Earlier this week I took a look at George R. R. Martin’s description of Harrenhal from “A Clash of Kings.” What I’d like to do now is create my own castle description based on George’s method.
To begin, let’s get some facts straight:
Q: In this scene, who is describing my castle?
A: A young man named Doreen. He is a traveling musician who has recently committed several dishonorable acts during his visit (one of which involves himself, his host’s wife, and a pitcher of spiced wine.)
Q: What is the most important aspect of my castle?
A: For Harrenhal, it was all about size. Let’s stick with that concept, but go in a different direction. This castle will be a very small, crowded place. A place of whispers and rumors, boredom and despair.
Q: What is the tone or mood of this castle?
A: It is cramped. One could easily feel trapped within its walls. Those who dwell here feel caged. Boredom lends itself to treachery and mischief.
Q: What is this castle called?
A: The Keep of Tarrow Wood (not sure this matters at this point, but it will work for now).
Q: What are some specifics? What makes it original?
A: Sleeping quarters are divided by sheets instead of stone. The feasting hall barely holds one table. Outside, trees and vines creep over the walls and through cracks in the stone. It stinks of sweat and breath.
Now that I have some back story to work with, I can use some of George’s techniques to bring this place to life.
To recap, George used the following in his description of Harrenhal:
Character thoughts – We see this place through the eyes of the POV character
Comparisons and contrasts – Used to give us an overall idea of the castle
Quick and flashing imagery – Here we see specifics
Character revelations – A brief nod to character descriptions
And finally, my GRRM inspired paragraph…
To Doreen, the Keep of Tarrow Wood was more crypt than castle. The low ceilings and small, crowded rooms made even Vol the Dwarf seem large. Doreen’s own father’s keep covered thrice as much ground, and with half as many people inside. And like a crypt, it stank. The sour stench of sweat and breath lingered throughout the castle, as invasive as the roots and vines that crept in beneath the walls and through cracks in the ceiling. The hall where they slept (side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder) was dark and dank and chilly, and Doreen often dreamt that he was half-dead and paralyzed, and the vines and the roots would creep into his nose and mouth until he could no longer breathe.