And so it begins… what should I begin with? I have decided to add to my collection of blogs (The Fashion Lover being my latest and most worthy blog, and Welcome to Your Twenties being my aborted attempt at real-life drama). This one, for its sins, will be solely around my writing and everything to do with it. So, welcome, and I hope you enjoy the musings.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I’ll be honest – I started to read this because a certain Bathonian friend introduced me to the TV series with Sean Bean. I had been under the false impression that it was a historical drama, much like The Tudors or the book, Wolf Hall. As soon as I found out it was fantasy, well, the book went straight on my list! My meagre attempts at fantasy-writing are only aided and abetted by my extensive fantasy reading. I managed to find the book in WHSmith in Northampton (the one with the original cover, not the TV cover, as I have an unerring aversion to those covers). I had to finish the previous book (Black Powder War by Naomi Novik) before starting this one, which I did yesterday. I’m on page 188.
I think I might be falling in love with this book – it’s rocketing up my list, and even rivalling Tolkien’s reign. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are the first fantasy books (in the most accurate description unless you include Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree) that I discovered. But Tolkien’s world lacks one thing that Martin’s seems to have found – political intrigue. And sex. We can add sex onto that. But Martin’s weaving of the various characters is as in-depth as I’ve ever found it. Fantasy is notorious for its flat characters and lackadaisical worlds – most rip-offs of Middle-Earth. But Martin’s are easily believable – they existed before the book, and will continue to do so after I have finished reading.
That’s my favourite thing about reading – finding a world that you think could be real, but is just out of your line of sight; half-glimpsed and wondered at. Somewhere to escape to when the real world gets a little too… bogged down.
Anyway, if you’ve seen the TV series, I definitely recommend going to read the book; the series honours it very closely, but doesn’t seem to live up to the vast quality of Martin’s story-telling.
The beginnings of the fantasy world
As mentioned, I have spent many years trying desperately to write a decent fantasy. There seems to be one reason that I keep falling flat on my face, and that is the first hurdle: setting. Tolkien had Middle-Earth, and even Neil Gaiman manages to find a fantastical setting for his characters (I read Neverwhere when I was commuting to London for internships and I will never look at the Underground in the same way again). But for me, I can’t agree with myself on anything. I have literally box-files full of fantasy worlds and histories and peoples and languages and even the beginnings to adventure stories that I have created and discarded over the years. I have maps I drew at 15, descriptions of magical artefacts that would be best put to use in yet another world, and even a list of Gods and Goddesses that may prove useful somewhere else. So my first step is to collate it into a comprehensible world, that – for once – agrees with itself.
My first step was the maps. I rewrote some of the names (at 15, I don’t think I was that original) and decided on what my world was. The next step is to decide who populates the world – where they are in my world and why, and why should my reader care about them. With seven continents and five seas to populate, I might have my work cut out for me.
So, next step. Get chopping. I’ve printed off everything to do with my fantasy writing from year Dot (aged 15 and terribly narrow-minded it seems) and attacked it with a pair of scissors… a hair colour here, a name there, a government in between. It seems to be working quite well, I’m rather liking my races of peoples that I’m putting in my world. They work together, and where one is lacking another is plentiful; I’ve yet to decide on my favourites (I’ve had no adorable “Hobbits” pop up yet) but I think that will come in time.
My next step will be to decide what else I will put into the world – after all, my peoples have to have something to fight about.