Weekly Writing Round-up: Aug 2022

I already tweeted this once – but funny enough to share again

Feeling pretty average this weekend (probably not the Vid-19) so going to be of a lazy weekly post, just a few random explorations.

This post really hit home for me – up until recently long running Epic Fantasy has probably been my favourite genre. I think its the added sense of ‘Epic’ that that series gives. But its hard to deny the risk, it’s not just unfinished series but its hard to keep a series readable over long periods. Stakes risk rising to ridiculous levels OR stagnate and become boring. Something I’ve noticed as a common pattern is that Epic Fantasy almost always has multiple characters and starts to follow a pattern of one major development for each character per book, rather than having a character arc per se. I don’t think its a matter of quantity but quality, and perhaps as stories get very big you naturally end up with less eventful individual arcs.

But in terms of long running fantasy series a couple stand out:

A Song of Fire and Ice

It would be hard to discuss this topic without a mention of this series. Funny to think in just a few more years this series may become old news and kids will be talking about that ‘old show’ that nerds are still upset about.

For anyone who somehow does know the situation GRR Martin published Game of Thrones way back in the dark ages of 1996 (yes almost 30 years ago not 10-20) and created a much beloved series which skyrocketed into mainstream popularity when a TV series was produced in 2011 ( a much more tasteful 10 years ago). If my memory serves that was about the same time that the latest book in the series was published #5 Dance of Dragons. The series was expected to have two more books within its series.

So the first controversy was realized that at a yearly schedule with approx. 1 season per book the TV show was quickly going to overtake the books. I think more many this was more of an awkward but not unwelcome scenario, where basically the book readers would abruptly lose their superiority, but ultimately the show was very awesome so no-one worried too much.

The real issue began when, well things did not go well within the last few seasons of the show. I don’t really want to rehash the details here – its actually somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, and while I usually try not to join in on hate-trains the reality is Game of Thrones the show went from being a show so popular that workplace lunchrooms became unbearable for non-fans during seasons showing, to being so bad that people basically don’t talk about it, no anniversaries, no memes, only endless youtube essays on why the series failed.

Anyway apologies for the longish waffle, the point is this all comes back to the awkward and unique position of GRR Martin finishing the book versions of the series. I don’t think there is a single other creative series in the same position and to be honest I feel for Martin a bit as he is not oblivious to the show (he worked closely on it as well), he is apparently still working hard on book 6 however rumours abound of him perhaps losing a bit of passion for it due to the reactions. And to be honest surely there won’t be a less scrutinized book ever when it finally gets published.

But if we put aside the wider context, A Song… is also a very challenging series to write and highlights something to be considered in Epic Fantasy series – typically long series expand and contract in scope, what I’ve noticed in 1st books usually have 1-2 main characters and a tight story, whereas the next couple of books introduce more characters and settings. What good series typically do is resolve some plotlines and contract the story a bit before the final book, as it become impossible to wrap the whole thing up neatly. That’s where GRR Martin has a challenge, his series famously is incredibly expansive, despite the fact Martin is well known for not shying away from slaughtering his characters, he still manages to keep expanding the cast and their respective tensions.

So I for one do hope Winds of Winter gets published soonish, but I honestly have no idea how in the contact of a complex story and a backdrop of the TV series its going to go.

The King Killer Chronicle

This is a pretty popular series within Fantasy circles but I’m not sure if its as widely known as GoT. What’s interesting about this series is a very devoted by also divided fanbase. To try and quickly summarize the books are largely narrated by the MC Kvothe (pronounced like Quoth the Raven) detailing his young life and quest for revenge against the creatures that killed his family. The first book was published in 2007, and the second 2011 which seems respectable, however the third is still unannounced, and the rumours of never finishing are starting to swirl.

I’m not sure if there is as much controversy to discuss with this one but I suspect a similar expanding story problem (light spoilers head) while the King Killer Chronicle only focusses on one character, the two time frames and multiple plot threads, I think lead to a challenge to tie up. The tricky thing in this tale is that not enough has happened in the first two books. Don’t get me wrong, lots happens in each book, but not enough to really even make sense of how the story might resolve.

That problem sounds a bit vague, so to explain – in the present we have our MC hiding out in secret but telling his ‘story’ which takes up the most of the page-time of the book. Probably the most major tension of the story is as I mentioned Kvothe’s family being murdered and Kvothe desiring revenge. However we also get hints of other important threads e.g. the very name of the series. It’s heavily implied that Kvothe has done his King Killing by the time of the ‘present’ hence the hiding out. But its not 100% clear, and its also seems like maybe the conclusion on the whole story will be in the ‘present’ but that Kvothe’s backstory is nowhere near the ‘present’ after two books.

Finally something I haven’t mentioned is that real life often hits authors too. One series by JV Jones that I would like to read the finale of, has been delayed more due to various hardships of the author over the past few years which unfortunately is part of the risk of embarking over multi-year journeys.

Enough of that topic!

In all honesty I haven’t read the full article because my eyes start to hurt if I screen too long (which is a pain because screening is all I’m up for while sniffly) But I love this!

Closer look is a pretty interesting content creator on writing – usually focussed more on TV and Movies, however in this heartfelt video he explains how having a rigid view of writing got a bit broken when he commented on Dune.

It’s a really tricky topic, because as a content creator he is probably going to be much more popular dealing in absolutes. Even though its correct, Youtube videos that say things like “well writing rules are more like guidelines” aren’t actually that interesting to watch, whereas people that say “Last of Us 2 is Bad and Wrong and Here’s Why” are more interesting.

Hopefully Closer Look moves on to more intriguing videos (rather than despairing) on the topic I find Vonnegut’s theory useful: (especially Which Way is Up?)

That’s the Week! Take care team.

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