The suspect sits on one side of the table, a police officer on the other, and the interrogator stands.  The sitting police officer serves to corroborate and support the other police officer, or participate in the good cop/bad cop facade.  The one sitting will usually pretend to be more friendly and try to feed you the age old lie “if you just tell the truth it won’t be as bad”.
The sitting cop will also look for microexpressions and pay attention to body language while the standing cop will generally pace around and give off aggressive vibes to intimidate you, the suspect.
On rare occasions, you can be questioned without being served a warrant.  During these times, you have not been read your rights most likely and you do not have to cooperate.  Sometimes its in your best interest, other times its not.  Either way you don’t have to stay.  On other occasions they are allowed to detain you for up to 12 hours but that is exceptionally rare.
The police officers questioning you will try to make you trip up on your own story.  They do this mainly by trying to speed up the process so you have less time to think and process — the aggressive body language comes into play here.  If you feel threatened you’re more likely to stutter and stumble around than if you have a clear mind.
If they’re having a difficult time getting you to start talking, they’ll ask you harmless questions — questions usually about your family members, your birthday, etc.  These are always things they know already but it gets the metaphorical ball rolling.  Along with that, they can establish a baseline of what your body language is when you’re telling the truth so they know when you’re lying.

iv —— "enhanced interrogation" techniques

As far as the less lawful interrogations go, just keep in mind that all pain would have to start at a minimal level and incrementally increase in intensity to be effective.  You also have to factor in disorientation due to pain and possibly blood loss.  At a certain point in time, your subject will realize they are going to die and there is no going back and they will stop caring.  If they think it could possibly stop, you can get information out of them.  There always has to be the possibility of getting out of it alive.  Or you could also kidnap someone close to them and hurt them in front of your subject if that works.
The most commonly known about method is waterboarding, but its not the most widely used.  The mechanics are basic, actually.  Some sort of material is wrapped over the subject’s head — like a thick canvas material, or plastic — and water is poured over it.  Essentially they feel like their drowning but you are just asphyxiating them.  Its more mental torture than anything else.
Sometimes hypothermia is used, and that is basically just taking the subject’s clothing and putting them in a room about 50* F.  Then every couple of minutes the subject is doused in cold water.
A very common technique is to shake the subject and that is fairly self explanatory, I believe.  Not enough to hurt them, just enough to instill fear that you will.  An open handed slap to the face or abdomen is also used.  Punching is usually not employed by the government because it harms the prisoner, but if you’re talking about another country or a rogue operative, maybe a drug dealer — who knows.
Sometimes it is as simple as making the subject stand in one place in the same position for hours.  It causes intense strain on the muscles and is usually quite effective.

v —— end thoughts

I could have gotten a lot more in depth on a lot of this but I felt I covered it enough to give a general idea.  I do hope this helps people write these sort of things more accurately, or maybe even if they get into a scuttle with law enforcement (which I hope does not happen).  If you have any questions, comments, or anything additional that I should add, don’t hesitate to contact me.
  • Accusatory: charging of wrong doing
  • Apathetic: indifferent due to lack of energy or concern
  • Awe: solemn wonder
  • Bitter: exhibiting strong animosity as a result of pain or grief
  • Cynical: questions the basic sincerity and goodness of people
  • Condescension: condescending-a feeling of superiority
  • Callous: unfeeling, insensitive to feelings of others
  • Contemplative: studying, thinking, reflecting on an issue
  • Critical: finding fault
  • Choleric: hot-tempered, easily angered
  • Contemptuous: showing or feeling that something is worthless or lacks respect
  • Caustic: intense use of sarcasm; stinging, biting
  • Conventional: lacking spontaneity, originality, and individuality
  • Disdainful: scornful
  • Didactic: author attempts to educate or instruct the reader
  • Derisive: ridiculing, mocking
  • Earnest: intense, a sincere state of mind
  • Erudite: learned, polished, scholarly
  • Fanciful: using the imagination
  • Forthright: directly frank without hesitation
  • Gloomy: darkness, sadness, rejection
  • Haughty: proud and vain to the point of arrogance
  • Indignant: marked by anger aroused by injustice
  • Intimate: very familiar
  • Judgmental: authoritative and often having critical opinions
  • Jovial: happy
  • Lyrical: expressing a poet’s inner feelings; emotional; full of images; song-like
  • Matter-of-Fact: accepting of conditions; not fanciful or emotional
  • Mocking: treating with contempt or ridicule
  • Morose: gloomy, sullen, surly, despondent
  • Malicious: purposely hurtful
  • Objective: an unbiased view-able to leave personal judgments aside
  • Optimistic: hopeful, cheerful
  • Obsequious: polite and obedient in order to gain something
  • Patronizing: air of condescension
  • Pessimistic: seeing the worst side of things; no hope
  • Quizzical: odd, eccentric, amusing
  • ribald-offensive in speech or gesture
  • Reverent: treating a subject with honor and respect
  • Ridiculing: slightly contemptuous banter; making fun of
  • Reflective: illustrating innermost thoughts and emotions
  • Sarcastic: sneering, caustic
  • Sardonic: scornfully and bitterly sarcastic
  • Satiric: ridiculing to show weakness in order to make a point, teach
  • Sincere: without deceit or pretense; genuine
  • Solemn: deeply earnest, tending toward sad reflection
  • Sanguineous: optimistic, cheerful
  • Whimsical: odd, strange, fantastic; fun

Credit to http://www.mshogue.com/AP/tone.htm

(Source: beaverofrp)

~   Tina Tran, Tips to being a happier you  (via exoticwild)
~   Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi (via queencersei)

(Source: stannisbaratheon)

tessaviolet:

cmonteith:


Hey everyone! As NaNoWriMo approaches, and the month of November itself, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a masterpost of tips, techniques, and preparation exercises. I did not make any of the content listed below myself, so credit goes directly to the respective content creators. Happy writing, and remember- keep your head up. It’s not about quality, it’s about finishing. You got this. Good luck.

NANOWRIMO ADVICE:
10 Tips from the Writing Box
Five Things I Wish I’d Known Going Into My First NaNoWriMo
Pre-NaNoWriMo Tips
October 31st Planning Advice
How To: Write a Novel in 30 Days
How To: Start Your Novel
7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers
Is Your Novel Working?
Story Idea Generator
How To: Reach Your NaNoWriMo Goal
Staying Motivated
GENERAL WRITING TIPS:
Developing a Well Paced Novel
How To: Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method
The Opening Hook
How To: Write a Novel
Effectively Outlining Your Plot
Developing Your Style
Novel Outlining 101
9 Simple Writing Habits
Dialogue Writing
Busting Your Writing Rut
CHARACTER BUILDING:
Name Generator
Name Playground
Behind the Name
Characterization Tips
Character Chart
Seven Common Character Types
Advice for Writing Specific Characters 
Pre-Writing Characters
Main Character Tropes
Creating a Likeable Character
The Universal Mary Sue Test
Myers Briggs Personality Test
100 Positive Traits
Character Development Exercises
Eight Bad Characters
Using Mental Illness in Your Writing
Family Tree Designer
123 Character Flaws
Writing Realistic Platonic Male Friendships
Writing Intriguing Male and Female Characters
Writing POCs
Writing Sexuality
Writing Primary Characters
Writing Secondary Characters
PLOT & CONFLICT: 
How To: Write Without a Plot
36 Dramatic Situations
Tips for Writing a Compelling Plot
Plot Development
The Art of Foreshadowing
Plotting Without Fears
What is Conflict?
Conflict Test
5 Tips for Writing an Effective Plot Twist
How To: Outline Your Novel in 30 Minutes
25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep
Plot Bank
The ABCs (and Ds and Es) of Plot Development
12 Things to Keep in Mind When Writing an Ending
Various Plot Resources

THIS MAKES ME EXCITED FOR EVERYONE DOING NANAWRIMO.

avajae:

Writability: How to Choose the Right Agent for YOU

So we’ve discussed why you need an agent (if you want to publish traditionally) and how not to get an agent. But now I want to talk about picking the right agent for you.

So here’s the thing about literary agents: the legit ones are all publishing savvy, business-minded, all around nice people who just really love books. Or at least, the ones I’ve come in contact with are. Every agent (like every person) has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, which often dictate what genres they do and don’t represent. And knowing those strengths and weaknesses is just a teensie bit important to know before you query.

That’s right. You need to research agents before you start queryingWhy? The answer’s simple, really—not every agent is the right agent for you

Some agents are editorial, some agents are not. Some agents represent a huge range of genres, some are much more focused on a couple genres and categories. Some agents have been in the business for over a decade, others are much newer to the publishing game.

I’ve already blogged about where to go to research agents (see that link above? Click it), so I’m not going to delve into that again. What I want to focus on instead, is what you need to be looking for when deciding what agents to query.

There are a couple questions you should be asking yourself while researching agents:

  • Does this agent represent my genre? This is the basic filter—the very first requirement is to make sure the agent you’re considering querying represents the genre and category your manuscript falls under. If they don’t, don’t query them. No exceptions. 

    No, it doesn’t matter if you think they might make an exception for your manuscript (they shouldn’t and they won’t). No, it doesn’t matter if you really like that agent (that doesn’t change the fact that your MS is not a genre they represent). No, it doesn’t matter if your manuscript is supposedly unlike others in its genre or category (if you think that’s the case, are you sure you know that genre as well as you think you do?)—if they don’t represent your genre, do not query them. You’ll get an insta-reject, and you’ll only be wasting your time and theirs.

    Note: if you’re not sure what genre your manuscript falls under, check out this post
  • Does this agent represent other genres I want to (or already do) write in? This is important, because you’re not just looking for representation for the manuscript you’re querying—you’re looking for representation for your whole career. Ideally, you’ll have the same agent throughout your career (though that isn’t always the case, which is okay). If your manuscript is a Historical Fantasy and you know going in that you also love writing Sci-Fi, make sure the agents you query represent both Historical Fantasies and Sci-Fi’s.

    Why? You want an agent who can potentially sell any manuscript you write, and if you write in multiple genres, you’ll want to make sure the agents you query represent all of them. 
  • Is this agent editorial? Is this important to me? As I’ve mentioned before, not all agents are editorial (meaning not all agents go through the extra process of revising and editing your work with you before going on submission). This is an extra job, and agents are not required to edit your work (remember: it’s your job to get your manuscripts as polished as possible before sending it to agents). If you know you want an agent who will help you with some of the revision and editorial process, then make sure you query agents who are editorial. (You can find this out through interviews and sites like Literary Rambles). 
  • What is this agent’s sales record? Do they have a lot of sales? A few things to remember with this one: not having a lot of sales doesn’t necessarily mean the agent is a bad agent. Some agents don’t report all of their sales, and some agents don’t have a lot of sales because they’re new agents, which is totally fine (and in that case, you’ll want to look at the sales for the agency they’re at, instead). But if an agent has been around for a couple of years, they should have some sales reported. 

    That being said, how much stock you put into the sales thing is up to you. When I was querying, I personally didn’t query anyone who didn’t list sales or their clients, but that’s just me. 
  • What is this agent’s reputation? What is the reputation of their agency like? Both of these are important to consider when researching agents. If the agent is established, what is their reputation like? If they’re new agents what is the reputation of their agency? (Note: it’s important to check on agency reputation for established agents, too). Check interviews, forums like Absolute Write Water Cooler and sites like Preditors & Editors as well as the aforementioned Literary Rambles to learn about agent and agency reputation.
  • Does this agent seem like someone I would work well with? Granted, this is a little more difficult to determine online, but if the agent has a Twitter, follow them long before you start querying. Also, take the time to read every interview you can find—both of these sources can give you insights into the agent’s personality and what their work process is like. There are a couple agents, for example, that I decided I wouldn’t query based off things they said or the way they behaved on Twitter—after all, if your personalities clash, it’s going to make the relationship between you and you future agent more difficult. 


Finally, two rules to remember while querying:

  1. Thou shalt not query every agent known to man. Use the criteria above to narrow down your list to agents that would work well for you and your manuscript. Consider every agent you query carefully. Think, if they offered representation, would I accept? If your answer is “no” then there’s little point in querying—you’re just wasting everyone’s time.

  2. A bad agent is worse than no agent. I’ve often heard of writers jumping to accept the first offer the get, just because they finally get an offer of representation. I understand this temptation, but the fact is, a bad agent will not help your career. Make sure you do plenty of research on every agent you query, and even more research on every agent who reads your full, and even more research on every agent who offers representation. Know what you’re getting into ahead of time to avoid unfortunate circumstances later on down the road. 


What tips do you have for choosing the right agent?

Anonymous asked:

How does one get better at fighting with a sword? I have a female character who was formally trained in swordfighting (being a noble heir) though she has a lot of room for improvement. I want a timeskip in which she trains and afterwards (is 6 months reasonable?) she is challenged by a pirate captain who has years of experience and talent in combat. She is going to lose and he isn't aiming to kill her. How would the fight play out realistically?

answered:

howtofightwrite:

Realistically? She won’t kill him, her guards will. (She won’t even get close to him and his challenge is meaningless.)

This is the most important thing to remember: a female noble heir is the social and economic future of their household, if your pirate captain takes her then he gets to claim her which is the equivalent of stealing Alabama, Alaska, or California. Now do you think for a second her guards or her family will allow that to happen? (The answer is no.)

If you’re using pirates, then you’re probably pulling from the Golden Age of Piracy for inspiration, so between 1650 and 1726. It’s important to remember than aristocrats in any period before the 19th century were not decorative. Today, we (Americans especially) have a habit of confusing the echoes for the gunfire. We view the nobility and royalty like CEOs and other really rich people instead of what they really were: warlords, an important part of their nation’s command and control structure. Nobles were taught to fight because they needed to be capable of defending themselves from the peasantry, from other nobles, and from attempts at political assassination. Your heir is probably living in a period where she is expected to know how to fight because someone else is going to try to kill or kidnap her. While we’re talking about a period in history where the importance of the nobility was ending, it wasn’t there yet. Fencing as recreation hadn’t quite taken hold yet and your heir’s education is going to be for realities of the world she’ll be facing. This is also a period in history when training with live blades was not uncommon.

Nobles engaged professional swordmasters as members of their households to teach them and their children. Your girl is likely to have had a fencing blade in her hand by the time she was six years old, the standard training age for an aristocrat. It’s likely she was trained on a variety of weapons, but depending on your time period her main sword is likely to be either a rapier, an epee or another variant of smallsword, all of which will turn your pirate captain into Swiss cheese before he can say “what’s that?”. She’ll possibly also know how to use a longsword (still saw battlefield use) or a heavy saber (as opposed to the later lighter version of the fencing blade) as a cavalry blade, she’ll have been trained to use it from horseback in case she was ever called to military service by her monarch. If her family employs a professional duelist to fight for her father or mother in case of another noble challenging the family, she might have also trained with them. If her family doesn’t have the money or the family patriarch prefers to handle to duels themselves, it’s likely she was grilled by them regularly. As the heir, she’ll be under direct scrutiny from whichever figure is managing her education and training to ensure she can do her job when she eventually inherits management of the household/estate.

The problem here is that you’re thinking about this in terms of her not having any practical combat experience and conflating the 18th and 19th century nobility with the 16th and 17th century is a terrible, if common, mistake. Unless your pirate captain is a former member of the gentlemen class or noble class then the weapon he’ll be using is likely to be the cutlass, which while a fantastic weapon for boarding actions, is horribly outmatched by both the epee and the rapier when it comes to dueling. They’re both longer (reach and speed advantage) and faster (substantial speed advantage) and in the hands of someone who knows how to kill with them. Weapons are a great equalizer, your heir doesn’t need to be exceptional to kill him, she’ll be armed with the better weapon for the situation and has the knowledge to know how to use it in practical combat. Even if she’s armed with a longsword, she’ll win.

Here’s your first real issue: you’re conflating all types of combat experience together while ignoring the separate skill sets and types of experience. A pirate captain is going to be experienced in ship to ship combat and boarding actions, his exceptional talent is the handling of his crew and his ability to command. This is what he needs to be good at in order to maintain his position. Dueling is not going to be his focus, he may excel at dueling other pirates both with pistols and with swords but the question is who is he dueling? The caliber of your opponent does a lot to enhance skill, so does having the luxury to devote the necessary time to developing that skill. A boarding action is a mass melee, it’s not a duel. Even if he’s used to fighting multiple enemies, it’s going to be in fighting back to back with the support of his crew. His most common opponents are going to be other pirates, most likely drunk pirates, while on shore leave.  This doesn’t leave him a lot of time to come up with the skill necessary to hand a noble their ass in a one on one. A duel with your heir is going to end up looking a lot like Edmond Dantes’ first duel with Ferdinand in The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). Your pirate is Dantes, she’s Ferdinand and she’s got less reason to play nice. (It’s worth noting Ferdinand isn’t even considered an exceptional duelist and, at this point in the movie, he’s just got the advantage of his training.)

Now, he could be a former naval officer or son of a merchant with a business in overseas trade. However, this would mean he comes from either a wealthy merchant family or the middle/upper class. At this point in history officers were still expected to buy their commissions which meant ships were largely commanded by the rich/gentlemen and the sailors/grunts were pulled from the poor/uneducated.

The second issue: Heirs are incredibly valuable, incredibly valuable. Female ones especially because they are the means of carrying on your bloodline. A lot of effort and work by the head of the household goes into the heir because they are the economic and socio-political future of the family. Heirs are not allowed to engage in the same sort of risky business that a second or third child can get away with. A fairly decent modern comparison is Prince William versus Prince Harry, both are in the military but only one gets to fight on the front lines. Now, you can disinherit the heir to ensure that their progeny/new husband cannot claim their titles and lands but you lose all the effort that went into them in favor of (what is likely to be viewed as) a substandard second aka the spare. So, again, it would be like stealing Alabama and she doesn’t have the free time to run off for a weekend cruise with a strange man unless she’s intending to throw away everything anyway (and no one is going to let her).

Second to the Family Head, the Heir is the most well-defended member of the family. They’re not getting out of the house without an escort, these men (and women) will be among the most loyal and skilled men (and women) the house has at their disposal. She’s not going to go anywhere without them and has probably known them (somewhere between four to six) all her life. They may know her better than her parents do, they’re always there, and they will defend her with their lives. Not being a noble, your captain has no ability to challenge her directly even if she challenges him. He is going to have to go through them to fight her and they aren’t going to bother with a duel. They’re not going to fight him one on one, they’ll fight him together. He’s outnumbered and fighting better trained opponents (it’s going to be either three on one with one guarding the girl or four on one with two guarding the girl), so he’s dead.

It’s important to remember that a bodyguard’s job is not to do what their protectee wants, it’s to do what is best for them and ensures their safety. It’s their job to keep them alive, not to keep them happy. She’s not the one paying their salary, her parents are, and even if she was it wouldn’t make a difference. While her guards are fighting him, the other one (or two) will hustle her somewhere else to keep her safe.

Third Problem: In attempting to take her anywhere, he has shown he means her harm. Whether it’s to kill her, ransom her, or claim her as his wife is irrelevant, whether he actually intends any of those things is irrelevant. From her perspective, that of her family, and her guards, he intends her harm and if she’s forced to fight him then it will be to the death. Remember, these are threats she faces from the other members of her country’s nobility. She’s primed to respond to any threats to her person with deadly force and so are her guards, all of whom are likely to face much more talented combatants from their own class than the pirate captain. She has a vested interest in being better at combat than him and she will be because nobles are not sheltered fragile flowers who have the luxury of using money instead of force to protect themselves. The French Revolution was successful because of the number of peasants and the willingness to bury the aristocrats in bodies (which was what it took). It wasn’t because they were better warriors.

Let’s Recap:

Do Not Steal California: Heirs are valuable and important people, stealing them is a lot like stealing the ownership of a state. Lots of people are bound to try it and there are reasons their families take steps to ensure they won’t succeed.

A Rapier or Epee versus a Cutlass: both weapons have a reach advantage over a cutlass and are much, much faster. The pirate captain’s brain will not be used to fighting at it’s speeds and in a single unarmored bout, it will be over in one or two hits. In fact, historically the epee is so fast that it resulted in multiple double suicides during duels which is part of the reason we switched to fencing with blunted blades.

Nobles Are Not Decorative: Unless we’re discussing nobles in the 19th (excluding Russia), 20th, and 21st centuries then an aristocrat’s position was fraught with danger. Even in the 18th century when they were heading toward being obsolete, nobles were very dangerous individuals who faced a great deal of danger in their everyday lives both from the peasantry and members of their own class.

Depending on Context All Combat Experience Is Not Created Equal: while there were pirates who were very skilled duelists this was usually a skill they cultivated during the time before they became pirates (as members of the gentry). Pirate Captains needed to be skilled in naval combat, interpersonal skills, leadership, and other skills relating to raiding, theft, and seafaring leaving little time to focus on skills unnecessary to their general lifestyle.

Where the Heir Goes, The Guards Follow or Lead: A noble’s guards are never far away, they travel in packs and it’s their job to defend their master from harm. Getting through them to the protectee isn’t easy and the protectee is unlikely to thank you if you do.

Swords are made for killing: intentions are great, but swords are made for killing. The better the opponent, the less likely the option of not killing. With faster weapons, it becomes very easy to kill accidentally or a wound may become infected leading to death.

Think Leia, Not Gossip Girl: I didn’t actually throw this one out there in the above, but personality wise, you’re better off looking at Princess Leia (especially Leia from A New Hope) as opposed to modern day rich girls like Blaire Waldorf and Serena Vanderwoodsen. Think about Leia’s response to Han and Luke’s rescue attempt on the Death Star, particularly the part where she takes charge and shoots the Stormtroopers. Feisty yes, but also intelligent and capable of taking care of herself. They provide her with the opportunity to escape, but she’s more than able to act for herself when the moment comes and patient enough withstand the indignities and torture inflicted on her by Vader and Tarkin to wait it for it. She’s also all business once she gets out and is much better at providing direction than the boys are at finding it.

In short, he’s dead.

A solution: as fun as the concept of the Princess and the Pirate is most of your problems could be solved by removing the heir part from the equation. If writing a lazy layabout who isn’t interested in real work is your angle with this character then it’s best to go with a member of the family who has the unfortunate luxury of being a strain on finances simply by virtue of their birth. The third child or a bastard the Father/Mother/Family Head refuses to get rid of who gets all the privileges, none of the responsibility, and who the family doesn’t care enough about to take an active interest in their protection or their training will have a much better shot of doing what you want without all the messy complications. They also have a much, much better shot of being in a place where they and the pirate will actually cross paths. Younger children have a much higher likelihood of leaving the country to seek their fortunes or being in less savory places. (Do not have the pirate break into their house, homefield advantage is huge and estates/castles are designed to be deathtraps for invaders. Don’t do it, you can’t have a fight there without drawing twenty or more guards.)

A solution to the sword problem: they’re drunk. Your character is at a low point in their life, they’re in a bar feeling their failure, and they’re drunk when they challenge the pirate. This gives the pirate the luxury to feel sorry for them, you can subtly handicap their actual skill level, and give them the opportunity to grow as a person and a combatant without jeopardizing all the advantages a noble has access to.

Some Reading Suggestions/Historical Figures:

Julie La Maupin: The life of Julie La Maupin could quite literally fill any swashbuckling novel to rival the tales of Alexandre Dumas, her stories however have the advantage of being real. This brash, deadly, bisexual cross-dressing swashbuckler bucked the times and society to carve her own way in 1600s France.

Gurps: Swashbucklers, Roleplaying In The World of Pirates and Musketeers: The Gurps books tend be great reference material and this one is a great overview of everything you need to write about pirates and swashbucklers. It covers the history surrounding pirates and musketeers, the notable historical figures, the socio-political climates of the times, and pretty much everything else you’re going to need to build your setting.

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. While not a book about pirates, this novel (and the others by Dumas) will be helpful for getting into the frame of mind to write about swashbucklers and nobles. It gets closer to a period when the nobility was still considered relevant and treats them that way.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy (1903), the foundation for superhero literature and secret identities, this is the novel that inspired Zorro and subsequently Batman. It follows the adventures of wealthy Sir Percy Blakeney in his adventures rescuing individuals sentenced to death by the guillotine during the Reign of Terror. In England, Percy presents himself as a dim fop to throw off suspicion that he (along with a band of merry friends) is the Scarlet Pimpernel, daring escape artist, master swordsman, and outside the box thinker. If nothing else, it’s a fun adventure novel read.

The Errol Flynn Collection: The Seahawk and Captain Blood especially, but I suggest a general review of the Golden Age Swashbuckling films.

The Mask of Zorro, The Count of Monte Cristo, anything with fight scenes choreographed by Bob Anderson for the spectacular sword work which may give you ideas.

Wikitenaur: pretty much the best resource for historical fighting manuals if you want to go outside modern fencing to get ideas for your fight scenes. You will have to slog through some older language, some of the manuals come with plates and translations. Others don’t.

Get a manual on fencing. Even if you don’t plan to take up fencing yourself, a manual for beginners will be helpful for getting the basic ideas and terminology down.

While I wouldn’t recommend Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag for it’s historical accuracy (cringeworthy, especially the way it messes with and reduces the awesomeness of some very incredible historical figures) or it’s combat accuracy (also cringeworthy), it’s ship combat is a lot of fun and may help you get into the right mood for when it comes to the fun side of pirates. This depends if you want to shell out for the price tag. The same is true of Pirates of the Caribbean. Decide what pirate theme you’re going with, compare Jack Sparrow with Peter Blood for reference and do some research into historical figures to help you with your captain. If you’re doing a gender equal setting, feel free to research and export the considerations for male nobility onto your female noble.

Have fun!

-Michi