August is drawing to a rapid close. Hopefully this week won’t drag too badly, I’m looking forward to a three-day weekend (despite the forecast for rain off and on all weekend). But it seems a good time to pass along a few thoughts on random, seemingly unrelated topics.
Game of Thrones – I’ve been hearing a lot of pain surrounding this seventh season. The comments seem to center on the writing not being as crisp, the characters not as true to their nature, and some other niggling complaints. Personally, I thought it was fine, though not up to par with season six and its episodes “The Door” and “Battle of the Bastards.”
But, after reflection, I suspect it boils down to a simple truth: no one dies anymore. Throughout the first five seasons, we never knew who would live and who would die. Even until the middle of the sixth season, there were expectations that one of your favorites was going to bite the big one in some spectacularly, painfully, deviously nasty way. But after Hodor’s heart-wrenching death in the 4th episode last year, it seems all the fan favorites suddenly have lucky charms.
I mean, sure, it’s nice to not have to worry that Arya or Jon are going to get randomly knifed in the back at any time. Or that Jamie Fucking Lannister will get toasted by a dragon (and let’s not discuss the ridiculousness of him surviving that reckless charge in the first place, nor how easily he and Bronn slipped away from the battle undetected). I love not having to concern myself with the death of these people I’ve come to know over seven years.
But there is also no doubt that we’ve moved away from “anyone can die” to “standard fantasy tropes.” There are the chosen, and there are the others. The chosen always survive despite ridiculous odds. The others do not. Jon survives a dunking in a frozen ocean, but Dickon gets crisped by a dragon. Jamie doesn’t take the Mountain’s long sword up his gold encrusted nether regions, but the red priest is wounded and freezes to death. Both Sansa and Arya could have stabbed each other, but instead its the slime of King’s Landing, Peter Balish, who ends up with his throat slit.
By moving in this direction, the writers are at once pleasing the fans, and letting us down. The stakes are now lowering for us, which is what kept us so intrigued before. We never knew who would win this game, who would survive. Anyone at all could be killed. Now, it seems a pretty forgone conclusion that good will win the day, and those we love most will survive the coming war. And while that’s the ending we’d all hope for, it’s not the ending we deserve. Nor did season seven leave us questioning who would win. Instead, it gave us an army of undead and the forces of the north, plus the unsullied and horse riders, plus a few dragons, to face them. After that, they’ll go mop up Cersei, and long live King Aegon and his aunt bride lover. I mean, she IS his aunt, right? We are getting that, right?
Well, we’ll see. Maybe if they spend two years writing this finale season, it’ll shock and surprise us once more. But Dana Schwartz nails this thinking in her article on Marie Claire.
WWI Novel – I’m slowly pushing my way through the writing. I’m not getting it done as quickly as I hoped, but I am making steady progress. I’m working on the two female protagonists’ sections. Duchess Sophie (daughter of the deceased Duke and Duchess) who is coming into her own power in spite of Germany’s wish to control her; and Jacqueline Crevier, a powerful mage of Britannia who journeys to France to try and keep the alliance strong until her country is ready to land troops and assist. Both are damned difficult to write without coming off as facile. Both are suffering from grief due to the assassination, and both are coming to terms with things about themselves they don’t enjoy (Sophie growing into her magic, in spite of her Christian beliefs; Jacqueline’s disease, which is ravaging her body and stealing her ability to control it).
But shitty first draft is the key. Lay the foundation, see what’s there, then the second draft will improve it, fix it, correct the places where the emotions went wrong, where scenes go off the rails. Right now it’s just getting the words on the page and moving forward, whether or not its a slog. I’ll keep focusing on these two tougher characters, and then turn back to my German soldier, Max, when these are done. Then see what I’ve ended up with.
SUMMER and SHADOW – Still pitching the SUMMER novel, sending out queries. I have high hopes someone will find it worthy of publication. Shadow of a Doubt has gone through another revision, or rather almost. I may start pitching that one again as well, who knows. Now that I’m a better writer and understand query letters much better, I can try again with it and maybe overcome the mistakes my inexperience led me into in the past, leading to a long string of rejections. Worse comes to worse, I’ll self-publish the damn thing and be done with it. Maybe I’ll even make a few sales, who knows.