View Full Version : Character career backgrounds

03-18-2005, 06:38 PM
One thing I've noticed is that when something unusual is selected as the background for a main character, the writer can sometimes end up with a opportunity to point out things in the world he's populating that would be taken for granted by a character with some other background.

For instance, a prince would be used to seeing the royal palace and consider very little of it to be special. A candle maker might see that same palace with dollar signs because of the opportunities to brighten it up. Some poor peasant brought in for trial might view it with fear.

Basically, the same thing can happen for anything else in the world the author creates.

03-18-2005, 10:52 PM
yep. and when a story starts off with a royal person in their own setting who views the place with a less-than-astonished view, as a reader, i'm unimpressed with it, too. that's interesting to note. too few writers look to the palace as anything other than just a cool setting, ignoring its symbolism not only to the reader, but to the characters who view the palace as a bastion of government and a pillar of strength. and a source of income.

it's a failing of some fantasy writers to have little or no historical research backing their world up. if you're going down the route where you've got a castle, you've got to consider its urban area and even the suburbs. how many times does the hero leave the castle and five minutes later is a thousand miles away from the nearest person?

while we don't need to know every detail, considering these things might incite a subtext that rings true and make the world seem more real. i mean, it might behoove the writer to consider the details of their world, such as if there's some kind of coinage involved or if it's strictly a barter society. even coinage has a symbolic value, i think. there's more there than your magician's guild. your important magician who spends his daze in council probably doesn't have time to pick his own mandrake. he might grow it himself, or he might have a trusted assistant do it, he might have it delivered from outside vendors, whatever. i don't want to be flooded with details in endless info-dumps, but a smattering of details tells me the writer has thought this place out, and having that confidence as a reader i'm more willing to buy into the rest of the plot's veracity.

especially if you've got a lot of politics in your novel, you've got to take more into consideration. what's important to your kingdom is going to be influenced by whether or not it's a farming community or a seaboard where your prime source of things is fished from the water. i mean, you might have ballast guilds (yes, there used to be such a thing, and they were a pretty powerful lobby in england at one time) as opposed to the rainmakers.

one thing that's always just irked me is the prince's attitude is too often not much removed from the streetsweeper's. two totally different classes of people who share the exact same values doesn't jibe with me. a character's occupation is critical to me to illustrate their basic values. there's a subtle difference in thinking between a thatcher and an apothecary. actually, it might not be quite so subtle, lol. the point is, while it might seem a lot drier to mention his job, it tells me so much i need to know about him. and without the exposition of describing his character in other ways.

that flies in the face of 'show, don't tell' sometimes. but by knowing he's a bard, i mean, jeez, how better to define his character from the start? you can show him singing. besides, most princes and the like are just laid out by telling anyway, what's the terrific difference?

been my reading experience with young, unpublished writers (and even experienced writers who should know better after 40 years of observation) is the character most misunderstood and screwed-up is royalty. they're too often depicted as 'common,' and too goody-goody to be true. maybe that's why their kingdom doesn't have a ghetto section. maybe that's why i avoid reading their stories, lol. it's hard to get into the mind-set of a king.

i think these things are changing in published fantasy (at least that's the impression i get), but i've seen an awful lot of fantasy that takes virtually nothing into consideration. half the time i'm thrilled if there's ivy growing on the castle walls. i have to give consideration to the notion that a lot of what a fantasy writer thinks is worth writing about centres around visual aspects of their world and not the 'real'-world machinations that keeps it moving.

03-18-2005, 11:09 PM
Good points, preyer. In my book, Knight Spirits, I tried to keep some of that in mind. The first chapter is posted on a few online sites where you can see that I tried to give just enough without bogging down the action or the reader. There's a short sample at http://www.ereader.com/product/book/excerpt/16296 that anyone can read if they want.

03-19-2005, 08:04 AM
i scanned the excerpt briefly because it's long and i'm a slow reader, but from what i looked at seemed pretty decent. i'll read it tomorrow when i've got more time. :)

one thing i thought of while reading one line about them uttering magick words that made them laugh, presumably because they mangled the words: you never see magick that's meant to delight an audience, or magick used just to entertain (the characters, i mean). usually magick always has this drastic consequence even in worlds where magick is practiced to the point of mundanity. and how often is magick used to divine a person's guilt? i mean, if your court mage can't figure a way to do that, what good is he? and if he *can* manage that, well, that's a pretty good deterent to crime, no? and why do kings keep these powerful mages around and the people are still starving? really, there are a lot of logic issues you find in fantasy. that's one thing i liked about LOTR was that tolkein pretty much cut off the source of the good guys' magick usage down to almost nothing. well, not nothing, but y'all know what i mean.

is another failing of fantasy writers focusing too much on magick, ya think?

03-19-2005, 08:22 AM
This is similar to my problem with the use of the transporter in Trek i.e. they hadn't really thought about all the other things it potentially could be used for. I actually wrote a fan novel in which there was mention (just as background) of techniques for e.g. using the transporter to remove part of the shielding from an enemy ship's engine, or dumping a bomb into their hold, and I had an alien race with slightly more sophisticated transporter technology who used chains of little scouting or attack ships with minimal life-support, and when the pilot got tired he or she was just passed up a chain of transporters from scout to scout back to the mother-ship, and a fresh pilot sent back the same way.I was pleased that DS9 actually did think about all the nasty implications of having a shape-shifting enenemy who can, for example, turn into a very thin extra layer of wallpaper...

03-19-2005, 11:11 AM
that always rather bothered me about the original ST, there seemed to be an awful lot of transporter 'struggles' (fixed with those levers, which is laughable in itself, but, hey, whatever) and very few things they usually did with a transporter. didn't kirk steal cloaking technology from the romulans in one episode? what happened to that nifty gizmo? off topic, but....

03-19-2005, 06:24 PM
solving the logic issues wof magic can be done. one good thing to remember is to liken wizards to modern technology. whya re there, in today's world, starving people?

besides that, one can always deciede that magic doesn't do X, that magic is feared and hated by the poople for whom it would do X, that there aren't enough wizards to do X for anyone bu royalty, or that using magic has saide effects too sever to justify doingX.

03-20-2005, 05:11 AM
This is similar to the real-world issue of people who asked "If psyhic healing exists, why can't you cure cancer with it?" to which a friend of mine replied "If a candle gives light, why can't you light a cricket-stadium with one?"

I.e., it's a weak effect. You probably could use psychic healing to cure cancer but it would take dozens of healers working for months at a time and basically there far more tumours around than there are healers. And it's exhausting.

You can apply the same principal to fictional magic, i.e. specifying that it takes more wizards to do a given thing than are generally available (but if the plot requires it you can have a conference-call later), and/or that doing it exhausts the wizard to the point where it is generally simply cheaper and easier to use other methods.

03-20-2005, 06:18 AM
but we're dealing with magick which ostensibly doesn't exist, so there are those questions with every new book until you know the extent of magick's influence in the world. why do people starve in real-life? well, there's a socio-economic/political thing there, not to mention logistics and materials involved. it's real. you can point to it and say, 'there're the reasons.' same with candles-- you can measure the output. it's physically impossible in real life.

that's the key here. real life. most of us consider there to be a significant difference between it and fantasy, where anything can happen. your court magician has to do *something*. all i'm driving at is it's implausible to think your average king would hire a wizard to destroy the enemy by raising an army of the dead, yet conjure up enough bread to feed the starving masses. if magick has limitation and side-effects in your system, that's an explanation. then your story is internally consistent. it's story that don't have that consistency which i'm talking about. my bad for apparently not making that clear. :)

03-20-2005, 07:37 AM
Ah, you could do what I did to a character who converted into a sea witch only moments before someone she knew was wounded in battle. Upon recognizing him, she asked other sea witches through her newfound powers of telepathy how to heal him. After a very brief objection, they gave her the information. She used the power to raise him from the water where he was drowning while halting his blood loss. Then she found his severed arm and restored it, but in doing so she drew power heavily from the water around her because of her inexperience and exploded just as she completed saving him.

Mr Underhill
03-24-2005, 06:01 AM
Random tangent alert...
i've seen an awful lot of fantasy that takes virtually nothing into consideration. half the time i'm thrilled if there's ivy growing on the castle walls.Actually the presence or absence of ivy on the walls of castles has meaning itself: it's a good indicator of whether its inhabitants are at war or have enjoyed long peace. Similarly for the presence of wooden outbuildings, new sections of town outside town walls and the like. And woods.

It may simply mean that the castle or town in question is well outside the war zone, however, or that warfare has progressed to the point that castles are not an integral part of it.

If you have ivy on your walls, enemies can use it to climb up. (Or burglars!) Woods can be used to hide from your archers, so you chop those down for a good bowshot around the place. Etcetera.

03-24-2005, 12:52 PM
yeah, but as writers we try to strike some kind of balance between real and ideal, eh? i doubt, though i can't actually verify this through experience, ivy is strong enough to support a man's weight as he's scaling a thirty foot wall. maybe if there's a trellis, but even then that's going to be one sturdy piece of decoration/plant support. climbing ivy would be suicide. i'm sure most lords would rather have that soldier working in the undermines (the method of tunneling used to collapse walls) than scaling walls, which were typically breached with siege machines taller than the wall (forget the name of these things off-hand).

your city most likely won't be entirely walled. 1,200 feet of palisade, i think, is considered very impressive, sans magick, of course. your 'suburbs' might have been protected by ringworks, but if you look at pictures of 'castles' (that is if your definition includes, too, the curtain wall, which typically is the case), you'll quickly see there's simply no room for a large population to live actually *inside* the 'castle' beyond a siege situation.

there's not likely to be much of a surrounding forest close by, either, unless the castle is very old. construction of the castles would have raped the woods for timber, which even for a stone castle required tremendous quantities. say it takes an average of seven to ten years to build a truly impressive structure, and that's not really a long time to completely replenish a forest with sizable trees. besides, though i'm hardly a historian, i can't think of any real castle whose nearest forest was close to arrow range.

basically, a 'castle' was for the lord, his family, and servants/garrison. inside the defensive walls you might find blacksmiths, the chapel and cobblers and such, but 'castles' weren't for the common folk to live in. those people lived in surrounding peasant villages, not necessarily right outside the foot of the wall, but not inside, either, lol. (i feel encouraged to put 'castle' in quotes, as the term typically takes on a synonomous meaning between the castle, the main living residence, and the battlements, which later came to be a supporting feature of the residence and kind of thrown in there, too, which i suppose is technically correct.)

i'm not too familiar with 'town walls' surrounding and protecting the outlying village other than ringworks, though i suppose it's likely some places had some kind of timber barricade. i'd imagine that that would be rather impractical to build and maintain when wood rot was a pretty serious issue and unless you're starting to get practically into a motte and bailey-type of thing connected with tall timbers, i can't see there being a tremendous defensive advantage there. surrounding an entire town with stone would be practically pointless unless it was high, and few lords would put the money into that structure when that's half the point of having a 'castle' in the first place, eh?

the point is not creating a strictly historically accurate castle, just not an overly romanticized one, either. i mean, clearly some of these writers have not done a lick of research. surrounding three square miles with forty foot high walls ain't gonna happen unless magick is involved, lol. it took roughly 2,000 workers and skilled labourers a year to add ten foot of heighth to an average castle wall, that's if everything went okay and you're not working on that castle that after 45 years *still* wasn't finished.

i can buy into it from a high fantasy standpoint, at least up to a certain point. that's where people sometimes seem to get confused or only see one view. that's also why i liked the LOTR movies that depicted theodin's (? and sp) 'castle' as being separated from the peasant village, while a lot of writer's just see the attacked castle on the side of the mountain as being the norm. fantasy or not, there's research involved, right? of course, people can't help but to write about kings, either, while on the other side of the haunted forest lies *another* king. ah, doubtful. warlords, maybe... kings, though?

a writer who has no historical background whatsoever writing about castles, kings, and the lives and mien of those people living in those places just comes off as crude and lazy to me. worse, highly romanticized and purply prosed doesn't have the effect of deflecting the lack of research. if your castle has 100 foot high white walls, fine... as long as that castle isn't impregnable because of just that. that could just be more wall that falls when you apply fire to crack it open like a walnut, heh heh. to be quite frank, if you can't google 'castle', maybe you don't have much business writing about them, eh? 'people in the background milling about, going about their business,' just doesn't cut it for me on any level, even for a short story. good lawd, at least throw a damn baker in there, will ya?

03-24-2005, 05:43 PM
Ah, preyer, you would like the castle in my book, Knight Spirits. It houses a garrison of twenty professional soldiers, the ruler, support staff, and some church members. Yes, I tried to keep it realistic concerning just how many people were actually living within it. Most of the people lived in the nearby town.

03-24-2005, 06:53 PM
that always rather bothered me about the original ST, there seemed to be an awful lot of transporter 'struggles' (fixed with those levers, which is laughable in itself, but, hey, whatever) and very few things they usually did with a transporter. didn't kirk steal cloaking technology from the romulans in one episode? what happened to that nifty gizmo? off topic, but....

After the war, the cloaking technology was banned for the Federation as part of the treaty with the Romulans. It was illegal to possess , or work on, cloaking technology.

As an aside, you couldn't teleport anything into or out of a shielded ship. Shields blocked the transporter. Which meant you couldn't transport a bomb into an enemy ship as long it had shields up.

I don't think fixing the transport with those levers and buttons was laughable. For the early 60's, it was actually very good science. We're already building machines that you diagnose and repair from a control panel. 200 years from now I doubt anything will be repaired manually.

Mr Underhill
03-24-2005, 09:33 PM
i doubt, though i can't actually verify this through experience, ivy is strong enough to support a man's weight as he's scaling a thirty foot wall.Depends on how long it's been growing. Americans don't seem to think in terms of decent times scales. And who said anything about a man?
climbing ivy would be suicide.Whereas climbing a siege ladder...
your city most likely won't be entirely walled...i'm not too familiar with 'town walls' surrounding and protecting the outlying village other than ringworks... surrounding an entire town with stone would be practically pointless...If you ever get the chance to visit Carcassonne and/or Dubrovnik, I highly recommend it.

if your castle has 100 foot high white walls, fine... as long as that castle isn't impregnable because of just that. that could just be more wall that falls when you apply fire to crack it open like a walnut...See if you can find the story of how the Turks captured the impregnable citadel of Klis, which is high above the Croatian city of Split. That's how one takes an impregnable citadel. For the converse, the story of how the Prince-Archbishop outlasted a peasant rebellion in the Festung Hohensalzburg is also enlightening. Salzburg is also well worth a visit, and not just for the Festung.

03-25-2005, 12:34 AM
dk, it sounds like your castle is actually a practical one. i appreciate stuff like that. i seem to recall one castle in history being defended by a mere fourteen soldiers. of course, that's not the norm, and i wonder how well the fortifications were (i'm guessing pretty spiffy). the notion of hundreds of knights pouring from the castle, though, is historically pretty inaccurate. if you have something like that, that's okay as long as there are other redeeming qualities of the story that suggest the author knows what they're talking about to some degree.

i think where americans tend to screw this type of stuff up comes from perhaps a slightly different writing philosophy than, say, the british (as briefly discussed in another thread), and the simple fact that we have no castles ourselves. actually, i've been to a 'castle' a man built mostly by himself in loveland, ohio. while not to the same scale, it offered a slight indication of what they were like-- cold and rather dampy even in the summer. (search for 'loveland castle' if you're interested. it's a pretty decent real-life tale.) i've yet to make it to england and visit some real castles, though. (didn't have time in germany to visit any, much to my regret.)

ja, that's interesting about the treaty. was that in a book? sure, you couldn't drop a bomb with the shields up... but if they aren't on alert and can't see you, that should be a pretty easy kill, right? i still say the levers are pretty funny, though, heh heh. if it's so advanced, why have a manual control in the first place? because a human is going to do it better than a computer? hm....

true, that was assuming it was a man. siege towers had protection, no? true, it still would be near suicide to be the first one out of a tower, but at least then you have the benefit of carrying armour and a shield. still an ugly proposition any way you slice it. you could argue that climbing a ladder would be a lot like climbing ivy... except knowing that a ladder isn't going to 'lose its grip' near the top like ivy likely might, and you could scale a ladder a lot faster. still, it's not terribly difficult pushing a ladder off your walls with a pole which you'd most likely opt for, for if you didn't kill the climber, you'd better yet injure him, and people sometimes forget that injuring a soldier *can* be more beneficial than killing him.

i'm sure there are exceptions like those castles you mentioned. i'd love to visit *any* castle. but the idea of being indestructible is, well, rather ludicrous. like helm's deep... i personally didn't see any difference attacking that place than you would another castle. it certainly had some natural advantages, though the entire attack was conducted poorly, imo. with half the force you could have besieged the place, effectively removing them from the war, no? okay, maybe that's not the best example of how to defeat them, but there had to be a way. tunneling through rock isn't practical, but at the same time, they were built into a mountain, and you can collapse the side of a mountain. throwing enough soldiers at a castle to where you can run up a ramp of corpses to the ramparts isn't a terribly wise strategy, lol. two seconds after they left for helm's deep, i wondered why sauron hadn't sent his rapidly moving army there first before going anywhere, knowing that that's where the people would take refuge. doesn't take patton to figure out these guys' next move, lol.

what's also rather enlightening is in the 12th century, smack dab in the middle of the english castle's heyday (william the conqueror having brought castles to england), one castle had fallen to the enemy (i'll have to look up which castle and battle it was) and the entire idea of castles fell into temporary disfavour.

taking everything into consideration, the logistics and expense and time, it's amazing that castles got built to completion. all this time, effort, and manpower involved, and what did they often do-- fling dead animals at one another. i don't know, that just strikes me as funny.

03-25-2005, 12:53 AM
Thanks. I used several sources and read about that same castle you mentioned that successfully held off a siege with 14 soldiers. If I recall correctly, they were commanded by the lady of the castle because her husband was away commanding an army fighting elsewhere.

Anyway, I had some fun with the story since I had the men complaining that the duke in charge had his men practicing how to charge. Of course, that was because he believed he'd have to reach the gate to close it and prevent more of the enemy from entering. The castle was received heavy traffic every day of the year. When the time came for a battle, it turned out the enemy had located forgotten secret passages and bypassed his planned defense.

03-25-2005, 01:21 AM
the defenders overestimated themselves, eh? that's a good theme, where authority knows by virtue of being authority what to do and what's going to happen. that's a recipe for disaster in fiction, eh? on another level, it sort of shows what happens when you forget your own history. or maybe i'm just reading too much into it, lol.

royalty is boring to me. i think i'd rather have a 'gosford park' situation where you get the behind-the-scenes scoop. i'm sure it's been done, but by virtue of being different it's more interesting to me. for me, royalty is okay in small doses, though i can no longer be excited about spoiled princesses as MC's. that's just me, of course, but i'm just tired of 'em. the last fantasy book i read, it was one of the dragonlance series, had the princess-type run the streets at night as a master thief. and, you know, that was a cool premise. the problem with her character was she was too perfect of a thief and the author didn't explore her character's motivations with any depth. i think you've got to have some insight into that character to make her work, but since it was an ensemble kind of thing, i guess the author didn't feel he had the space to devote to her character.

it's like when a king dresses as a peasant and mingles with the common man. kings just don't do that without a good reason. if the author doesn't give a clear explanation, that's a big whoopsie to me.

the kinds of characters i find intrinsically interesting are those whose professionals are ones they don't want to do, like the blacksmith who's a poet at heart or something. keep your warrior monks, though, lol. i really don't think those are the same thing anyway. great character motivation in a modern fantasy: parke godwyn's 'beowulf.'

Mr Underhill
03-25-2005, 08:29 AM
keep your warrior monks, though, lol.What difficulties do you have with warrior monks? Is this with Oriental or Occidental warrior monks? Just curious.

03-25-2005, 11:48 AM
just seen too many of them, that's all. i actually am very enamoured with the idea of warrior monks, but i need a few years respite to get back into the whole idea of them. here shortly we're going to get 'EPIII,' which will only spawn another wave of warrior monk stories.

03-25-2005, 03:59 PM
Ivy - yes if it was *old* and therefore thick-stemmed ivy (could be centuries old), and the mortar of the stone-work was a bit crumbly (so the ivy was firmly bonded into the cracks), you could climb it: though probably not with too much heavy equipment on you.

If the ivy was really old the castle's defenders might be forced to leave it in place, even during a siege, as on some ancient buildings it's mainly the ivy which is holding the wall together. Of course that will be less of a factor if the walls are made of very large blocks.

In my story the ivy-equivalent was poisonous and was *part* of the castle's defences, not a breach in them!

You must remember that Norman castles were mainly just motte-and-bailey (wooden towers and earth ditches), so breaching them was a whole lot easier than with the later 13th/14th C stone castles (some of which really were big enough to fit an entire town into, though of course not its supporting agriculture). I could be wrong but I don't think there were many instances of stone castles being breached until the introduction of serious canon in the 17th C.

In fact all fantasy stories with castles in seem to use either those "typical English" stone castles (which in fact are mostly in Wales) or the continental "fairy-tale" type with conical turrets. I've never seen a story set around Norman wooden castles, or the sort of fortified manor-houses and individual peel towers we had in Scotland, or the frighteningly efficient starfish-shaped complexes (covered with projecting sections which enabled you to trap potential attackers between three wings of fire-power) which were developed on the continent.

Plenty of major towns in Britain were built with walls around the whole town - stone walls about 8ft wide and 15ft high, often with a huge, wide, deep ditch all round the outside, and fortified towers at all the gates. Of course during long periods of peace suburbs would spring up outside the walls - but there was a whole walled town to retreat into during sieges, not just a castle. Visit York some time.

Or take a look at Edinburgh castle. It's basically a small town sitting on top of a socking-great sheer-sided rock. It doesn't even bother to *look* like a castle - just big ordinary-looking stone houses, but there's a wall round them, and the sides of the rock are crumbly and almost vertical, and there's only one road up and it has layer upon layer of alternating walls and nice wide open spaces where the people on the walls can see you to shoot you. How are you going to take it?

And no, you can't undermine it, or pull it down. To burrow into it from ground level you'd have to go *up* through hundreds of feet of stone, and to get near the walls you would basically have to hang by your fingernails from the top of a vertical cliff with people dropping things on you from above.

03-25-2005, 05:38 PM
I'd have more faith in the ivy as a defense if the bark peeled off easily leaving a slick surface behind that would make gripping it nearly impossible. As a poison, it just doesn't strike me as effective since most plant poisons have to be ingested to be fatal. Those that work on touch tend to be aggravating.

03-25-2005, 11:54 PM
I kinda wonder about leaving any organic material on the exterior of my stone building when a seige is immenant. Even green, ivy burns brightly. I know; as a kid, one of my tasks was the (mostly futile) job of eradicating ivy from my parents' property. Mowing, chopping, even fire was unsuccessful--it wasn't till the city widened the street, that it finally went away.

By the way, berry vines (thinking the Himalaya blackberry variety, common in the Pacific Northwest) make great defenses. Although they do burn well, too.

Back to the magic I guess.

03-26-2005, 01:38 AM
undermining was one of things they tried to do, even to the extent that counter measures were used. basically, a defensive tunnel was built and when intersected with the tunnel already in place, you could defend against undermining. not saying this was ever done on a large scale, but perhaps more for places where undermining in conjunction with besieging would have been the most practical way of capturing a castle (that is, after the option for surrender was refused). like you suggest, you just don't build tunnels overnight.

oh, and i'm not saying there were *no* towns that weren't surrounded by walls, what i'm saying is of the hundreds of castles built (most in wales, like you said), the likelihood of your average lord building a substantial wall around his town doesn't sound very likely. like you said, 'major towns,' not necessarily the rural country lord. i'm sure some of them even did it. kind of like how some cities can afford a subway system, others can't (or don't have the population to support that anyway). if your city is of major strategic importance, sure, you'd *probably* want to erect some kind of wall. then again, you've also got the tax base to support it along with money from the king who knows how important a major city is.

where you have a natural defense, like a rock face at your back, such as edinburgh, sure, it's more practical to build a wall because you don't need to build as much of one. i'd venture to say that most lords tried to build their castle around some kind of natural advantage if that was possible. wasn't there one castle where the lord was so determined to build on a particular site despite every attempt literally falling apart that he could have built three castles by then? i seriously think i'm not remembering that right because that seems an awful lot like merlin's bit the king arthur story. if it never happened, it should have: that's just a pretty cool theme to have in a story.

the conical turrents were a later design, but once they were discovered to be far superior a defense (arrows and even cannonballs glancing off), it was something castles tended to strive for. basically, if they could afford the extra work involved, they'd have 'em. you're absolutely right, though, when you say fictional castles all have them. not only that, but towers that tickle the clouds with flapping banners in the breeze. banners and flags and such may or may not be historically accurate, but it's a given in fiction. i'd say americans are particularly influenced by images of camelot and disneyland's castle. i think we tend to try to blend the functionality of a castle with the idyllic beauty of a palace. disney has probably done more to pervert our image of what a real castle was like than they'd like to admit.

03-26-2005, 03:46 AM
I didn't realize that was what those cones were for. I don't know why, but afaik those conical tower-tops were never used anywhere in Britain. Possibly we built our castles first, before the continental ones, and then when the conical lids were invented it was too much hassle to go back and alter what had already been built.Edinburgh castle doesn't have a wall at its back - it occupies the whole top of this huge plug of volcanic rock which just sticks out of the ground like a natural tower. During the last ice age glaciers scoured earth away from the west side of the rock and then piled it up in the lee on the east side, so on the east of the castle there's the narrow earth ridge which leads down to the Royal Mile, and up which the castle is approached - but other than that, there's rock walls *under* the castle, but what's behind and around and in front of it is a very large amount of empty air. You'd need helicopters to breach the thing - and then you couldn't land them, because the top of the rock is covered with high narrow buildings. Imagine, for example, building a castle across the whole top of Ayers Rock.

03-27-2005, 01:07 AM
sorry, i must not have made myself clear, i wasn't referring to conical tower tops, but to round towers as opposed to square ones. that design wasn't the first design they ever came up with. afair, this was a late design towards the end of the castle-making heyday between the 11-13th centuries. i'm not sure about what kind of tower topper, if any, they used, though if they made one i assume it would fit the shape of the tower.

04-12-2005, 06:37 PM
There's an online news article about CSI at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7434546/ that mentions some interesting ideas about characterization. I think the same principles could apply frequently to science fiction, probably fantasy and horror, too.

07-17-2005, 08:00 AM