More questions from my workshop, and more thoughts on why they matter.
How can you tell someone is a sword fighter? This one was phrased in the Sherlockian sense. What would give away a swordsman to an informed observer. My answer involved looking for the muscles in the forearm and wrist that have to be developed to control the sword, physical stance and confidence, visible awareness of surroundings. There are lots of other good answers and other avocations that will share many of the same traits, dancers for example. My fencing improved significantly in the window when I was both unofficially TAing a stage combat course and taking modern dance because there was a lot of overlap in skill sets.
In the workshop description you mention the physics of swordplay and that a rapier is always going to beat a broadsword—why is that? So I talked about the time-to-target issues of a weapon that is already extended in front of you and very close to your strike point vs. one that need to have a good swing for full effectiveness and is thus several feet at least from the strike point. A thrusting weapon is simply faster than a swinging weapon. Then we discussed the history of weapons as a history of technological innovation and development and how advances in weapons drove advances in armor and vice-versa. And also how things like improved steel making technology and the introduction of gunpowder or the long bow changed things.
Who owns swords and other weapons? I was particularly pleased with this one. Weapons are often expensive and depending on where you are in history they can be very expensive. The socioeconomics of weapon ownership is something any fantasy or science fiction writer should take into account. If, for example a sword costs a year's earnings for a peasant, and the owner is not a rich noble, how did they get the sword? How does its cost affect the way they treat the blade?
At root these and other questions are all about making your writing believable, and I'll talk a bit more about that in my next post, since I've already used up a lot of words and my alloted non-fiction writing time. In the meantime, does anyone have any thoughts on the subject of weapons in writing? Problems they've been having that they want to share? Anything like that?