1. FoxPaw
    Offline

    FoxPaw Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2011
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    1

    Justifying Fantasy in a Pirate Story

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by FoxPaw, Nov 29, 2011.

    I really have two questions here.

    The simplest one first: I have a fantasy world reacted for one of my stories. However, the story actually takes place in one, maybe two fictional countries and a large fictional sea/ocean. (It's a pirate story.) My first question is, should I go about the trouble of making up an entire world just to have the whole story take place in a small part of it? Or should I create a (couple?) fictional country(ies) on Earth, place them in an ambiguous area in the Pacific Ocean, and add my fantasy element to that?

    tl;dr: Should I make my own fantasy world just so the fantasy elements of the story would be justified, or should I take a page out of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and add fantasy to the already existing Earth?

    --

    Part two: One of my pirates is well-equipped with many weapons from around the world, given that she is a traveler. However, oddly enough, the weapon I see her wielding the most is the Japanese katana. (I've been influenced by my Japanese history lessons...) She also uses other weapons that would be considered exotic for a pirate, but I'll stick to katana for this example as it would be her main weapon of choice.

    Question: Should I stick to using their actual names, or would those weapons be too odd? Should I give then new names, but they would be the same weapons (or change the weapon a little bit to justify the new name)? Or should I simply stick canon pirate weapons? (I'd rather this be a last resort.)
     
  2. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Consider that when you write a story set in a different world, you're essentially translating everything into English. They don't speak English. You're translating them to that. Therefore, in your descriptions, it's perfectly fine to say "katana" if that's how the weapon is shaped.

    Just make sure that the weapons suit the pirates. They won't be running about with big axes and dai-katanas. They need something relatively small so that they can fight in close quarters in the dark and mouldy depths of ships.

    So, yeah, I think you're fine. You could also take the Pirates of the Caribbean way, but meh. Why not just be ambiguous as to whether it's Earth or another planet?
     
  3. cruciFICTION
    Offline

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    1,236
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Consider that when you write a story set in a different world, you're essentially translating everything into English. They don't speak English. You're translating them to that. Therefore, in your descriptions, it's perfectly fine to say "katana" if that's how the weapon is shaped.

    Just make sure that the weapons suit the pirates. They won't be running about with big axes and dai-katanas. They need something relatively small so that they can fight in close quarters in the dark and mouldy depths of ships.

    So, yeah, I think you're fine. You could also take the Pirates of the Caribbean way, but meh. Why not just be ambiguous as to whether it's Earth or another planet?
     
  4. Jetshroom
    Offline

    Jetshroom Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Australia
    To be perfectly honest, while I personally like naming various swords Katanas and Rapiers and Sabres and Scimitars etc, I find people who are less interested in swords than I are happier to simply call it a Sword. Describe it, if you feel you need to, but naming it a Katana is about as necessary as naming it a Smadgloat. Contextually, most people will probably just view it as a sword.

    As for Fantasy, in a pirate story there's really no need to justify. Krakens, Sea serpents, mermaids, these are all legends and stories that come from sailors and pirates, IN OUR WORLD. Sure, we can explain them away now, with all our science, but you don't need to specify that it's not Earth.
     
  5. ap Oweyn
    Offline

    ap Oweyn Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I'm all for naming the swords specifically. If you just said "sword," it doesn't impart anything about the character being well travelled to exotic locales. I'm a big RE Howard fan. And he's constantly naming specific weapons. I may not necessarily know what a tulwar looks like compared with a falchion. But I do recognize it as a cultural reference point. And it tells me two important things about Conan: 1) He's well travelled and 2) weapons are tools rather than heirlooms. He uses what's available rather than getting hung up about having his trusty [insert specific weapon of choice here] on hand. I think those two things are crucial to Howard's Conan.

    That said, katana are so played out that I might be tempted to use a less familiar name for a Japanese sword. Say daito for example. Or do some research for other names. Katana are certainly the most familiar Japanese design, but far from the full breadth of it.

    As for the fictional world versus fantasy elements in the real world, either works. I don't think you have to legitimate either one. Lay out the world however you see it. I believe that's part of the social contract between writer and reader. If I'm going to read your story, it's because I'm already explicitly okay with a pirate story featuring fantasy elements. And if, somehow, I wasn't aware going in, I can always stop reading.

    You also don't need to design a whole world, surely. If the story takes place in a certain area, I don't need to know details about the world beyond that area.
     
  6. Dithnir
    Offline

    Dithnir Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2011
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    5
    Tim Powers did the whole fantasy/pirate thing very well in 'On Stranger Tides', setting it in the real world but in fantastic locations.

    If you go for a fantasy world then I'm of the opinion that you shouldn't shirk from the hard yards building out the world around the parts of it that actually feature. People that have been reading a fantasy piece I've been working on have said that it feels like there's a 'world out there' even though what's referenced is mentioned in passing, no lengthy exposition regarding it. However, to get that solidity I had to build out an understanding of the world and many of the countries and provinces in it, as well as how they dovetail and relate to each other.

    When characters then populate your story you have an idea of what they're like, who they like and don't like, and a bunch of other stuff that enriches them, even if the plot itself concerns piracy in a small part of the world.
     
  7. FoxPaw
    Offline

    FoxPaw Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2011
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    1
    cruciFICTION: Yeah, when going through the main characters of the crew, I went through and match their weapons to the person and their lifestyle. That said, I decided to stick with my pirate using a katana and other weapons she just so happens to bring along with her.
    After thinking about it, I think I'll add onto Earth and create a new country. The story takes place in a small region of the world and there's no reason for me to have to create an entirely new world with new languages, etc., if it's just going to be, "a world just like Earth but with witches and mythical creatures." Thank you! =)

    Jetshroom: I will give her a katana and call it one too. She's not a traditional pirate so it works. And other more traditional pirates I have will be using the well-known sabres, flintlock pistols, etc.
    And you brought up a really good point. These creatures are in stories because pirates originally thought them to be real- I can just use that and make them real in mine!

    ap Oweyn: I agree! When I read about a fighting scene, I actually do like to know what type of weapon is being used. Even if I don't know what it is, I'm usually interested enough to search Google for what it is. =)

    In my opinion, the katana is used most often because of all the samurai stories that are told and translated from the Edo-period epics into movies or novels. Back during the Edo period, it was not an exaduration to say that a samurai's life was his sword; it was both a status symbol of the samurai class and a way of life. True, there were others like the wakizashi (the shorter defense sword) or the tachi (literal meaning: "sword"), but the katana was the most common because the samurai treasured their so much. (............ Sorry, I'm studying to become a Japanese historian.)
    But the main reason I chose katana is because of the way its forged and how their blades are made for speed, and have the endurance to slice through a bullet. Pretty handy for a warrior to have, eh? ;)

    I decided to use Earth but give it an extra island-country because yeah, otherwise you'd only be seeing a small part to a huge world.

    Dithnir: Thanks, I'll definitely keep that in mind if I use another totally-fictional fantasy setting. I settled for using Earth and altering it a bit for this story. Thanks!
     
  8. Ixloriana
    Offline

    Ixloriana Member

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2011
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    the internet
    Alternatively, you could build a fantasy world and populate it with countries from Earth. Think The Golden Compass. Lyra's world is very different from Earth; different peoples, different technology, witches, intelligent polar bears, etc, but Oxford and Svalbard and the like are real places.

    ...I don't know if that's any different than what you're doing. I expect not. But anyway, just another example of another story that's done something similar.
     
  9. WriterDude
    Offline

    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    738
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Icy cold wastes of Hell. Aka Norway.
    Part 1: You don't need to create more of the world than the countires you think are relevant, so two countries and an ocean is enough. That said, creating the whole world makes it easier to stay consistent. If you have a katana in the story, it would be a good idea to perhaps mention where the katana is from. It's not necessary, but it means the world is bigger than the one we see in a book and can feel more 'real'. If the story takes place in the real world in France and England, Japan needs to stay where it is through the whole book. If you mention it occasionally without much thought, it could easily move a bit. For instance, one person could say it's south-east of China, while another one later say it's north-east of China. Making a map of the world first makes it much easier to stick to the initial plan. :)

    Part 2: I don't have a problem with a pirate in a fantasy world running around with a katana. However, keep in mind a lot of katanas have names, too. Your pirate could perhaps run around with a sword called Midnight Star or something like that. (completely random name, of course.)
     
  10. WriterDude
    Offline

    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2011
    Messages:
    738
    Likes Received:
    37
    Location:
    Icy cold wastes of Hell. Aka Norway.
    (sorry, double post.)
     
  11. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    20
    Um, even if your story takes place in a whole new world, you don't have to build the entire world if you're not going to use it all. If you're the type to like worldbuilding, go for it. Otherwise, just figure out the pieces of the world you actually need for your story. I have a setting where there is an entire world that I've got a vague idea of, but the entire plot takes place in a single city. There is occasional mention of other regions, but only as much detail as most non-geography-inclined people give in ordinary conversation. Your readers will only see what parts of the world you show them. If you won't show them something, you don't need to know what's there - just as long as you keep an eye out for incongruities that could accidentally creep in!
     
  12. TorpidHues
    Offline

    TorpidHues New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Your two questions intermingle, or maybe conflict more than you may know. If you do go with a totally made up world there may just very well not be a Japan and therefore a "katana" might feel a little tacked on.

    Though now I'm suddenly reminded of:

    http://www.goblinscomic.com/05072006/
     

Share This Page