Learning the Whips

On average, how much do you invest in the research for your novel? How much time and energy are you willing to spend?

The main character, in my current Work in Progress, learns and uses the whip as a weapon. I may have gotten the idea from Indiana Jones, however, I needed to give this character a weapon that she could use from a relative distance, but also wouldn’t need “reloading.” I delved into medieval weaponry, you cannot attack a demon with a gun, and regular arrows would never work. And I was coming up empty-handed. When I decided on the whip, it was perfect, it even fit her personality.

There is a chapter on her training, part of which includes her learning the whip. But I had no idea how to handle one. So I started to look up how to handle the whip. I found loads of YouTube videos on how to crack etc with the whips (Even one two-handed which was awesome), which only made me realize how perfect the whip was for this character.But what I really wanted was how learning to crack, and catch with the whip feels in the body. And no amount of YouTube and reading was helping me.

I put an 8 foot bullwhip on my wish list at Amazon. And by christmas I was the owner of a brand new Indiana Jones style whip. I’ll admit that I was bit surprised I received it, but happy none-the-less. My first training session wasn’t as smooth as the YouTube video illustrates below. Since I’m just a beginner, I thought I’d just try cracking the whip, and when I master that, then I could move on. When I started this venture, I knew it would be hard; that it couldn’t be as easy as it appears in some of the YouTube videos.

I was unsure, however, how hard it would be. I still cannot crack the whip more than once or twice before my arms tire. I suppose that it would be better if I trained on a regular basis, I only practice about once a month, when life and writing are not in the way. But this kind of experience has taught me something about my character that I hadn’t expected to learn. While I knew beforehand that it was better for my character to attack from further away, I had not anticipated the amount of art, you could say, that would be required to use the chosen weapon as she will have to in order to stay alive in some of the situations that I intend to put her. This far into the year, after only a handful of sessions that leave my arms aching, I understand more about the muscles she’ll have to develop in order to keep her moving, and using her whips in battle.

I wonder how much authors normally put into their research for their characters. There was no amount of research I could have done to tell me which muscles I would need to train if I wanted to use a whip as a weapon. My only guide on that matter had to be personal experience. Logic says one thing, research another, and experience another. The only muscle that really needs to be worked is…guess. Cuz I’m not telling.



Filed under Writer's Digest 30 Day Challenge, Writing

4 responses to “Learning the Whips

  1. That’s pretty cool. I’ve long been jonesing to sign up with some sort of outfit or another to learn swordplay – because dagnabit how I can write about sword-wielding characters if I don’t know how to handle one? It’ll all be fake!
    Alas, I have yet to be able to do so… so I guess I just do what every other writer does and make it up, instead. But I do wish I could actually feel what it’s like.

  2. I think it’s so awesome that you purchased a whip for practice to better understand your character, lol. I think we all could be better writers if we put ourselves into our character’s shoes more like that. (Btw, I was just watching Indiana Jones on TV last night, too!)

    Typically I resort to reading books, forums and articles or watching videos when doing research (and sometimes talking to other people), but I do feel it would be beneficial to try out some of the things my character does: firing a revolver, archery, flying an old-school plane… I did try archery once and was horrible, though that might have had something to do with no one explaining the whole eye dominance issue to me at the time, heh.

    I’m sure lessons in firearms would be beneficial in a long-term way, I suppose, though I’m not entirely sure I have any business getting involved with guns…lol. (I was eyeing an antique revolver in a little shop one day for all the wrong reasons; it was quite gorgeous, though unloaded, of course.)

    I think I should at least find out if I can sign up eventually for an aerial tour at one of the airfields out by me and fly in an open cockpit plane. That would be pretty darn cool…

    Heck, you could probably write an entire novel about what it took to write your fictional one and make an adventure out of it! Haha, a chronicle of trying out your character’s experiences.

    If only I was so brave (and with money)!

    • I also think that taking the time to put ourselves in our characters’ place should be a goal. I mean, there are somethings I have to fake, but I’ll do it with as much research as I can. But when she’s actually learning something in the novel, and I can’t find the information I need on the web or in books, where’s the harm in my learning something new as well?
      You know, I never thought about writing a book about putting yourself in your character’s experience. That might actually be pretty cool. Which reminds me, I went rock climbing the other day, and besides being totally awesome (it was my first time ever) and a complete adrenaline rush, it could also help with understaning my character.

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