Are your characters smart or ignorant? Do they have schooling, or have they been schooled? When asked a question, do they answer quickly or do they get angry that someone has challenged their intelligence, smiting them quickly with whatever heavy weapon is at hand?
Just because the fantasy characters you’re writing are smart doesn’t mean they’re educated. And just because they’re not educated, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. There’s book smarts and street smarts, and both require a fair amount of learning.
So…which kind of learning does your fantasy character have? And really…who needs to get educated? I certainly don’t think the scullery workers or stablehands need to know much. The captain of the guards probably doesn’t need that much schooling, but I hope he’s had more than the common gate guard…don’t you?
Well, maybe not. It depends on if you’re trying to break into the castle. But then, there are educated ways to break into a castle, and…uneducated ways, to put it nicely.
Some of the main characters that I think need an education in their background are:
There are more…but that’s all I can think of. Now, some of those go without saying, but you have to remember, we take a lot of this for granted. We just assumed that the wizard or squire went to some kind of school or academy, but did they? And if so, why not put a few asides into the conversation, something that gives us more background into who that person is as a character. Yeah, it might drag on a bit and it might slow down the story, but a lot of readers buy fantasy books because they like worldbuilding and character-building and all the rest of it. Now’s your chance to do that!
- On the Job.
On the job – how about that? That’s the route many fighters take to get into the trade, when they see their parents killed and they have to fight off a bandit or two.
Maybe a young apprentice really does become a full-fledged magician when he finally casts that ‘practice’ spell in battle, smiting someone’s ass good.
Thieves often learn on the job, or maybe at the guild…and they usually screw up the first time too.
Priests could learn on the job, but that might allow some hideous demon to enter the world, or at least someone to get the wrong blessing.
Now I’m just speculating a bit, and perhaps getting more at what your NPC, or non-POV characters are doing. Still, all the fantasy characters in my book The Hirelings had regular jobs. Hell, the spellcaster was a stripper!
The point is, fantasy characters do in fact eat, go to the bathroom, and sleep in places other than the ground. In other words, they need money and resources and an education is a sure-way to increase those…isn’t it?
Maybe this post and this subject is boring. After all, don’t your readers want action and thrills and tension being ratcheted up? Yeah, but they want depth and nuance as well, and you can get that with characters that have been educated. Besides that, it adds to your worldbuilding. Think of one of those fantasy city maps, and imagine your places of learning on it. Wow, something like that gives you ideas and possibly a short novella right there.
So go educated your readers about the joys of education in your fantasy world!