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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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This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The 'dramatic eye-lock' is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.
One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man—in this case, Hrathen—can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.
The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people—she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality—she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.
I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too 'modern.' It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.
I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters—and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.
My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct—and often very prevalent—magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and—as a result—the societies are more developed.
That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking—rather than a mistake in narrative—that makes them seem so much like a modern family.
I didn't originally intend for Hrathen to have a Seon. However, as I was working on this chapter, I realized how much sense it made. It lends a bit of hypocrisy to the Derethi religion, and I found that I liked that a great deal. The Seon also allowed me to move more quickly with Hrathen's plans. I couldn't have made the storyline nearly as compact if Hrathen didn't have access to a Seon.
As a side note, I'm planning this Seon here to make an appearance in the sequel (if I write one.) She would be Adien's own Seon, as he would probably be the hero of the sequel. (Along with his brother and sister.) For those of you who think I didn't deal enough with the Seons in this book—the sequel would have strong focus on them. In fact, I'm tempted to make this Seon a viewpoint character. However, that would bump me up to four characters, which wouldn't let me use the chapter triad system.
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.
Some other small notes. First, the proverb about the Lion. It's actually a Korean proverb, one which always stood out to me because it was almost identical to our proverb 'Speak the name of the devil, and he will appear,' referring to someone who arrives right when you were talking about them. The Korean version says "If you say the name of the tiger, he will appear." I embellished this a bit with use of my handy creative licence, and you get what we have here.
Actaully, from what I've seen, you'd be surpised at how many proverbs span cultures. They may sound a little different, but the meanings are often very similar.
And, in Kaise's 'Why did YOU have to get sick,' line, you can see a remnant of the cut scene I talked about in the last Sarene chapter. Kaise and Daorn were supposed to be able to go with Sarene into the city, and when I got to this scene, I thought I'd forgotten to add them. So, I came up with the sickness excuse. This was actually an error on my part, since this triad is actually happening several days after the last triad, and the twins got their permission to go with Sarene for the 'next day.' Therefore, their trip into Elantris would have happened during the intervening days.
Kaise's comment, however, seemed like a nice little nod to things happening in the world off-stage. Things like this give a nice feel to a book, so I left it in—despite the fact that the original scene it was tied to got cut early 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.)
You get a couple nice foreshadowing hints here. First, there's the scene that reminds us that—for some reason—Kiin's family knows an awful lot about Elantrians. We've gotten other hints, but they were back a long time ago. The one I remember best is when Sarene was with the twins on the wall. Kaise and Daorn had some things to say about Elantrians that surprised Sarene, I think. Also, notice that Ahan is with Telrii. Though it's presented that the group decided that he should go see Telrii, the actual backstory is that Ahan manipulated himself into the position. It's just another small clue as to what he's planning to do.
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.
Lukel isn't as interesting as Galladon, but I still enjoyed giving him a viewpoint. He has the perfect personality to show what I wanted in these chapters. He's not a warrior—like Kinn—or a king—like Raoden. He's just a regular person caught in a nightmare.
I wanted to deal a little bit with prisoner mentality in this scene. People allow terrible things to be done to them in situations like this. Part of it is because they fear what COULD happen more than they fear what IS happening. In this case, hope proves their enemy. The Dakhor stop killing the people and start rounding them up instead. The reason for this is simple—after seeing and hearing such terrible things, the people would run and fight. However, if the Dakhor back off, the people can hope that the worst is over. For this reason, they let themselves get rounded up and gathered in Elantris.
It may seem convenient that the soldiers wait to kill the people, but I think it makes sense. You want to gather everyone in an enclosed place, where they will be trapped, before you begin your slaughter in earnest. That way you can be certain there are no escapees. The only one I fudged here was Kiin. A Dakhor probably should have killed him. However, I've had enough corpses in this book. Randomly killing off Kiin seemed like too much. (Some readers are already in rebellion over the people I've killed—or, rather, will kill shortly. . . .)
Anyway, I get past part of this concern by throwing in the 'purification rites' line. This hints that there is some sort of ritual that needs to be preformed before the people can be killed, and therefore explains why the Dakhor don't just slaughter them immediately. (I still think that control is the greater reason, however.) Another explanation of why the slaughter starts is mentioned by Lukel. Most of the Derethi left in Arelon are regular soldier-monks, not Dakhor. They don't have the same. . .zeal for destruction as Dakhor.
I almost cut this entire twist from the book. I've never been happy with how it worked out, and I think there are—as I've mentioned—still a few too many surprises and twists at the end of the book. (Though, I have fixed it somewhat. It used to be that virtually EVERYONE had a secret past or personality trait that came out in these last four chapters.) Anyway, I don't like the Adien twist—it lacks power since we don't really care about him, and his character—the autistic—isn't terribly original anyway.
I've left the Adien twist in for a single reason. However, it's a bit of a spoiler, so I'll put it invisible for those of you who haven't read the ending yet. You can come back and read this later.
Anyway, Adien is my planned hero for book two. I like the concept of a healed autistic being the hero of the next book. And, since he's so good with numbers, he would be incredibly powerful at AonDor. I think he'd be a compelling character to look at, so I left him in this book in case I wanted to use him in the next one.
Adien has been an Elantrian for some time. That's why Kiin's family knows so much about Elantrians. Read back to the earlier chapters, and you'll see a scene or two where Sarene wonders why they know so much about Elantris and its occupants. They hid Adien's transformation with makeup, and his autism kept him out of social circles anyway, so no one really paid much attention to the fact that he was never around.
I wanted to bring the 'sheep' idea full-circle in this chapter, and show that people don't just have to go along to their slaughter with docility. I think readers will be rooting for this, and this section—where Lukel and Shuden prepare to attack—gives us a little hope. This is a very tense chapter, and everything is going wrong. I decided I needed a few points of light in the narrative, otherwise it might get too depressing. So, I hint the people won't get killed without a fight.
Besides, this lets Lukel—the regular guy surrounded by mages, heroes, and politicians—be a bit of a hero himself. He overcomes his fear and his lethargy.
Talk of the ChayShan leads us into the scene where Sarene's women decide to fight back. Like the ChayShan, this plotting element wasn't intended to be anything spectacular, or to provide last minute salvation. In fact, the actual battle is kind of short. (My editor, by the way, thinks that I should have expanded this scene, letting the women be a little more heroic. I didn't necessarily disagree, but that edit just never found its way into a revision.)
The women attack because it fulfills the form of this novel. This is a book about people who resist despite hopelessness, and it is about making use of you limitations to overcome your hardships. It's about the spirit of mankind.
Not everyone who does things like this, however, is going to be as successful as Raoden. I wanted the women to fight back here—I wanted them to give a nod to the theme of the book while at the same time fulfilling Sarene's 'fencing plot' cycle. The women did her proud—the fought back while their men waited to be slain.
Interestingly, this Lukel scene fulfills the opposite function of what his previous one. Instead of offering a bit of hope when all the other viewpoints look dark, this one turns down while the others are having success.
And, here we have Lukel joking again. Just like a the end of last chapter, where he faints. Comic relief shouldn't be underestimated, I think. Especially comic relief like this—jests and levity given in-character by people who are trying to lighten the mood of a stressful time. Lukel isn't there simply to entertain the reader, he's there to show a different side of human reaction. I think that if I were in his situation, I'd be trying to find a way to laugh about what happened too.
I had to work very hard to make this one work. I think it turned out, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Hopefully, readers will go with me on this one because of the climactic feeling of the near-ending.
Regardless, I do think I gave Raoden all the pieces he needed here. Adien always existed in the book for this one moment—to give Raoden the length measurement he needed to go try to save Sarene. I've established that Seons have perfect senses of direction, and I've talked about how to use Aon Tia. More importantly, I think I've established that this is something that Raoden would do. He gets just a shade foolhardy when Sarene is concerned. (It's all her fault.)
There is another important element to this teleportation. I thought it important to involve deity in the climax of what has been such an overtly religious book. You may not believe in God, and it is never my intention to belittle your choices. However, the format of this book has been one that dealt with religion and the way that people interact with their faith. And so, I took this last moment of the book, and gave Raoden an opportunity to call upon the aid of providence.
Raoden arrives safely, despite the odds against his having gotten the distance, direction, and other factors right. You are free to simply think of this as luck, if you wish.
9) Speaking of sequels, here's what I'M planning. A book that takes place ten years after the events of ELANTRIS. It would occur in the capitol city of Fjorden, and would star Kiin's children as viewpoint characters along with a Seon viewpoint character. The plot of the book: Wyrn has declared that Jaddeth, the Derethi God, is going to finally return. (A new interpretation of the scriptures says that he'll return when everyone east of the mountains converts, so they don't have to worry about Teod and Arelon.) Kiin's family, ambassadors to the Fjordell state, has to deal with the chaos of this announcement, and investigate the truth behind the Dakhor magic. Thoughts?