Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Battle Scenes

There are times the work of writing really enthralls me.

My subject at hand is a warrior and a royal (aren't they all? I know, I know, and I've addressed the question: just buy the book when it comes out, I'm not here to defend it; ironically enough, given the four words preceding the parenthesis). I do not know squat about how to be a king, and less by far about how to be a dang general. And I've studied a lot of things in the name of writing this novel--researched everything from ancient brickmaking to horse breeding, early Christianity, and pattern-welding steel--but even with reading (as little as I could) about battle formations, and my own specific battles, the deeper dive into actual psychology and what it's "like" to be a fighting man (never mind a strategist) has never quite happened.

I've taken shots, so to speak, and found accidental inspirations. When I'm forcing myself to write battle scenes, I do find some internal logic. But the level of fiction here is really so complete I have to admit I am BS'ing par excellence.

I hope it is par excellence.

The wonder of it is that it even *feels* that "right".

I have, and not long ago, thought about running this or that by my uncle, a retired Army officer with Vietnam combat experience. He's busy right now and I'd hate to distract him - and in any case, how selfish can one be?

I've told myself time and again, Diane, you have to look into this stuff.

I always, of course, end up half-baking it, talking out of my, er, elbow, just plunging in like I have a clue in the world. I really don't. But I find myself responding to the cracked junk that ends up coming out, going 'wow, where'd that come from', and thinking, actually, it's kind of believable.

I've read a few battle scenes in my day, it's not like I have to actually produce a documentary.

Yet even with the allowances I give myself, and the remote possibility a reader would do the same, I still think I score a pretty solid B on these things, and that really pleases me. I come up with one idea, I run to do something about it, and other stuff comes crawling around, crab-style, from a completely bizarre angle--and *boop* I've got a battle scene.

After battle scene after battle scene ... Ugh.

Never disbelieve an author who tells you the old cliche', "an author doesn't choose the subject, the subject chooses the author."

Now, far be it from me to presume I am of any use to the old Frenchman I've mired in my millions of keystrokes ... but I do have to say, even if I'm not obvious, I've turned out not to be a disgraceful scribe for the fellow. His fights don't get short shrift--plus, he's intelligent, funny, wonderfully violent and insane, and the women who dig him the most aren't half bad.

Well, apart from his mom, of course--but no spoilers here.

The point is that the process of writing is mystifying stuff. I am a complete dumb-idiot, and a bit of a girl when it comes to war and stuff. But dang if I haven't written this whole historical novel and produced some serviceable combat. And shorter bursts of pretty spectactular violence (and temper) too. Where it's all come from I cannot imagine - and, as we all know, fella babies: I'm conceited, and more than willing to take credit for my talents and smarts.

This, I never will understand. I can't say it's automatic writing; I know I have some role in all this. I know I've put forth (over four years now of) effort. It's not like I'm disclaiming responsibility here.

But credit is hard to take, at the same time.

It's weird and it's inexplicable, and I love it, and I don't think I'll ever get it. I'm grateful as hell, and the closer I come to finishing ("February! February!!"), the more bizarre it seems to me.

I'll be interested to see how the not-a-sequel-exactly decides to turn out.

It's all about women. Powerful, booty-kicking, Ostragothic women. Rock on.

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