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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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Tell me about Elantris.
Elantris is an interesting book. In epic fantasy, it’s usually all about the big series. And I like big series. I love reading books where you can read book after book about the same character. But I also love the concept of the standalone. I particularly think that a single book that wraps up its entire plot-line is its own special art. I thought that, breaking in with my very first book, the thing I would want to do most is have it be a standalone so that people could give me a chance and try one of my books without having to get into something really big. They could try a single book and know how I would plot, how I can do a climax and bring things to an end. So it’s different in that it is a standalone, and there aren’t sequels to it: I later did a trilogy set in a different world, but this is a standalone. It also is interesting in that it doesn’t follow some of the standard cliché plots of the fantasy genre: There’s no quest, there’s no young hero searching for a magical object. It’s something different.
Elantris is the story of a magical city, “City of the Gods” it was called amongst these people. What would happen is, in this kingdom, there was this force that no one understands, but it would randomly choose people and grant them divine powers. Their skin started to glow; they could draw ruins in the air that would do these powerful magics. Once you were chosen by this force, you became one of the gods of these people, you move to the city of Elantris, which was the capital, and from there you would rule with all the other Elantrians, as they would call them: there were hundreds of them.
Well, the book is unique in that that’s not the story. The story starts ten years before the book actually start, and something goes wrong. The magic stops working. All these people, who had these divine powers, they lost them all. They caught this sort of “magical leprosy,” this disease, that turned them all into these poor wretches. They lost all their powers, and the kingdom just about collapsed. Imagine what would happen if not only your ruling class, but the divine gods of your religion, just suddenly were cast down: to a person, they all lost their abilities, just became the lowest of the low. So the common people and the merchant class took all of these people who were their gods, frightened that what they have might be catching, and they locked them in the city of Elantris and just tried to forget about them, turned it into a big prison city.
Well this force keeps picking people, and now it curses them with this disease. The book is about the crown prince of this kingdom, who catches this disease: whatever it is, the force chooses him and turns him into one of these poor wretches, this terrible disease. His own father covers up what happened, throws him into the city with all of these people who used to be gods. It’s the story of him trying to survive in there while also trying to figure out what happened ten years ago: where did the magic go? What when wrong? It’s his story and the story of his fianceé, who is living outside in the new capital city: she’s trying to figure out what happened to him because of the big cover up. So it’s political intrigue on her part: searching for what happened to him, trying to keep an invading force from conquering, and he is on the inside just trying to discover the secrets of what happened.
This is kind of a different story for the fantasy world. Instead of being about a peasant who becomes a king, it’s about a king who essentially becomes less than a peasant, becomes less than a beggar. His own religion says that he’s now damned for eternity, he’s lost his soul. It’s kind of the story of what it means to be a king or to be a pauper, what does it mean when everything turns against you? How do you see yourself in the world now? Can you be happy as one of these poor wretches or do you have to just give in to your fate?
It did very well, went through three hardcover printings—sold in I think fourteen languages—I was just incredibly excited about how much people have enjoyed it because it was a little bit risky, I thought, in a genre populated by the big twelve-book epic, to release a stand-alone. But we’ve been very pleased with how it was received.
Naming and Usage in ELANTRIS
(Warning, spoilers below! Don't read this section if you haven't read ELANTRIS!)
Aon Ehe is often mispronounced as "E-hay." Though scholars of Aonic insist that the proper pronunciation "E-Hee" is more accurate, the former is slowly being acknowledged as an acceptable pronunciation as well. It is infrequently used in names during modern days, as the meaning of "danger" is seen as unfavorable. However, historically, it was a favorite Aon for poets and artists (who often took new names for themselves when entering into their maturity as an artist, a tradition by which they removed themselves from their old body of work and indicated that they were beginning anew).
Some famous examples of names from Aon Ehe include the poet Ehen, the artist Ehelan, and Mehen the philosopher.
In the history of Elantris, Aon Ehe played an interesting role as it is the first known Aon to have been drawn with the Chasm Line. During the research of King Raoden, he was practicing this Aon (for its complexity) when he realized the problem with AonDor. The story goes that he added the Chasm Line without thinking, making Aon Ehe spurt out a column of fire and destroying an entire bookshelf.
You'd be surprised how much can be said about the title of this book. Naming books is one of the most frustrating, and most fulfilling, elements of writing. I'm more fortunate than some authors I know—for most of my books, the names came easily. Sometimes, I even came up with the title before I wrote the book. (This has actually only happened once, when thought up the phrase 'The Way of Kings,' and thought 'Man! That would be a great title for a book!.)
ELANTRIS has had several titles. During the rough draft phase, I simply called it 'SPIRIT.' I knew that the main character's name would be based on the character for Spirit, and that would also be the name he took for himself when he was in exile. I never intended this to be the final title for the manuscript, but it was what I named all the files when I was typing the work.
Those of you who've read the book realize the special significance of 'Spirit' (or Aon Rao as it eventually became known) to the climax of the story. I'll talk more about this in a bit.
Sometimes, when you're coming up with a lot of fantastical names, you create words that have a certain, unforeseen connotations or connections. In this case, I wasn't even thinking of the Greek myth. 'Ado' was simply the Aon I chose to base the city's name around, and 'Adonis' (Pronounced with a long 'A' and a long 'O') was the word that came out of that Aon.
So, I named the book THE SPIRIT OF ADONIS, hoping to play off of Raoden's name.
It was, however, actually a three-fold pun. I included this line—'The Spirit of Adonis' at the climax, when Raoden realizes that the city itself formed an enormous Aon Rao.
I didn't realize what I'd done until my writing group met for the first time, and they said 'I like the beginning of the book. I'm having trouble figuring out what this has to do with the Greeks. Is it because the god-like people were so arrogant?'
Then it hit me. Adonis, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. The word has become a kind of paradigm for a beautiful—almost perfect—specimen of the male species. And I had unwittingly named my book after him.
Let's just say I changed that pretty quickly. However, I needed a new name for the city. I played with a number of different combinations of Ado, but somehow ended up trying up different sounds and combinations. Thankfully, I came up with the word 'Elantris.' As soon as I wrote it down, I knew this was my city. It sounded grand without being overbearing, and it had a mythological feel to it (harkening slightly to 'Atlantis'.) I renamed the book 'THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS,' and proceeded.
Then came time to send out the manuscript. I had had some comments on the book—people liked 'Elantris,' but the 'spirit of' was less popular. I tried several iterations, and even sent out some query letters calling the book 'THE LORDS OF ELANTRIS.' That just felt too cliché fantasy for me, however, and I eventually returned to 'THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS.'
Finally, the book got sold. At this point, my editor (Moshe Feder) suggested that we shorten the title to simply ELANTRIS. Remembering how other people had been unimpressed with the 'spirit of,' I agreed. Now that I've seen the cover lettering and worked with it as 'ELANTRIS' for some time, I'm very pleased with the change. The new title has more zip, and makes the book sound more majestic. I still get to have a reference to my old title, as Part Three of the book is called 'The Spirit of Elantris.'
Of course, even this title isn't without its problems. People have trouble spelling it when I say the title, and some think of the car named the 'Elantra.' At one panel, I even had one person miss-hear me, thinking the name of the book was 'The Laundress.' That would certainly be a different book. . . .
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.
There is some division among readers regarding their favorite viewpoint character. One group chooses Raoden, but I think the majority go with Hrathen. All things considered, I think he's probably the best villain I've ever written. His personality comes off quite well in this first chapter, and I think he might have the strongest introduction—at least personality-wise—of the three.
Chapter three marks the end of the first "chapter triad."
The chapter triads are a major structural element of this novel. The viewpoints rotate Raoden-Sarene-Hrathen, in order, one chapter each. Each of the three chapters in the grouping cover pretty much the same time-frame, so they can overlap, and we can see the same scene sometimes from two different viewpoints. (Note the point in chapter two where Sarene sees Raoden being led to Elantris, wearing the sacrificial robes.)
We always follow this same format, going from Raoden, to Sarene, to Hrathen. Until, that is, the system breaks down late in the book—but we'll get into that.
And, you might have noticed that the Aons at the beginnings of the chapters stay the same for three chapters before changing. Each triad, therefore, has a different Aon to mark it. (I did a little bit of fighting to get this through at Tor. The final decision was theirs, but once they realized what I was trying to do, they liked the idea and approved it.) The placing of the Aons is a little bit obscure, I'll admit, but it might be fun for people to notice. (They also grow increasingly complex, built out of more and more tracings of Aon Aon, as the triads progress. There are some special Aons marking the beginnings of sections.)
I'll talk more on chapter triads later. You can read more about my theory on the format in the critical afterword to ELANTRIS (which should eventually be posted in the Elantris 'Goodies' section.) I might also do essay specifically about the format and the challenges it presented.
Anyway, back to Hrathen. My hope in creating him was to present an antagonist for the story who would be believable, understandable, and sympathetic. He's a good man, after his own fashion—and he's certainly dedicated. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he wants to save it. It's not his fault he's serving an evil imperial force.
Regardless, Hrathen certainly has the most interesting character progression in the story. Raoden and Sarene, despite many interesting attributes, are two of the most static characters I've designed. This book isn't about their growth as people, but rather their ability to overcome their desperate odds. Hrathen, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to grow, learn, and change. Perhaps this is what makes him people's favorite. It certainly made him the critic's favorite.
I can only think of two books I've written—out of sixteen—that use a literary 'timebomb' as strict as the one in ELANTRIS. Three months to convert the kingdom or Wyrn will destroy it. That's a pretty heavy motivator. Sometimes, timebombs can feel contrived, and I tried to make this one feel as realistic as possible.
Later, when we discover that Hrathen was never intended to succeed in his conversion, I think this three-month limit makes a lot more sense.
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.
This is easily one of my favorite chapters in the book. This chapter really shows off the core of Raoden's character—lets him be the hero that he is. I've never written another character like Raoden. In a way, he's not as rounded as some other characters (characters like Hrathen.) He doesn't have the flaws or internal battles of some of the more complex characters I've designed.
That doesn't, however, make him any worse a character in this particular book. Raoden is something of a superman—he does the right thing at almost every turn, and his internal struggles only serve to make him more noble. You can't often get away with this in fiction. However, I do think that there are really people like him in the world—I've known a few of them. By including him in a book with Hrathen and Sarene, each of whom have their foibles and internal problems, I think I avoid making the characters of the book feel too shallow.
And, there is a certain. . .beauty to a character who is simply noble. Often times, we as authors think that making a character 'rounded' or 'realistic' means corrupting them somehow. I think Raoden defies this concept. He probably wouldn't be a very compelling character outside of an extreme situation like Elantris. However, confronted by the almost overwhelming problems and tasks associated with the city, his strength only serves to make him feel more realistic to me. A weaker character would have broken beneath Elantris. Raoden can struggle on.
In this chapter, I do begin to introduce what will become Raoden's main character struggle—that of his burden of leadership. He's taking a lot upon himself, and I think a man of his sincerity couldn't help but pause and wonder if he's worth all of the loyalty he is receiving.
Also, in this chapter we begin to get a few pay-offs from the building I've done in previous chapters. The foreshadowing with the well, the foreshadowing with Karata's escapes into the city, and the foreshadowing with the child Elantrians all come to head in this chapter. At the same time, I give foreshadowing for Iadon's paranoia, and foreshadowing regarding the passage out of his palace.
These are the sorts of little plotting events that make writing exciting for me. When they pay off—when the reader has that moment of 'oh, I get it'—is when I'm the happiest as a novelist.
My favorite moment in this chapter? Probably a tie. One moment is when Raoden draws the Aon to stop the guard. A truly clever character doesn't need a fireball or a blast of power to defeat his enemies—he simply needs a wit quick enough to manipulate the resources he has. The other moment is when Raoden arrives back at the chapel and gives the sword to Seolin. This is the story's first big victory moment, and after this many chapters dealing with the pains and dirtiness of Elantris, I think Raoden and co. deserved it.
Raoden finally confronts Taan here in this chapter. In a way, the three gangs that Raoden has to defeat represent three things that the Elantrians themselves need to overcome. The first is their solitude, represented by Karata's exclusionary attitude. The second is self-pity, represented by Taan's indulgent madness. The final is their pain, represented by the wildmen of Shaor.
The way, therefore, to defeat Taan was to turn his attention outside of himself. Self-pity melts when confronted with larger issues, such as the beauty and wonder of Elantris itself. I worry that this scene itself was a bit too melodramatic—however, I've always said that the difference between drama and melodrama is how engaged the reader is by the story. If everything is working like it should, this section should seem powerful, rather than over-the-top.
I do think, however, that Raoden's arguments are a bit too philosophical for his audience. I did that intentionally. Raoden is a child of privilege, and he is something of a thinker. His philosophical arguments are probably the first things he himself would consider, because of how curious and interesting they are. However, he doesn't achieve success with this crowd until he turns to more practical observations. In reality, his strongest ally in this scene was the way he broke the tension and the passion of the moment. Once Dashe's momentum was gone, he couldn't convince himself to continue.
You'll note in later chapters that Raoden's victory here wasn't as complete as it was with Karata's band. This is mostly due to the fact that Taan's followers weren't as committed to him as Karata's were to her. Though I still see this as a victory for Raoden, the fact that many of Taan's followers find their way in to Shaor's camp implies that his efforts had some serious side-effects.
Sarene's visit to the chapel is probably the strongest scene in the book dealing with the Korathi religion. I felt this scene was important for the sake of contrast. Hrathen, and therefore Shu-Dereth, gets quite a bit of screen time. Unfortunately, Sarene and Raoden just aren't as religious as Hrathen is. I consider them both to be believers—Sarene the more devout of the two. Religion, however, isn't as much a part of their lives as it is for Hrathen.
I've actually seen this kind of aggressive religion/passive religion dynamic before. (Referring to the dynamic between the peaceful Korathi believers and the aggressive Derethi believers.) In Korea, where I served as a full-time LDS missionary, Buddhism and Christianity are both fairly well represented. Buddhism is having problems, however, because it doesn't preach as aggressively as most Christian sects. It is not my intention to paint either religion in a poor light by adopting the aggressive religion as the antagonist in ELANTRIS. However, even as a Christian, I was often troubled by the way that the peaceful Buddhists were treated by some Protestant missionaries. I was there to teach about Christ's gospel—I believe that Christ is our savior, and that people will gain happiness by following his teachings. However, I think you can teach about your own beliefs without being belligerent or hateful to people of other faiths.
The most memorable example came when I was walking in the subway. Often, Buddhist monks would set up little mats and sit chanting with their bowls out, offering prayers and chants for the people while trying—after the tenet of their religion—to gain offerings for their sustenance. Standing next to one particular monk, however, was a group of picketing Christians holding up signs that read "Buddhism is Hell." You could barely see or hear the monk for all the ruckus.
I guess this has gotten a little bit off from the source material. But, well, this is a book about one religion trying to dominate another. In the end, I don't think Hrathen's desires are evil (it's okay to want to share what you believe—it's even okay to think that you're right and others are wrong.) His methods, however, are a different story.
In other words, I think we should be able to preach Christianity (or whatever you happen to believe) without being complete jerks. (Sorry for that little tangent. I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future.)
I really like Sarene's explanation for why the country is in so much trouble now. You could wonder, perhaps, how Arelon lasted as long as it did beneath Iadon's rule. Her answer here—that the people were anticipating Raoden's rule—is a good one, I think. People can endure a lot, as long as they know that there is a defined end to their suffering.
Sarene's half-breakdown in this chapter was intended as both a simple reminder of the stress she's under as well as further characterization of her. She's far more volatile than Raoden and Hrathen, and I think that is part of what makes her my favorite character in the book. She doesn't always keep it all in—nor is she perfect. Occasionally, she makes mistakes, and things well up inside her. In this way, she's very real to me.
Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him 'manipulative,' in my mind. (You can read about a REAL manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist—except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.
He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world—people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.
In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing ELANTRIS in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called THE SIXTH INCARNATION OF PANDORA—undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. PANDORA was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful—and expensive—application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.
PANDORA was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book—probably the most disturbing I've ever written.
When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. ELANTRIS was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.
So, in this chapter we get the first real Sarene-Raoden interaction. I worked very hard on this relationship, trying to find a way to make it work naturally, yet still have the drama necessary for good storytelling. I assume that readers—at least the more romantic lot of you—have been waiting for the time when Sarene and Raoden would meet. Not only are they the male and female leads, but they also happen to be married.
One of the things all writers struggle with is making their plots not seem contrived. Moshe and I tried very hard to make certain that everyone's motivations worked, and this is a good test chapter. Does it make sense to you that Raoden wouldn't show Sarene and the others his true self? I think that his desire to keep himself, and New Elantris, quiet makes sense. However, I could see how some readers might find it contrived. I hope my explanations make sense.
One of the biggest complexities in this book is the way Raoden keeps his true self secret. I hope that the way he does this doesn't seem unbelievable. To him, his old life is gone. Though he is curious about his old friends, and especially about Sarene, he can't afford to let himself grow too interested in or attached to the outside world. He knows that doing so would only bring pain, both for himself, and for others.
I suppose the most important scene in this chapter was the exchange between Sarene and Daora. It's hard, in writing, to avoid being heavy-handed with exposition and emotion. Show don't tell, as the proverb goes. Sometimes you get it right—like this particular scene. Sarene, obviously, is falling for Spirit—and Daora mistakes the emotion as being applied to Shuden. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't have to explain this. However, that's part of what these annotations are for—to explain things. I never can tell what people will get and what they'll miss. I've thrown in twists I thought were obvious, only to have everyone miss them—but instead they pick up on the foreshadowing that I never meant to be strong enough to give the ending away. )
Anyway, one of my challenges in this book was to make the romance between Sarene and Raoden realistic, considering the relatively small amount of time they had to spend together. I hoped to avoid any silly 'love at first sight' type plottings, while at the same time making their relationship feel genuine and touching in as short a time as possible.
Anyway. . .I break triad here again. I'd forgotten about this one. Actually, you'll note that the closer I get to an action sequence or a climax, the more quickly I shift viewpoints. I do it half-intentionally, half-unconsciously. (If that's possible.) Logically, I know that quickly-shifting viewpoints give the scenes more tension and a sense of movement. Unconscious, I just know that it's good storytelling to keep things quick—and it's more dramatic when you can end with a cliff-hanger line, then switch to a new viewpoint.
I'll admit that this scene borders on being too melodramatic. A couple of things justify it in my mind. First, the scene is more about Raoden confronting how he'd made a mistake with Shaor's men than it is about Sarene discovering that she'd been betrayed. Second, Sarene's 'betrayal,' as explained in the next chapter, is really about her own prejudice. Inside, she was just waiting for something like this to happen. That's why she didn't give Raoden the benefit of the doubt—she never wanted to like him. It was almost like she was eager to be hurt, expecting it, since things obviously couldn't work out for her. (Or so she unconsciously assumed.)
So, in a way, they were both kind of expecting something like this to happen. When it did happen, they allowed it to. In my mind, this takes it from a 'silly misunderstanding' and changes it into a 'character-driven conflict.'
And, as a note on the final exchange, did you forget about the cliffhanger at the end of Raoden's chapter? My hope was that knowing, from Raoden, that the gates to Elantris opened sometime after the attack, the reader would assume that Sarene actually failed to stop the soldiers. Now that she has, however, stopped them, you are reminded that SOMEONE is entering the city. One guess who it is.
And, we finally get to figure out what is going on. As I said, this is one of my favorite triads because of the way it manages to string a cliff-hanger across three separate chapters. I've spoken often of how difficult it was, at times, to maintain the triad structure. However, scenes like these are the reward. We get to see from Hrathen's viewpoint the things spoken off in Sarene's viewpoint, and often (especially later in the book) we can see the same scene from different sets of eyes, seeing different opinions and thoughts manifest.
Another interesting note in this chapter is that we finally get to see what Raoden went through in chapter one. The washing process isn't all that exciting, but I have had several people remark that they were sad to have missed it. I guess that's just human curiosity. Well, for those who wondered what the process was, they finally got to see it in this chapter.
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.
If I were to assign Raoden two defining traits, the first would be his ability to make the best of what he's given (as I've spoken of above.) The second, however, would be the personality trait he manifests in this chapter—his simple belief in the goodness of the human race.
I suppose this is a facet of his optimism. Raoden believes in people—he believes that, as a whole, they will do what is right. He believes that they are more rational than the nobility sometimes give them credit, and he believes that most men will do what is good if they are presented with all of the facts.
He really is a noble man. He's perhaps the only person I've written in a fantasy book who, from day one, actually deserved to be king.
Now that the three gangs have been dealt with, Raoden's storyline has had some major resolutions. The increasing pain of his wounds, however, is something I introduced into the book for fear that he wouldn't have enough pressing conflicts. As stated in previous annotations, his personality is uniquely strong and stable amongst characters I've created, and I figured that giving him a small problem in the area of self-confidence wouldn't be remiss. He feels that he's worse at deal with the pain than everyone else, and that makes him worry that he isn't the leader he should. We'll have more on this later.
My explanation for the slime, admittedly, relies a bit heavily on 'fantasy writer's license.' Usually, I resist overdoing things like this. (I.e., simply explaining away events in the world with magical answers.) Though there is a slight logic to Raoden's explanation, it isn't something that would have been intuitive to a reader, given the facts of the novel. That makes it a weak plotting element. However, the slime explanation isn't part of any real plot resolution, so I decided to throw it in. Its place as an interesting world element, rather than a climax, gives me a few more liberties, I think.
We've entered the section of the plot where Raoden has a few short chapters (this one and the one before.) As I mentioned, his major plot cycle—the three gangs—for the first part of the book is over. Right now, the most important things are happening on the outside of Elantris, so Raoden gets a slight breather to study.
That said, the realization that happens here—that Raoden isn't bad at dealing with the pain, he's simply facing something that the others don't have to—is an important one. There needed to be some progression here, even if it does take away Raoden's main character conflict. (Now he doesn't have to worry that he's inferior.) However, this conflict is replaced by another little timebomb—now Raoden has to worry about being destroyed by the Dor before he can finish his studies. It gives him a sense of urgency, makes things a little more difficult—which is why I introduced this plotting structure in the first place. As I've mentioned, I was worried that there wouldn't be enough tension in his chapters once the gangs were defeated. Hence the Dor attacks.
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.
My biggest challenge in this chapter was to make it believable to a reader that the characters would accept Sarene as an Elantrian. The plotting of this section of the book relies on Sarene thinking that she's actually been transformed—otherwise, she would try to escape, and I wouldn't be able to have the short interlude in Elantris I have here. It's vital to Raoden's plotting, and to the relationship between the two of them, that they have some time to think and to get to know one another.
I had a couple things going for me in creating this suspension of disbelief regarding Sarene's nature as an Elantrian. First, she doesn't really know what an Elantrian should be like—she doesn't realize that her heartbeat or her tears betray her. Secondly, as Raoden will point out in a bit, Sarene has come during the time of New Elantris. There is food, there is shelter, and the pain has mostly been overcome. The differences between an Elantrian and a non-Elantrian, then, are less obvious.
Even still, there are a couple of things I had to explain. The first is Ashe's existance. This is a major clue to Sarene and company that she's not really an Elantrian. Sarene's bodily changes—or lack thereof—are going to be more and more obvious the longer she stays in Elantris. Obviously, I wouldn't be able to pull this plotting off for very long, but hopefully it works for now.
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.
It's a tie—best cheesy line from this chapter.
He half-smiled, his eyes unconvinced. Then, however, he regarded her with an unreadable expression. "Well, I suppose the time during your Trial wasn't a complete loss. I gained something very important during those weeks."
"The supplies?" Sarene asked.
"When I opened my eyes, I thought that time I had died for certain." (Remember, when this happened, Raoden was laying on his back. He oppened his eyes, and the first thing he would have seen was Sarene's face hovering above him.)
What can we learn from this? That people who are falling in love are utter cheese-heads.
The only other thing to say about this chapter is that it's about where the Mad Prince subplot began in the original drafts of the book.
Though this is explained other places on the site, I should probably note it here. The Mad Prince, a character who has been cut from the book, dominated about three or four chapters in the last quarter of the manuscript. Originally, Raoden wasn't an only child—he had a brother who was something of a madman. Eton—the Mad Prince—was sent away by his father to live in seclusion. He was mentioned several places in the text, foreshadowing the time when Hrathen decided to pull him back into Arelish politics to try and use him as a pawn.
In this chapter, the Mad Prince arrives in the area—though we don't know it. Hrathen finds out that Eton has arrived, and goes to meet with him off stage. The reader doesn't know what's going on yet—you only know that Hrathen has some other little scheme he's been cooking up since Sarene's fall. (Remember, in the original draft of the book, Telrii was far less of a character. Hrathen gave up on him early in the book, after the plan to sink Iadon's ships ended up being a wash.)
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.
So, why does Raoden keep his identity secret from Sarene? I think his explanation here is earnest—he wants to get to know her without the truth of his identity throwing a crimp into the relationship. He, of course, intends to tell her eventually. At the risk of giving a spoiler, however, you needn't worry that this is going to turn into a 'I'm mad at you for lying to me' plot. Those always annoy me too. (Chick flicks are famous for them. "Oh, you're really a rich prince? Well, I hate you for pretending to be a pauper to win my love!")
I'm a little bit chagrined at how much faking I have going on in this chapter. Sarene isn't telling Raoden about the outside world (a necessary plotting device because of the triad—three days have passed, and I had to have a reason why she hadn't told Raoden about events outside the city yet.) Raoden isn't telling Sarene who he really is. On top of that, I'm keeping the secret of Hrathen's potion from my own characters, and I have to do some more rationalizing in this chapter—explaining why Sarene has enough food, and why she can't do AonDor—to make it all work. Ah. . .why can't we all just be honest.
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.
I like how Raoden and Sarene's relationship is progressing in these chapters. I realize that it's probably moving just a bit too quickly to be natural, but remember that they don't really have much to do all day besides spend time with each other.
All in all, I like that their relationship has an opportunity to really develop and progress naturally. They don't fall in love because they fight all the time (which seems to be the only reason some fantasy characters hook up) or because they're possessed by hormones. Their personalities really do compliment one another, and they get along. They both like politics and keeping secrets for the game of it, and they are both sincere, intelligent people.
In other words, they don't just hook up because—as my friend Alan likes to say—'One of them is the male lead, and the other's the female lead.' I'd like to think that there is more to it than that.
Anyway, back to the chapter. I planned from the beginning for Sarene to give Raoden this vital bit of information about the magic system. As I've said before, she represents chaos—and chaos isn't always a bad thing. She is able to give Raoden the one simple bit of information that, despite all of his studying, he hasn't been able to find.
I worry, now that we have the map, that the Chasm answer is too obvious. Jeff made the Chasm a lot bigger than I intended it to be. And, since we zoomed in on the map so much, the Chasm dominates a large section of what we see.
Fortunately, I think it's the very next Triad where Raoden figures out how to use Sarene's bit of information. We don't have to wait long for him to figure out the secret—so, hopefully, if the readers figure it out, they won't feel Raoden is too stupid for taking so long.
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.
This ending scene is where Hrathen and Raoden come the closest to speaking to one another. Hrathen stands there, looking down on Raoden. Then he leaves. In case you were wondering, no. They never say a word to one another throughout the entire book. Sarene mixes with both of them, but Hrathen and Raoden barely interact.
My biggest worry about these chapters is that people will look at the map we put in the front of the book and realize that it doesn't match the text. I really do like Jeff's map—it's well-drawn, and it has a very cool feel to it. I love the little city designs; they give the map a different feel from many fantasy maps. Overall, I think this map fits the 'mood' of the book quite well.
However, I myself didn't give him good enough instructions on how to develop the map, and now it doesn't completely fit what I talk about in the text. Since the landscape of the land is so important to the development of the book and the magic system, this could be a problem for some readers.
Anyway, yes, Raoden makes the connection here. The Chasm line is what has been missing all along. I tried to emphasize the Chasm several times in the text, reminding people that it's around. However, as I may have said in other annotations (the spoiler sections), I now worry that the Chasm is TOO obvious. Anyway, I suspect the discovery will work for some people, and not work for others. Hopefully, the characterizations and the events in the book are interesting enough that even if some people think this discovery is obvious, they'll enjoy reading anyway.
So, in this chapter we get to have a nice look at the 'mathematical' style to AonDor. To be honest, I'm not really a math person. I did well in my classes, but I never pursued the skill long enough to get deeply into theoretics. That's why there aren't any specifics in these chapters—I try to give enough to imply that AonDor works like mathematical proofs, but I don't include any specific ratios or equations.
My goal was to get across the 'Feel' of the magic without actually having to get into number crunching—which is something at which Raoden's much better than I am. (Though, it's less numbers and more of an understudying of length, location, and combination.)
If you were wondering, most of the explanations we get in this chapter are true. The reason that Raoden was subject to the Dor attacks was because he spent so much time practicing with the Aons. He began to make a bridge between this world and the Dor, and because of that, he gave the Dor a slight opening into his soul. I imagine that he isn't the first one to suffer something like this during the ten years that Elantris has been fallen. Other Elantrians probably practiced with the Aons, and the Dor eventually destroyed them. When it was done, they simply became Hoed.
By finally using the Dor effectively, Raoden relieved a little bit of the pressure, letting the nearby buildup of the Dor (the one that he himself had created by practicing so much) rip through him and fuel that single Aon.
Originally, I had Raoden's conflict with the Dor continue on after this scene—I had it continue attacking him. In a later draft, however, I realized that I'd made a mistake. Raoden has other things to worry about in the upcoming chapters—he doesn't need the Dor attacks to create conflict and tension. So, after this chapter, the Dor attacks actually became distractions. I also realized that the way I'd set up the magic system, this chapter was probably the place where the Dor should stop attacking, since Raoden had fulfilled what he wanted it to do.
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.
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.
In a later draft, I added a bit of padding to this chapter—in particular, I included more explanations by Raoden regarding how he'd been trying to meet with Sarene. I was worried that I was pushing the bounds of plausibility too much with Raoden's false persona. One of the main reasons that he left Elantris was to see Sarene again, and it just didn't make sense that he would try to keep fooling her. Moshe noted this as well.
So, we have Sarene refusing Kaloo's letters, and not wanting to let him get her alone. Perhaps this is a little implausible as well—I can't see Sarene avoiding anything that smells of politics. Fortunately, Sarene is also far more impetuous than other 'political' character's I've used. I can see her sending away Kaloo's letter because of a mood, or simply because she thought he was trying to taunt her.
Either way, I had to find a reason to maintain the chrade through this chapter, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pull off Raoden's dramatic appearance in the next chapter.
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.
It may seem odd that Roial invites Kaloo to the meetings after just a short time. Remember several things, however. First, Sarene wasn't in the town for very long before she herself got into the meetings. Second, they're desperate for help and new perspectives. Third, Kaloo has been living with Roial, and Roial knew Raoden quite well. I'm not saying that Roial saw through the persona, but he undoubtedly sensed some of the same things in Kaloo that he liked in Raoden.
I hereby dub this chapter the official start of the Brandon Avalanche! Let the rejoicing begin.
On a more serious note, I'll get to some of the major events in the chapter in a moment. First, let's talk over some smaller annotations. I like the fact that Lukel doesn't like Kaloo—it seems like a perfect characterization for both of them. I will note, however, that Lukel has much better lines in this chapter than Kaloo does. His crack about Ahan getting sick by sheer laws of probability makes me chuckle every time I read them. Kaloo, on the other hand, spends all of his time trying to be honorable and true. Raoden is a good hero, but he can be dreadfully boring sometimes. Maybe that's why he threw himself into the Kaloo persona so eagerly.
There has been some confusion about Raoden's line "After I left" to Sarene right before they go back into the kitchen. Right here, he's getting ready to tell her that he's really Raoden. He is implying that, after he left Kae (and was thrown into Elantris) he didn't think his group of noblemen would keep meeting. It was supposed to be a subtle hint—Sarene would catch something too obvious, and I didn't want to weaken the drama of Raoden's appearance.
This is a very noble, and a very sorrowful, scene. A lot of emotions fly around in this chapter. Again, if I have done my job and made you sympathetic to the characters and their stories, then these emotions will come off as powerful drama. If I've failed, then all you'll get from this scene is melodrama. I hope it worked for you. I wanted Raoden's final revelation—and return to Kae—to be a dramatic and powerful event.
Originally, this scene happened with the Mad Prince, whom I'd built up as being deathly afraid of spirits and ghosts. When Raoden appears, Eton thought he was a ghost, and ran away. (Ha ha. Another pun off the original title of the book. I felt so clever—then cut it all out.) Anyway, on consideration—and in rewriting these scenes to use Telrii instead—I realized that Telrii's soldiers would never strike down Raoden. His nature as the true king of Arelon would be enough to send them all fleeing in surprise and worry.
Some people are very surprised by this chapter. It isn't the most narratively-surprising death I've ever written, but it was one of the more sudden ones. I'm sorry if you really liked Roial.
I wrote this book to be less of a 'violent book than some others I've written or read. However, on reflection, I realize that what I intended by this was to write a novel where the protagonists didn't rely on violence as much as they did on their wits. I didn't mean that I wouldn't let the bad guys be. . .well, bad.
(In addition, by the way, this is part of why Raoden and Sarene are such competent people. They don't have swords or magic to perform flashy fight scenes—so, instead, I gave them competence in relation to their personalities. In part, this is what amuses me by complaints that Raoden and Sarene are too flat as characters. Make a man the most brilliant swordsman ever, but make him emotionally incompetent, and you have a 'deep' character. Make a man incapable with weaponry, but emotionally mature, and he's flat. Go figure.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I don't think I'm particularly brutal with my characters. (I'm no David Gemmel, for instance. I swear, the body counts in that man's books. . . .) I am, however, realistic. People die in my books. Sometimes they're viewpoint characters. It happens. From a storyteller's viewpoint, I think it makes the tension more real. There IS danger for the characters. In a more philosophical bent, I think this makes the characters more heroic—they aren't protected from the consequences of their decisions. Even if those decisions are good. Choosing to try and overthrow a dictator like Telrii is a dangerous decision, and if the heroes are going to be considered 'heroic' for that action, then I have no right to protect them from harm. Doing so would take away the 'will' of my villains.
And, the body count grows. (Ha ha. One of them IS a count.)
I don't kill for shock value. I don't think that's a good reason to do much of anything. I kill characters because of consequences in the plotting. Eondel, unfortunately, was doomed the moment he decided to exact revenge on Telrii. He didn't have enough men to both get in and out of the king's chambers.
I think this is a legitimate reaction for Eondel, however, based on how his character. He was honest, straightforward, and he respected Roial a great deal. He knew that Raoden would never condone an attack like this, but he also thought that it would be best for the country if he killed Telrii. So, he went and preformed his 'assassination.' This is supposed to be a little ironic, considering the events and decisions of the last chapter.
So, one thing you should notice from this chapter is that Raoden no longer needs his book of equations to draw his face illusion. He's been practicing and getting better. A subtle hint, but one I decided to throw in.
I don't know if you, as a reader, have been imagining Sarene with short hair since her departure from Elantris, but this chapter fixes that. The heroine has her hair back—all is right in the world.
This chapter begins with an interesting scene. There's already a bit of tension between Sarene and Raoden. Nothing big, of course—but I think it's realistic. People don't always agree. Loving someone doesn't change the fact that you sometimes think what they're doing is flat-out dumb. It does, however, tend to change your reactions. And so, Sarene acknowledges that Raoden is acting like a king, not a friend, and lets the matter drop.
This highlights a difference between the two of them that I have pointed out earlier. Sarene was not raised to rule—Raoden was. That lifetime of preparation has changed the way Raoden sees things; it has made him look at everything in the light of how it effects his people. Actually, there is no 'Raoden the man' separate from 'Raoden the ruler.' They're tightly integrated.
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
If we were in Sarene's viewpoint here, we'd probably see her thinking about the time this very thing happened to her—at her wedding.
I think her speech makes some good points. However, I think the people of the city have also been through so much lately that they're ready to accept anything. The combination of moving speech and unresponsive crowd is what let them get away with making Raoden king. Honestly, so many people have been popping in and out of Elantris lately that I suspect the people of the city are beginning to lose their edge of fear. They know that the Shaod isn't contagious, and they now know that many Elantrians aren't dangerous. The would see the illusion drop, and finally make the connection between Raoden and the Elantiran Spirit that helped them distribute food.
In this case, hope overcomes fear.
I use this chapter as a strict triad chapter—it covers the same space of time as the other two chapters. With Sarene and Raoden running around together now, the triad system has been easy to forget. While I still start each chapter with the correct character, I often let the viewpoints intermix after that.
Again, this is intentional. After this last Hrathen chapter, I have the triad system break down completely. It's supposed to be a subtle indication of the chaos of these last few chapters. I'll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren't of the core three, which I hope with give the reader a sensation that something different is happening. The world, even the narrative structure of the book, is breaking apart. None of the old rules hold any more.
Okay, so I'm a prude. I'll admit that. I like my characters to be married before they have sex. Besides, Sarene is right—she deserves a wedding. She's waited since chapter two to have her big, princess's wedding. She deserves something official. So, Raoden and Sarene spend this night apart. Besides assuaging my moral sense of decency, it works much better for the plot to have them apart.
Notice that Raoden awakes here, much in the same way that he did in chapter one. I kind of wanted this chapter to call back to that one. Both chapters open with a slight sense of peace, followed by awful discovery. Both end with Raoden being cast into hell.
Oh, and yes, Elantrians can go unconscious. They can fall asleep, after all. The Elantrian brain is the one organ that continues to work very similarly to the way it did before the Shaod. So, taking a large amount of trauma can make it black out. The Elantrian won't remain unconscious forever—but when he wakes up, the actual physical damage will be there. That's why Raoden loses his sense of balance and everything gets fuzzy.
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.
It was essential to this chapter that I establish that Raoden can catch glimpses of what's happening around him. I went to a lot of work to get him into place above the city where he could make the connection, looking down on Elantris and the outer cities. The pool, actually, simply grew out of my need to find a way to put Raoden on the slopes of the mountains near the ending of the book. I like how it turned out in the final story—it added a dimension of mysticism to the Elantrian belief system, and it worked very well into the plotting I had developed. My only worry about it is that it was too far away from the Elantris, but we'll talk about that later.
So, this moment—where Raoden is nearly dead, looking down on the cities, and finally makes the connection—was one of the scenes that made me want to write this book. In each novel I write, I have some important scenes in my mind. They're like. . .focuses for the novel. They're the places I know I need to get, and they're usually very dynamic in my mind. In a way, I tell the rest of the story just so I can make my way to these moments.
This book had two main Moments for me. We haven't gotten to the second yet, but this is the first. I hope that you, the reader, arrived at the realization just as Raoden did. I've had a lot of trouble getting this balance right. Some readers figured out the secret early, while others (the larger group) didn't even understand what's going on in this chapter.
If it requires explanation, Raoden is thinking about Aon Rao. Then he notices that Elantris and the cities around it form a pattern—the exact pattern of Aon Rao. The cities form an Aon on the ground. At this moment, Raoden realizes why Elantris fell, and why the Elantrians went with it. If you haven't figured it out yet, I won't spoil it for you.
So, this is a SLIGHTLY contrived mechanic, and I realize that. I let Raoden off easily by having him simply choose not to be dissolved by the pool.
Partially, I did this simply because I couldn't think of a better way to get him out of it. In addition, however, I think it fits the form of the novel. The pool represents giving in—though it's giving in to peace instead of pain, it is still an admittance of defeat. I've mentioned over and over that the pain has no power against one who doesn't give in to it. I don't see why the peace should be any different. If you can resist one, then you can resist the other.
Besides, the image of Raoden bursting from the pool in front of Galladon and Karata was too good to pass up.
I'm honestly not sure what the pool is or how exactly it fits into the theory of this magic system. It was added as a plotting devise, as mentioned earlier, and therefore was never tied directly to the cosmology or theoretics of the world. When I do a sequel to this book, I think I'll try and find a way to tie it in. For now, however, it's kind of a loose thread. The only thing I know for certain is what I mentioned above. Just like the pain of an Elantrian, I think the peace offered by this pool is a supernatural force. It has something to do with the physical form of the Elantrians.
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.
Now, perhaps, you see why I was worried that I had Raoden too far up on the slope. In order for the plot to work, I had to get him down to the city in a hurry so that he could draw the Chasm Line.
If you think about pacing a little bit as you read this chapter, you'll see that a lot more time is passing between sections than I'm implying by the quick cuts. It probably takes Raoden a good twenty minutes of running to get down that mountain. Fortunately, I've established that Elantrians don't get out-of-breath.
He also runs, dragging the stick, longer than I imply. I think the pacing here is important to keep up the tension. However, if you draw the line, you'll see that he had to cross a good distance of land while dragging his stick.
So, my only worry about the climax here is that it's a little hard to visualize. Because I never quite got the map to look like I wanted it too, it's hard to see what Raoden is doing in this chapter. Essentially, he adds the chasm line to the Aon Rao that Elantris and its outer cities form. Because Elantris was an Aon, it stopped working just like all of the other Aons did when the Reod occurred. I've established several times in the book that the medium an Elantrian draws in—whether it be mud, the air, or in this case dirt—doesn't matter. The form of the Aon is the important part. By putting a line in the proper place, Raoden creates a gate that allows the Dor to flow into Elantris and resume its intended purpose.
This is the scene that made me want to write this book. It, along with the one I talked about in the last chapter, formed a climax that I just itched and squirmed to write. (That's always a good sign, by the way.) The central visual image of this book is that of the silvery light exploding from the ground around Raoden, then running around the city. Storytelling-wise, this is the one scene I wish I could do cinematically rather than in text.
I'm sorry for killing Karata. It felt like the right thing to do right here, even though my readers universally disagree with this decision. This is a very important series of events. If I didn't have any real danger for the characters, then I think earlier events—where characters did die—would come across feeling more weighty. Karata and Galladon throw themselves at a troop of armed soldiers. There was no way for that to end well.
(By the way, none of the readers have even batted an eye about Eshen's death. I guess she got on their nerves.)
Yes, Raoden lets the Dakhor monks go. That's the sort of thing that happens in this book. If you want something more gritty, you can read MISTBORN. (Which is gritty for me, though nowhere near the genius sadism of George R. R. Martin's books.)
I like having this scene from Lukel's viewpoint. If nothing else were gained from his other sections, I think the scene of the Elantrians emerging from the flames would be enough to justify his viewpoints in these last few chapters.
So, anyway, that's one major plot line finished. Elantris has been restored. Most fantasies, however, are about characters more they are about plot. I love great twists and revelations—but the book isn't over until the characters are fulfilled. So, onward.
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.
Now, I'd just like to note here that Raoden's just returning a favor. Sarene is the one who gave him the clue that led to his fixing the Aons, then finally restoring Elantris. Now that she's in danger, he gets to rescue her in turn. Just because someone finds themselves in danger or trouble does not mean that they themselves aren't competent.
There's really only one way this battle could have ended—Dilaf had to win. Raoden might know his Aons, but Dilaf has been a Dakhor for decades. Sarene has practiced fencing, but Dilaf is a warrior monk with a supernaturally fast and powerful body. It makes sense to me that this little battle wouldn't even be much of a contest. Both Sarene and Raoden are people who succeed not based on their ability to beat up their enemies, but on their ability to manipulate their surroundings. By having the heroes defeated in combat by the villain at the end, I think I give a final nod to my desire to write a book that didn't use violence as the solution to problems.
(Oh, and if you caught the reference to the word 'Skaze,' then good for you. The Skaze are a group that will appear in the sequel, when and if I get around to writing it. They're pretty much evil Seons.)
Well, Sarene finally gets her wedding. I hope the women don't kill me for showing it from Raoden's bored viewpoint rather than Sarene's excited one. However, there were a lot of things I needed to go over in a relatively short period of time here.
When I was younger, I always got mad at authors for having denouements that were too short. Perhaps I'd be angry at myself, if I were to read the book. (I've always wondered what Brandon the teenage reader would have to say about my current works.) Regardless, I've since become a fan of terse endings. I try to wrap things up thematically while still pointing out all the different ways the plot could go, if more were to happen.
Stories never really end. Any author will tell you this—we've always got more to say. That doesn't mean that there will certainly be a sequel to this book. (See below) It just means that the characters live on in my mind, and that I want to give a sense that the world continues.
Oh, and I apologize for the cheesy last lines of the chapter. The felt right. I keep trying to cut them, but a piece of myself knows that there's a place for cheese—and this it. So, they remain.
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.
1) Most people who read the book find themselves gravitating toward one of the three characters. Which was your favorite, and why? Did you find yourself disliking the time I gave to other characters, and if so, which one was your least favorite?
A lot of your works that are stand alone novels or seemingly completed stories, you have announced or started working on sequels for. Are there any stories that you feel complete and don't need to work on the same world or characters again? Or do feel there is always some new tale to tell about every world you make?
Thanks for being involved in the reddit community so much, and for writing books I've enjoyed very much.
It's hard, because the way I plot I always have to know what happened before the book and what will happen after the book. Knowing that doesn't mean that I have to continue. It's also hard, though, to say no to fans who are so passionate about a specific project.
The Vin/Elend story is most certainly done. As is the Raoden/Sarene story, as is Siri's story from Warbreaker. So there are completed threads. There might be other stories to tell in those worlds, though, so I'll avoid closing the door on them for now. (That said, it did feel very good to finish the Wheel of Time for good, and look forward to putting some of my own works to rest in a similar way.)