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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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There is some division among readers regarding their favorite viewpoint character. One group chooses Raoden, but I think the majority go with Hrathen. All things considered, I think he's probably the best villain I've ever written. His personality comes off quite well in this first chapter, and I think he might have the strongest introduction—at least personality-wise—of the three.
Chapter three marks the end of the first "chapter triad."
The chapter triads are a major structural element of this novel. The viewpoints rotate Raoden-Sarene-Hrathen, in order, one chapter each. Each of the three chapters in the grouping cover pretty much the same time-frame, so they can overlap, and we can see the same scene sometimes from two different viewpoints. (Note the point in chapter two where Sarene sees Raoden being led to Elantris, wearing the sacrificial robes.)
We always follow this same format, going from Raoden, to Sarene, to Hrathen. Until, that is, the system breaks down late in the book—but we'll get into that.
And, you might have noticed that the Aons at the beginnings of the chapters stay the same for three chapters before changing. Each triad, therefore, has a different Aon to mark it. (I did a little bit of fighting to get this through at Tor. The final decision was theirs, but once they realized what I was trying to do, they liked the idea and approved it.) The placing of the Aons is a little bit obscure, I'll admit, but it might be fun for people to notice. (They also grow increasingly complex, built out of more and more tracings of Aon Aon, as the triads progress. There are some special Aons marking the beginnings of sections.)
I'll talk more on chapter triads later. You can read more about my theory on the format in the critical afterword to ELANTRIS (which should eventually be posted in the Elantris 'Goodies' section.) I might also do essay specifically about the format and the challenges it presented.
Anyway, back to Hrathen. My hope in creating him was to present an antagonist for the story who would be believable, understandable, and sympathetic. He's a good man, after his own fashion—and he's certainly dedicated. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he wants to save it. It's not his fault he's serving an evil imperial force.
Regardless, Hrathen certainly has the most interesting character progression in the story. Raoden and Sarene, despite many interesting attributes, are two of the most static characters I've designed. This book isn't about their growth as people, but rather their ability to overcome their desperate odds. Hrathen, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to grow, learn, and change. Perhaps this is what makes him people's favorite. It certainly made him the critic's favorite.
I can only think of two books I've written—out of sixteen—that use a literary 'timebomb' as strict as the one in ELANTRIS. Three months to convert the kingdom or Wyrn will destroy it. That's a pretty heavy motivator. Sometimes, timebombs can feel contrived, and I tried to make this one feel as realistic as possible.
Later, when we discover that Hrathen was never intended to succeed in his conversion, I think this three-month limit makes a lot more sense.
I always imagined it right there. Um, and so if you finished it... but the strictures of the first book, I didn't quite know what I was doing yet, and I was trying to match a map that didn't quite match what I had in my head. I could do it so much better now. But, the problem is, it is kinda down here at the bottom of this, but where I described it....if you don't mind me putting in this... I described it right there in the book, and it needs to be up more.
In Elantris the Aon used for healing is Aon Ien, but the definition given in the back of the book says it means "Wisdom". The other Aons have effects and definitions that go together, but "Healing" and "Wisdom" don't seem to match. Is there something there or is it an error?
It's more a cultural thing. When I was naming the Aons I had some of them cross-align like this because I feel that languages, and cultures, are often messy. (Drive on a parkway, park in a driveway kind of issues.) This is the only one that ended up in the glossary that was like this, though, so I probably should have spotted that and changed it.
First of all, I'd like to thank you for e-mailing me White Sand and Aether of Night last year, and for just being so awesome and giving to your fans.
Here are my questions:
1. Sel question: What are the names of the Aons for West, North, and South? I'm assuming that these are also the names of the other cities around Elantris besides Kae ("East"). Is that right?
2. Scadrial question: We've seen Kandra True Bodies made of crystal, stone, or wood. Can a kandra use a True Body made of metal? If so, what happens if each metal "bone" had a Hemalurgic charge, and each one is touching an appropriate bind point?
3. Roshar question: Looking up the meaning of "lucentia", I see that it's a Latin word related to light and visibility. Why isn't the Surge of Illumination connected to the Order of Edgedancers, which is the Order associated with Lucentia?
4. Nalthis question: This is a two-part question about Perfect Invocation. (A) When an old God King passes down his Breaths to his infant heir, does Perfect Invocation turn him (the old God King) into a white drab and does that grant him any cool powers? (B) Secondly, do God Kings create white Lifeless instead of grey ones and are these white Lifeless special in any significant way?
Those four questions will do for now. I hope you'll visit the Philippines one of these days. Anyway, I need to go back to sleep. Happy writing!
Oh, Selish, that’s what we settled on, isn’t it, yeah, Selish magic system. This is why we have copy editors [laughter] That’s a feature of the Sel’s magic system that… as far as I know, no-one has pulled out in any decent reason for. But there’s a distinct reason that could be figured out, but it’s… one of these things that will make sense when I explain it, but I’m not sure if it’s quote-unquote “intuitively obvious” to the average reader. I don’t really think that it necessarily is that, but it will make perfect sense once it’s explained.