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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'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.
Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.
I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was 'Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful.' I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.
Regardless, 'Elantris was beautiful, once' made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the 'deleted scenes' section of the website, if you want to compare.
Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.
There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn't originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: "It wasn't until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned."
While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn't really speed the novel up—but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he'd been taken by the Shaod.
My books tend to have what are called 'steep learning curves.' In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don't tend to write very standard fantasies—I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example—taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.
Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don't usually do things like this—I don't believe in the standard 'hook' idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.
Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I'm revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn't yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.
I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you'll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There's even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the Seon's words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden's shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to 'look damnation in the face,' helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings—perhaps too much—because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.
Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name 'Galerion' just didn't fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn't do as much planning for this book as I now for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion's culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe—my editor—independently decided that he really didn't like Galerion's name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn't like Raoden's name either—but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don't understand the Aonic language. Remember—two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)
Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn't want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You'll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.
So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material—but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of ELANTRIS.
And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.
You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.
As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.
In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix ELANTRIS, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.
However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.
The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.
The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions—he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted—I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.
So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.
Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. THIS will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.
Another interesting thing about this book, however, is that the setting includes a mixture of magical wonder itself—kind of as a balancing factor to the fact that we don't get to see the Aons doing anything. I think the problems associated with being an Elantrian, mixed with the interesting setting inside of the city, create an interesting magical ambiance for the book, one that Seons serve to heighten.
This chapter, which Raoden and Galladon crouching atop the rooftop and watching for newcomers, reminds me of the early days of conceiving this novel. The seed for ELANTRIS actually came several years before I got around to writing the book. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a brutal city filled with people who has some sickness that kept them from dying.
One of the initial scenes that came to my mind was that of the main character crouching atop a low building, watching the gates to the city. The gates open, and a newcomer is thrown in. At the same time, one of the wretches inside the city snaps—finally giving into his pain, and going mad. This man madly rushes toward the gates, trying to escape. The city guards—who don't have the disease—throw massive spears at the man rushing the gates. One of the spears hits him, piercing him all the way through.
However, it's quickly explained that the spear wasn't meant to kill, for the man continues to struggle weakly, despite being impaled. However, the spear is so big and bulky that the poor creature can't move any more—obviously, the weapons are intended to slow and immobilize, not kill. After all, the inhabitants of this city can't be killed. The man gives up struggling, and lays their limply, whimpering with the massive spear stuck through his chest.
At the same time, another sick one approaches the main character. "—Insert name— went mad last night," he whispers to the main character. "You are now the eldest." Meaning, of course, that the main character is now the person who's been in the city the longest without having gone mad.You should be able to see the evolution of this scene in the story that I eventually told. Many of the concepts are the same, though I changed the viewpoint character from a person who had been in the city for a long time to a newcomer who still had his optimism. I also shifted much of the focus of the novel to what was happening outside the city, adding the two other viewpoint characters. However, this scene still remains in my mind—it's actually the only real scene I can remember from the very early days of planning ELANTRIS. As an homage to it, I left in the large, bulky spears carried by the Elantris City Guards. Hrathen mentions them in the previous chapter. Though the guards no longer carry them for the same purpose—indeed, the guard probably wouldn't even know what to do with them in case of an attack—I thought this little inside reference to be an interesting one.
This third 'chapter triad' is the first one where I do a real intersection of the three viewpoints. Raoden sees Hrathen on the wall, Sarene and Hrathen spar, then Hrathen thinks about his run-in with Sarene on his way to the meeting with the noblemen.
I'm not sure if I'd ever want to use the chapter triad system again. It made all kinds of problems for writing the book. Almost everything else I've written has been strictly chronological—if you jump from one viewpoint, or one chapter, to the next, you're always progressing forward in time. By jumping backward in two chapters out of three, I gave myself some challenging pacing and coordination issues. For instance, the important events in each of the three storylines had to happen on generally the same days. Also, I had to rotate the chapters strictly, and so I couldn't just skip a character during a given time-frame. That meant I had to have important events happening in all three viewpoints all the time.
However, the benefits of this situation are moments like you see in this triad, where I could flow from one chapter to the next, having the timeframes play off of each other. You might have noticed from this triad that I had to fudge just a bit. Not all of the viewpoints happen at exactly the same time. The rule I set up for myself is that they had to all happen on the same day—preferably as close to overlapping each other as possible.
This chapter is one of the prime 'show Hrathen's competence' chapters. Most of what goes on here is in the way of character development for Hrathen. The plot of him swaying some of the noblemen is important, but not specifically so. However, I've always said that the stronger—and more clever—the villain is, the better the story is. By showing how Hrathen deals with the noblemen, I re-enforce his abilities, and justify him as a threat to the city.
There were a few small edits to this chapter. The biggest one was a change where I slightly-weakened Hrathen's treasonous talk. In the original, he told the noblemen that he was the gyorn assigned to Duladel before it collapsed. Moshe pointed out that this was a little too subversive of him to imply in the middle of a group of men who may or may not end up supporting him, so I made the change.
I certainly didn't want this book to turn into a political statement about female-empowerment. I think that sort of thing has been overdone in fantasy—the woman in an oppressive masculine world seeking to prove that she can be just as cool as they are. However, I did have to deal with some cultural issues in ELANTRIS. There's no getting around the fact that Sarene is a strong female character, and I think it would be unrealistic not to address some of this issues this creates with the men around her.
I actually used several women I know as a model for Sarene. I've often heard women say that they feel like men find an assertive, intelligent woman threatening. I suspect that there some strong foundations for feelings like this, though I would hope the men in question form a small percentage of the population. Still, I do think that it is an issue.
In my own culture, people tend to get married early. This is partially due to the LDS Church's focus on families and marriage, and partially because I've lived mostly in the west and mid-west—where I think that the general attitude is more traditional than it is in big cities. Because of this, I've seen a number of people—many of them women—complain about how they feel excluded from society because they're still single. Sarene's own insecurity is related to the real emotions I've seen in some of my friends.
However, I do have to point out that some of the reactions Sarene gets aren't because she's female—they're just because she's bull-headed. She tends to give too much stock to the fact that she's a woman, assuming that the resistance she receives is simply based on gender. I think a man with her personality, however, would encounter many of the same problems. The way she pushes Roial into a corner in this chapter is a good example. In my mind, she handled things in the kitchen quite well—but not perfectly. She still has some things to learn, some maturing to do.
You'll notice the quick mention of the Widow's Trial in this chapter. This sub-plot was actually added later in the drafting process, and I had to come back and write these comments into this scene. It will become apparent why later on.
Though, you spoilers already know how it is used. I needed to get Sarene into Elantris somehow, and I wasn't certain how I was going to do it. Somewhere along the way I devised the idea of the Widow's Trial. In the end, it worked quite well, as it provided the means for Raoden to create New Elantris.
Shuden's comments on marriage early in this chapter have often earned me smiles and jibes from my friends. An author puts a little of himself into every character he crafts, and sometimes we find a particular character being our voice in one way or another. I'll admit, the way marriage is treated in this book does have a little bit of a connection to my own personal thoughts on the subject. It isn't that I'm avoiding the institution. . .I just find the formalities leading up to it to be a dreadful pain.
I had a bit of trouble in this book devising personalities for all of the noblemen who would be hanging around Sarene. Some of them, such as Shuden, don't get very much screen time, and so it was a challenge to make them interesting and distinctive. In the end, however—after several drafts—I had their characters down so well that when my agent suggested cutting one of them, I just couldn't do it. So, perhaps there are a few too many names—but this is a political intrigue book. Lots of people to keep track of is a good thing.
Interestingly, one of the noblemen most important to the plot didn't appear very often in the original draft. Telrii was a much more minor character in the first versions of the book. As you'll see later, however, he has an important role to play.
Some of you who read the very early drafts of the book might remember the Mad Prince. This is a character my agent successfully convinced me to cut—I'll talk about it more later on. However, the need for beefing up Telrii's character came from the loss of the Mad Prince. Telrii now does most of what Eton used to do.
So, this addition of Telrii in the party scene was one of the more later revisions to the book. He showed up in draft eight or nine, and I'm glad to have him. He finally has a character—in the first drafts of the book, he was a non-entity. Spoken of occasionally, but really only in the book to show how much money Hrathen was willing to spend on overthrowing Arelon.
One of the major post-sale revisions I did to ELANTRIS came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.
This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.
The result is, I think, a very strong new section.
This chapter went through some heavy edits. First off, I originally had Hrathen interrogate the Elantrian off-stage. At a suggestion from my editor, I put this in-scene, showing Hrathen talk to the Elantrian. The intention here was to give a little characterization to Hrathen by showing his logical approach to studying and interrogating his prisoner.
The other big change to this chapter came in the middle. As I was working on the later revisions, I realized—at Joshua's suggestion—that I really wanted something here in the early middle of the book that showed Hrathen sparring against Dilaf and winning. In certain sections of the book, Hrathen's character came off too weakly—and this was one of the chapters. Originally, I had Dilaf extinguish the torches of his own accord, then burn the Elantrian later, despite Hrathen's protests.
In the new version, I get to have Hrathen prove his competence by having him wrestle control of the crowd. He is the one who burns the Elantrian, which enhances the scene by letting Hrathen feel guilt for it. He comes off much stronger in this chapter than he did before.
Those of you who have read on realize how important this is to the plot, because from here out, Dilaf starts to get the better of Hrathen. I needed to reinforce Hrathen's strength at the beginning of the story, otherwise I feared that the scenes of Dilaf winning would make Hrathen seem too weak. Hopefully, things now feel like they are balanced—one gaining dominance for a time, then the other wrestling it away, and so on and so forth.
Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathens internal monologues to be slow and ponderous, I find them essential to the plot. Chapters like this—chapters where we really get to see how Hrathen thinks—are what makes this book more than just a nice adventure story.
The section where Hrathen tries to appoint a new Head Arteth is a more recent addition to the book. I wanted to show the power Dilaf was beginning to have over Hrathens work in the city, and thought that this made another nice little sub-conflict for Hrathen to deal with.
The chapter used to begin with Hrathen trying to send Dilaf away. Though I added some new information at the beginning, that particular scene is pretty much intact from the first draft. I do worry that some of Hrathen and Dilaf's posturings don't come across as well as they could. This exchange is a wonderful example—I haven't had time in the book to do as much explaining about the Derethi religion as I would like. Because of this, I have to explain Dilaf's move as he tries to perform it. This is always a weaker narrative structure than if the move itself is an obvious outflow from the dynamics of the world. If readers had understood just what an Odiv and a Krondet were, then all Dilaf would have to do is mention that he'd sworn a bunch of Odivs, and the reader would know what he was doing.
Even still, I like what happens here. For the first time, the book expressly shows that Dilaf is planning and working against Hrathen. Before, he's always been able to fall behind his excuse of, I was caught up in the moment. This, however, is an obviously planned maneuver intended to give him power over Hrathen.
As you can probably deduce from what I've said before, this Telrii scene is a late addition. It's not one of my favorites between Hrathen and Telrii—re-reading it, it makes me feel like Telrii is simply there to be persuaded. While the intention of these scenes is, indeed, so show Hrathen as a stronger character, their secondary purpose is simply to let him voice outloud some of the thoughts he's been mulling over. If you have trouble characterizing or motivating one of your characters in a book you're writing, try giving them someone—either friend or foe—to talk to.
Anyway, this particular scene is a little weak, and I suppose I could cut it without too much loss. It is a good idea to keep people thinking about Telrii, however, since he will be important later in the story. Also, there is his warning to Hrathen about not being a pawn, which is some good foreshadowing for what happens later, when he casts Hrathen off and tries to become a Gyorn himself.
Seolin is an interesting character to me. Not because he really does anything distinctive—but because of how he developed. His name was "Saorn" in the original draft, by the way. I think I changed this because it was too close to "Daorn." People also confused it with Shaod. I'm not certain if the new one fixes that problem, but it does feel a little more distinctive to me.
Regardless, Seolin is one of those characters who grew out of nothing to have a strangely large part in the plot. Again, I realize that he's not all that original as a character. However, his dedication—and the way Raoden came to rely on him—wasn't something I intended when planning the book. While I don't believe in the whole 'Books surprise their authors' concept, I do enjoy the discovery of writing. Seolin is one of the characters 'discovered' in this way, and I am very pleased with him.
The main edit to this chapter came very early in the process. Very few people have seen this section—I don't think it made it past the first revision. I'll probably post in on the 'deleted scenes' section, though. What good is a website if you can't embarrass yourself?
Anyway, the scene dealt with Daorn and Kaise approaching Kiin (during the fencing practice) and asking him if they could go with Sarene into Elantris. He responded by saying that they could as long as they did some silly homework-style projects for him. (Essays or multiplication tables or something like that.) In a re-read, I realized that this was WAY to modern, even for Kiin. I'd think that people who did this today were being progressive—and a bit odd. (What are these kids? Home-schoolers?)
Anyway, I cut the scene.
"The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS to just ELANTRIS. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book. This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with 'The Spirit of Elantris.' Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.
The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.
If we throw out the nostalgia factor 'Spirit' has going for itself, 'Shadow' is my favorite of the three section titles.
Raoden failed in finding ways to defeat Shaor's gang on two separate occasions. First, there was the original infiltration with Galladon (in which Raoden hoped to convince Shaor to stop attacking.) This excursion was informative, but not successful. The second failure was in dealing with the wild men who were trying to get to the carts. Raoden's decision to simply cut them off from the courtyard was eventually a failure. I'm not sure what else he could have done, but he still failed. Saolin's death, among other things, was the cost.
I knew that Raoden had to have more difficulty dealing with Shaor's band than he did with the other two. 'Defeating' Karata and Taan happened quickly, and with relative ease. If Shaor's band hadn't presented a problem, then I felt that the entire 'three gangs' plot would have been unfulfilling.
So, in these chapters, I stepped up the danger from Shaor and the crew. In the early drafts of the book, this danger wasn't present enough. (In fact, this was one of the main comments that Tom Doherty, CEO of Tor, gave me when he read ELANTRIS.) So, I increased Shaor's numbers—by giving them a larger percentage of Taan's men, not to mention a larger number of men to begin with—and made them more dangerous in the way they attacked.
This spy conversation is a remnant of things left over from a previous version. I'll talk more about it later. However, if it looked like I was foreshadowing something. . .well, I was. Unfortunately, the thing I was foreshadowing got cut. Again, I'll talk more about it later.
Boy, I have a lot to say on this chapter. Let's talk about Sarene's engagement to Roial.
Some moments, when you're writing, things just click together. The moment when I came up with this plotting element was one such moment. I hadn't actually planned this into my outline. Suddenly, as I was writing, I realized just how much sense it made, and how wonderful it would be to force the characters to have to go through this. Even still, this is one of my very favorite twists in the book.
The scene in the carriage has been there from the beginning, but I did change it slightly in the last draft, adding the section where Roial talks to Sarene about herself. His line "You're an excellent judge of character, except for your own" is something I think needed to be said to Sarene at some point in the book. The actual suggestion that it happen came from my Master's Thesis committee. They—correctly—saw Sarene as someone who had an unrealistic image of herself.
She really isn't as unmarriagble, or as unwantable, as she thinks she is. Even back in Teod, she wasn't regarded quite as harshly as she assumes. However, she's very hard on herself. Someone needed to sit her down and tell her—at the same time acknowledging to the reader—that she isn't half as bad as she seems to think.
Another big nod of thanks goes out to my thesis committee for their suggestion regarding this chapter. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in the original drafts, Raoden and company never acknowledge the fact that Hrathen had been healed. They never even mentioned it, and they certainly didn't give their thoughts on why it happened.
The fix was an easy one—you can read it in a few paragraphs in this chapter. However, the fact that it hadn't been there before was indeed a problem. Moshe was dumbfounded when I mentioned the oversight to him.
So, thanks Sally, Dennis, and John. You saved me from some embarrassment.
I like the explanation that Raoden gives here for Hrathen's healing. It seems like it would make sense to the Elantrians, and it saves me from having them suspect what was really going on.
Ah, we needed some more Lukel. He hasn't been around enough lately. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to throw in a character to balance out Shuden and Eondel's solemnity. Lukel doesn't really have much part in the plot, but he's always there to throw in a nice quip or two. His annoyance at being told his face is too pink here is probably one of his best moments.
I brought in the Patriarch for a couple of reasons. Though Joshua wanted to cut him (my agent is quite the headsman) and suggested that I have Omin reveal the proclamation, I felt that I needed someone with a little more authority to fill that role. Plus, ELANTRIS is a book about religion, and I wanted to look at the idea of having a religious leader who isn't necessarily as. . .wise as his people would like. By giving the Korathi religion a man like the Patriarch at its head, I could show a different aspect of faith in the book—the idea that a religion is more than its leader, and faith is more powerful than one man. I think that for any religion to last, it needs to be able to survive IN SPITE of the people who run it, rather than just because of them.
By the way, in the original draft, when Sarene gives her "All of Arelon is blessed by your presence" line when the Patriarch is on the docks, the Patriarch originally said "I know." Moshe thought this was a little overdone, so I cut it. In my mind, however, the Patriarch IS overdone and cliché—that's part of his character. But, anyway, one other item about this scene is the storm. I threw it in so that I could fudge the time of the Patriarch's arrival—the triad structure requiring me to have had him on the boat longer than the trip should take. This might actually not be necessary any more—in the original, I had him leave before he found out about the king's death. (I'm. . .not exactly sure why. Something to do with pacing and the triad structure. However, it was always my intention to have him read the proclamation at the funeral, so I had to have the ASSUME that Iadon would be executed, then take off with the proclamation. Either way, I eventually fixed this, smoothing things out considerably.)
Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall—it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae—not the Elantrians—who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.
As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.
Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.
The wall of the city is a symbol—it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.
When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps—they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.
And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder—like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.
This scene where Raoden and Sarene meet on equal grounds is, I hope, something that people have been waiting for. I intended the moment when Sarene lets Raoden take her hand to be a major event in the book. The phrase 'For the first time' (I.e., she took his hand for the first time) was added at Moshe's suggestion. I'm personally not as fond of it as I could be—my opinion is often times, making a passage shorter actually emphasizes it more. However, I wasn't so set on those four words that I insisted on not putting them in.
These two chapters—forty and forty-one—are another sequential pair in a triad, like I did before. I wanted to push out of Raoden's viewpoint as quickly as possible here, because he's already seen Elantris and New Elantris. In these scenes, Sarene's view of things will be more fresh—and therefore more interesting. She can experience some parts of Elantris for the first time, and we can enjoy her realization and discovery.
In this chapter, we really get to see the effects Raoden's leadership. We see how he makes use of what he is given—the bright cloth, the nails, the sheets of metal. On one side, we saw Sarene twisting his demands. Now we get to see Raoden twisting those items back into usefulness. He changes the bright clothing into an advantage, using it to brighten his people against the sludge. He finds uses for all of Sarene's 'useless' payments. The more bleak a situation is, the more Raoden shines.
In these chapters, I had to be very careful during the Sarene viewpoints. As I was writing, I had a habit of accidentally refering to Raoden by his real name, rather than calling him Spirit. Sarene, of course, doesn't know who he really is. I found one place where I called him 'Raoden' that somehow lasted all the way to the final edit—hopefully, that was the last one.
Originally, when Raoden and Galladon got to the top of the stairwell, they hacked their way through the door with Seolin's sword. When I got to this point, I'd completely forgotten that I'd already established that there was at least one axe in Elantris. In the rewrite, I put that in instead.
Anyway, I had to do some rewriting of this chapter. However, I worked very hard to preserve the last few lines. I figured it would be nice to see Raoden's reaction to the news that his father was dead. I particularly like the off-handed way Sarene begins her explanation.
Cutting the Mad Prince forced me to rewrite a bit of this chapter. As I mentioned, in the original draft, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army crouching outside the city. At first, Sarene didn't know what to make of this news. She decided it couldn't be a Fjordell army—one could have never arrived so quickly. She knew it wasn't Teoish.
The chapter used to end with a startling realization from Sarene—she decided that the phantom army must belong to Prince Raoden. She decided that he hadn't died or been killed, but had instead fled to raise an army to take the throne from his father. I thought this was a very clever twist, and it was one of the things I was most sad to lose by cutting the Mad Prince.
In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter—visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn't yet given away who the newcomer was.
The Mad Prince's disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I'm happy to know he lives on in his web presence—he's practically be the star of the 'Deleted Scenes' section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua "Axe Man" Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn't need another random diversion here. We're getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character—with his own plot, problems, and tangents—just wasn't good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn't belong in the book.
As I've said before, I worried about the Sarene-Raoden plot falling too much into 'romantic comedy' stereotypes, so I took measures to try and make them act more honestly. In this chapter, Raoden tries to push Sarene away—but, of course, she doesn't believe him. Honestly, I think people in a lot of such plots TRY to find ways to misunderstand each other. That's the only explanation I can give for why such ridiculous things occur.
In cutting the Mad Prince, this section in the Sarene/Raoden chapters was one of the things I was sad to change. As I mentioned in a previous annotation, in the Mad Prince version of the book, Sarene thought that Raoden had returned with an army to try and take the city. I started this chapter out with a scene of Raoden thinking about the problems Sarene's realization caused. I'll just stick it in here:
One side effect of her mistaken supposition was that she hesitated in regards to their own relationship. He could see the conflict within he—the two of them had grown very close over the last five days, acting on the feelings they had both been forced to hold back during the weeks of Sarene's food distribution. Yet, now, Sarene thought that her husband might actually be alive and, a truly devout daughter of political necessity, she felt that getting any closer to Raoden would betray her vows. With surprise, Raoden realized that he was competing with himself—and losing.
I really hate to lose that last line. I always struck me as ironically clever. However, there was another loss that was even tougher to lose. It comes in where Raoden and Sarene are at the city gates:
Raoden fell still. He wanted her to stay—he longed for her to stay. But, at the same time, he knew he had to do whatever it took to get her out of Adonis. The city was death. As much as it pained him to think of her leaving, it pained him more to think of her staying.
"He will be there," Raoden said enticingly, his voice suddenly growing quiet. "Raoden. The man you love."
Sarene's hand grew slack, and she waved uncertain eyes towards the Elantris city gate. "No," she finally said. "That's not what I want any more."
I think the reason I hated to lose this scene is obvious. Right here, Sarene gets to choose 'Spirit' over the images she has in her head of the perfect Prince Raoden. It's an opportunity for her to show that she really does love him, despite what he is, despite what the other options might be. It's love offered against logic and against wished-for dreams. In other words, it's realistic love. Of all the scenes I had to cut, these few paragraphs make me the saddest to lose, I think.
Now we're getting into the most heavily-edited chapters of the book. From here, if you're curious about the Mad Prince version of the book, look in the 'Deleted scenes' section. For the rest of the annotations, just realize that what the Mad Prince once did, Telrii now does. There is, of course, a lot of cut material—however, all of the essential elements of the plot still occur.
Basically, the Mad Prince gave aggravation and problems to Hrathen in these late chapters. He'd had so much success with his Elantris-poison plots that I knew I had to give him a few more wrinkles during these chapters. In the original draft, he instigated the arrival of the Mad Prince, then realized that he couldn't control what he'd unleashed.
These were all difficult edits. I still think the Mad Prince worked better in the role than Telrii does—however, the book as a whole works better without the Mad Prince in it. Sometimes you have to cut something good in order to achieve a better over-all effect.
By the way, there is a little foreshadowing in this chapter. Raoden's ability to draw with a stick or a quill to do his Aons is very important, obviously. Some people still have trouble what is going on at the climax of the book, and so I found constant need to incorporate explanations and hints where I could to foreshadow events.
Originally, this scene happened outside, at the Mad Prince's pyre. I liked the death imagery there a little better—Dilaf sifting through the ashes of a funeral pyre made for a very interesting image. However, the visuals in this newer version have their own advantages. I was able to use the lantern to half-light Dilaf's, and the smells from the tent make a nice sensual addition to the section.
Poor Hrathen. He's been getting jerked around a lot lately—it's hard for him to react to events before new ones draw his attention. In addition, most of the Mad Prince scenes happened in his chapters. That meant that when I did the revision, he lost the largest number of pages. So, his sections here got even shorter than they had been.
Regardless, things have obviously changed for him again. The guard switch-out here is one of my favorite moments in the book. I like the urgency of Hrathen's realization, not to mention how this introduces the scene into chaos.
Originally, the fight scene here took place in the Mad Prince's tent. I had to stretch a bit to keep the dripping flames from above—I just really liked that image. And, I apologize for actually using the words 'Time slowed.' That mechanic is a bit over-used in fiction, I admit. However, this is one of my early books, so you'll forgive me, right?
Things certainly are moving along now. I told you the book would speed up as it approached the ending.
There were some very good moments in this part. I like how removing the Mad Prince from the book streamlined the pacing, and I think it pushes quite well to the final section. A lot is happening now, so I hope that it's hard for you to get to these annotations—I want you to keep reading the book! You can always re-read it a second time, and look through the annotations then.
I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.
Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.
However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.
So, this section marked one of the biggest changes to the text during the revision process. In the Mad Prince version of the novel, the soldiers who ride up to Kiin's house were members of the Mad Prince's army. They arrested Raoden—he went willingly—and tried him for the death of their leader. This took the better part of two chapters, and ended with Raoden almost getting beheaded.
Overall, I kind of happy to lose the scene. The trial was a big distraction, and I'm not sure that I ever pulled it off narratively. There were a few interestingly tense moments, and it did let Raoden show his honor in his defense (he accepted the judgments of the army assuming they promised to make Sarene queen.) However, I sense that the scene in general was just over-written
In the original drafts of the book, I had Sarene feeling a sense of foreboding here at the beginning of her section. My thought was that we'd just seen the Dakhor attack Raoden—the reader is going to be feeling some tension, so I thought I'd like to keep it up in the Sarene scene.
There's still a little bit of it there, but I cut most at Moshe's recommendation. He felt that having Sarene feel an unnatural eeriness about this particular night was too melodramatic, and implied a kind of psychic link. Personally, I think there's nothing psychic about it—it's just a general storytelling convention that characters can sense when something is wrong.
Either way, I do think the more subdued tone of this first part has its own advantages. By having Sarene completely ignorant, even unconsciously, of what is coming, I think I build a sense of tension. The reader knows danger is approaching.
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.)
There is some good, if terse, exposition here with Hrathen sorting through his feelings. I don't think he really wants to come to any answers right now. Logic has lead him astray before, and now that he's doing what he feels is right, he doesn't want to pause to give himself a chance to consider the ramifications of what he's done.
Again, Sarene has fulfilled her purpose in the book. She's thrown chaos into Hrathen's otherwise-orderly life. However, her chaos here—just like the chaos she caused in Elantris with her food—eventually proves to be a good thing. It inspires change for the better, even though that change is painful.
And, of course, I remind the reader here that there is something odd about Hrathen's arm. I've only mentioned it in a couple of places, so I don't expect people to remember what is going on here. I actually forgot to have the sleeve in the original rewrite. I didn't even think to notice that his Dakhor arm would be exposed to Sarene in this scene. . . .
I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.
In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.
Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however—my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.
I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.
Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.
Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.
In the original write of the book, the Dakhor broke and ran before the Elantiran attack. My thought was that the Dakhor always been so much more powerful than their opponents that they didn't know what to do when faced with someone more powerful than they were. In a rewrite, however, I changed this. I'd spent too much time establishing that he Dakhor were fiercely loyal. I see them as fanatics—people who were either originally like Dilaf, or who became like him through their conditioning. They wouldn't break before a superior force—they'd attack it, even if it meant getting slaughtered.
This revision works far better for me—especially since I can have the scene where Dilaf wishes he could join them. Death is not something that scares a group like this.
So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying 'yeah, yeah. That was obvious,' I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)
I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late—just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time—while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)
The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here—it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's Seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, 'healing' Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be—like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)
I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.
In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.
This is the dénouement to the denouement, I guess. We get to end with my favorite character, tying up some of the small loose ends that were related to her storyline. There is some good material here—she points out that Raoden is doing well as king, how Ahan is fairing, and gives a nice prognosis for the future of Arelon.
However, the important part of the epilogue comes at the end. I love the last line of the book, despite the fact that Joshua disagrees with it. (He wanted something else there—I can't quite remember now what his quibble was.)
Anyway, I always intended to end this book talking about Hrathen. He was their savior, after a manner—and he certainly was a dominant force in the book. I wanted to give him one final send-off—to honor him for what he did, both for Arelon, and for the story in general.
How many attempts did you make to publish before you wrote Elantris?
Elantris was my sixth novel. I was working on my 13th when I sold Elantris. It was not publishable when I first wrote it; it took several revisions and drafts. It was probably somewhere around book nine that I was really figuring things out, I feel. I like to write and jump projects. Instead of finishing one and slaving over it to make it much better, which may have been better for me in the long run, I would always jump to something new.
For new writers, I always advise balancing those two. When you finish a book, write another one, but then go back to your first one and work it over to see if you can make it better. Then, go write a third one and go back to the second one and see if you can make it better.
Do that instead of doing what I did, where you finish a book and go, "Hmm...that one was good, but I can do better?" and then writing another book and ignoring the first one. Elantris was the first one that I really dug into revisions on, and it ended up paying off.