George R. R. Martin’s struggles with his latest book have been well documented on his blog and by fans who are eagerly awaiting A Dance of Dragons to be finished.
George comments in his Not A Blog post today that he’s discovered a new POV character, and also reminds himself to take things “One page at a time. One sentence at a time. One word at a time.”
I know what he means. When you have a plan for a book ready you might find it easy to think that the words will just flow, but when you start scratching under the surface all sorts of things come out. I have had a similar experience writing the beginning of Hell has its Demons. For instance while working out some of the details of the demonic possessions that happen in the town of St. Brett’s I realized that my main villain, Edmund, actually had some allies, allies that he didn’t want, but that have come into being by his actions. This had further implications for other characters in the book as well and meant Isabel, who is sort of the leading lady of the town, would find herself excluded from the Company of Good Women that she had established to give women a voice and a sense of solidarity. Instead the group has become a coven of witches, possessed by the demons that Edmund has caused to be unleashed on the small market town of St. Brett’s.
It’s very easy to end up back at the drawing board in these cases, but the positive thing is that these extra ideas should make for a richer story. However, while working these bits out the actual narrative writing can slow, and you have to ignore the fact that it has taken over a week to write a first draft of a fairly brief chapter.
One page, one sentence, one word at a time, just keep them coming letter by letter every day.
Although George R. R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series are fantasy fiction, and therefore anything goes, there is no denying that it is set within a fairly strong medieval setting. The Knights, titled Ser rather Sir, ride warhorses, joust with lances, feast in castle halls etc. I think one of the strengths of the series is the setting which gets close to the feel of medieval warfare and chivalry but introduces some interesting fantasy elements as well.
However, there are a couple of things that have niggled me while reading A Clash of Kings this week. Both are two do with the practicalities of warfare:
Cloaks! The city watch of King’s Landing are called the gold cloaks and the queen’s guard are the red cloaks, king’s guard are the white cloaks and then there’s the black cloaks of the Night’s Watch. This doesn’t work for me. When have you ever seen medieval knights (in pictures from the Middle Ages, not modern day films) running and riding around with cloaks on. Think about it for a second if you were fight with shield, lance, sword, warhammer or whatever, the last thing you need is a cloak getting in the way. Maybe on the march these would be worn, but they would hardly be the main motif. More probable would be a badge, like the livery badges worn by soldiers to denote their affinity in the middle ages. Famously Richard II’s men had a white hart badge for example, while John of Gaunt’s men wore a double SS badge which could be on their sleeve, chest or collar even. A surcoat over an armoured coat would also be quite common and might give a more prominent single-colour effect.
Siege Engines! Renly Baratheon has a massive army that he is taking north to besiege King’s Landing (probably impossibly large by the way at about 100,000 men, but that’s another matter). And along with his army he bringing a whole load of siege engines including a huge siege tower. If you were marching anywhere along roads that probably weren’t going to be the best would you build your siege engines first and then take them with you? What would probably happen is that siege engines would be built when the siege happened. Either from locally sourced materials (very eco-friendly) or very possibly from pieces the army transported in wagons. Imagine getting a large siege tower to fit down a tree lined lane somewhere in the countryside or through a town with buildings leaning over into the road. There is evidence that favoured siege engines like the trebuchet that Prince Louis brought from France to besiege Dover Castle, were transported. But I think it is very likely that it would be brought in pieces and then put together at its destination. I know Renly’s supposed to be a bit dim, but that dim?
To me these are partly historical errors (which could be excused because it’s not historical fiction), but also logical errors. Cloaks in combat don’t work so why call your elite fighting unit by that epithet, and massive siege engines are just going to be very difficult to transport fully constructed.
A couple of days ago I started reading the second volume of A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin, A Clash of Kings. I read the first book, A Game of Thrones, a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, but I hadn’t had time to pick up the second book until this week.
George RR Martin has created a great series and a very well constructed and vivid background world. And that’s what has actually given me a few problems in the last few days. I have had a real struggle to get into it again. Many of the first chapters of A Clash of Kings provide you with a bit of a summary of what happened previously, as well as telling you what’s happening now to the characters. What happens is the characters tend to talk to each other about what the current situation is and their plans. And this has been a steep remembering curve for me, with several glances to the lists (massive lists) at the back of the book, which are immensely helpful.
The world that George RR Martin creates is so detailed that I have had real problems trying to keep up, but slowly I’m getting there!
I respect George RR Martin for not just providing and idiot’s “Previously on A Song of Ice and Fire…” section at the start of A Clash of Kings, but in a way I’m such an idiot for not reading it sooner, that I probably needed it!
But after reading about 70 pages things are slowly coming back to me, and I’m hoping that the rest of the book will be an easier ride. Martin’s writing is amazing and I’m enjoying the bits without too many names a lot!