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Teacher, short story writer and VNovel storyboard leader. Please forgive any faulty grammar you may find in my page/stories/blogs; English is my third language and I'm still struggling to master it.

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Style Analysis: Sir Sombra de Onyx · 4:54am May 14th, 2013

Hello everyone, Wellspring here.

If you are looking at this blog, you most likely just read my 3rd fic Sir Sombra de Onyx and would like to see an in-depth breakdown of its writing. For those of you who are linked to this blog because it is my 3rd writing guide, I must warn you that this contains spoilers for the said fic. Also, this blog will keep on expanding as my knowledge on the subject will permit it.

As with all my writing guides, this is in the form of a Q&A for convenience. If you have any questions, clarificatins, objections, additions, etc. I invite you to comment below or PM me. Enjoy.

First things first, was the fic edited?
Not by anyone else. This is why I am currently looking for editors (my current one is busy with my other fic) to polish the subject-verb agreement and tenses I am still having difficulty with. Hopefully someone good with archaic dialogue.

What are the two influences on the fic, Sir Sombra de Onyx?
These are Le Morte D'Arthur, written by Sir Thomas Malory and first published in 1485, and Ivanhoe, written by Sir Walter Scott and first published in 1820.

Style-wise, how did Le Morte D'Arthur influenced Sir Sombra de Onyx?
The writing style of Le Morte D'Arthur is something I would like to call "Dramatized Narration." (For a more technical guide regarding the nature of Dramatization and Narration, see my first writing guide: The Epistemology of Style: Show vs Tell.) This is a writing style in which the important scenes in the novel are "told" and not "shown" but we are not "told" of anything more than what is necessary for the plot. In so doing, a climatic battle can be synopsized as: "they fought, and at the end of the war the army of the west emerged victor."

Malory goes as far to write the deaths of major characters in a passing conversation, such as that of Sir Tristram's, or as a footnote among the barely known background characters, such as that of Sir Gaheris and Sir Gareth's in page 479.

Robert Graves expounds on this:

"Malory eschews realistic detail. All villages and cities are fair, all towers strong, all abbeys white-stoned, all chapels little. Nor are even the principal characters defined physically. We learn nothing of King Arthur but that he had grey eyes, or of Sir Launcelot or Sir Tristam but that they were big men. Though certain ladies may be 'passing fair,' their faces, figures and colouring cannot be guessed. We are given no relief of domestic or political scenes while the knights joust, fight, love, hunt, make merry, and perfuncotily attend mass. Many of them seem to spend their entire lives on guard at some bridge or lurking in an enchanted castle from which to charge out upon the unwary. A few fishermen and sheperds appear as backgrounds characters, but there is a conspicious lack of artisans, merchants, shopkeepers, and other working folk."
-Graves, Robert. Introduction. Le Morte D'Athur. By Thomas Malory. Rendition by Keith Baines. United States, New York; Mentor (1962). pp. xiv

This kind of style makes use of evaluative adjectives not to describe the characters, events or setting, but to allow the reader to supply the missing concretes necessary to recreate a scene, passage or paragraph, by the reader's own imagination. This is done by means of repetition. Describing all ladies as "fair" for example, creates the adjectives as a common denominator to all concepts of "ladies." The same effect would not be accomplished if, for instance, one lady is described as pretty, the next as beautiful and the third as pulchritudinous.

Content-wise, what was Le Morte D'Arthur's influence?
For those of you who have read the book, no doubt you can see several references. The name of the imaginary city-states (e.g. Bors, Lamerok, Pellinore) are all named after the Knights of the Round of the Table. The most obvious of this is Launcelot, which became the founding capital of Canterlot.

Regarding characterization, I must first begin by stating that Le Morte D'Arthur has no characters. That is, the knights of this novel has no more character than that of a background character. Now, why is this so? The knights are barely described (as stated above) except for a few details to advance the plot. Characters are motivated-driven entities, such as Anna Karerina from the novel of the same title or Eve from All About Eve; what Malory wrote were not characters but, rather, templates. For example, Sir Launcelot is the template for "Greatest Knight", Sir Gawain is the template for "Hot-headed Knight", Sir Tristram is the "Tragic Knight" and Sir Galahad is the "Invincible Knight." We have the genus "knight" in which we immediately attribute adjectives such as noble, chivalrous, brave, etc. with each of the the knight's differentia (i.e. Greateast, Hot-Headed, etc.) to designate how these attributes are applied in different ways. These kind of characterization, if we are to call it such, is linear, simple and easy. I do the same in my fic: Sir Phalanx is the "Cruel Knight", Sir Joyous Gard is the "Noble Knight", Sir Longtooth is the "Impatient Knight", etc.

This kind of characterization can be found in almost every ancient epics: from Beowulf to El Cid (I will cite the necessary source when I find Joseph Cambell's book that I lost). Achilles is the "Wrathful Spartan", Gilgamesh is the "Fearful King", etc. We are never presented with an in-depth psychology that shows the philosophical roots of their particular characterization (both the death of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh and the rape of Chryseis in the Iliad are merely of concrete consequence.) as we see in modern novels such as Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

I will be expounding on philosophical characterization in my upcoming blog.

What was the influence of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe?
The influence of Ivanhoe in my fic is primarily technicality regarding the dialogue.It is from Ivanhoe that I studied the archaic language by observing his rules:

Thou = You (Subject)
Thee = You (Object)
Ye = You (Plural)
and etc.

In my copy of the book, Sir Walter Scott only used archaic in the dialogue of his characters and retained the formality of the English of his time in straight narrative. I imitated this writing style in order to contextualized the characters in the fic while maintaining a clear writing for the readers. If I did not do so, the writing would be among the lines of "Jentylmen and jentylwymmen, in hym that shold say or thynke that there was never suche a kyng callyd Sombra myght wel be aretted grete folye and blyndenesse, for there be many evydences if the contrarye." Though this would have been more colorful and "authentic", individually prying through he words would diminish the overall reading experience.

(Though I must add that I struggled to even convince myself to write in archaic due to the inconsistency of the show's head canon: Luna was banished a thousand years ago, approximately at the same time the Crystal Empire vanished, and, when both returned, we observed that Luna speaks in archaic whereas the Crystal Ponies can converse in modern English.)

As a secondary influence, Ivanhoe shares the same philosophy and theme as that of Le Morte D'Arthur. Also, most of the technical information about knight-errantry, tourneys and jousting are greatly supplied by this novel.

Why was Sir Sombra de Onyx written as though it is an actual book from Equestria?
To try my hand at metafiction (this is a controversial word which we shall limit to the definition of "fiction within a fiction") and write the same way as most historical epics were written. As with most of its kind, it is filled with inconsistency and missing sections (such as Ouroboros, the She-Serpent, and how a knight can see her tail but not her head.) Most historical literature were written within the context of the past and are therefore subject to the controversial dispute of authenticity (especially during the medieval ages and even until now (see the Grecian Myth about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth)). I want to show the reader that the ponies of Equestria also possessed a delightful historical legend which may, or may not, be true.

This is also the reason why there are three editions for the sake of the three afterwords.The first was of Clover the Clever, to indicate the naturalists contempt for romanticism, i.e. those critics who criticize the story of heroes because it is a story of heroes.The second was of the strict historian named Words Worth who discredits the overall value of the book because it is historically inaccurate. And the third, using Twilight Sparkle as my mouth piece, who seeks and loves the inspiration one obtains from these stories.

I would also like to add here that Whisperwind's verbatim in the first edition is actually a rewriting of Ayn Rand's excerpt in her "Introduction to Ninety-Three" (as seen in The Romantic Manifesto) and clearly reflects my own feelings toward epics.

I remember one of the knights is named Don Rozinante, Don Quixote's horse in Miguel de Cervantes's novel, was there an influence?
No, there was no influence. It was a reference. Don Quixote is a satire of romanticism and I regard it as one of the most evil books ever written. It chooses to show, through a madman, the absurdity of those who seriously practice a life of chivalry and honor. The main character himselfs admits this as he dies on his deathbed. However, as much as I condemn it for its theme and philosophy, I cannot but recommend it as a reading for, and only for, it's beautiful writing style (a "Show-all" similar to Ivanhoe.)

Read Ivanhoe and Le Morte D'Arthur, they are both great novels showing the rigorous struggle of the good against the evil though acts of chivalry, even if sometimes we do not understand it. If I have given my readers the same experience as I have received from these two titles, I regard it as an honor I could not have yet deserved. Thank you.

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Comments ( 3 )

Though I must add that I struggled to even convince myself to write in archaic due to the inconsistency of the show's head canon: Luna was banished a thousand years ago, approximately at the same time the Crystal Empire vanished, and, when both returned, we observed that Luna speaks in archaic whereas the Crystal Ponies can converse in modern English.

It's late, so my canon recollection may be spotty, but I always assumed 'pony' to be a commoner tongue, one that eventually became the dominant language, and Luna's speech pattern was based on one exclusively used by royals.

Maybe that's too convenient. I'm no linguist.

This is a very good observatn, why haven't I thought of this? In Ivanhoe the same was true, the abusive Norman rulers spoke in French whereas the conquered Saxons spoke in plain English.


I spend a lot of time worldbuilding, with some of my non-pony fic. (I've got one project where I'm developing the common components of five different languages. Never again will I try to write a fantasy world whole cloth. Bleah.)

That's why I try to talk to other writers about what I write. I come at it from a nuts-and-bolts perspective. You have a high-level view I envy. (I was shooting for the sort of archetype-as-character in one of my older stories. I didn't pull it off. I don't have the high-level analysis chops for that sort of thing.) I can glean things from talking to others that I couldn't get all by myself. :twilightsmile:

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