Monday, April 23, 2012

Immersion for Learning

My immersion in the A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin continues. While sick with the flu for the last couple of weeks, it was wonderful to be able to spend most of the time reading the various instalments as they came to hand. The local library with the first three, the bookshop with Parts Four (cover illustrated) and Five.

Reading and re reading. I think I mentioned in my previous post how for my first read I skipped through a Part to follow particular characters. In Part Two there are at least ten protagonists.

The above strategy made it easier to enjoy the story as Martin meant it to be followed, the second time through. With the third and fourth re reads, I finally got the stage where I could begin to appreciate the various aspects of writing craft that I'm always on the lookout for.

Such as world building. The action in A Song of Ice and Fire ranges over a hugely detailed world but Martin does not do info-dumping, the bad thing that some writers do to get detail across. My example could've been any of hundreds of instances, Martin is so good at this.

Asha is at home on the Iron Islands, visiting her uncle at the Ten Towers castle. (p 181, Part Four).

"It was good to walk these halls again. Ten Towers had always felt like home to Asha, more so than Pyke. Not one castle, ten castles squashed together, she had thought, the first time she had seen it. She remembered breathless races up and down the steps and along wallwalks and covered bridges, fishing off the Long Stone Quay, days and nights lost amongst her uncle's wealth of books. His grandfather's grandfather had raised the castle, the newest on the isles. Lord Theomore Harlaw had lost three sons in the cradle and laid the blame upon the flooded cellars, damp stones, and festering nitre of ancient Harlaw Hall. Ten Towers was airier, more comfortable, better sited ... but Lord Thoemore was a changeable man, as any of his wives might have testified. He'd had six of those, as dissimilar as his ten towers."

The first few sentences tell us of the castle as a function of Asha's experience of it. The italicised section by the way,  "Not one castle, ten castles squashed together", is how Martin signals direct thought. By the time we read down to "His grandfather's grandfather" we're being led into Harlaw history at the same time as discovering why the castle has ten towers and how dissimilar they are.

The historical detail might seem a bit superfluous until reading on to page 188, we find, what I presume, the original Harlaw Hall still being used, "Damp, decaying ..." belonging now to one "Sigfryd Harlaw the Silverhair.

Dribbling information into a story is only one of the things I'm learning about while reading this series.

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