From Crusades To Awakenings
©2011 Edward Lazellari,
author of Awakenings
Although I can cite many influences for my writing, three books that were integral to my first novel, Awakenings, are Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.
The concept of a dysfunctional family posing as warring nations also exists in Game of Thrones. But more importantly, from Mr. Martin, I found the voice I wanted to tell my story through. I had been writing Crusades from an omniscient third-person perspective and had never really been happy with it. I didn’t think a first-person account would work either. Game of Thrones, which is an ensemble piece, is written in third-person limited.
Each chapter is from the perspective of just one character. That doesn’t mean you can’t affect the fates of other characters in that chapter, only that it has to be viewed through the senses of the character you inhabit at the moment. I knew immediately after Game of Thrones that this was the narrative voice I wanted to use. Like Mr. Martin’s book, Awakenings is also an ensemble piece. What I also found fascinating about The Song of Ice and Fire series are the shades of gray in terms of the characters’ rectitude. Just when the reader is sure he or she knows who the villain is, Mr. Martin would write the story from that character’s perspective, and suddenly things were no longer black and white. Many of us hate Cersi, but she’s a product of her culture, shopped around like a cow so that her father can secure Lannister power. As sick and evil as she is, the bum deal she got in a lout like Robert Baratheon certainly pushed her over the edge. Mr. Martin is a master at the politics of interpersonal relations. The empire in Awakenings is the back story. Aandor is as Westeros might be a hundred years later if it fails to reunite under a new leader. This is the catalyst that commences my adventure. One of my protagonists, a boy named Daniel, represents the hope of unifying the empire according to the accord between these shattered nations. In that way, Daniel is a bit like Harry Potter in that he is a savior figure. Unlike Harry, though, Daniel has no support from the people who know
what he really is. He’s on his own.
Another thing I got from Mr. Martin’s writing is restraint. Although Westeros is a land of old gods, magic, and dragons, you don’t see spells cast every 10 seconds. Magic is rare and mysterious. Most things that people think are magical, like comets as portents, can be explained by science or trickery. Mr. Martin keeps magic close to the vest and lets the characters’ human wants and desires propel the story. If a fantasy story can hold up without the magic, it’s that much better a story because then you are relying on motivations that are more universally recognized.
There’s a certain amount of arrogance involved, to read Tolkien or Shakespeare and say, “Oh yeah, I can do that.” But Shakespeare, Tolkien, Louis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and so on were themselves inspired by others before them. There will always be new stories and someone’s got to create them until the computer program meant to replace writers is ready. T.S. Eliot said, “Good writers borrow and great writers steal.” I don’t condone stealing, but all writers take something from their inspirations -- vocabulary, energy, tropes, pacing, poetry, prose -- it’s our favorite books that have instilled in us the desire to write our own stories.
website or twitter: @EdwardLazellari.
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