Choosing Weapons for Your Fantasy/Sci-Fi Character

Whether you write fantasy or science fiction, it’s not uncommon for weapons to make an appearance in your story. Choosing the type of weapon your character uses can be an important defining characteristic both for your character and for the world that the story is set in. Today we’re going to talk about different weapons you might find in fantasy/sci-fi worlds and things to consider when giving them to your character. 

Just as a note, some regional weapons will be divided up between fantasy and sci-fi based on how often they are used as stereotypes across these genres.

Fantasy Weapons: Many fantasy stories end up revolving around Medieval Europe/ Middle-Eastern weapons. Depending on your world, the weapons might be modified based on the race holding them (dwarves, elves, humans, halflings, etc), or if magic is involved. 

  • Medieval Europe Weapons 
    • Swords (short sword, longsword, bastard sword, claymore) 
    • Rapier 
    • Dagger
    • Crossbow
    • Bows
    • Pullarms (spears, pikes, halberd) 
    • Javelins 
    • Bolas
    • Sling 
    • Scythe
    • Scimitar 
    • Tulwar 
    • Dirk
    • Maces
    • Axes
    • Morningstars 
    • Staff

Science Fiction Weapons: Sci-fi weapons are often based on a mix of technology, integrating different cultures, and creating things from scratch. Writers can get really creative with these, (especially if they’re able to turn a medieval-like weapon into a gun, ie. RWBY). 

 

  • Blasters
  • Lazers
  • Phasers
  • Sonic Screwdrivers
  • Focused Radiation Beams
  • Lasso 
  • Katana 
  • Bokkan
  • Lightsabers 
  • Particle Beams
  • Gun

Resource: Coolest Science Fiction Weapons, Ranked

Characters and Weapons: When you create your character and decide they should use a weapon, there are a few things that you should ask yourself and remember. 

 

  • Why does your character carry a weapon? Is the weapon a reminder of a family member or friend? Is your character a warrior? Was it the only weapon they knew how to wield? Are they fighting a war or living in a dangerous place? Make sure you give a reason behind why your character has the weapon in the first place.
  • How did your character learn to use the weapon? Too often characters have weapons but there’s no explanation on how they learned how to use them…or they somehow master them unrealistically (*cough*LukeSkywalker*cough*). Schooling? Personal lesson? A prodigy? It’s more believable if the reader knows just how the character was trained. I think Game of Thrones does a pretty good job of this when it shows Arya learning how to master her sword Needle thanks to her “dancing” teacher. 
  • Does your character use the weapons to kill? There’s a big difference between using a weapon to defend oneself and using it to kill another person. Why would your character kill someone with it? Why wouldn’t they? Do they follow a code that causes them to act a certain way with the weapon? This brings to mind the character Morgan from The Walking Dead/ Fear The Walking Dead. After going through a bought of insanity, Morgan ends up meeting a man who teaches him how to use a staff to fight, but not to kill. Morgan starts to follow the ideology that he shouldn’t take a life because otherwise he’ll lose a part of himself. The staff becomes that constant reminder. 
  • Consistency: First of all, don’t forget that your character has the weapon. If she’s wearing a dagger or a blaster in chapter 3, she better be wearing it in chapter 8. Second, make sure the weapon itself stays consistent. Don’t have her using a dagger one moment that seems to be as long as a broadsword in the next. Or if she’s shooting a gun, make sure you know how many rounds she can actually fire and the damage it can do. Third, if the weapon is special in any way (size, color, weight, appearance), it needs to stay that way through the whole story. 
  • Know your facts: Once you choose a weapon for the character, make sure you know as much about it as possible. For example, you likely won’t have a short character wielding a claymore that can be up to 55 inches. If using a gun, know how many bullets it has, or its target range. The same goes for a blaster, phaser, etc. Sword lengths vary depending on the blade. If you’re trying to stick to a particular era, don’t have a gun show up in a medieval setting. 
  • Knighthood/Status: Does your character wear a weapon to signify knighthood or perhaps a higher social status? Is your character part of an army where they all use the same kinds of weapons? 
  • Magic: Is the weapon magical in someway? Can it burst into flames if a spell is cast on it? Can it hurt certain beings over others? Does magic fuel it to make it work? 

 

It’s easy enough to say your character picks up a sword and fights with it, but knowing the history behind that character and the weapon is vital. Some characters become very attached to their weapons and even name them (Jon Snow’s Longclaw, Ruby’s Crescent Rose, Bilbo’s Sting). Do your character, and their weapon, justice by making the weapon part of the story instead of just a meaningless item the character lugs around.

Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A.) Signing

For the past three years, the incredible Dana Beatty and Terri M LeBlanc hosted an epic author signing event called Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A). It moved from place to place, hosted tons of authors, and had a lot of success. In 2018, they asked if The Writers’ Rooms would like to take it on as part of the organization. We jumped at the opportunity, and after months of hard work, we’re excited to finally host the event on September 7th from 10am-4:30pm and 8th from 1:30pm-4:30pm at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

I.O.W.A is a multi-genre, multi-author two-day book signing event. This year features over 20 authors who are eager to share their books with you. You can meet the authors through literary panels, readings, signings, author speed dating, and special giveaways! Don’t forget to stop by the welcome table for a swag bag. The first 50 people on Saturday will receive a bag with a free book inside!

We have an incredible list of authors who delve into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction, romance, fiction, women’s literature, humor, memoir, children’s books, YA/NA, etc.:

Featured Authors of IOWA

We also provide a bunch of fun prizes that you can win both courtesy of The Writers’ Rooms and the CR Public Library. Who wouldn’t want a bag that makes your book look big?

The two-day event is divided up into several different activities that both patrons and authors can get excited about.

  • Author Signing: Come meet local Iowa authors to learn more about their books and pick up tantalizing tales for sale. Be sure to stop by every author table to have your Passport signed. Once you get as many signatures as possible, drop it off at the Welcome Table downstairs to the chance to get a prize.
  • The Writers’ Rooms Writing Prompts and Social: Stop in the Conference Room to learn more about The Writers’ Rooms, one of the hosts of I.O.W.A. Write with us using prompts provided by the Rooms and also get to know your fellow writers. 
  • Panels: Authors will sit on a panel to share knowledge of a chosen topic. Come listen and ask questions to learn more about the writing/publishing industry. Some topics included are, “Indie Author Publishing,” “The Writer Parent,” “So You Wanna Be a Writer 101” and more! 
  • Author Readings: Join the authors of I.O.W.A. as they read from their sections of their novels. Now’s the time to ask questions and get to know more about the author! 
  • Speed Dating: Authors will be seated at separate tables in Greyhound Cafe and interested readers will have a chance to talk with them in three-minute intervals. The author will begin with a short pitch of their book releases and answer questions the reader may have. When the bell rings, the readers change seats. A Saturday event only! 

One thing we tried to do is make sure that none of the events (ie. panels, readings, speed dating) overlapped with each other. I know how hard it can be to want to attend multiple author readings but have to choose between them.

Want to get a first look at when the different events are happening? Stop over at the facebook event to get the latest news and let us know you’re coming, check out the I.O.W.A. website page, or visit the Cedar Rapids Public Library calendar.

Today we were featured in The Little Village Magazine (thank you to Rob Cline for his kind words). We were also interviewed by the Press Citizen, which is so exciting!

The Writers’ Rooms is a community-driven organization, and we couldn’t exist without you. I.O.W.A. is a way for us to thank the many writers and authors who have helped us over the years and to give back to the creative community. This is a free, family-friendly, event, so be sure to bring your little ones along. We can’t wait to see you! #IOWAWrites19

To learn more about I.O.W.A., visit:

The Writers’ Rooms: I.O.W.A.

I.O.W.A. Facebook Group

Twitter

Instagram

 

Finding Writing Contests

Whether you’re a poet, short story writer, a novelist, etc, I’m sure most of you have submitted your work to a writing contest at some point in your life. Contests can come in many shapes and forms. They might be for large anthologies to help you get your name out there. Some may pay royalties to their authors. Others have big cash prizes. And some pay nothing, but at least you get the bragging rights. The things I hear most writers say is that they don’t know where to submit their work or where to start looking, or how to prepare their piece.

First off, here are few of the common places I visit to find writing contests/opportunities:

  • Submittable: This is a submission engine as well as a place where sites compile contests that are available. More and more sites are using submittable as a way for authors to send in their work. Once you enter your information once, it’s usually there for you to use again. What’s great is you can track what pieces you’ve sent in, where they are in the process, and which pieces have been accepted or rejected. There’s a messaging system too so you can contact the contest site if you have questions. Once you sign up and indicate your genre interests, it you can also look up available contests through the system.
  • Poets & WritersThis site is great because not only does it provide helpful writing tips, it also frequently updates contests or submission opportunities. You can filter it depending on entry fee, genre, deadline, etc. So if you’re only interested in poetry, you can just select the poetry category. Or if you don’t want to pay for an entry, you can filter out all of the contests that cost money.
  • Writer’s DigestWriter’s Digest hosts a lot of writing contests each year. They also list other contests/events that are going around, so keep checking in for the newest and greatest stuff. Like Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest provides helpful literary tips as you’re prepping to submit your material.
  • Jerry JenkinsJerry Jenkins lists contests that are going on throughout the year and it gets updated every year. What I like the most about it is that it’ll provide a link directly to the contest so you don’t have to go looking for it.
  • The Write LifeI like this website a lot. They provide 31 free writing contests that have cash prizes. So if you’re looking to make some money for your writing, this may be the route to go.

These are just a few sites to get you started. If you’re looking for a particular genre, you might have to dig a little deeper into the internet to find the right contest for you.

As you prep your piece for submission, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Read the Guidelines: Whatever contest you enter, it is vital you read their guidelines. They might have very particular ways that they want you to submit your piece (font, size, single vs double-spaced, etc). If you don’t do as they request, they may disqualify you without even reading your piece. Get it in on time, and if any of the directions are confusing, be sure to e-mail them and ask for clarification.
  • Stay on Topic: If you enter a contest that has a particular theme, make sure you’re submitting a piece that works. If the theme is “Aliens in Space,” don’t give them a contemporary romance or paranormal entry. Stay as close to the topic as possible.
  • Word Count: When contests give max and min word counts, you need to stick to them. Even if your entry is 5001 words and the max is 5000, that one word can still get you disqualified. Again, stick to the guidelines.
  • Review Other Published Pieces: Some sites will have previous anthologies available for your to peruse. If you have the opportunity, read through some of their pieces to see if your work seems to fit in. If the magazine/anthology is completely different from your realm of work, you might consider submitting somewhere else.
  • Make Sure the Contest is Legitimate: There are many contests out there that will gladly take an author’s money and not do anything with the contest or will scam the writer. Make sure they’ve published other pieces before, they have a history, and the information on their site is spelled correctly. I know that last one might sound odd, but a lot of scam sites will have misspellings, which would seem odd if they’re running a writing contest.
  • Don’t Harass the Judges: When you submit a piece, don’t e-mail the judges or the site owners repeatedly to find out the status of your piece (unless it’s to notify them that your work was published somewhere else). The more you pester, the more likely it is your piece will be dropped. It takes time to review the work, choose the right pieces, and prep them for publication on paper or on site. Be patient. Generally “no news” is good news because it means you haven’t been rejected yet.

I hope this helps you as you look for places to submit your work. If you have other tips or sites people should check out, feel free to post them below!

Happy Writing!