Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's In A Name?

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
John 8:44
Last time we looked at some of the material available on the Fourth Crusade (there is plenty more - this is a subject historians made whole careers from).  Today I'm starting to explore how that might express itself in fiction.

The Crusades, however their original intentions became perverted, sprung from a religious impulse.  Any attempt to write about them in our largely secular age is doomed to failure unless it recognises that people had a fundamentally different world-view at the time of the Crusades; sober and reliable chroniclers can mix accurate eyewitness accounts with tales of miracles and spiritual apparitions.

With this in mind, I thought a title drawn, directly or indirectly, from the Bible would be a good place to start.  I ended up with the passage quoted at the head of the piece (taken from the never-bettered King James version - the progressive enfeeblement of subsequent contemporary versions can only be deplored).  The quotation above readily fits the Fourth Crusade, whose participants may have felt they were inspired by God, but whose achievements were rather less elevated.  The working title for the first instalment paraphrases the verse to become: Sons of the Devil.

Future volumes--if this is not looking too far ahead--have titles that similarly take their inspiration from the same source.  The second volume, covering the sack of Constantinople, is The Land Desolate.  Again the King James version gives us the crispest prose.
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
Isaiah 13:9 

The final volume treats the early days of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, and resolves the stories of those characters who survived the first two volumes.  In this case I set aside my fidelity to the King James version; the New American Standard version has greater force.

For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 3:19

This gives us the title for the last part of the story as The Fate of Beasts.

All that remains now is the little matter of finishing research and writing the book(s).  Next time, we'll look at some of the narrative choices I'll have to make before I can start.


Alis said...

Hi Tim, these are awesome titles - they'd really jump off the shelves at you.
I know what you mean about the world view - it's something I'm dealing with in the wip. Trying to give even a semi-accurate view of people's beliefs and the way they saw the world in the fourteenth century without alienating modern readers is a tough one. It means that at least one of your principal characters has to be somewhat unrepresentative of their day just to give the modern reader something to hang on to and feel familiar with.

Tim Stretton said...

The Biblical language lends itself to memorable titles (I had a shortlist of about 20). The language of the King James version, in particular, rings down through the centuries.

The world-view thing is critical, isn't it? (And one of the reasons Testament was such a good novel). Kingdom of Heaven, the Ridley Scott film set only a decade before the Fourth Crusade, is utterly vitiated by 21st century liberalism. If you're going to parrot today's values in your film, why on earth would you set it in the Middle Ages?