Thursday, April 28, 2011

Traitor, Thy Name is George RR Martin

So, I could lie and say that "Yes! I wrote my 15,000 words the month!" Or, I could wail and sob and claim that it's not my fault! I had to move my husband into a new country, get insurance sorted out, alien registration, teach him how to drive, start a new school year, prepare new classes, assist an exchange student…. (Actually, that sounds pretty good! Good excuses, yes?)


But I'll be a better person than that. I'll be honest. CURSE YOU GAME OF THRONES!!!! I had hours of free time. Hours and hours and days and days of time at work when I COULD have been writing. But nuuuuuu. The evil Raven-monster had to go and get me hooked on Game of Thrones. Welp, there went THAT free time. The first four books of Game of Thrones took me longer to read than any other books in living memory. Three whole weeks of nothing but brain-eating, face-consuming, nail-biting reading. And now, the waiting begins.

Without giving anything away, I'd like to make a few comments about the books. I've heard Martin compared to Robert Jordan in his use of a plethora of characters. First difference. Martin is a good writer.

Okay, so maybe that was a little unfair, The first book of Wheel of Time was good…

Robert Jordan didn't know when to let a character go. As a writer, I can understand that. We get attached, even to the little people. After all, if it's going to be a good book, we've probably invested nearly as much time into those colorful personalities that line the trimmings of our novel as we have into our main characters. That's what makes a world rich, vibrant and teeming with life. Real people, stuffed into all the little crevices. The thing is, once those little people start squeezing out of their nooks and running rampant through the fields of our pages, they trample all the flowers. That's what crowds do.

How was that for analogy? xD

That was Robert Jordan's problem. Character management. The crowd got out of control, and book by book, the story slowly got pulled down until it could barely move at all through the press of characters. Now, looking back at the number of characters that Jordan wrote and the total number of characters that Martin has written, the count probably isn't all that far off. But the difference is in Character Management. All of the characters in Martin's epic work move the story forward, rather than slowing it down. They never cover the same point twice, they add perspective to important, world changing events, and most importantly, they don't all have something to say at once! For every one or two perspectives that Martin adds into his work over the course of the four current books, he takes out one as well. (usually through death. T.T) And I thought *I* was bad about killing off characters! (clearly I need to up my death tally.) The death is never pointless, just to get rid of a character, but it usually happens right when you think. "He'll get through this somehow! Where's the twist that will save him/her?" Oops. About that twist. Didn't happen. So far my favoritest (yes, it's a word!) characters still live, but I'm starting to prepare myself for the possibility that that may not remain true.

Suffice to say, I find Martin's way of dealing with his wealth of characters to be creative, fun, insightful, and most importantly, a dynamic and delightful read. I only hope that I can manage my own characters as well some day, with as much skill.

Now, despite the verbosity of my previous exposition on character management, (say that five times fast) what I learned from the books the most as a writer is actually something different, though related.. Pacing. Pacing can be a very difficult skill to master, and I certainly know that it's one that I still struggle with constantly. What is too fast, what is too slow… Sometimes that description of walking down stair just seems so necessary, and other times those three months are so irrelevant you're tempted to just time travel. I struggle with slowing down my world too much when I want to describe the things around my characters, or feel like I have to get across how my character got where they are. Despite the number of perspectives that Martin juggles his story with, he manages to move his plot along at super speed. Sometimes I'm floored when an event that seems like it should have been of such dire importance that it deserved its own chapter (or five) is given to us only in mention from a perspective across the known world from said event. There is reference, then resulting fallout, and *poof*, I realize that the event really wasn't as important as what it caused. That kind of editing eye is remarkably impressive to me. The story leaps and bounds, cutting itself free of the limitations of step by step storytelling. To some extent, this may only be made possible by the number of character perspectives involved. Told through the eyes of only one or two, a writer would be much more firmly locked into a single time stream.

So this is what I come away asking myself. How can I move my story more dynamically? Do I need to try to pull my characters apart? Look more closely at which events must be witnessed, and which can simply be discovered? Where do I draw the line between an awkward time leap and an effective time leap? Is it enough if it only effects one character? Two? Three? The world? Whose eyes will give me the best image of the event? Not the most accurate, perhaps, but the most dynamic. Reading through Martin's books really made me ask a lot of these questions about my own work. I started to look for places where I could create gaps for the imagination to fill in, while widening, enriching, and speeding my story along. The more I can leave out (skillfully, of course, not in spots of confusion) the more I can add back in in terms of plot, intrigue, and character development. I can wring the most from my 130,000 words, and hopefully leave my reader feeling like they just got 200,000 words worth of story.

So. Not a completely wasted month. In the last few days since finishing my reading, I've completely re-notecarded out from my current point in my story, changing, removing, separating, adding, and generally revitalizing my work. The pages behind me are left in a jumble of ideas and plodding exposition, but hopefully I can rework it into vibrant life on my rewrite, for which I already have so many ideas. Hopefully next month, I'll have 15,000 words of win to ecstatically show to the world! Or at least my faithful readers.

On a much more depressing note, my next post will be a photo gallery of my punishments, all the things I promised you horrible horrible people that I would do if I didn't meet my goals. I want you to know, I hate you all. FML


  1. Mwahahaha... I expect your shirt to be ~horrible~. ;) I've never read Game of Thrones. Everyone says it's terrific. And to read from a master writer does amazing things to your own writing. Glad to hear you've still been learning!

    Now you just have to remember to write between lessons. ;)


    *Carefully sweeps her own last blog post about not writing enough under the rug..."

  2. Yeah... about that. *cough* I poke at you! Write, woman! <3

  3. I just had to watch the second movie of twilight and drink alone. :( Actually, I think I accidentally watched the third one, because I have no idea what I'm doing. So, yeah. I didn't meet my goals either. So in true Schadenfreude fashion...I can't wait to see the gallery of punishment. >)

    As for the issues you brought up--pacing is one of my issues as well. You brought up some really good points about what is necessary to see and what isn't. I think the only problem I might run into with that is cutting out something, only to find my readers feeling cheated at not having gotten to see it...such as the initial Magic battle between Bay and the Centoreinians. Now, I've written that, but was it necessary? I guess it was.

    Pacing is rough. First MoF was too slow. Then it needed to be richer. Then it needed to get to the action faster. Now I barely know whether anything is coming across at all, because I have so little concept of how it looks to other people's eyes.

    At least I can safely tell you Shiro NO LONGER reads like he's 12. If anyone thinks he's 12, I don't want to meet the same 12-year-olds they've met.

    By the way...

    "I've completely re-notecarded out from my current point in my story, changing, removing, separating, adding, and generally revitalizing my work. The pages behind me are left in a jumble of ideas and plodding exposition, but hopefully I can rework it into vibrant life on my rewrite, for which I already have so many ideas" <--WELCOME TO THE DARK SIDE! MUWAHAHAAA.

    And it's "affect", darling. Not "effect". <3

    Glad to hear you're getting pumped about writing again! I expect pages soon. :)

  4. Aaand, by the way. You should post this on "Words of a Feather". <3 Then I'll post mine. :D

  5. Evil Raven-Monster says "YUSH!"

    I'm at work right now and don't have to time to respond to your epic-length blog. Serious analysis soon to come ;D

  6. Oh, Scribe... that describes so many of the revisions I've made to Poseidon's Daughter. x.x Did I really need those extra two paragraphs of description in the prologue? The ones that arrange the setting, but drag the prologue pace down? 0.o *sigh* And thus we learn how to argue with ourselves.

  7. This is a re-posting. Mom posted a comment that for some reason Blogger was kind enough to send to my inbox, but moronic enough NOT TO ACTUALLY POST. Thank you blogger.... >.<

    "Wow. Really enjoyed this. Must read those books.
    Do I dare venture an opinion here? Okay, I'll say it anyway. I really do think that working on the actual project (in the case of a writer, writing down the words)is only one small part of the artistic experience. There are other things involved, totally legitimate and necessary to the wealth, richness and ultimatly satisfactory completion of the end product. I think what you gleaned from Reading Mr. Martin's books was one of those legitimate pursuits. Writing is not just 'writing'. It is watching sunsets, living life, every positive, growthful experience that makes you who you are (as opposed to non-positive vegetative escapist pursuits like... well... you know). If you limit yourself to only writing down words, I think you might end up with pretty shallow content and certainly limit your joy in the doing. Give yourself some room--"...a time for everything under the sun."
    All that being said, you'll get no punishments from me. Sorry. "
    ~Frone Henard