Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rewriting A Game of Thrones

In music and painting, it's typical to reproduce existing works. Sometimes musicians and artists just reproduce the work to gain skills ("I can finally play Stairway!"), and sometimes they don't reproduce the work so much as they reinterpret it ("I'm re-doing Stairway as a Gregorian Chant. It isn't really much of a stretch.").

But there's no such tradition in writing. In writing, if you try to rewrite anything, it's considered plagiarism.  (Though I do know of one guy, Chris Eaton, who did a remake -- a cover, if you will -- of Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes. The book's called The Grammar Architect and it's not bad.)

I don't like that. I think that a good way to practice writing is to take something miserably bad -- something like, say, A Game of Thrones -- and rewrite it so that it's almost palatable.

I'm not an awesome writer, but I think that I can make at least one passage from that first Game of Thrones book less awful. I mean, seriously, this book reeks. The author, George R.R. Martin (you need those initials if you want to be a fantasy writer, right J.R.R. Tolkien?), shoves so many unneeded words, including superfluous adverbs and obnoxious turns of phrases, into his writing that I have to assume that the book is a big giant fuck you to Strunk&White, Anne Lamott, and Stephen King.

That is if George R.R, Martin's heard of them.

You may be wondering (if you exist) why the hell I'm reading A Game of Thrones to begin with. Well, as you may or may not know, I work at a technology company. All my coworkers have read A Game of Thrones and they're all big fans of the show. I just started watching the show and I am not a big fan. I decided that maybe -- just maybe -- the books would be better. So I checked the first book in the series out of the library (I'm not making the mistake I made with The Help and Peyton Place ever again). 

Within the first few pages I realized that this was not going to go well. When you roll your eyes five times within the first ePage of your eBook, you know that this is not going to go well. When you spot the second mention that the blood was "like summer wine" on the snow, you know you're deep into 50 Shades of Shit territory.

I read a passage to one of my fanboy coworkers and asked him, very seriously, if he thought George R.R. Martin could shove any extra words into the sentence, and my coworker answered, "Obviously it's bad if you insist on reading the words!"


This brings me to right now. I was reading the book over lunch and thought, "I could rewrite this. I could rewrite this with fewer stupid words and keep the intent. I'm sure I could."

So for your reading pleasure -- or not, I'm doing this cold in the few remaining minutes of my lunch hour -- is a rewrite of a passage from Book 1 of A Game of Thrones.

The passage:
Viserys had been a boy of eight when they fled King's Landing to escape the advancing armies of the Usurper, but Daenerys had been only a quickening in their mother's womb.

Yet sometimes Dany would picture the way it had been, so often had her brother told her the stories. The midnight flight to Drangonstone, moonlight shimmering on the ship's black sails.  Her brother Rhaegar battling the Usurper in the bloody waters of the Trident and dying for the woman he loved. The sack of King's Landing by the ones Viserys called the Usurper's dogs, the lords Lannister and Stark. Princess Elia of Dorne pleading for mercy as Rhaegar's heir was ripped from her breast and murdered before her eyes. The polished skulls of the last dragons staring down sightlessly from the walls of the throne room while the Kingslayer opened Father's throat with a golden sword.

She had been born on Dragonstone nine months after their flight, while a raging summer storm threatened to rip the island fastness apart.
The rewrite:
Viserys was eight when he and his pregnant mother had fled King's Landing to escape the advancing armies. Viserys had told Dany the story of the battle so often that she almost felt that she had been there herself. She saw the sack of King's Lading by the invading armies of the Usurper, led by Lord Lannister and Lord Stark -- the men her brother called "the Usurper's dogs". She saw Princess Elia of Dorne plead for her child's life after he was taken from her. She saw the blood filled waters of the Trident, and her brother Rhaegar battling the Usurper there. He would die in vain trying to protect Princess Elia. She saw the Kingslayer slash her father's throat with his gold sword as the dragon head trophies watched from the walls.

Finally, Dany saw their departure in the dead of night. She saw the moonlight shimmer on the ship's sails, and she saw Dragonstone in the distance. It was on Dragonstone that she was born nine months later.
There ya go. That took me 10 minutes and I haven't made any revisions to it (I haven't even given it a once over). I have no idea how good or bad that is, but it can't be that much fucking worse than the original.

Feel free to comment on how I missed the point of A Game of Thrones and how the fake medieval language is part of the book. (Just like how Gwyneth Paltrow's fake Brit accent is part of Shakespeare in Love?)

1 comment:

  1. Your re-write was much more comprehensible for a lay person like me.