Writing prompts are a great resource for any writer or creative for that matter. Since I began to write seriously I’ve found them endlessly stretching, both for taking me away from what I usually write and making me focus on a particular area of my writing.
It’s fair to say I’m far from an expert writer (though am working hard on my 10,000 hours) but I do know my genre and have been steeped in it for some 20 years or more. So despite being a relatively recent addition to the tribe of pro-writers I wanted to humbly add to the available inspiration by pitching in with some fantasy writing prompts.
As a genre, fantasy has the wonderful element of forcing the author to write things outside of their normal scope and realm of possibility. For example, battle scenes, spell casting, fictional creatures and so on.
Each week I will endeavor to provide writing prompts to get you focused on an area of fantasy writing. If you do write in this style already it will hopefully get you inspired and if you don’t then it will be the kind of stretch I get from writing in the real world.
So this week our focus, to get the blood boiling, is battle scenes, the cornerstone of many a good work of epic fantasy. You’ll find below scene descriptions that vary in complexity. Take 30 minutes and your pick of any or all of these and feel free to post your scribe-ings in the comments.
Creating an effective battle scene isn’t far removed from creating an entire book. There are multiple lines of action featuring a number of different characters. They may or may not interact at different points, they may well change through the course of the battle and there has to be resolution by the end.
Tying everything together, keeping it moving and interesting whilst creating strong enough images to bring the whole thing to life is your challenge.
1. The Melee:
The king has called together his knights to hold a tournament in honour of his youngest daughter. Despite her protestations, he has insisted that all present must take part in the melee, an old-fashioned tradition where everyone is equal-ish.
Whilst the royal family, princess included watch on, Ser Riven, Ser Larallan and Ser Varcent all take to the field, all with the intention of winning the princess’ heart. There are 20 or 30 combatants in all, all on foot, armed with a variety of weapons. The aim is to be the last man standing.
Your mission is to create the ebb and flow of combat whilst tracking the three knights and the princess, adding emotional weight to the hack and slash.
2. The Siege:
Castle Brackenfast has stood for hundreds of years, a colossal 3-walled bastion of defense. It sits against a mountain, the semi-circular walls abutting it and facing down a long valley. Within is the last hope of the realm, the small but determined army of Bracken. With them are a group of children, the remaining survivors from the host’s destruction of the surrounding areas. The host is a colossal army of assorted scum and tyranny, bolstered by a core of battle-hardened soldiers.
As with all sieges, it’s all or nothing, but time is running out and the host will attack at first light.
Your mission is to create POV for both sides, using whoever you want. Try to include one of the children inside the castle and a non-combatant from outside as well. Begin as the sun breaks above the horizon and the screams of the host fill the air.
3. Magical combat:
Open warfare, two armies facing one another. The setting is simple, a flood plain just outside a city. The day is overcast, dark clouds whipping across the sky. The crackle of magic comes from both sides and it’s clear that despite the number of soldiers, it won’t be them that decide the outcome of the battle.
Your mission is to tell the story of the battle from one POV, someone non-magical. Whether they are fighting or watching is up to you, but you need to bring the viscera and the magic. Bringing magic into battle without it over-powering, or making the physical action seem insignificant is the real challenge here.
4. A Storm at sea:
The navy has been called out of port, following sightings of an approaching armada. As the dark ships get closer, it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary army. Strange creatures, tall, thin and clutching iridescent swords line the rails. Unbowed by the lashing rain, they stare endlessly towards the stout ships of the port of Mayline as the ships grow ever nearer.
Your mission is to bring the atmosphere. This is a creepy scene, the creatures entirely alien to the soldiers, but the fighting will still be hand-to-hand, sword-to-sword. You can decide whether to get some cannon action in there or go straight to boarding, but make it fierce and frightening.
5. The epic battle:
It comes down to this. The armies of two great nations spread across battle lines miles long. Everything has been building up to this and as much as Nathan wishes he were somewhere else, he can’t deny the butterflies in his stomach as he grips his sword. More than a mile away, Nathan’s brother Taaran also waits, his horse restless beneath him. The two haven’t seen each other in years, aren’t even aware that they fight on opposite sides. Back on Nathan’s side, General Haylan paces his tent, all-too aware of the fatal flaw in the battle plans, but knowing that it’s too late to change them.
Your mission is to create a bird’s-eye view and tell the story of the entire battle, but at the same time bring the human elements using the characters above. You can of course create more, but the emotional core of the story is wrapped up with these two and they must have some form of resolution. There’s also the small matter of the flawed battle plans…
Do feel free to share the fruits of your labours in the comments or if you’re feeling bold, post them on your own site with a link in the comments.