FANTASY BATTLES – Terrible Writing Advice

I would like to thank The Great Courses Plus
for sponsoring and inspiring this episode of Terrible Writing Advice. All writing is deception and what better way
to sucker people into buying your book than by promising the inclusion of an epic fantasy
battle. So gather the armies, raise the banners, and
prepare for war. Let’s get the reader pumped up for that
great battle. Raise the tension, build towards this massive
confrontation and then fade to black before having the characters remark what a close
battle that was. Ha. Dodged that bullet. I’m sure no reader will feel cheated that
the great battle the entire story has been building up to was just mentioned in passing
between chapters. But that’s done. I can just relax now. What’s that? The writers call for aid. And Terrible Writing Advice will answer. If a writer does want to feature an epic fantasy
battle, then don’t fear. There are all kinds of shortcuts we can take
to save effort. Follow my easy steps to victory just how like
how the Romans flawlessly won the battle Cannae (Canney). Now the most important part of our battle
is context. Specifically, ignoring it. Our single fantasy battle will decide the
outcome of an entire war and probably the fate of the world. In fact, our fantasy war should consist of
pretty much only this single battle rather than an escalating series of skirmishes and
engagements that eventually spiral into a larger war. Besides, ‘final battle between good and
evil’ sounds a lot better on the back blurb than ‘attrition heavy protracted quagmire’. Speaking of quagmire, the political maneuvering
and breakdown of foreign relations that cause wars can be safely ignored. One or more sides lacking resources? Throw that out the window! Cascade of mutual defense treaties kicking
off a major conflict? Ignore that. Two major empires competing for influence
over a host of smaller powers? Boring. The myriad of economic, political, and cultural
factors that result in wars can be safely boiled down into one side is evil and expansionist
and the other side lives in harmony with nature and their neighbors. Everything was great until that evil empire
decided to start their quest for world domination for no good reason at all! Or maybe the Dark Lord wants to enslave and
destroy the world. Yeah I’m sure he can have both of those
at the same time. Now that we’ve done nothing to set up the
conflict, we can move on to doing nothing to prepare for the battle. Everyone should just arrive and instantly
charge with the first to fall in battle being planning and preparation. I mean since when has careful planning and
logistics led to victory? If the army on the good guy’s side does
make a battle plan, it has no chance of success if the heroes think it wont work. After ignoring the heroes’ valuable strategic
feedback, the forces of light will find themselves hopelessly surrounded and will be forced to
rely on the main characters to bail them out. If only they had listened when the hero suggested
they use a perpetration montage. Those greatly increase the chances of success. If all goes well after the preparation montage,
it’s time to meet the enemy on the field of battle. After the main hero surveys the seemingly
endless enemy hordes, a heroic speech is needed to inspire the soldiers. This rousing speech should be so full of clichés
and cheesy lines that the troops would rather face death at the hands of the enemy than
listen to another word. Then everyone charges dramatically! The opposing force of bad guys, upon witnessing
this charge, will form ranks; bracing in a defensive formation while deploying skirmishers
to weaken the enemy advance. Oh no wait. That’s wrong. The bad guys might actually win if they do
that. Instead they’ll charge too. These two massive mobs will meet in the center
and fight it out. Wow. The heroes must have really strained themselves
to think up that cunning battle plan. Never should the heroes or villains try any
of these common, but useful tactics that if executed well make them look really clever. Defeat in detail: Using a large force to attack
smaller enemy forces individually rather than taking on the large main force all at once. Ambush: Using concealment to attack the enemy
before they are ready while also using terrain and weather conditions to their advantage. Single or Double Envelopment: Using one or
both flanks or ‘outer wings’ of the army I would like to thank The Great Courses Plus
for sponsoring and inspiring this episode of Terrible Writing Advice. to completely encircle the enemy center or
to attack the rear of the enemy formation. Fake Retreat: Pretending to runaway in order
to lure the enemy out of their formation None of these clever tactics mean anything
because once the chosen hero defeats the dark lord in a duel, the bad guys will either instantly
route or simply die on the spot. I mean they could have just assassinated the
dark lord and saved everyone a lot of trouble or at least magicked him to death from a distance. Eh that would never work. I can’t see magic having any kind of battlefield
applications. That wall of pike-men is totally going to
stop a wizard casting fireball. Magic would normally force a writer to reconsider
every aspect of military strategy in their setting, but apparently wizard college exempts
you from military service. Nor should a writer take into account other
aspects of their fantasy world building that would impact warfare. Medieval castles are great defensive structures
against dragons. Well… great for the dragons. Don’t worry. Nearly every fantasy author forgets to utilize
air superiority. Yeah. Airships are not going to change a single
thing about warfare. But showing off how magic and mythical beasts
change the battlefield isn’t the point of a fantasy battle. The sole point of a fantasy battle is to show
off how awesome our main hero is and indulge in power fantasy, not use the horrors and
hardships of war to challenge of our main character and show how his character traits
will endure or change when exposed to the extreme stress of battle. How does our main character handle having
to kill in the name of king and country? How will our main hero react upon witnessing
the pointless deaths war creates? Will he or she come to question their quest
after seeing the high cost of battle? Of course not. No need to acknowledge the sacrifice all of
those regular soldiers fighting alongside the hero who don’t have plot armor. And don’t dwell on the whole ‘war is really
really horrible’ thing either. We can just skip over the messy parts of combat
to get that precious PG-13 rating. Besides, the Chosen One obliterating the Dark
Lord in one hit with his special powers sounds much more exciting than blood and steel and
grit, fighting at the edge of your life with only a single blade stroke between you and
death, surrounded by the dying screams of the soldiers around you, dust choking the
skies, chaos, exhaustion and that fleeting hope that maybe, just maybe you will get out
of this alive and perhaps even win some glory this day. Then the true heroes can stand triumphant,
the setting red sun fading over a hard fought and bloody battlefield. Victory! The hero has won the day in spite of his battle
wounds… which will probably kill him because antibiotics haven’t been invented yet. The lecture series Great Military Blunders
taught by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete inspired the topic for this video. When amateur writers ask me how to handle
warfare in fiction, I always recommend reading about the real wars and battles of history
for inspiration. This course is one of over 8000 lectures available
through the Great Courses Plus. The Great Courses Plus is an online video
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and Legends, Utopian & Dystopian Literature, How Great Science Fiction Works, and Writing
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