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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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I did this triad a little differently. You might notice that the Hrathen chapter starts off right where the Sarene chapter ends. Again, I eventually decided to be more loose with the triad system than I'd originally intended. It would have been to limiting to force all three chapters to happen during the exact same time. So, instead I have them all happen on the same day, usually overlapping, but not always.
Anyway, this chapter was a nice little place for Hrathen to feel proud of himself. You may have noticed that the chapters are speeding up—getting shorter, things happening faster—as the book progresses. This is an aspect of my style, and while it's not quite so noticeable in my new books (I've tried to even out my climaxes and surprised better during the last few years,) ELANTRIS is an 'Old School' Brandon novel. My books tend to push toward the endings quite dramatically, and you usually hit a place my friends affectionately call 'The Brandon Avalanche.' Generally, my books tend to go haywire in about the last ten percent, the pace increasing drastically, the viewpoints going wild.
That hasn't happened at this point in ELANTRIS, but we're getting closer.
This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter—I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.
I hereby dub this chapter the official start of the Brandon Avalanche! Let the rejoicing begin.
On a more serious note, I'll get to some of the major events in the chapter in a moment. First, let's talk over some smaller annotations. I like the fact that Lukel doesn't like Kaloo—it seems like a perfect characterization for both of them. I will note, however, that Lukel has much better lines in this chapter than Kaloo does. His crack about Ahan getting sick by sheer laws of probability makes me chuckle every time I read them. Kaloo, on the other hand, spends all of his time trying to be honorable and true. Raoden is a good hero, but he can be dreadfully boring sometimes. Maybe that's why he threw himself into the Kaloo persona so eagerly.
Also, 'The Call of Elantris'—the name of Part Two—is probably the weakest of my three sub-titles. I liked 'Shadow' and 'Spirit' a lot, and I knew that I had to use something parallel. I named this one 'Call' because of the way Hrathen and Sarene both end up getting tossed into the city, then end up using that event to their advantage. Raoden also deals with the 'call' of the Dor inside himself during this section, overcoming that particular conflict.
Essentially, everything is resolved in this section except for the really big questions. Who will end up as king? Will Arelon get invaded? Can anything be done to save the Elantrians?
Well, you'll just have to read on, won't you.
I use this chapter as a strict triad chapter—it covers the same space of time as the other two chapters. With Sarene and Raoden running around together now, the triad system has been easy to forget. While I still start each chapter with the correct character, I often let the viewpoints intermix after that.
Again, this is intentional. After this last Hrathen chapter, I have the triad system break down completely. It's supposed to be a subtle indication of the chaos of these last few chapters. I'll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren't of the core three, which I hope with give the reader a sensation that something different is happening. The world, even the narrative structure of the book, is breaking apart. None of the old rules hold any more.
My only sadness concerning the Dakhor is that I had to wait so long to reveal them. I think that visually, they are very interesting. The concept of a group whose bones have been twisted and deformed by powerful magics brings interesting images to mind.
The Dakhor aren't majorly deformed, however—they still have all the pieces in the right places. Their bones have simply been. . .changed. Expanded in places, simply twisted to form patterns in others. Because of this, of course, they have to run around shirtless. It's more dramatic that way. Besides, we spent all this money on special effects—we might as well show them off.
Of all the things in the book, this one worries the most with its sudden appearance. I really did try to foreshadow this as best I could. If it's still too sudden for you, I apologize. My suggestion is to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
So. . .in the original draft, Torena is Eventeo's new spy in Arelon. Do you remember the conversation that Sarene and Eventeo had a little ways back? The one where he told her he had a new spy in Arelon, and refused to tell Sarene who it is? Well, yes. Torena.
When I was writing this book, I went a little bit too far with the hidden pasts and amazing discoveries. I had Torena being the one who came to rescue Sarene from the Dakhor. (She arrived in a second carriage, I think.) However, the Dakhor caught up to them again, and suddenly Kiin appeared to save them.
This scene was terrible. It's not that any of the pieces were bad. It's just that it was too repetitive. First you find out Torena has a secret past, and that she's come to rescue Sarene. Then we find out that Kiin has a secret past and he's come to rescue Sarene. It just didn't work—and the Torena surprise, which was only mildly foreshadowed, ruined the much better Kiin surprise.
So, I cut the Torena parts—and I'm very glad that I did. My early alpha readers said that the worst part about the book was how all of the surprises at the end interfered with each other. Looking back, some of the things I did are embarrassing. I was adding surprises just for the sake of surprises. This is always a bad idea—surprises should be integral to plot and character, just like everything else. We want to find out about Kiin because we like him and are interested in him. We don't really care about Torena.
(In my defense, I originally intended Torena to be a female friend for Sarene, kind of a second sidekick. However, there were already too many people hanging out with Sarene, and I just couldn't work Torena in without complicating things even further.)
I think I've noted that my viewpoints tend to speed up as I approach the endings of books. Well, ELANTRIS is a perfect example. We're hopping viewpoints like a crazed body-snatcher. At the risk of sounding redundant, I did this to increase pacing and tension. Quick-rotating viewpoints give a cinematic feel to the story, in my opinion—kind of like cameras changing angles. This keeps things quick and snappy, and keeps the reader reading.
It should be noted that writing and filmmaking are two completely different arts. What works in one doesn't work in the other—action sequences, for instance, have to be written completely differently in a novel than they would be displayed on screen. However, both storytelling forms try to evoke similar feelings in their audiences. So, you can't do the same things in writing as you can in filmmaking—but you can get a similar effect by using different tools. Here, I use viewpoint shifts, which is something a filmmaker can't really access without first-person voice-overs. Viewpoint is, in my opinion, one of the prime unique tools that we have as writers. That's why I think it's important to understand, and to manipulate.
If you're paying attention to such things, we actually get two complete—and well-rotated—viewpoint triads in this chapter. Again, this is to increase the sense of urgency and pacing.
From here on out, the chapters get longer. It's interesting to try and work with pacing. I think the shifting viewpoints achieve the sense of drama I want, and coupling that with lots of new chapters would be repetitive, I think. So, I waited for the most dramatic moments possible to end chapters. I think this ending counts.
The triad system breaks down completely here. Everything is falling apart, and we're getting wild viewpoints from all over the place. (Well, not exactly—we only add Galladon and Lukel. However, I think that after fifty-nine chapters with only three viewpoints, suddenly adding two more will be disorienting enough to have the effect I want.)
Part of the reason I add the viewpoints is so that I can show the breakdown of the form of the book. However, another—perhaps more important—reason is so that I can show what is happening in places that don't involve one of the three viewpoints. Raoden is off in his own little world of pain, and Sarene and Hrathen have gone to Teod. If I want to show what's happening in Arelon, I need some new viewpoints.
So, things look pretty grim, eh? Sarene about to be murdered, Teod about to fall, Elantris about to be burned, Raoden in the pool.
Hum. Guess the good guys lose. There's no reason to read the last three chapters. . . .
4) The ending of the book was devised to stand out from the rest of the work. The chapter triad system broke down, the tone changed from 'political intrigue' to 'outright warfare' and the viewpoints began to speed up, moving in quick rotation. Did you like the rushed feeling of the ending, or did you find it too overwhelming? Why? Which of the twists were your favorite? Which ones did you see coming, and which ones surprised you?
Do you still have the "Brandon Avalanches" in the WoT books? I've noticed them scale down considerably in your own books, but I was just wondering if you plotted/paced things differently with the WoT books.
I tried to avoid some of my 'signature' stylistic flourishes, and that was one of them. Overall, I'd say I did a blending. Some things from my style, some more like RJ, trying to do what felt best for the book and for the setting.