1. demented-tiger
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    demented-tiger Member

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    Help Wanted

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by demented-tiger, Jun 23, 2011.

    The story I'm writing requires a character with skills in reading, writing, speaking foreign languages (including Spanish, French, and Portuguese), translating classical languages (particularly Latin), and advanced mathematics used in surveying and navigation. Basically, a band of pirates come upon a map leading to a buried treasure. Unfortunately, the map is written in Latin, and in place of landmarks, bearings, and coordinates; all the information is written in the form of riddles and/or require the reader to take thier own measurements. This is to prevent casual treasure hunters from searching for the treasure, while helping to conceal the treasure's true location.

    Originally, I was going to assign these skills to the pirate captain, but I wanted to know if that was realistic. If so, then what could he have been before he turned pirate? If not, what sort of random person could the pirates pull off the street and press into thier crew with the skills required to read the map? Keep in mind, this is set in the late 1600s.
     
  2. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the bible was only available in latin at that time so priests of the catholic church would be familiar with the language. It was also common place for them to know the other languages you mentioned.

    A scholar would have a similar education. Some sailors could speak multiple languages (whether they could read it is a different story). So a pirate captain knowing latin and those other languages wouldn't be far fetched provided he has the proper background.
     
  3. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    One country's pirate was another country's hero at that time. A pirate could be a military officer who was allowed to hunt and plunder the enemy's ships, and as such, he could come from the finer classes of society and be well-educated.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A monk or friar.
     
  5. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two things:

    First of all, pirates should not be mistaken for privateers. The privateers were also pirates in every way just like 'real' pirates, but the difference is they were allowed to attack ships from other countries during wartime. The problem is many privateers attacked anyone who got too close, just like regular pirates. The line between privateer and pirate was pretty dan thing sometimes. Plus, many privateers turned into pirates when the war ended. The point is if the pirates in the story were privateers who turned into pirates, they could hire just about anyone who wanted to serve their country. In theory, at least. I don't think a priest would fight the enemies if he didn't have to, but it would be useful to have God on your side through a priest.

    Second, to the OP: If you want to keep things realistic, ditch the buried treasure thingy. While it's fun to think of pirates and buried treasures, the only known pirate ever who buried any treasures was a pirate captain called William Kidd. He buried some of his treasure to use when bargaining in court by returning it if they released him. It... uh... didn't work, so he was hanged. Nice try, though. :p The rest were far too busy spending their money on booze and in brothels, and were broke most of the time.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why do all these skills have to reside in one character? Can't you have a language specialist and a surveyor/navigator working together? Just throwing that out there ...

    But it wasn't unheard-of back then for a highly intelligent young man to become skilled in several languages as well as mathematics. Most Europeans who were educated then were educated in Latin.
     
  7. demented-tiger
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    demented-tiger Member

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    Okay, so I could make my pirate the son of a wealthy English aristocrat who has access to higher education. That works. However, I am unsure as to what his back story should be. Originally, I intended for his character to set sail for America aboard a merchant vessel, where he was apprenticed to the first mate and learned nautical navigation. Unfortunately, the first mate leads a mutiny and turns the crew pirate, installing my character, whom he trusts, as the new first mate. By the time my story begins, my character has risen to pirate captain, has grown weary of his profession, and is trying to gather enough money to abandon piracy and start a new life in North America. He comes across the treasure map* while raiding a Spanish courier ship, but looses his ship to a storm before he has a chance to examine it, and must assemble a new crew to go after the treasure.

    The second scenario is a bit simpler, but has more obvious holes in it. In this one, my character is still in England and is abducted and pressed into a pirate crew after they learn of his skills in foreign and classical languages and in mathematics and navigation/surveying. They need him to translate the map since they themselves do not possess the education to interpret it.

    I need help deciding which scenario to go with. I also want to know how much knowledge someone in the late 1600s England would know about the early exploration of the America's; particularly of the Spanish conquest of North America*.

    *The map is a part of a shipment of documents bound for Assisi, Italy, from Mexico City. It is contained within the private writings of a Franciscan friar, named Marcos de Niza; an actual historical figure who first explored eastern Arizona and western New Mexico and marched with the Coronado expedition.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Really? Whose story are you writing?

    If it is to be your story, you need to make these decisions. If a choice has holes, bridge then, or wind a path that avoids them. Any significant story idea has them. A masterful storyteller will craft and recraft the story to fix or avoid the holes.

    But most stories will still have holes after they are finished and even published. Read any forum centered around a popular series for examples. Does this mean the story is crap? Absolutely not! If anything, it means the readers (or viewers) are paying close attention, and your story made them think.

    So make your choice - your choice - and make it work.
     
  9. Bobbyking
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    Bobbyking New Member

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    You should consider doing a little research on the different types of pirates, in different location and in different time zones. Most of what we know comes from movies and it is already modified by the producer to suit the plot.

    One other consideration you may want to consider is also your readers; are they just reading for entertainment or are they very particular about accuracy? Each has their own set of opinion regarding the background. Some are extremely particular about accuracy, while others simply want to enjoy a good plot and story.
     

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