On Thud and Blunder

With one stroke of his fifty-pound sword, Gnorts the Barbarian lopped off the head of Nialliv the Wizard. It flew through the air, still sneering, while Gnorts clove two royal guardsmen from vizor through breasplate to steel jockstrap. As he whirled to escape, an arrow glanced off his own chainmail. Then he was gone from the room, into the midnight city. Easily outrunning pursuit, he took a few sentries at the gate by surprise. For a moment, arms and legs hailed around him through showers of blood; then he had opened the gate and was free. A caravan of merchants, waiting to enter at dawn, was camped nearby. Seeing a magnificent stallion tethered, Gnorts released it, twisted the rope into a bridle, and rode it off bareback. After galloping several miles, he encountered a mounted patrol that challenged him. Immediately he plunged into the thick of the cavalrymen, swinging his blade right and left with deadly effect, rearing up his steed to bring its forefeet against one knight who dared to confront him directly. Then it was only to gallop onward. Winter winds lashed his body, attired in nothing more than a bearskin kilt, but he ignored the cold. Sunrise revealed the shore and his waiting longship. He knew the swift-sailing craft could bring him across five hundred leagues of monster-infested ocean in time for him to snatch the maiden princess Elamef away from evil Baron Rehcel while she remained a maiden — not that he intended to leave her in that condition … .

This article by Poul Anderson  is for anyone who is

a) interested in the role planning and research plays in writing fiction from a master practitioner of the art


b) frustrated by how fucking stale most of the tropes in high fantasy are


c) some combination thereof

Anderson is another giant, years ahead of his SF contemporaries. This piece is a sweet antidote to that oft-abused maxim, ‘write what you know’. Which for many mediocre (published) writers means ‘write nothing worthwhile’. Anyway here it is again, in its entirety on the SWFA website. Extra credit if you also get the feeling that George R.R. Martin keeps a copy of this on his desk.


One comment

  1. Molly (Sprue Story)

    I found this super interesting. I think so much of good plotting is problem solving: facing that “Oh wait, what about…?” moment and figuring out how a character would respond to it or how it would affect the entire story. But that involves first being open to the problems and, in some cases, purposefully seeking them out. If a writer feels his/her plot rolling along easily, he/she is probably wearing blinders to all the problems potential in each action and interaction. In the case of historical fantasy, if one doesn’t know as much as Anderson does, one must seek out the information. Though introducing oneself to possible problems makes writing harder, addressing those problems makes writing better. (This is just me pontificating, not claiming to be able to do any of this myself. How’s your historical fantasy novel coming along?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s