Tag Archives: the golden age of piracy

Hi! I’m not sure if this qualifies as a ‘fight’ question, but I’ve run out of places to go for help. So if you answer, I really appreciate it. Fantasy world. MC, trained military, is trying to plant a tracking device on a pirate airship. He originally hid the tracker in a lure of special cargo. Events happen last minute that force him to keep the tracker on his person and get it aboard the ship that way. My problem is, how he-or me as the writer-get him to be taken prisoner. Thank you so much.

Well, he’s on a pirate ship and he’s… not a pirate.

Here’s something to know about pirates or anyone who spends lots of time alone in a small enclosed space: they know each other. In particular, pirates are rather loose and democratic organizations. They’ll know if they’re taking on new crew, and they’ll know who that crew is. If he’s found aboard their ship (and he will be), he won’t be able to pass himself off as one of them.

Criminals who run successful raiding operations aren’t stupid, especially those who’ve managed to keep at it for any length of time and are difficult to track. They live outside the law, they are outside its protections, and they know what the punishment for their capture will be. (Usually, it’s death.) This goes for every single member of the crew, not just the captain or their leader. Pirates generally get treated as stupid in vast swaths of media. They’re not. They’re smart. Many of the pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy were ex-navy of one sort or another. Many of the pirates making up this crew will be former sailors trained by a branch of the same military your MC comes from. They know what a military man looks like. Their survival is dependent on avoiding authority, and tackling those isolated targets they can successfully take. A criminal needs to be able to spot a policeman, including one in plainclothes. Their ability to continue operating depends on it.

So, how does this guy get captured?

He’s not a pirate, and hasn’t convinced them that he’s their new recruit. (At this point, he can’t. Too short on time. Too late. They’ll know who their new crew are.) He’s trapped in an enclosed space, aboard a ship, that is probably in the air if he able to stay hidden after they took off (as they’d almost certainly slit his throat before leaving if they found him). He has nowhere to go, no way to get off that doesn’t involve encountering enemy pirates who will recognize him as a stranger and an enemy.

He’s going to be taken captive. There’s one of him, and many of them. The only question left is how to get him out of the situation, instead of falling to his death by many thousands of feet when they chuck him overboard.

The real question for you is not: how is he taken captive? It’s: what reason do they have to keep him alive?

If he’s really lucky, he ditches the tracker before they find it on him and can make up a believable story. If he’s sort of lucky, they chuck the tracker overboard and lock him in the brig. If he’s super unlucky, then he’s going over the side and it’s “goodbye, MC”.

Stowing away is not an act with a lot of great career options ahead.

If you’re really having trouble coming up with ideas, I’d take a step back and go research pirates. You’re shortcomings here are based a lack of understanding for your MCs opponents. If you have a character getting caught, then the actor is the enemy. Those are the characters you need to focus on. It’s easy to assume that one character (the main character) is the driving force of all action, and because you (the writer) are most closely associated with them you see most of the situations from their perspective. However, this will catch you when you’re trying to write fight scenes or any kind of story action that relies on other parties to drive your story forward.

Spend some time with your villains. Figure out how the pirates function, how they work, what their command structure is (if they have one, lots of pirate ships were democratic with their captains voted in), and how they’re functioning. If you’re basing these pirates on the Golden Age of piracy, it might behoove you to look at history. The behavior of the pirates was often a direct response to the military/naval organizations of the time. The British Navy, for example, was well-known for being tyrannical and naval captains were given carte blanche over their crew. The Chain of Command was god, and their word was the ultimate law. It didn’t matter how mad, nightmarish, or suicidal the choice may be. If you ended up with a sadist as an officer, there were few appeals and you were at their literal mercy. The rules were strict. Many pirates were sailors fleeing that abusive lifestyle.

Take some time to figure out how your pirates function, how they live, what their ship looks like, etc. If you’ve gotten stuck, it’s usually because you’re focusing on the wrong characters. Spend some time with the ones who discover your MC and take him captive. That should get you back on track.

-Michi

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Hi it’s the dually cutlass anon again! And I think there was a mistranslation on my part. He’s not carrying two separate blades, it’s a singular sword with two cutlasses on the hilt, running parallel to each other. Thanks for that important info by the way!!

Don’t do the Darth Maul thing, the Darth Maul thing only works because lightsabers don’t get caught on anything and you can shut it down. Given that your character is going to be fighting in such tight quarters on a ship or in a siege, he’d be just as likely to stab his own soldiers or friends as he would the enemy. He would also have a great deal of difficulty pulling the blades back out of the enemy. Staff weapons require a fairly large amount of space in order to be wielded effectively and because the blades are so long and the hilts so short, he would have difficulty bracing effectively or using spear tactics.

A pirate does not have a lot of space in which to wield their weapons. This is why single edged weapons such as the cutlass and the saber were the weapon of choice aboard ships, there was less chance of the weapon getting knocked back into your own chest if someone overpowered you or in the flurry of excitement of boarding an enemy ship. There were better weapons available at the time than the cutlass or the saber, but they were a greater risk to wield in such extremely tight quarters.

This weapon of his would also have to be specially made by a blacksmith and that’s a fairly large expense for a weapon that’s likely to get him keelhauled by his buddies.

Give him a normal cutlass, a pistol, and a rifle with a bayonet. Do some research on the weapons of the time. While the gunsword was not an effective weapon, it was a rather ingenious attempt at one. It pops up during the Golden Age of Piracy. So, if you really need to give him a “special” weapon, give him that one. It’s at least historically accurate to what people were using. Yes, it is ludicrous but it’s real.

-Michi