I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old advice people give to writers: ‘Write what you know.’ Now this doesn’t really apply to fantasy writers, because let’s face it no one knows squat-diddly about dragons or magic or elves or whatever. No, instead of writing what you know, fantasy writers have another, more applicable mantra:
“Bullshit really really well.”
It’s all about bluffing, because so long as you can be convincing enough for readers to believe it actually happened no one actually cares if you’re 100% accurate.
Or so I’m hoping.
I’m actually planning to write something based on both writing mantras, for the subject of this latest endeavor is falconry. But the bullshitting will come into play because obviously I know modern techniques and in a mediaeval fantasy time period they don’t have cable ties and radio telemetry.
So here’s the beginning of The Falconer’s Apprentice:
Tommas was feeling deflated, odd in a boy as large as himself. The days leading up to today had been full of excitement as he readied the preparations for what was to come. But now that it was here, and the long-awaited event had passed, Tommas was left feeling cheated.
He’d waited for this day to arrive for six years, ever since he was sent as an apprentice at the age of eight. His master was an imposing man, stern of eye and implacable when it came to detail, but then he had to be; he was the Master Falconer to their liege lord. And as his apprentice, Tommas had done all and more that was required of him, from scraping hawk shit off the walls to being bitten and footed by hungry falcons when attending their needs. Even so, it was two years before he was allowed to enter the mews where the birds perched, alert and wary of his strange presence. Two more before he was allowed to pick one up. And after another two, he was to be given his own bird to train and care for.
That day was today. But it was not as he imagined.
‘What’s that you’ve got there, boy? A blue-tit for catching flies?’ The men loitering outside the smithy laughed and jeered as he came near. Tommas ground his teeth, but kept quiet.
‘Raffe!’ called the Master Smith when he saw the falconer’s apprentice. His own apprentice answered his call, popping up greasy-haired and coal-streaked from the bowels of the smithy.
‘Tommas, let’s see it!’ the lanky other boy’s face lit up when he saw his friend approach. He knew what day it was. But as Raffe approached, he saw what sat upon Tommas’ gauntleted fist and frowned. ‘Is that it?’
‘You know,’ one of the loiterers called to the townspeople who had started to gather round to see what their laughter was about, ‘they say the size of a man’s hawk tells you the size of his prick!’ The crowd roared with laughter.
‘Well,’ Tommas blustered, red-faced, ‘I’ll have you know it’s a falcon, not a hawk.’
‘Yeah,’ chimed in Raffe, ‘it’s opposite with falcons, you see.’ That just raised a louder roar of hilarity.
‘You’re not helping,’ the large boy groaned.
‘Sorry,’ his friend grinned. ‘Come inside and tell me everything.’
Cocky young Tommas is obviously less than pleased with the bird he’s given, but the Kestrel was historically the bird of servants and apprentices. The conflict of the story will be when his master is given the task of training a young Gyrfalcon destined to be given to the King, and Tommas steals it for himself. As this would probably be considered a hanging offence, my task is to now work out plot-wise what this cheeky boy is planning to do now he’s got himself into heaps of trouble.
Eventually he’ll find that the Gyrfalcon is pretty but useless, and the Kestrel he’s abandoned stays his loyal companion and keeps them all from dying of hunger whilst on the run, even if they’re only eating mice and field voles.
The moral of the story: don’t be a twat.