Some Old Notes

I recently found some old notes while I was cleaning my office — notes from before I started writing THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR. Simon, you may be interested to know, was originally going to be called “Martin”. The Sithi were called the “Shee” (those of you versed in Celtic stuff can see where I eventually made it a little less straightforward, while still giving the nod to the original concept) and the Norns were called the “Dark Fay”.

The ghants were originally “gauntys”, skeletal, mud-like things, but that was too close to H. P. Lovecraft’s night-gaunts, so the name changed and they evolved into crablike critters.

Binabik was originally “Bilabil” — named in part after the Moorish folk-character “Boabdil” — but my editors thought it sounded too much like “Bilbo”, so I changed that too. Josua was unnamed (this was an outline) but I was toying with “Jariah”, “Jeriah”, and “Jediah” for his name. I had at one point also thought of naming Camaris “Casimir”, but had discarded that fairly early.

Anyway, despite eventually writing about a hundred pages of outline, there were a lot of things I didn’t know when I started DRAGONBONE, and I just had to trust I would find out along the way. Lots of characters who eventually became very important didn’t mean much to begin with — Cadrach being a prime example. At first he was only going to be in the two scenes with Simon, one at the Hayholt market and the other at the inn. But I brought him back, and then I asked myself who he was, and before long he was a major part of the story.

The problem with that kind of approach, of course, is that the first two volumes were already going to be in print by the time I was finishing the third, so if I did something wrong, or changed something after the fact, it was too late to go back and alter it, as you could do before printing a standalone novel. So — and this is a general tip useful to anyone writing very long fiction — I left some things open-ended in the first two volumes, so I could enforce a different interpretation once the book was in print, if necessary.

I never had any idea the books would be as long and complex as they turned out to be. I guess I should have figured it out when I wrote a hundred-page outline for what I thought was a single-volume novel.

Every book has a life of it’s own to the writer. The mental image I have for DRAGONBONE is of a guy setting out for an afternoon’s hike carrying only his lunch, and then being stuck in the mountains for weeks, wishing he’d brought more with him than just a carton of yogurt and a sweater. That guy was me. I had NO IDEA how much work — and how much time — these books would demand. If you’d told me when I started writing the first paragraph of THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR that I wouldn’t finish the story for eight years, I’d have thought you were absolutely barking mad.

Tad Williams © 1996
All Rights Reserved

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