Are you ready to set sail and explore the thrilling world of pirates? With their daring exploits, treasure hunts, and epic battles, the pirates who have been sailing the seven seas still capture our imaginations today. In this article, we’ll explore the world of pirates, the legends that surround them, and even provide you with some tips on how you can create a pirate character full of life and adventure in your creative writing. So, grab your eyepatch, and let’s hoist the sails and get started!
Table of contents
Why are pirates such interesting characters?
Pirates have captured the imaginations of storytellers and readers alike for centuries and have been portrayed in many TV shows, movies (such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Treasure Island), and even in video games (LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, King of Seas, and Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, for example), but why are these sea robbers so fascinating for us and why they make such great characters in stories?
Pirates have been around for a long time – they first appeared in the 1200s, in the Mediterranean Sea, and these early pirates – known as Barbary pirates – were active mostly in North Africa. But The Golden Age of Piracy was to truly begin in the 1650s and lasted until the 1730s. During this period, pirates were sailing across all oceans, but one could meet them mostly in North Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
(Image courtesy Taha)
One could easily say that pirates were outlaws, defying authority, challenging the status quo, and living life on their own terms. Ruthless sea robbers, who were attacking merchant ships (which carried valuable goods like gold, spices, or silks) and coastal towns, and who were stealing without shame. But isn’t it true that pirates are more than merely this?
Pirates are adventurous
Pirates are intriguing characters with colorful but rough personalities and often a fearsome appearance. They are renowned for their daring and adventurous spirit, and their thirst for freedom. Pirates often sail the high seas in search of treasure, adventure, and new, uncharted horizons. They are fearless and always ready to welcome the next challenge and adventure. Pirates can inspire us to be more adventurous and brave in our lives and to explore new places (both physically and in our imaginations).
(Image courtesy Jacqueline Macou)
What is the main reason why pirates sail the seas?
a) To look for treasure, adventure, and new horizons
b) To cause chaos
c) To assist those in need
Pirates are loyal
Pirates are known for their loyalty to their crewmates. A pirate’s crew was like a family – they often formed close-knit communities onboard their ships, as they had to rely on each other to survive. They would do anything to protect their ship and their crew, even if it meant risking their own lives, and for this, pirates can inspire in us the values of loyalty and camaraderie.
(Image courtesy Muratart)
What is a pirate’s attitude towards their crewmates?
a) They don’t care about the well-being of their shipmates
b) They are loyal to their fellow sailors because pirates depend on each other to survive
c) They are egoists who are just thinking about themselves
Pirates are rebellious
Pirates stood for many things, some good and some bad. On the one hand, they embody freedom and rebellion, often being portrayed as swashbuckling heroes who stand up to and fight against the established powers of their time. Pirates often live outside the law, and they don’t follow the rules of society, seeing themselves as champions of the common people, who are fighting against tyranny and oppression. They are rebels who do things their way and don’t let anyone else tell them what to do. But on the other hand, pirates are also known for their violent and ruthless behavior. They would often attack and rob innocent ships, taking whatever they wanted by force. This duality of good and evil makes pirates complex and interesting characters in stories. Plus, who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt?
(Image courtesy Raimond Klavins)
What is a pirate’s attitude towards rules and authority?
a) They follow the rules and respect the authority
b) They disobey the rules and disregard authority
c) They accept and respect some rules and authority figures but not others
The Pirate Code
Pirates don’t follow maybe the rules of society, but they have their own unique code of conduct, such as the Pirate Code. The pirate articles provided clear instructions for the sailor’s behavior, the distribution of stolen goods, the handling of disputes, and compensation for the injured. They could vary from one captain to another, and each new member of the pirate crew had to sign his agreement with the ship’s rules and swear an oath of honor. Breaking the Pirate Code was severely punished.
Each voice, one vote
In a time when sailors were overworked, underpaid, and even starved or beaten on their ships, pirates were known for their democratic approach to decision-making, where every crew member had a say in important matters. “Every man has a vote in affairs of moment”, is written as the first article in Bartholomew Roberts’ Pirate Code, one of the most successful pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy.
(Image courtesy hp koch)
Pirates would not only vote for their captain, but they also elected a quartermaster, who acted as a check on the captain’s power. No one held absolute power on a pirate ship, as pirates made decisions as a group and took a vote for almost everything (where to sail, what to steal and from whom, in which pirate nest to hide, etc.).
”No prey, no pay”
Not all pirate raids were successful, but when they were, the treasure was shared in accordance with the hierarchy on board the pirate ship. On Bartholomew Roberts’ ship, for example, the captain and the quartermaster were to receive two shares of the prize, while the master, the boatswain, and the gunner, one share and a half. The “other officers” had one share and a quarter, while the pirates with only one or two years of experience in piracy, were to receive only one share of the booty.
(Image courtesy Thicha)
“No boy or woman to be allowed”
Piracy was predominantly a male occupation, considered too dangerous for young boys. As for the women, well, they weren’t allowed on a pirate ship because it was believed they will bring bad luck and create disagreements between crew members. “If any man were to be found (…) carrying a woman to sea, disguised, he was to suffer death”, is written in Bartholomew Roberts’ Pirate Code. However, throughout history are some notable exceptions:
Anne Bonny: Anne was an Irish pirate who dressed and acted like a man while sailing in the Caribbean with Captain Calico Jack Rackham in the early 18th century. She was known for her fierce temper and her ability to fight alongside the men.
Mary Read: Mary was an English pirate, also known under the name Mark Read. She was also wearing men’s clothes and was operating, along with Anne Bonny, on Calico Jack’s ship.
(Image courtesy N. Elladee)
What is the most important rule of the Pirate Code?
a) Share the booty equally and fair
b) Obey the captain
c) No fighting on board
d) Keep the ship clean
Did You Know?
- The famous pirate flag – the Jolly Roger – was actually just one of the many designs used by pirates. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the Jolly Roger became the most popular pirate flag design.
- Pirates didn’t actually bury their treasure. Typically, they spent their loot as quickly as possible or stashed it in secret locations.
- Pirates used to wear eye patches not because they had lost an eye, but because it helped them see better in the dark. They also believed that piercing their ears would improve their eyesight.
(Image courtesy Catherine E. Kirkpatrick)
Creating Your Pirate Character
In order for you to be able to create a pirate character full of life and adventure, you’ll need to read as many pirate stories as possible. Research famous pirates and pirate ships to find inspiration and get a taste of the world of pirates. An example might be Blackbeard (born Edward Teach) and his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, one of the most feared pirate ships of its time. But you can also read about Captain Kidd and his buried treasures. Don’t worry, you will not get bored while reading about pirates and their adventures.
But with what exactly should you start when envisioning and creating your own pirate character? Well, a good idea might be to simply start with a catchy name. One that is memorable and fits well their personality. Any good ideas so far? It could be your own name, what do you think?
(Image courtesy Rich)
And how exactly should their personality be? Obviously a powerful one! You should think of unique traits for your pirate, to make them stand out from other characters in your story. Maybe they have a special talent or skill that sets them apart. Think of their strengths and weaknesses. Are they more cautious and strategic or fearless and daring? Does their character reflect their outward appearance?
Now that we are talking about appearance, is your pirate character a male or a female? What do they wear? What accessories do they have? Do they have any distinguishing features, such as a scar or a missing limb? Are they tall, or maybe short? Do they maybe have a pet as a companion? Every little detail counts. Details make the difference! And ask yourself, how is their external perceived by the other characters in your story? Are they maybe fearsome as Blackbeard? Your character, your choice!
Think also about their backstory, to better understand your character and make them more believable. What led them to a life of piracy? Were they a sailor who was forced into piracy, or did they choose this life for themselves? Do they still have any personal connections to the world they left behind?
(Image courtesy East Palette)
Give your pirate a goal. Think that every action is fueled by motivation. So, what is your character searching for? Treasure, revenge, or something else entirely? This will drive the story forward and give your character a purpose.
Observe your pirate’s world with your imagination’s eyes. Sketch even a rudimentary map of this world. Can you see your pirate’s ship in the midst of the ocean? What does it look like? Is it large and well-armed with cannon, or maybe smaller and agile? And where on the map is your character’s pirate nest? What kind of ships is he after and where on the sea can one run into him? Put yourself as many questions as possible, until your pirate character feels alive! Once you have a clear sense of who your pirate is, start writing their story and make sure to include also thrilling adventures and difficulties on their paths.
(Image courtesy Adolph)
Arrr, ye scallywags better not be forgettin’ to use pirate lingo when scribblin’ yer tale! Pirates have their own tongue, savvy? Use it wisely and don’t go overboard. Ye be wantin’ to make yer character more authentic while keepin’ yer yarn easy to follow for a modern reader!
Avast, me hearties! Are ye ready to create yer own swashbuckling pirate character and embark on a high seas adventure? Then hoist the Jolly Roger and grab yer quill and parchment!
(Image courtesy Tumisu)
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