2006-09-27

Hannibal

I haven't written a lot as of late, as I'm embarked in some overdue reading, and novels and research are sucking up quite a lot of time. I'm advancing on the Battle of Memphis, however, and I hope to post some good news about it not too far from now.

In the meantime, I have finished David Anthony Durham's Hannibal. Pride of Carthage, which I got following a positive review written by Scott Oden in his blog. Up front, I must say I have really enjoyed it. A lot.

I must also say, though, that after reading Gisbert Haef's Hannibal, I was a bit weary of reading this one. Comparisons are hateful, you know. It's, obviously, different. Pretty different, I'd say. But it's a book that can stand his own. My homonimous did a cool job in describing the character's personalities, and it took a very interesting array of POV-characters, hopping from the main characters (the Barcides, the Scipios, and so) to some interesting secondary characters that provide a very interesting perspective. I have liked his way of describing battles, from POV-characters' perspectives, and rarely resorting to the 3rd omniscient narrator, as I usually do. I enjoy displaying the whole range of tactics and the strategical development of the battles to the readers, so they can re-create it on their mind, as if they were a bird flying over the battlefield. It has a lot of advantages, and it makes writing battles easy and passionate. I usually concentrate in each section (left cavalry wing, left infantry wing, center, right infantry wing, right cavalry wing; or vice-versa) like comic-book panels, and then move time forwards and make another loop, until the battle is done. This allows me to be detailed when it's interesting, and vague when nothing interesting is happening. Sometimes I skip sections on purpose, and this lets me play around the battle, exposing it in all its glory and folly. I usually have a POV character in each of the places, that readers know because they have been introduced before, and I move from the eagle to the character so things are clear and fit nicely into the mould.

Durham, however, rarely does this. Most battles are narrated from the POV-characters, and we are informed of what's going on through their eyes and ears. Sometimes we get just one POV per battle-frame. When we get to the last character, the battle ends, from what he or she can perceive. This "stripping" of most of the steps I use to describe a battle is interesting, however, because it makes things more intimate. More . . . "flavorous". It let's you sample enough of the battle each time to make a rough draft of what's going on; you--as a reader--feel the intensity not by the information you have, but precisely by the information you are lacking. It also allows to concentrate more on the inner part of the battle, intimate views and feelings. It's weird, but I think it may make things less . . . exhaustive; more appealing.

Once I finish the novel draft, and alongside the Great Historical Revision (GHR for my friends :) I'll have to review lots of things like these: if a situation will gain value by changing a POV there, deleting this or moving it for a later time in the scene, etc... Once the draft is finished, I'll have to work to make the novel good (or at least as good as I am able to).

This writing bussiness is really complex, but oh so fun! :-)

Happy Autumn (or Fall) for everyone. KALLISTI!

5 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

I love playing around with different POVs and perspectives in my battles. I've done everything from intimate third to eagle view, including a constant shift from the MC and the enemy leader during one scene, and a teichoskopeia. Whatever works best in the context.

Excalibor said...

teichoskopeia

And what's that??? I haven't been able to find online references that explain what's it, you've waken up my curiosity!

I don't dislike the way I tell battles, that's why I do it, I enjoy writing them and reading them afterwards. But while some disregard the account of battles, most authors I have enjoyed do work battles from a different technique... Will I be able to learn from them?

By the way, what a beautiful picture you've posted on your blog! Really a wonderful place...

Thanks!

PS- I await your help on the Greek word! ;-)

Gabriele C. said...

The word is used when a battle or other scene difficult to show on stage, is narrated by one of the characters who is either commenting what he sees by looking over the wall, so to speak, or was a witness in some way and tells in retroscpective (backstory alert, lol). The word means something like 'look over the wall', the German term used by the classic playwriters like Goethe and Schiller is Mauerschau, but the technique goes back to the Greek theatre.

Excalibor said...

Gab,

ah, I see... very interesting, thanks a lot!

Yes, I see the usefulness of such a technique. It would also allow to create an emotional dettachment from the ation being described, right?

Looks cool... :-)

Thanks a lot!

Pacal said...

POV is a very interesting way of taking the reader into the reality of a battle. If only because the vast majority of persons in a battle cannot even have a incling of the Olympian perspective common to over all battle descriptions in texts. In fact this Olympian perspective wasn't even really possible for the commanders who can't know everything that is happening. Although it must be remembered that POV is also distorting in that since a person ussually knows very little of what is going on his / her perspective is distorted and therefore events can seem completly inexplicable. For example a typical Legionaire at Cannae would have found out what happened very hard to understand.

Pierre