Get your fill of sci-fi, science, and mockery of stupid people
* FAQ    * Search   * Register   * Login 
Want to support this site? Click

Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)


All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 6 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-17 08:49pm
Offline
Jedi Master

Joined: 2010-06-28 10:19pm
Posts: 1050
Haven't read the books, have been watching the show. Read up on the spoilers for what has happened to date in later novels to see where the characters are going.

While I like the idea of meaty fantasy novels, I've been leery of getting into those series that go on for a number of doorstop-sized tomes with no end in sight. Something struck me about the whole thing. These authors really must give more thought to editing.

Consider a historian approaching a time of tumult. There's so much detail to go into and he'll become so immersed in it that the task of distilling it down into broad strokes and only including details that clarify rather than overwhelm is incredibly challenging. To someone interested in the minutia every detail is interesting and deciding what to keep and what to cut can be harder than the writing of the original draft.

Take any given war and there are as many stories to tell as people who lived through it. You could spend your entire life reading histories of WWII, personal accounts, memoirs, and never see the end of it. But after a certain point the broad strokes have been laid out and each subsequent story is just filling in more details.

The honest historian tries to report the facts without shaving and shaping them to fit a preconceived narrative. There are few things more disgusting in the field than watching historians try to shape and shave the facts to fit politically convenient narratives. But a dry accounting of the facts usually isn't enough to explain exactly what happened and why. There does need to be context and explanation. How were mistakes made? How were opportunities spotted? What placed the right person in the right place at the right time to take momentous action?

The best history books I've read manage to show you the war from all levels, from the war room to the home front to the soldiers in the mud.

Speaking a someone who's been watching the show and only reading the wiki but experienced other long, convoluted, multi-doorstop works, it seems like GRRM can get caught up in all the minutia and not cut to the chase. If we were to compare ASOIAF to WWII (and this is the loosest of comparisons), we get comfy with the British government and important players with the understanding that war could be coming with the Hun and then we end up getting a whole slew of characters introduced at a similar level of influence in Germany and then we have sons of the British characters in the RAF and then we get American characters thrown in when they enter the war and of course we have intimate point of view characters going through the Battle of the Atlantic, rolling with Rommel, now we're in cabinet meetings with Stalin, Mussolini shows up to say hi, and then we have to go and throw in a whole goddamn Pacific theater when all we really want to know is what the hell is happening with our original set of Brits we started the whole thing with. For Chrissakes, you can tell one entire epic story about WWII sticking strictly within the confines of the British Isles. While every other part of the war is also interesting, could we finish one goddamn story first?

I think it all comes down to editing. Stephen King talks about murdering your darlings, removing stuff that may be good on its own but ultimately robs the story of momentum. Of course, the difference between, say, a historical novelist trying to do WWII and a fantasy writer is he doesn't know precisely what happens until he's written it. And most of these guys seem to avoid doing any serious outlining. That's the only explanation for GRRM having to rewrite that one whole book.

Thoughts?

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-17 09:24pm
Offline
Magister
Magister
User avatar

Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm
Posts: 25804
Are you a historian?



Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-17 10:24pm
Offline
Jedi Master

Joined: 2010-06-28 10:19pm
Posts: 1050
Nope. Just your usual sort who likes to read and geek out on nerdy shit.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-19 01:06am
Offline
Jedi Knight

Joined: 2010-07-09 12:27am
Posts: 502
+1

Agree with this almost entirely. I will say that this is a problem with the entire fantasy genre rather than being limited to George period.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-19 08:33am
Offline
Jedi Master

Joined: 2010-06-28 10:19pm
Posts: 1050
Oh, I didn't mean to limit it to GRRM, he was just the guy that got me thinking about it. There's a lot of fantasy I've never started reading for precisely the doorstop reason.

Back when I was a kid, the first fantasy I read and really enjoyed was the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist. It doesn't hold up quite so well as an adult -- the teenage years are really the best time to encounter it. For those who are unfamiliar, it involves a large-scale war between an ersatz Middle-Earth and a China-scale empire of magic-using humans from another world. I really liked the bits that we were shown about the invaders. I would have been delighted to take a tour of their world in more detail. Feist didn't go there, not in the original books.

What he did do was help write a spin-off that told the entire course of the war from the perspective of a noble woman on the other side of the rift. There was plenty of overlap between the key points and it was a self-contained and enjoyable narrative.

The other advantage to these stories is there wasn't a lot of flab and padding. The biggest objection to most doorstop stories is that there's very few plot points that get hit for all their size. These Riftwar books kept moving at a fast pace but didn't feel like they were abridged or rushed.

One of the most blatantly operatic and cinematic periods of history we've got is the fall of the Roman Republic and the creation of the Empire. Sulla, Julius and the Triumvirate, Augusutus, freakin' Caligula, Claudius, all these grand figures and personalities. Marc Antony and Cleopatra, come on!

So, we have the framework of history to go from here. The facts are established. How would one go about telling the story? What are the salient themes, the grand alliances and betrayals? The bits that aren't in the history books will have to be guessed at and we'll be like paleontologists trying to construct out of wire and plaster the missing bones for a great monster going on display.

A really tight accounting of the story could be had in something like I, Claudius but some of the really interesting bits are left in the past; it starts with Augustus firmly in control of Rome. Shakespeare's Caesar is an account of the assassination. Other plays and movies only focus on Cleopatra.

How do you choose what to keep and what to cut? And when adding in the necessary fictional characters to sew the historical facts together, how do you avoid pissing off the audience who thinks you might be giving too much attention to your own creations while neglecting the ones who really existed? Tough job, tough job.

Top
 Profile  
 Post subject: Re: Epic storytelling usually requires more editing (ASOIAF) PostPosted: 2012-04-19 12:46pm
Offline
Magister
Magister
User avatar

Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm
Posts: 25804
jollyreaper wrote:
Nope. Just your usual sort who likes to read and geek out on nerdy shit.


Well, the reason you asked is because it is very unlikely the concept of a historian that is pretty much the standard today. What you are describing are popular historians, not real historians.



Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood

Top
 Profile  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 6 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group