Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest - Cindy Lynn Speer

Good morning all! Today's guest is Cindy Speer, who'll be discussing fencing. I don't fence but I do love characters who do ;-) so I'll be reading this with great interest. Hope you enjoy it too!


Since I am absolutely certain that people really aren’t that excited about hearing about me when I do a chat, I tend to tell people more about my main hobby…historical fencing.

And people get enthused.  Swords always get people enthused.  I’m all for that, of course.  But then people ask me if I write about fencing in my books.  And you think, since I spend a fair amount of my life during the week attempting to become an excellent swordswoman, that my books and stories would be chock full of people trying to kill each other with the sharp and pointies.  Even a few years back, the first guy to ever teach me how to fence said something along the lines, “When you write your novel with a huge sword scene in it…and you will...”  But, honestly, no.  And I can hear the chorus of writing professors and editors yelling, “Write what you know!” but somehow I just can’t.

I think that this is not uncommon.  Writers do tend to write what they know…they can’t *not* do so, if they don’t know about something then they need to research, to find out enough details to make whatever it is that they are writing about real in their heads so that it will be real in the minds of their reader.  You can’t just write about climbing up the side of a building unless you know what the bricks would feel like under your fingers, what the weight of your body would feel like, what the world is like when you look down.  Maybe you never climbed up the side of a building, but you have, in your life, gathered data.  You’ve picked a brick up and felt it, before putting it back on the pile.  You’ve held your weight by your hands when climbing over a wall, that few seconds before you let go to drop a half foot.  You’ve been high on top of a building, and you’ve looked down to the streets below.

But then writers also know that their audience is smart and knows things, too.  You can’t trick people into thinking bricks would feel like the waxed skin of an apple unless you make lots of context to lead them to think bricks would feel like that in this world or situation.   In my case, I hang around with fencers and long swordsmen.  I hang around with bright people who have read books like Salvatore’s Drizzit Do’Urden series.  Like me, many of them love it, but they will also explain to you why most of the sword fights won’t work.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and get two broom sticks and try and do the scene where he crosses the swords and kicks through them, but do me a favor…do them where a) no one will see you and laugh and b) where when you fall on your bottom you won’t get hurt.  If you do manage to do it, do it again with a friend (gently) attacking you.  Be prepared to glare at them from the floor as they laugh at you.  It’s extremely fun to read until you know how to fight with a sword, and then you’re sitting there, trying to imagine it, and you think, “My favorite character should be dead by now.”  And Drizzit *is* one of my faves, don’t get me wrong.  But I don’t want the same thing happening to me…especially since I don’t have Salvatore’s built in cool points to save me. 

So, how do you get over that?  How do you write about your passion without feeling like you’re exposing yourself to looking less like a knowledgeable professional and more like a geek girl who has watched too many B-movies? 

The secret for me will be to pass the scenes around to people I trust who also are readers…you need someone who has read enough books and stories to be jaded enough that a story isn’t cool just because someone they cared about read it.  And since this is sword fighting, I might just get a friend who act it out with me.  Because, eventually, knowing me and my love of swords, the day will come when I’ll just have to write that scene.

Have you ever encountered something like this?  How do you write what you know?  As a reader, how deeply do details matter to you?

Cindy Lynn Speer jokingly refers to herself as a swashbuckler and author, but it is not far from the truth. A historical fencer who writes fantasy, murder mysteries and retold fairy tales, she divides her time between proving that the pen and the sword can be equally mighty. Find out more about her at

-- Lynda Again
    I hope everyone has enjoyed Cindy's blog today. Fencing is always fascinating to me. Hope you all have found it as intersting as I did.

   Have a Blessed Day!


ellaquinnauthor said...

I don't write what I know. I write what I read, Regencies.

Cindy said...

Awesome. :) Do you use any reference books to get a feel for the time? I love that era!

Pauline B Jones said...

I'm trying to remember who said what we write needs to FEEL real, not be real. Yeah, details matter, and picking what details to focus on helps. I remember when I was researching Out of Time. It was a time travel to WWII. Part in England, part in France. I did tons of research but there were some things I just couldn't find out, so I worked to make it feel real. And there were some scenes I ended up just not writing because I couldn't find out what I needed to know.

One of best moments was crawling through an old B-17 bomber and getting a feel for the dimensions. Not sure I could have written those scenes as well without that experience. Reading about it and doing it, so different.

thanks for fun blog!

Karin Shah said...

Great post! I'm writing a YA right now that's a fantasy and has a lot of sword fighting. I don't have any sword fighting knowledge, but I did Tae Kwondo for a few years and I use that for positioning. Still, I don't know if someone who really does swordfighting would find my fights realistic. I try to use a few physical details and leave the rest to sensations, emotions, etc.

Unbalanced looks good! I'll have to check it out. :-)

Karin Shah
BLOOD AND KISSES Available now!

Julie Robinson said...

LIked your post on fencing. I have taken several classes on writing fight scenes (Rayne Hall does a great job of this) and have a book on writing fight scenes also. Fencing adds a new dynamic to regular fist fighting, so Keep up the sword play!