Writing or even rewriting history is a fun way to experience the past and bring it to life. Of course, many stories can benefit from the addition of history, but pirates just have the certain something. They make for exciting heroes, and they can make for riveting villains.
The first step is to understand their role in your story and the genre you’re writing in. Are you bringing back a historical figure into modern times like Suzanne Johnson does, with her historical undead in her Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. Perhaps you are writing Steampunk or a pure historical set to sail on the seven seas. Once you understand how you’re presenting your pirate the rest is solid research.
Researching your Pirate:
I’ll admit a pirate in modern day is far easier to build than one in a full historical work. It’s essential to know, or narrow as closely, the time period your pirate lives in. Style of dress, hairstyle, and even speech patterns evolve over time. When I wrote Chivalry and Malevolence, for example, I originally wrote it with contractions. Once it reached the editing stage, my editor pointed out that they hadn’t been invented yet. Needless to say, I ran to my shelf and pulled down historical in an attempt to prove him wrong. I was the one in error and have since performed more research.
Time period or era matters more than most writers realize, and even fantasy has to keep a notion of grounding for readers. This is easily done by slipping in small details –no need for massive monologues or pages of back story. The slightest details can have tremendous impact while it moves the story forward, and gives insight into your character. These details can be hairstyle, a lapel, a weapon, or even the type of map used.
How much detail is up to the writer, but the research is a fun way to not only equate yourself with pirates, but to give you a deep insight into the culture that spawned these menacing villains and highly sexualized heroes.
More about Rae
Rae Z. Ryans is an alternate ego who enjoys writing urban and historical fantasy in her spare time. In real life she isn’t very funny, and often comes off as sarcastic. In reality, Rae is down to earth and goes with the flow.
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