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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 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.
Moshe and I agreed on just about every edit or change made to ELANTRIS. There is one small thing, however, that we kind of went the rounds about. The word Kolo.
Galladon's 'Kolo's are, in my mind, an integral part of his personality. I characterize him a great deal through his dialogue—he doesn't really get viewpoints of his own, so everything I do for him at least until the ending
I either have to do through Raoden's thoughts or through Galladon's own words. When I was coming up with Galladon's character, I realized I would need a set of linguistic features that would reinforce his culture's relaxed nature. So, I went with smooth-sounds, and gave their dialect a very 'chatty' feel. The Dula habit of calling everyone 'friend' came from this—as did their habit of softening everything they say with a question tag. Linguistically, questions are less antagonistic than statements, and I figured a culture like the Dula one would be all about not antagonizing people.
A number of languages in our own world make frequent use of similar tags. Korean, the foreign language I'm most familiar with, has a language construction like this. Closer to home, people often make fun of the Canadian propensity for adding a similar tag to their own statements. I hear that Spanish often uses these tags. In many of these languages, a large percentage of statements made will actually end in a softening interrogative tag.
Anyway, enough linguistics. I'm probably using the standard 'literary' posture of falling back on facts and explanations to make myself sound more authoritative. Either way, I liked having Galladon say 'Kolo' a lot. In the original draft, the tags were added onto the ends of sentences, much like we might ask 'eh?' or 'understand?' in English. "It's hot today, kolo?"
Moshe, however, found the excessive use of Kolo confusing—especially in connection with Sule. He thought that people might get the two words confused, since they're used similarly in the sentences. Simply put, he found the kolos distracting, and started to cut them right and left. I, in turn, fought to keep in as many as I could. It actually grew rather amusing—in each successive draft, he'd try to cut more and more, and I'd try to keep ahold of as many as possible. (I was half tempted to throw a 'kolo' into the draft of MISTBORN, just to amuse him.)
Regardless, we ended up moving kolo to its own sentence to try and make it more understandable. "It's hot today. Kolo?" We also ended up cutting between a third and a half of the uses of the word, and losing each one was a great pain for me. (Well, not really. But I'm paid to be melodramatic.) So, if you feel like it, you can add them back in your mind as your read Galladon's lines.
Other than that massive tangent, I don't know that I have much to say about this chapter. I thought that it was necessary to set Raoden up with a firm set of goals to accomplish—hence the three distinct gangs he has to overcome. Since Sarene and Hrathen's storylines were going to be a little more ambiguous plot-wise, I wanted a conflict for Raoden that could show distinct and consistent progress.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted him to set up a new society for Elantris, and the gangs represented a way for him to approach this goal in an incremental manner.
The cliffhanger at the end of this chapter, by the way, is one of my favorites. The chapter-triad system gave me some amazing opportunities for cliffhangers—as we'll see later.
This chapter introduces a couple of minor characters for Raoden's gang. One thing you'll notice here is the good-natured humor I include in the chapter. (Or, at least, I hope you found it humorous.) I had a real worry that ELANTRIS would be too dark a book, considering the things that Raoden has to go through. That's why Galladon's character is so important. In my mind, Galladon fits the most basic definition of a humorous character—he is a juxtaposition. He is a pessimist from a culture of optimists. He is a foil to Raoden, yet at the same time his comedic pessimism lifts the story and points out just how ridiculous their situations are.
Galladon isn't simply comic relief—I have never used, and never intend to use, a comic-relief character. However, he allows for some farce and some fun-poking, which in turn lightens the air of what could otherwise be a very gloomy book. His relationship with Raoden proves that even in the hellpit of Elantris, things like friendship and trust can exist.
Because I have three separate storylines in this book, I have to move quickly. (Or, at least, quickly for me.) This allowed me to keep up the pacing, and to have a good amount of tension in every chapter. Of the three viewpoints, however, I think Raoden's chapters seem to move the quickest, though Hrathen has the smallest number of pages.
I couldn't resist having Sarene intentionally misinterpret the demands from Raoden's team. Not only did it make for a fun scene with them discovering how she twisted their requests, it also let me characterize Sarene in-abscentia. To her, politics is a game. Any time she can twist her opponent's words and do something unexpected, like send a pile of nails instead of sheets of steel, she feels a thrill of victory.
This is a rather long chapter. Longer, actually, than I probably would have put in a regular story. However, the triad system kind of forced me to lump all of these events together. It was important that I show the danger of Shaor's gang, as well as the way New Elantris was progressing despite its problems. At the same time, we needed to find out more about Galladon eventually. So, when I did the 'find the pool' chapter, I had to include these other items before it.
I kind of wish that I'd been able to include the 'Once so very beautiful. . . .' in this chapter somewhere. If you've been watching, you'll know that I do mention the man several other places, often when Raoden is near the Hoed. This is one of the more clever little twists of foreshadowing in the book, if I do say so myself.
So, in the original version of the book, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army outside the city when they went up to the top of the wall. This shocked and concerned them, which is why they went searching for Sarene to get news about the outside world. More on the Mad Prince later, however.
"Hama," Galladon's word for grandmother, is actually another theft from the real world. One of my cousins has a little son who calls his grandmother 'Hama,' and I always thought it was a cute nickname. The really funny one, however, is when he refers to my grandmother—his great-grandmother. She's Big Hama. (In keeping with this tradition, Sarene's childhood nickname for Kiin is 'Hunkey Kay,' a child's version of 'Uncle Kiin.' This is a spin off of what that same little kid in the real world calls my mother. She's 'Hunky BaBa,' or 'Aunt Barbara.')
What did I warn you about we writers and filching things?
Joshua absolutely hates it when I use plots like this.
I don't know why I insist on putting things like this (mistaken identities, people pretended to be someone else, that kind of plot) into my books. I think, deep down, I've got a weakness for old-school Shakespearean farces. Storytelling is just more fun when people can do a bit of pretending.
Anyway, I'd been wanting to show a real Dula ever since I started writing the book. Galladon is such a 'bad' Dula that I was very pleased when I found an opportunity to work Kaloo into the plot. You've been hearing, through various asides, about Dulas for most of the book. Now you actually get to meet one. Or, at least, someone pretending to be one. (Uh. . .I hope I'm not giving anything away by letting you know that Kaloo is really Raoden. It wasn't supposed to be a surprise.)
Anyway, we'll get an explanation from Raoden later about why he didn't come clean immediately. If he were truthful, however, he'd have to admit something: Though he sometimes teases Sarene for being too fond of political games, he likes them just as much as she does. The opportunity for him to meet her for the third time for the first time was just too tempting to pass up.
In order for 'Kaloo' to appear in this chapter, he and Galladon had to do some serious moving. (Realize that this has to be the same day as the last chapter.) I imagine that they made their discovery early in the morning, and Raoden was extremely eager to get out of the city and find out what was happening. They put on new faces, snuck out of the city, and went to the Arelene market to buy some costumes. After that, they went looking for Roial—whom Raoden wanted to contact first. Instead, however, he found Sarene and company fencing in the backyard. As mentioned, Raoden couldn't resist the opportunity to see her—and the opportunity to try out his Dula impersonation.
By the way, you might remember that I've mentioned Raoden's fencing ability before. Very early in the book, I note during one of the fencing practices that Raoden had Eondel teach him to fight simply to spite Iadon. He's actually surprisingly good—Raoden, however, is the type of person who is surprisingly good at a surprising number of things.
The saddest part about Kaloo, I think, is that he's not a real character. I had a lot of fun writing him, and when I was done, I wished that I had a full character to play with. Even in these few chapters, I got across a complexity for him that I thought was most interesting. (His line about acting the fool on purpose, as well as the one "The revolution rolled over us while we were still discussing what to have for dinner" are some of my personal favorites.)
Unfortunately, all of this characterization is undermined by the fact that Kaloo is really just Raoden playing a part. I often develop characters in my mind based solely on their dialect—and everyone has a dialect, despite what you may think. Galladon's might be the most obvious, but—in my mind, at least—everyone in the book speaks a little differently. Roial is dignified mischievous, Ahan favors flamboyant words, Kaloo favors frivolousness words, and Ashe likes words that make him sound solemn. Karata is curt, Lukel likes to quip, and Raoden firm.
That's probably why I grew so attached to Kaloo—he had a lot of dialogue, and through that I created who he was in my mind. This tendency of mine to characterize through dialogue is why I had so much trouble cutting Galladon's frequent use of 'kolo', which always bothered Moshe. Galladon's dialect is so much a part of who he is that each cut made me cringe.
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.
I like finally having a chance to characterize Galladon internally. My sense is that you can never really get to know a character until you can see their thoughts. So, I gave a nice little series of viewpoints to Galladon, partially to show what was happening to Raoden's body, partially so that I could have some last-minute introspection and philosophizing regarding what is happening in the chapters.
Galladon's hope monologue in this chapter is probably the most powerful, and most interesting, section he gets in the book. This piece is supposed to mimic what the reader is feeling—things are going terribly, but Raoden has always managed to pull out a miracle. He may look bad now, but he can still save them. Can't he?
I think Galladon is more pessimistic—naturally—than the reader will be. However, he raises good questions, and his talk about hope—how Raoden's gift to him is the inability to give up completely—is one final showing of the power Raoden's personality has in this book. Perhaps the most amazing thing Raoden does in this book—more difficult a task to overcome than the gangs, more rewarding than taking the throne of Arelon—is make a believer out of a man like Galladon. A man who had given up on hope, but who now continues to believe, even though all is lost.
I enjoy Way of Kings, it seems like that’s the one where everyone’s coming together. I was reading online about Galladon and Demoux being in it. I enjoyed that. Is that going to happen more often?
In that book- that series, yes. There will be more crossover. It’s kinda one of the core stories, along with the things happening on the Mistborn world and things like that. And so, there’s going to be a lot more crossover. Most of it’s still kind of subtle stuff, but if you keep your eyes open there’ll be some real zingers in the next two books.