The Hero Wins the Sword

Or the heroine wins the magic coffee pot, or the villain gets the superweapon, or the side character gets a magic suit of armor, or the burglar gets a magic ring, or the wizard finds a prized magic spell, or the beast tamer finds the extremely rare beast, or the writer finds a great story idea.

You see, the characters’ things can be as central to the story as the characters themselves. Where would Aragorn be without a sword? Even worse, if he had a sword, what if it wasn’t the legendary Anduril, Flam of the West? What about Perseus? Where would he be without the mirror shield? (Hint: He’d be petrified. No pun intended)

My dad kidded me on this one, but it actually makes sense: as awesome as characters are and can be, you can’t write a story with them only. You need places, you need actions, you need events, you need histories, you need…things. More specifically, things that belong to important characters.

But this is more than just a bag of chips the hero may have picked up at a gas station. No, this has a more heroic feeling to it; a sense of conquest. A hard-won treasure that will have a big impact on the story. An important relic for an important character. It sets them apart, makes them unique.

It doesn’t have to be a weapon, but it customarily is. Almost always, the relic (as I’m going to call it for the rest of the article) is found on purpose after a long and painstaking search. Rarely is it found by accident, but it can happen. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, stick with the relic being found by a quest.

But how is this quest constructed? Well, first of all, the length is of minimal importance. It can span the breadth of the novel, it can be contained in a few chapters, it can be encapsulated in a story around a campfire. However, the point is this: there MUST be a backstory surrounding the object, even if the backstory itself is shrouded in secrecy.

The reason for this quest is this: if the relic is easily won, the reader concludes logically that it is of marginal importance. This can work to your advantage if you want the reader to think this way, but normally you want the reader to think that the hero has gotten somewhere.

So there’s a great cost attached to the relic. What now? After this, once the character actually gets the relic, you have to tell what everyone thinks about it. What do the side characters think? What does the possessor’s enemy think? What does the possessor think about it?

It’s important to tell what the characters think about the relic. Possible details might include what it looks like, any magical-y auras, whether or not they think it looks “normal”, and other details. The mental image that we find in each of the characters’ minds serves to tell the reader what it is.

When describing the relic, compare it to items in reality. “Two pyramids stood end-to-end” or “the handle of an ornate, broad-bladed gold-handled sword, only the blade was broken off about halfway”. Something that your readers can imagine without much trouble.

Bar that, however, there’s not much else that is required for a good relic. The only other thing I would advise is for the character to do something with their newfound weapon/spell/magic coffeepot/relic. It’s imperative for the relic to actually be useful, after all the trouble that the character went through to gain it.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

One thought on “The Hero Wins the Sword

  1. Love the part about description. Brandon Sanderson calls it concrete description, as opposed to abstract. I’ve never really given the relic much thought before, but now I have, thanks to your post. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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