I am completely immersed in Game of Thrones. Balancing blogging and writing is hard? Balancing writing with Game of Thrones is well-nigh impossible, but I must (oh, the drama!) because the first book is 800 pages and the next three are 900 each. Why, oh, why couldn’t I have become obsessed with the stack of romance novels in my office–books that take me 1-2 days each to read?
Still, Game of Thrones is a rich resource of character and plot development, not to mention descriptions of settings beyond my wildest dreams. Thus as I discipline myself to reading an hour a day I can justify the time by doing so with a highlighter in hand.
For any one who doesn’t know, Game of Thrones is the first in a series of novels known collectively as A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin. It is fantasy set in a place and time that feel decidedly medieval, but with many elements that lift it out of historical Middle Ages Europe. The story revolves around wars, plots and schemes to gain and hold the Iron Throne, symbolic seat of the ruler of seven united kingdoms. These seven kingdoms are uneasily bound and there is a constant jockeying for position by claimants to the throne. The real fantasy comes in with the inclusion of dragons and the zombie-like Others who threaten from the north. Fascinating stuff, remarkably rendered by a author of incredible skill. Some examples:
The sword of an Other: “It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue simmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges.”
The tree in the godswood (prayer garden) of Winterfell: “A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself…Here every castle had its godswood and every godswood had its heart tree, and every heart tree its face.”
Robert, the king, is loud and boisterous (think Ghost of Christmas Present) and wants his friend, Ned, to leave his wife and home to come and be his right had man in the capitol city. Ned’s wife, who loves him deeply compared with the loveless marriage of the king and queen, insists that he cannot turn down the offer because of the consequences of refusing the king. Perhaps in no small measure because they are having this conversation naked after an intimate night of lovemaking, Ned doesn’t want to go: “‘The only truths I know are here. The south is a nest of adders I would do better to avoid.’…Ned glanced helplessly around the bed chamber. Catelyn’s heart went out to him, but she could not take him in her arms just then…[Catelyn and their chief advisor] waited, quiet, while Eddard Stark (Ned) said a silent farewell to the home he loved. When he turned away from the window at last his voice was tired and full of melancholy, and moisture glittered faintly in the corners of his eyes. ‘My father went south once, to answer the summons of a king. He never came home again.’”
I love Ned Stark, and he is brought to life brilliantly by Sean Bean in the HBO miniseries. This passage is not only wonderful for its description and feeling, but also for its textbook use of foreshadowing, predicting events that you can probably guess are not very good for our hero.
I could go on and on, and, believe me, I have more lines highlighted than not. As an author, I hope that someday I will write words that effect someone the way his effect me. Of course, you have to have a reader who wants to feel that way, and perhaps that is the best thing about readers of fantasy: they want to be moved. But that is another topic for another blog.
So now I face a challenge. I have already rewritten the first novel in my series five times, and I believe it is time to leave it alone and move on to the next one. In the ten years since I first put pen to paper I have learned so much about the craft of writing fiction. How do I incorporate all that I have learned but still retain my own writer’s voice? How do I take the visions in my mind and translate them into words that create for others the feelings that they inspire in me? These are the questions I continue to struggle with every time I sit down to write.