Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Great Hunt - Chapters 10-12

In this section, the quest, the Great Hunt, gets underway.
With no friends speaking to Rand, his mentors gone in a different direction, and his love interest perhaps never to be seen again, the stakes seem particularly high for Rand as he undertakes this quest. The dual quests, one for friendship, the other for glory, will be undertaken together, even as success in one may oppose the other. I particularly like the way these two motives leave Rand no choice but to chase after the villains, it is a powerful setup, a classic heroic quest.
Little clues indicate that retrieving the Horn is the greater of the quests. The description of humankind’s fate to be swept away by darkness without something to rally around provides a deeper understanding of the fractures between the nations of men, and gives a strong rationale for Ingtar’s drive and insistence.
Mat realizes Rand is not as stuck up as believed, and is determined to help heal him. Despite Rand’s apparent benevolence, Perrin and Mat give Rand similar advice: run away. Perrin adds, maybe he should also consider what to do if he can’t run. Rand’s options for running get fewer as Moiraine sneaks the Dragon Banner in his saddlebags and contrives for Rand to earn some leadership experience to prepare him for becoming king of Illian.
Moiraine, Fain, and Lanfear all seek to herd Rand in the direction they want. If Moiraine and Fain have the most control as the Hunt begins, Lanfear soon finds a way to get Rand on his own to offer him her own incentives. She spends some time tracking the party, and weaves a small trap to test Rand’s ability to channel saidin. Merely touching saidin is enough to break free.
Unlike the previous book, where Rand was unable to form the void properly, Lan’s training helps him perfect the ability, an ability that will help him touch saidin more easily. The Amyrlin showed some alarm about the void, or the Oneness, as the Gaidin call this common focusing technique, perhaps because she understood it might facilitate his channeling. The void has an added benefit: it masks Rand from Fain’s senses. Nothing else Rand was doing can explain his vanishing from the bloodhound senses Ba’alzamon bestowed on him. It also gives a clue as to how Fain can be eluded. Within the void, Rand feels no emotion. Does emotion play a special role in the battle between Light and Dark? Does the Oneness represent anything beyond centeredness and self-knowledge?
Fain’s struggle for control of himself, and the resulting battle for control with the Myrddraal, left a jagged trail across the countryside. Even if the Myrddraal was placed in command, Fain quickly overthrew its authority. The spirit of Mordeth gives him vast knowledge, great charisma, and apparent immunity to Shadowspawn powers, such that the Myrddraal managed only short periods of control over the Darkfriends and Trollocs. Fain is the ‘something worse’ that should have been evident to the reader before the increasingly disturbing clues are found. Since we already knew that Fain was as bad as they come, and gave clues about Mordeth’s cohabitation of his body, the payoff for this suspense had to come quickly. The sycophantic bleatings of the Darkfriends blend in well with the sounds of Trolloc slaughter of innocents, which might tell readers what the author thinks of self-preservation over duty and honour.
In a similar fashion as in the Eye of the World, learning about saidar provides clues, perhaps the only ones possible given the cast of characters, as to what the reader can expect Rand to go through as he too learns to channel the One Power.
In another similarity to the Eye of the World, three characters act as potential mentors, each with different degrees of trustworthiness: Moiraine, acting with too much secrecy and sneakiness to maintain the trust of the Emond’s Fielders; Verin, whose mannerisms and quirks may make her more appealing to those who have come to mistrust Moiraine; and Liandrin, untrustworthy but cloaked in the same veil of authority as the other two Aes Sedai.
There have been more Aiel references already than in the entire last book. The reader now expects Rand to get confirmation he is Aiel, and to learn more about these born killers. How close is the Waste from here?
Many of the channeling sections in this book and the previous one left readers confused, partly because we have no frame of reference to know this is channeling, partly because they are written to portray the confusion of the characters. I’ll analyze the infamous House of Flies scene:
We’ve already had one abandoned village where a woman in white mysteriously disappeared. They say Uno is jumping at curtains. A second abandoned village is entered. Curtains beat in an open window. The curtains are a cue to the reader to make the association with the previous village, to note that the situation is exactly the same, so they should expect… a woman in white who can’t be found. Instead, when Rand enters the dining room…
He blinks, and sees a scene from the recent past.
He blinks, and is in the present, cold, with louder flies on the table.
He blinks, and the scene from the past repeats.
He blinks, and is in the present, colder, with a lot more flies on the table. He seeks the void.
He blinks, and the scene from the past repeats.
He blinks, and is freezing, flies crawl into his mouth. He touches saidin.
The weave is destroyed.
It won’t be until Egwene dreams of the Woman in White a chapter later that the reader can confirm any suspicion that she was involved in the House of Flies scene.
This technique of gradual revelation builds suspense. It allows for a quick build-up as seen here, or a camouflaged longer term build-up as when Rand gradually began to channel in the Eye of the World. First, a danger is mentioned; second, a strong reminder; third, an immediate threat. A similar example is the unseen eyes on Rand, then Liandrin, and finally a fleeting image of the owner of those eyes. It’s like a variant of a joke in which you repeat the principal situation twice, and the listener knows that the third time you say it will be the time something funny happens. The material between each bit of revelation is less important than the space it provides between them, so that it is not as obvious as in the joke that there will be a third time, when the third time will be, and that a noteworthy event will take place on the third time.
Writing Lessons:
Some techniques to use for building suspense or laying groundwork for a future payoff are: repetition, gradual revelation, distraction using surrounding material, and spacing.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Great Hunt - Chapters 7-9

In this section, friendship, romance, and relationships between the main characters are explored.
This is a last chance to show the reader what the characters mean to each other before they go their separate ways. Most important is the romance that is not a romance between Rand and Egwene. These two feel a great deal of affection for each other, and share an intimate understanding of each other from the arranged marriage they’ve known about for some time, but they do not have the passion of young love. Rand offers misplaced chivalry that Egwene neither wants or needs. Egwene offers understanding and acceptance that Rand can’t accept for fear of putting her in danger.  In a typical storybook romance, they would overcome these obstacles and get together in the end. These two are already grown up enough to decide they can ‘just be friends’. The affection they have for each other will still be important enough that they will both make decisions based on it that land them in hot water. In the longer term, Egwene is one of the oldest friends, and most trusted people Rand has known, and this relationship should prove its worth in A Memory of Light.
Nynaeve and Lan have a more typical romance, with Moiraine acting as the woman keeping them apart, both with the Warder bond and the quest to defeat the Dark One that she and Lan share. Nynaeve will have to gain the ability to bond Lan by becoming Aes Sedai, and take up the same quest, in order to fully supplant Moiraine. For all of Lan’s awesome back-story and insurmountable abilities, he plays the role of the trophy husband. This story is about Nynaeve proving her worthiness.
Moiraine is married to her quest, keeping secrets from her best friend and leader, and preparing to take steps even against her sisters to see the quest through. Pushing Nynaeve towards the White Tower gets her out of the way, counters Red Ajah influence, and may give Rand some powerful allies in the long term. No wonder she jerked Nynaeve’s braid so hard.
While Rand ponders his feelings for Egwene, we learn that the Dragon’s former lover Lanfear is loose and looking for him. We’ll get a chance to see how unrequited love fares against lust and glory.
Both Perrin and Mat have large problems preoccupying them, but Rand is the only one with the full knowledge of what is going on. Rand condescendingly won’t tell them anything and tries to take actions that he deems are for their own good, so they resent him for acting as their Lord. Rand and Nynaeve both refuse to be used or pushed where others want to direct them, but they both have difficulty in giving their friends the same freedom to act that they would take for themselves.
Lan continues to act as Rand’s caretaker, giving him the last lessons on how to be a man, Borderland style: whatever comes, face it on your feet.
Many secrets get exposed: The Horn of Valere’s existence and theft are publicly acknowledged. Rand’s ability to channel is known, and discounted by the Amyrlin herself. Verin divines Moiraine and Siuan’s secret scheme to find the Dragon. Perrin gets a Delving from Leane.
A few small mysteries remain. Who was the umpteenth Darkfriend skulking in Fal Dara who shot an arrow at Rand? Did the Myrddraal, Fain, or Lanfear write the Dark Prophecy in blood on the dungeon walls?
 A seal on the Dark One’s prison is in Bayle Domon’s hands, and Darkfriends are after it. Bayle seeks refuge in the west, heading for Toman Head.
Writing Lessons:
Exposing secrets or feelings to characters of unknown trustworthiness quickly ratchets up the tension.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Great Hunt - Chapters 3-6

In this section, a host of secondary characters are introduced, and a major plot twist defines the quest.
Through viewpoints of Moiraine, Bornhald, Liandrin, and Fain, a dizzying array of plot elements and events are presented.  The reader learns the whereabouts of many secondary characters encountered in The Eye of the World, including Elaida, Elayne, Morgase, Child Byar, and Dain. We are further introduced to a multitude of new secondary characters: Liandrin, Ingtar, Siuan, Carridin, other Aes Sedai, Amalisa, and more. This would not have been possible staying within the main characters viewpoints. In order for later events to make sense, it was necessary to use other credible viewpoints to present information.
The major plot twist begins with learning the Amyrlin, Siuan Sanche, is Moiraine’s best friend, and she is heavily involved in the quest to find and protect the Dragon. The threat from her is replaced by a new one. With the Amyrlin’s backing, Rand would have nothing to fear from any Aes Sedai, except that Siuan’s hold on power is tenuous. Other factions within the White Tower seek to topple her, personified by Elaida and Liandrin, both of whom fit the Red Ajah stereotype of man-haters, bullies, and having poor social skills. Siuan is still stuck on bringing Rand to Tar Valon, which has now also become the objective of her opponents. In Tar Valon, Rand would be well and truly trapped, within easy reach of the Black Ajah. Liandrin wastes no time in trying to snatch the young men to carry back to the White Tower. Moiraine’s new quest is to get Rand and the Horn of Valere to Illian. The plot twist concludes with the theft of the Horn and Mat’s dagger. Rand will surely chase after them, but will that lead him to Illian as Moiraine hopes, or to Toman Head, as Fain has predicted? Wherever Rand goes, the multinational gathering of Darkfriends made it clear that people will be watching for him, and trying to set his path according to Ba’alzamon’s wishes.
Toman Head is where Hawkwing’s armies have landed. Rumour of their arrival has spread, despite efforts to conceal it. Bors keeps confirmation of these rumours from his Lord Commander Niall so that no one will oppose them. While the Whitecloaks go about trying to conquer Almoth Plain, the strangers will gain a foothold on the mainland, as per Ba’alzamon’s wishes. Their invasion will prove to be an important distraction to the nations of men while he rallies his own forces for the Last Battle. He crafted this plan for returning forces to divide the mainland’s attention a millennium ago! But Ba’alzamon doesn’t want it to be a complete secret: Liandrin raises the rumours to Moiraine, and is surprised at herself for doing so, as though she were under a Compulsion to speak of it, should certain circumstances arise. Is the objective to get Rand to Toman Head?
Fain could have been told about his role in this plot through dreams, or by the traitor who freed him. He is still a pawn being moved around at this point. He could have been told to leave the message for Rand, telling him where they will next meet. How else could he have chosen Toman Head? Was the Horn meant to be the bait, or did they know Rand would chase after the dagger, for his friend’s sake?
Funny how the first concern Siuan expressed to Moiraine was about their old ‘mentor’ Elaida. Elaida must really feel that she didn’t do enough to help Siuan and Moiraine reach their potential, or they wouldn’t be messing with ta’veren so irresponsibly. Elaida’s strength in the Power, her credibility, and her bullying manner as depicted in New Spring, are still enough to shake the confidence of the Amyrlin.
Are Aes Sedai pledged to obey the Amyrlin as Moiraine suggests? Past coups and later events would indicate that this pledge of allegiance is in custom only.
To introduce the concept that each Ajah follows certain philosophies, the first Aes Sedai of each Ajah met is a stereotype of that philosophy. Browns are learners blind to all else, Whites are cold and logical, Greens are fiery and emotional. It is a bit more difficult to show an atypical behavior for that culture the first time you meet them. Loial is an atypical Ogier, but even so he well represents the stereotypical Ogier.
A long-term plotline is sown, as Moiraine understands that proclaiming Rand to be the Dragon will not cause any less chaos and destruction than when any False Dragon proclamation has. Even success carries a cost.
Liandrin feels her skin prickle as unseen eyes watch her. None of it makes any sense until later, but this is Lanfear again
The White Tower, presumably led by Tetsuan at the time, Tetsuan who betrayed Manetheren out of jealousy, lost the last of the Seals in the Trolloc Wars. With epic fails of this magnitude, it’s no wonder the Reds can’t get a break.
Salvation, not glory. This prophecy about the Horn of Valere is bound to play a role in A Memory of Light, as well as this novel.
Writing Lessons:
Plot twists don’t just strike out in a new direction, they somehow make the situation worse.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Great Hunt – Prologue to Chapter 3

In this section, Rand has attracted the attention of powerful enemies. The cast of characters and the plot elements are revealed.
The threat from powerful enemies is aimed primarily at Rand, and tangentially includes his friends Mat and Perrin. Ba’alzamon has healed from his incineration at Rand’s hands. Wounds taken in the World of Dreams are inflicted on you when you wake up. Rand has repaid the scratches he received from their encounters a millionfold. Somehow Ba’alzamon escaped the World of Dreams before he could be killed. With clear indications that Darkfriends and Forsaken would pounce on any weakness detected in their fellows, Ba’alzamon must have found some way to heal himself that didn’t involve letting a Forsaken lay hands on him. Ouch!
Despite the raw burns still creasing his flesh, Ba’alzamon’s patience seems infinite. He lays out plans for his acolytes to direct the Dragon where he wants. Killing the Dragon is not the objective; he still wants to turn him. Having failed with direct intimidation, it looks like leverage is needed to make the Dragon bend knee.
Bors, a Questioner for the Children of the Light, is ordered to continue with his day job, to watch for the three young men, and to prevent word of the new arrivals on Toman Head from spreading. It’s all vague, so the reader is left pondering the mystery of what is happening there. The expectation is created that this secret will be revealed, and that it is related to the plan to turn the Dragon. Bors receives his most important orders in the form of Compulsion, a series of commands to be carried out only if certain circumstances arise. Orders too important for him to consciously know, and potentially reveal. Among them, let himself be killed if he meets a wolf, do not interfere with the Woman in White, if he encounters the Seanchan, they will know he is pledged to the Dark One, and will leave him be.
A more immediate threat comes from the Aes Sedai who may try to gentle Rand. The arrival of the most powerful person in the world, the Amyrlin Seat, results in Rand becoming trapped within the walls of Fal Dara.  Realizing he may be in danger, he distances himself from his friends, demonstrating his willingness to make sacrifices to keep them safe. The willingness to care for others, not simply protect them, could be the most important of the Dragon’s traits. His propensity to try overcome obstacles on his own may prove to be his greatest flaw.
In particular, the reader learns of Rand’s affection for Egwene. While he is uncertain of how to proceed, his enemies seem likely to try to exploit this relationship. I’ll keep an eye open for hints that later events are based on attempts to do exactly that.
While Moiraine has left Rand alone to his great annoyance, Lan has filled the void and taken him under his wing, perhaps sensing a kindred spirit after their successful adventure in the Blight. Mat and Perrin’s unusual circumstances are also summarized in a concise paragraph for each. In fact, where The Eye of the World dribbled information out sparingly, this book dumps the known facts about characters, history and the One Power on the reader in haste, eager to get on with the tale.
The last major character, Padan Fain, unworriedly reveals clues to Rand about the secret he’s been keeping. He says Mordeth knows more than all of them. Is it true? Mordeth should be able to sense Shadowspawn, such as those outside the city walls coming to free him. He can sense the three Two Rivers men. He has conferred with Ba’alzamon. He was able to open the Waygate in Caemlyn with Mordeth’s knowledge. He knows a lot. I’ll watch for things he knows that can’t easily be explained with the resources we know he has at his disposal. Sensing Aes Sedai or the One Power may be among those, but that could be part of Ba’alzamon’s distilling of the Dragon’s essence, knowing that he is likely to be able to use the One Power.
The wind blowing out of the Blight exposed Rand to some danger during the swordplay training. The wind carries an odor, while Rand has an image of an ‘old grave fresh opened’. Soon after, making his way through the yard, his skin prickles, the odor returns, he hears sly laughter, and unseen eyes follow him. The image is a description that does more than describe what Rand smells; it tells us what has happened. An ancient grave has just been opened, and the Forsaken walk the world again. Fearless, Lanfear has already begun stalking Rand.
Almost all of the character motivations and important plot elements have been shown. The adventure is starting up quickly.
Writing Lessons:
When presenting information that is crucial for the reader to know, present it concisely so it is well understood. Be less blunt for information the reader should be left wondering about.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Summary

First, a quick thanks to all who are reading this blog! The daily pace is grueling, but I swear I am still good for 6-7 posts a week.
I am writing it for several reasons:
- I want to reread the entire Wheel of Time before A Memory of Light comes out.
- I am an aspiring writer, and want to dissect the writing of one of my favorite authors to learn whatever I can.
- I want to ingrain habits that make me sit at the keyboard and write every day.
- I want to create, review, and reject many of the theories I’ve discussed with other fans over the last decade.
I hope it also serves your needs, whatever they may be. Feel free to comment, disagree, say ‘me too’, take the discussion to other forums, whatever.

A very brief summary of The Eye of the World:
The Eye of the World is a highly entertaining adventure story. The bits with channeling the One Power and the clues dropped that come into play several books later can all be happily ignored in favour of the immediate adventure. The thematic story consists largely of learning how you stand up to an evil that seems greater than you are. The answer is by finding your roots, sticking to your ideals, and overcoming doubt through sheer determination, perseverance and force of will. I can’t think of a much more human or more universal message than that.
I first read the Eye of the World in 1991, in college. The theme resonated with me, and I’ve often overcome obstacles in life by drawing inspiration from favorite characters such as Rand or Egwene.
In the Eye of the World, perhaps the most pivotal element of the novel is found in the story of the fall of Manetheren. Moiraine tells this story to disperse an angry mob. The story reveals the character of the Two Rivers Folk, but also serves as their inspiration through the trails they face. When things get hard, they march on like the armies striving to get back to Manetheren. The compassion they feel for each other stems from the blood price paid long ago by Manetheren. The reassurance that their steadfastness will be rewarded with freedom from the Shadow comes from learning how that was the origin of their own people and village. Lan is a child of Manetheren too, his own home of Malkier having succumbed in much the same way. Shienar seems poised for an equally devastating fall, and the flight of its people mirrors the Fall of Manetheren. To overcome doubt, to control the Power he wields, to confront evil, Rand finds resolve in the unyielding pitiless stone of Manetheren. Like the men and women of Manetheren, they do what they must then pay the price. So should we.
Tai’shar Manetheren!
I’ve abbreviated my summary descriptions for each 50 page block, and listed them below as a means of looking at the structure of the novel. These descriptions were done blindly, on the fly, so they could have been described otherwise, but I’ll work with what I’ve got. You can get a sense of the pacing of the book, the slow spots and tense spots, and exciting spots, and boring spots, even from such a short and undetailed overview. I look forward to seeing how closely it matches the structure of the series as a whole.
-The setting is established, the characters are well introduced, the idea of the set of mysterious strangers with unknown motives is placed, now the adventure can begin.
-The threat to the characters is revealed.
-The heroes act on the information they have.
-The heroes get their first chance to interact with the outside world.
-The heroes learn about the evil in the idea of the end justifying the means.
-For the first time, we get new points of view.
-The heroes begin to make their separate ways, gaining and losing allies
-The Heroes evade capture or death by keeping a low profile.
-The heroes evade enemies galore as they flee.
-The heroes score some victories, and things are finally looking up!
-The quest is tossed aside in favour of a new quest.
-Revelations, and a slight pause before the final battle!
-Enemies more powerful and numerous than any seen before are faced and defeated.

Writing Lessons:
Examine the structure of your novel, either in the planning, or after the 1st draft. When you have writer’s block, draw on Tai’shar Manetheren!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 48-53

In this final section, enemies more powerful and numerous than any seen before are faced and defeated.
In the last act of a story, the stakes are typically raised significantly. Any part that wasn’t full of action, was full of revelation. In terms of heightened danger, Rand once fled Trollocs, and now trounces a Trolloc army. He ran from lone Myrddraal, and now vaporizes a handful of them.  The group clashes with living trees and deformed blight-creatures. Strange new foes like worms and Forsaken are encountered.  And of course, Ba’alzamon is met on uneven terms that favour Rand for a change.
What makes all this possible is the Eye of the World. We aren’t told what it is until just before the final confrontation. Learning what it is sooner would have made it that much easier to guess that one of the boys, Rand most likely, can use the One Power. There were clues, but most of the build-up around men using the One Power has indicated they must be stopped. The reader has been told that a male channeler is a villain. The first time you read it, some events are perplexing. On a reread (or eight of them) it’s incredibly obvious each of the five (count them) times Rand uses the One Power in desperation, looking for some way to escape. His behavior perfectly matches Moiraine’s description of how girls learn. But we’ve spent the entire book thinking of him as a lucky hero. Now it turns out it was the One Power all along. Many of my complaints about missing a chance to explain the quest, turn out to have been purposefully done to conceal (or not admit) that Rand can use the One Power. This is epic fantasy, and we can all guess that Rand is the Chosen One, even as we play along with the mystery. While the intent is clear to me now, I think without the rousing bits of adventure and excitement, the payoff might not be worth the suspense.
So what is the Eye of the World? One hundred Aes Sedai used their lives to filter the taint away from Saidin, and place it in a well which came to be known as the Eye of the World. Beyond the Power itself, the Eye of the World has protections built in that allow one to channel more than they could unaided, like an angreal. Rand can’t already be at Aginor’s strength, or Ba’alzamon’s, so it must be that. The Eye of the World also is preferentially attuned to the Dragon, otherwise Rand would never have been able to wrest control from Aginor and incinerate him.  The Eye also places knowledge in the mind of the one who uses it. Up until now Rand has instinctively used the Power for simple applications, but is now able to Travel, make a sword of Power, and destroy opponents in various ways. Rand does a lot of spontaneous learning later, usually attributed to Lews Therin’s knowledge. I think the Eye of the World is an equally plausible means of explaining his ability to learn whatever he needs on the spot.
Perhaps most importantly, the Eye of the World overrides Rand’s actions and destroys every creature of Shadow in the vicinity. After broiling Aginor, Rand Travels to Tarwin’s Gap, and sees the forces of Shienar on one side. That is the last time his name appears for two pages, with one exception, after that he is simply called ‘he’. Everything ‘he’ does after, from decimating the Shadowspawn army until ‘he’ arrives in the room of stone faces, is impersonal, and not under his control. The Eye of the World shows him what it can do, and then, as Ba’alzamon confronts him, ‘he’ finds the void. In the void he finds Manetheren, the truth about himself, and free of doubt, Rand is now in full control.  
The use of doubt as a tool of Ba’alzamon and the enemy of willpower is well demonstrated. Ba’alzamon lies, exaggerates, takes undue credit, and dismisses every choice or conclusion Rand would make on his own, but for one: the choice to serve him. Everything he says could be true, yet Rand decides to trust himself instead of accepting that doubt back into his heart. His steadfast refusal to give in through all his trials has finally given him the Power to destroy those doubts for good, in the person of Ba’alzamon.  
The exception for Rand’s name appearing in the Tarwin’s Gap sequence is when the ALL CAPS voice speaks. We are told that it’s not Rand’s thought, but it is like a thought booming in his head. Whether it’s the voice of those who programmed the Eye of the World, or the voice of the Creator itself, it seeks a condition that is not met. It is not here, at Tarwin’s Gap. The Horn? The Dragon banner? Something else? It seems fairly certain that the Eye of the World was intended to be used at the Last Battle. With the condition not met, the voice packs up and leaves, giving Rand one last bit of help by sending him to the room of stone faces. Will the voice come back in A Memory of Light? Or is mankind on its own now, waiting for the Chosen One to do what must be done, if he so chooses?
Is the room of stone faces in the World of Dreams? Grudgingly, I must say that evidence indicates it is. How Rand manages to get there, leave there, and whether he was there in the flesh, is unclear. The Eye of the World drew him back when it ran dry?
As the group rode into the Blight, I couldn’t help but feel this was the end of Lan’s lifelong quest, and of his life. He has spurned Nynaeve, he alone has not yet passed the torch to the Two Rivers ‘sheepherders’, he can save Shienar to atone for surviving the end of Malkier, he wants to die fighting the Shadow, he has fulfilled his oaths to Moiraine. There seemed to be many reasons to believe he was a goner. As a blank canvas through much of the story, his origin and the choices he must make as Shienar faces destruction still pull at the heartstrings. Moiraine and Lan’s quest, begun in New Spring, partially ends here as they leave an empowered Rand free to go where he pleases.
The Blight is a bizarre ecosystem, where everything exists to kill each other. The Dark One really hates life. How does anything live there at all? They must spawn by the thousands, like insects or frogs. Or Trollocs. There’s no other way to keep that many living things around, is there?
The Green Man would have been a great resource to tell us about the Age of Legends, despite only being reliable for context, not facts. He gives some obscure clues about the Aiel origin and Wolfbrothers.
Egwene and Nynaeve’s enthusiasm about feeling Moiraine channel reveals their thoughts of the future in Tar Valon. Egwene is eager, Nynaeve is cautious and considering.
Nynaeve has more reason to be antagonistic towards Moiraine. Lan hardly knows which way to jump. Their budding romance was subdued enough that a reader hardly notices it, even on a reread. That may be intentional so as to not detract too much from Rand and Egwene, whose romance began uncertainly, and is ending a bit more certainly.
Sensing Mat’s dagger appears to be how the Forsaken found the Eye of the World. Is Shadar Logoth and Mordeth their ‘old friend’ because it betrayed Manetheren, even while it opposed the Shadow?
Almost the first words out of Aginor's mouth were to reveal that the Forsaken do not get along and will try to undercut one another. Aginor and Balthamel were mentioned by name earlier, but with little other context than they were powerful male Aes Sedai who serve the Dark One, and their names are used to frighten children. The confrontation with them was exciting enough to overcome their seemingly random appearance. A lot more could have been done to build them up. See my post on the Big White Book Chapters 2-5 for an awesome back story that is completely left out of this book. http://greatlordofthedark.blogspot.com/2012/01/big-white-book-world-of-robert-jordans_02.html
Writing Lessons:
Keep building up the thematic elements that are most important to your story, consistently throughout the story.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 44-47

This section is a time for revelations, and a slight pause before the final battle!
Moiraine finally learns and reveals how all those Trollocs were moving through the Southlands via the Ways. She also reveals what she has learned about Ba’alzamon from a bizarrely changed Padan Fain. Ba’alzamon’s abilities are increasing, first bringing Fain to Shadar Logoth and transforming him into a hound of Darkness, then to appear in Darkfriend dreams, then in anyone’s dreams, and finally send a flickering image of himself to his troops in the field. With this information, Moiraine’s bizarre hunch to travel to Shienar seems to have paid off. Just how badly are the seals on the Dark One’s prison failing? How much time is left? We’ll know soon.
Padan Fain is discovered to be a Darkfriend of the highest order, and of the foulest behavior. He claims to want to come back to the Light, but can he? We see few enough examples of repentant Darkfriends. Will this be a theme in A Memory of Light? I could see a few possible candidates to play such a role.
Rand, Mat, and Perrin are finally accepted as men, not boys. Once Moiraine reveals the role they are to play at the Eye of the World, even Agelmar concedes that his soldiers are but a diversion to protect them as they fight the true battle. They were young at the beginning, hardly fit to be let off mother’s apron strings, but I was still a bit surprised when Moiraine passes the torch of responsibility from herself to them. Rand catches on that although she is saying she needs them because they are ta’veren, the battle will involve the One Power, which implies one of the men might use it.
The journey through the Ways is surprisingly metaphorical. The heroes, still boys, passed from the land of their childhood through a timeless land of darkness and confusion, and emerge as men in a land of duty and war, ready to carry responsibility for others on their shoulders, ready to go into battle and oppose the Dark One.
In the Ways, Rand and Egwene have their flirtations with others revealed. For perhaps the only time ever, Egwene loses an exchange. Dancing with Aram was like flying with a bird.
The pledge made in Lan’s name in the cradle is strongly reminiscent of the Aiel scream of defiance that Loial told Rand about. Again, we are told that opposing the Dark One is not a matter of Power, but of will.  
Moiraine wonders who is controlling the weave of the Pattern, is it the Creator or the Dark One? This is particularly interesting when applied to servants of the Shadow. The Pattern could use its corrective ability to stop anyone from ever joining the Dark One. So either it doesn’t mind, or knowledge of the Dark One’s mere existence allows people to voluntarily join him, and by whatever connection to the Dark One they make, the Pattern loses the ability to affect them directly. The Dark One’s influence acts as a shield of sorts, allowing his creatures to ‘snip threads’ and limit the Pattern’s ability to auto-correct. The question remains, are Darkfriends and Forsaken agents of the Pattern, of the Dark One, or both?
Apparently many Trollocs speak human tongue. They talked so Fain could understand, arguing about the best way to cook him. Narg not special.
Fain had problems because the boys were separated and he was still compelled to seek out all three of them.  Will this situation persist? The three of them will spend scant time together, which would affect Fain’s ability to track them down. The fires of Ba’alzamon burned him whenever he tried to stop, he couldn’t stop to eat, he rested only when he fell from exhaustion. Will he be able to focus on just one of them? Will his secret encounter with Mordeth affect this compulsion? It seems he manages some control over this compulsion in the future books.
As an example of how an action sequence is built up, I’ve analyzed the journey through the Ways. With use of tabs, maybe we can visually see the increase in tension as the ideas are presented and the scene plays out. Tension increases as entries are pushed to the right by the bright orange boxes, see the link:
Writing lessons:
Action sequences have rhythms, notching tension up and down is part of building up the feeling of action and danger.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 40-43

In this section, all of the build-up around the quest to reach Tar Valon is tossed aside in favour of a new quest.
There have been several important reasons given to make the reader think that reaching Tar Valon might be the climax of this book:
- The Aes Sedai in Tar Valon can explain why Ba'alzamon is after the boys.
- Egwene must reach Tar Valon if she is to be taught how to use the One Power safely.
- The dangers the group faces have been barely overcome by desperate moves; more Aes Sedai means more protection.
- Moiraine has stated that her goal is to bring the boys safely to Tar Valon.
- The group has covered more than half the distance to Tar Valon, and spent over half the book on this quest.
- Other notable characters are traveling to Tar Valon: Logain, Elayne, Gawyn seem like surefire participants in a high stakes conflict to end the book.
- Mat needs Aes Sedai healing to be freed of the Shadar Logoth taint.
Balanced against that are the risk of Rand or Perrin being mishandled by the Aes Sedai due to their special abilities. In New Spring, Moiraine already considered this possibility regarding the Dragon’s ability to channel the One Power, and obviously feels confident there is no risk (readers do not yet know who the Amyrlin Seat is).
There is also the difficult obstacle of getting out of Caemlyn undetected by Ba'alzamon's forces in the countryside. The obvious solution is to join up with the other Aes Sedai. Moiraine's strength should allow her to travel with them while stonewalling any curiosity on their part.
So it is one of the first major surprises when she tosses the quest aside in favour of taking them to the Eye of the World. She could complete the original quest right now if she asked Loial to take them to Tar Valon by the grove and Waygate there. Why does she feel such urgency over stories that are years old? Do the boy's dreams and Ba'alzamon's threats make the danger so immediate that she must alter her plans? After 17 years of disappointments that must have shaken her faith, has she suddenly realized that the Pattern has taken a hand by making the boys ta'veren, and she should trust in that?
I feel that while a plot twist is all fun and good, this one comes off awkwardly. Moiraine can justify any action over another by saying it will oppose the Shadow better, but it’s just not clear to the reader what the Eye of the World is or why it matters more than reaching Tar Valon to either the characters or the readers. Moiraine still comes across as a bit of a flake, because she refuses to tell anyone what she knows, and leaves thoughts have spoken so as to imply menace without actually explaining what the menace is. If you had told me that it was actually the female half of the True Source, saidar, which was tainted, I’d point to Moiraine as proof that she’s been channelling too much.
Moiraine reminds the boys that the Dark One cannot make them his own, unless they let him. It's all a matter of denying him, and never surrendering, never yielding, for even a moment. The idea of unyielding opposition to the Dark One keeps coming up. It’ll play a role at the end of this story, and again in A Memory of Light, I am sure.
Odd to see Gareth Bryne and Morgase in the same old romantic quandary they will later be in with other people. Perhaps the author intended for them to remain an item, and later changed it? I normally am quite comfortable that Robert Jordan had meticulously planned the minutiae of the story, but the similarities with their later romantic plotlines are eerie. I'll just call it consistency of character.
Given how Elaida treated Moiraine as a novice because of her potential, can you imagine how she would have been overseeing Elayne, knowing the royal line of Andor is key to winning the Last Battle? Maybe the Amyrlin gave specific orders for Elaida not to meddle in novice affairs. Siuan and Sheriam should remember enough of their own misery to shield all the novices from Elaida, especially those showing promise.
Rand's resemblance to an Aielman is reiterated by Elaida and Gawyn, and even Loial. Everything Rand hears reinforces what Tam said in his fever. So many knowledgeable characters say the same thing, they can't all be wrong. Readers probably didn't need these additional clues, but when you have a point to make, use a hammer to drive it home. Since it pertains to the threat to Rand's identity, I guess it can't be made as subtly as when first introduced.
I recall theories and perhaps confirmation regarding the identity of the man who stumbled into a stedding to tell of a threat to the Eye of the World. Jain Farstrider? Noal Charin?
Was there anything particular during the War of the Hundred Years to make the Ways go dark? Just the usual Ba'alzamon influence? Something Guaire Amalasan did? Or just the passage of time?
I noted that Ba'alzamon claims the Black Ajah is two thousand years old. Were the Three Oaths originally given as a means of rooting out Darkfriends, only to be defeated a millennium later by the clever inclusion of the Fourth Oath?
Writing Lessons:
Make your important points more strongly, save subtlety for clues and lesser points. A plot twist has to be believable to work, lay the clues and rationales for it ahead of time. Subtly.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 35-39

In this section, the heroes score some victories, and things are finally looking up!

The reader can't help but feel relief when the boys finally reach Caemlyn. The Queen's Blessing provides more than just shelter and refuge, the innkeeper and Ogier allow Rand to finally trust someone again. Rand needed some way to bolster himself, as Mat has become a fun-sucking paranoid. The paranoia has helped them get this far by avoiding pursuers through caution. Could they have made it this far without Mat's mistrust? It can't get them much further, as Mat has confined himself to his bed. Mat's bleak outlook helps drive Rand to confide in the Ogier. Mat’s grim readiness to quit serves as a means to show Rand's ability to be patient and caring, and to reaffirm his determination not to give in. I can't help but feel this ability is key to the Last Battle. With the burden of his plight shared, Rand seems to find enough emotional support to gather his strength and maintain hope that Moiraine is still coming, and has the others safe with her.

Adding to the reader's feeling that things are looking up, we learn that Thom may not be dead after all, and are led to believe that Andor's Queen Morgase is a good ruler, and that Caemlyn will provide refuge from the dangers they’ve encountered on the road. The Ogier provides some comic relief, which has been in short supply since Baerlon. We certainly haven’t had so much of it in such a short time.

The rescue of Perrin and Egwene provides more uplifting action. Instead of a grim race to survive a Trolloc attack, we see some deserving comeuppance laid upon on the Whitecloaks. Justice, and a happy reunion make for a pleasant counterpoint to the grimness of the long flight across Andor.  

When we are first told about Queen Morgase, all expectations are that she is good, and may even be a source of aid, even indirectly though her fairness towards her subjects. Later, we learn that her links to Aes Sedai are undermining her rule, and she’s been unfair to Thom, choosing the side of the Aes Sedai over her rumoured lover. Which of these expectations is the reader most likely to believe? Is she a good ruler with some bad influences, or is she an Aes Sedai apologist with some good attributes? I think first impressions will usually stick with the reader, and being presented as a wonderful Queen before revealing her potential entanglements will significantly affect the reader’s feelings towards her.
Similarly, presenting Elaida as a source of discord in the city heavily influences perceptions of her, even if you haven’t read New Spring yet. She could hand Rand the solution to all his problems on a silver platter, and the reader would still have misgivings about her.
Another oblique reference from New Spring, Rand has read the ancient book Essays of Willim of Maneches, which Moiraine has also studied in New Spring (though spelled slightly differently). Moiraine has a formal education, Rand’s is self-made. For a country bumpkin, Rand has made good use of the limited tools at his disposal, and as result, he may be better equipped for some of the tasks ahead of him that others would consider above his station. The idea that merit and ability, not station of birth, should be the determinants in who is empowered to take action or to make decisions will come back frequently.
In Caemlyn, Ba’alzamon is down to his most subtle and weak servants, mere rats, as the last tools at his disposal to find the boys. He must be angry.
The Ways are introduced briefly, as a matter of making Loial’s later reference to them more believable. He’s talked about his knowledge of them twice already. When he hands the group a solution to their later problem, it’ll be easier to accept.
Did Moiraine use the One Power as a weapon when rescuing Egwene and Perrin? Even if Lan was in danger, wouldn’t she have to believe she needed to act to save his life in order to start saturating the area with lightning strikes? Is it even possible for her to believe there’s a situation he can’t handle? Imagine an Aes Sedai who chooses buffoons as warders so she can send them into danger and be free to protect them with the One Power! By the bond, she can even force them into menacing situations and then blast his opponents! I suppose the restriction on using the One Power as a weapon wouldn’t prevent her frying the horses with lightning. If you extended the Oath to every living thing, you’d soon be boxed in. Could she stretch it enough to include Egwene as a sister and be free to toast the Whitecloaks? Can she intend to miss the Whitecloaks with lightning but just be a really bad aim? There is some question over whether she hit a few tents or not.
With the relieving of a lot of the tension, some new threatening ideas are proposed. Ta’veren have fewer choices than most men, but the Pattern allows free will to dictate the course of your life unless it needs to use you otherwise. For the ta’veren, it seems like their choices are largely dictated, and the more ta’veren you are, the less freedom you have. Even though events conspire to lead the Dragon to the Last Battle, in the end he will have to choose to save the world. We’ll get back to this at the end of this novel.
Rand is surprised that Loial ‘believes’ in the Pattern. I had previously discussed in the Big White Book the oddity that the entire population takes reincarnation, the Dark One, and the Pattern as truth, despite a complete lack of evidence and apprehension at the best sources (Ba’alzamon and Aes Sedai) that could support these ideas. At the least, I’d expect competing ideas to have emerged, but the best we get is that you can join the Dark One if you don’t find the Pattern compelling enough. This discussion with Loial seems to imply that there are Pattern atheists who regard the whole thing as superstition.
Despite overcoming some obstacles, we are reminded by the beggar and the False Dragon that there are other obstacles yet to overcome. Is Ba’alzamon linked to the False Dragon? We’re being shown that he’s the most dangerous person yet encountered, he’d make a formidable opponent by book’s end. Rand is going to Tar Valon, and so is Logain. I can almost see how the rest of the book is going to go down: anticipation rising! We’ll wait to see how it gets dashed.
Most surprising to me is that Nynaeve has an ability which is similar to Foretelling, if not Foretelling itself. Foretelling has always been expressed as speaking of future events, and the manner of it differs from woman to woman. You don’t know why you know, and you don’t know how you know, but you know and you give it voice. Nynaeve’s ability is often referred to as Listening to the Wind, because she gives eerily accurate predictions of the future, usually weather related, though we’ll later see her talk of storms that are not weather related. In this instance (end of chapter 37), Nynaeve knows that if they leave riding double, they will be caught and killed. She compares it to Listening to the Wind, and is disturbed by the certainty of her foreknowledge. Aside from speaking aloud, this is exactly what a Foretelling is. I’ll remember to examine her later ‘feelings’ and see if they could be called Foretellings.
Writing Lessons:
First impressions stick. What first impression are your characters giving? Is it the one you want?

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 33-34

In this jumbled section, Rand and Mat evade Darkfriends galore as they flee across Andor.
A variety of countryfolk are encountered, which give the reader an appreciation for daily life in Andor. We see innkeepers, farmers, bartenders, soldiers, travelers, a farmgirl, and more, all going on with their daily routines. Some people are good, others bad. As the boys get closer to Caemlyn, the villages get larger and less rural, until farms continuously blanket the countryside. They will soon be entering true civilization. We get many hints that things are a bit off in the villages due to the harsh weather, varied peculiar misfortunes, and the excitement about the False Dragon Logain being brought to Caemlyn.
Ba’alzamon has turned to Darkfriends, figuring they are best suited to find the boys and signal a Myrddraal to fetch them. Time and again, the boys elude them. Rand is beginning to find some strong resolve as he states “We’re not going to lie down and let them take us.” He’s been tired, frustrated, scared, desperate, and many other things so far, but faced with a human foe that is less menacing than the others he’s faced, he strikes back and shows determination.
Rand’s dreams are of the normal variety, it seems, given their short description, lack of detail, and nightmarish qualities. Ba’alzamon or Myrddraal appear in some dreams, but there’s nothing convincing about them. Thom appears in a dream telling Rand the Dragon is one with the land and the land is one with the Dragon. A message from the Creator or the Pattern? Or just a remembrance of something Thom said?
Andor is large, so this travel takes up a number of chapters. In other travel sections for the other characters, the author has not told the travel chronologically, but focused on a particular aspect of the voyage in each paragraph, such as the plants, or how the nights were spent, or the type of discussions they had while walking. The summary of the voyage usually lasted a couple of pages then went back to linear storytelling when they had made a significant encounter.
For the Rand and Mat sections, everything is told out of order over several chapters, and it is confusing. The repeated dialogue of the farmer who gives them scarves, and meeting Hyam Kinch after spending a chapter in discussion with him leave a reader perplexed as to when events happened. It might be that the intent was to give the feel of how the days on the road blend in with each other. Rand does feel like his sense of time is getting skewed by the time they reach Carysford. Here’s how the events unfold chronologically (numbers) and the order in which they are presented:
7? They watch the road
 4 A farmer gives them scarves
 8? They hide from riders in a hedge
1 The long road from Whitebridge (working farms, the Grinwells, playing inns)
2 Mat is blinded as they escape the Dancing Cartman in Four Kings
10 They leave Hyam Kinch’s wagon
3 They sleep in the rain
4 A farmer gives them scarves
5 Paitr finds them in Market Sheran
6 Rand is sick when a female Darkfriend assassin strikes
9 They get in Hyam Kinch’s wagon
11 They walk to Carysford
12 They avoid a Myrddraal in the last vIllage ,and hitch a ride with Almen Bunt
13 They reach Caemlyn
Another thing accomplished with this reordering , is that a quick two page description of the typical efforts the boys make to avoid detection is given immediately. The rest describes how the boys came to take such serious efforts in the first place. I don’t know that it is particularly effective or more engaging to the reader this way. Of the many events in the book, one of my clearest memories was how messy and confusing this part of the story was. It’s still true on a reread.
Writing Lessons:
If you’re going to deviate from straightforward linear storytelling, have a good reason to do so.    

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 29-32

Eye of the World 29-32
In this section, the Heroes evade capture or death by keeping a low profile.
The menace in these sections is quite a bit less supernatural, as the worst to contend with are ravens, soldiers and the local toughs. This is partly done to keep the opponents at a level the Heroes can defeat or escape on their own, now that they’re separated from their most powerful allies. In-story, the rationale is that Trollocs are better suited for wilderness missions than for searching the numerous villages. The river also provides a barrier preventing these powerful foes from continuing their pursuit. Those Trollocs must have been under tight control to just let various characters go when they were identified as not-the-boys instead of just killing them. A consequence of being linked to the Myrddraal? They become more versatile, but less capable of deviating from their instructions?
Killer flocks of ravens are nothing to treat lightly however. Elyas notes that something big is underway for this type of Dark activity so far south. Once the ravens fail to find anyone of interest wandering the hinterlands, Perrin and Egwene should be safe from further peril. Except for the Whitecloaks.
Perrin is the first of the boys to start thinking about taking responsibility for more than just his own fate, and considers his options if his worst fears come true. Bit by bit, we’ll see all the main characters thrown into this type of situation, where the lives of others are in their hands. The whole world will be directly in Rand’s hands eventually, and he’ll be wrestling with the same issues Perrin is facing in the race to the stedding.  Elyas’ statement about when to throw the axe away is about Perrin’s worthiness to make such decisions, and whether the people he makes decisions on behalf of would accept them.
We get some mild confirmation that Ba’alzamon wasn’t necessarily lying about his influence on Artur Hawkwing, as it relates to his aggressive stance against Aes Sedai, even on his death bed.
When your two characters face the same menace, they stand together, and the reader feels a bond between them. But offer each of them a different fate, like Egwene being able to repent her sins while Perrin has to face the hangman, can instill tension between the characters. Will Perrin tell her to take the escape offered? Would she do so? Would she find out it was all a ruse and she’s mounting a block right next to Perrin in Amador? A similar wedge is being driven between characters with Perrin’s secret Wolfbrother abilities conflicting with Egwene’s desire to become Aes Sedai. Rand’s abilities will drive the largest wedge of all between the characters. Menace from outside is exciting, but menace from within affects the characters more deeply.
With the advantage of having read the whole series and understanding Rand’s abilities, his lightning blast escape from the Dancing Cartman seems far less bizarre. I won’t talk about Rand much, because I need to finish a perplexing few more chapters before I talk about linearity of events and what happens when you deviate from it.
On a tangent related to writing, as a writer I want some protection for my creations, but my desire for reams and reams of information to inform my writing, to use as reference material, and for the pure joy of research far outweighs that. I strongly oppose the SOPA and PIPA law projects for the destruction they would wreak on valuable human cooperative endeavours such as Wikipedia or other creative commons projects. The ideas behind these laws are still dormant in myriad other initiatives sitting on bureaucrats’ desks, waiting to be spawned. Bureaucracy is a Goat With a Thousand Heads. It won’t budge, it keeps coming back, it craps all over the place. I will stand against these Shadow-spawned law projects, and oppose any similar proposals, and I hope you will too, wherever you live.  
Writing Lessons:
Look for natural wedges or conflicting desires that can be used to drive your characters in different directions. Fight the Goat.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 25-28

In this section, the heroes begin to make their separate ways to Caemlyn, gaining and losing allies.
Perrin and Egwene have found a mentor-type character to guide them. Elyas proves to be a fount of information on the world, gushing out little known facts about Maidens of the Spear, Wolves, Traveling People, and almost something about Aes Sedai, but no, he just doesn’t want to talk about them. Raen could have served this role easily, so it seems Elyas’ main reason to appear is to introduce the wolves. Ba’alzamon is mildly surprised Perrin has Wolfbrother Powers, and claims to know something of them, maybe just from haunting the World of Dreams so often, maybe because some cursory knowledge of them still exists.
To spare us wondering whether this Wolfbrother stuff is real, Perrin becomes the ominiscient narrator of the inner lives of wolves. Perrin feels it, therefore it is fact. Presenting the wolves’ biographies and feelings in this manner saves the author some effort, and makes comprehension simpler for the reader. When Perrin later deals with human scents, his understanding is never as clear as when feeling what the wolves feel. I should compare to see if the later wolf scenes flow as smoothly and clearly as these scenes do.
Elyas gets a funny feeling that he has learned to trust. Fantasy books are overrun with these fortuitous feelings and dreams. At least Nyaneve Listening to the Wind, Lan smelling the traces of a Myrddraal, or Moiraine tracking the magic coins she gave the boys all have some semblance of explanation with the One Power. What gives Elyas his sudden trustworthy feeling? Is it a reaction to Perrin’s dream? How does Raen read the sky and abruptly decide to change directions? Is he reading omens like a Seanchan might?
Similarly, does Moiraine muttering about the Dark One’s gaze on the world and her assessment that he is still watching mean she has some way of sensing it? It appears to be particular weaves she’s learned, but is this something fairly unique she’s picked up or do most Aes Sedai have these same weaves and just choose to not pay any attention to it? If she wasn’t being elevated as the Great Know It All to the reader, it would veer towards making her appear to be a flake, or a fraud.
With Perrin’s Wolfbrother powers, all three of the boys now have cause to believe they are the one the Dark One is seeking (remember Mat’s connection to the Old Blood). And while the reader has been led to believe that Rand is Ba’alzamon’s intended target due to his prominence at the beginning of the book, this sudden focus on Perrin might be enough to make them second-guess that assumption. More conspiracy-theory prone readers (like yours truly) may note that Mat has no point of view chapters, and wonder if the other boys are the diversion, and Mat is the true target. We’ll later realize that revealing  Mat’s point of view now would ruin the secret he’s keeping alongside that dagger under his coat.
Once Thom explains how Owyn’s death led him to help the boys with their Aes Sedai troubles, there really doesn’t seem to be any further reason to keep him around. The boys can be put in greater danger by removing their last mentor character. Thom’s apparent purpose has been served, and he died well, demonstrating that characters are at real risk of death. Just ignore future books for this discussion. 
Robert Jordan often makes a description do more than simply describe, it also reveals something about the object or person being described. I have two short examples.
In an entire paragraph describing the colors of Tinker wagons and the domestic chaos of the children, he concludes with: ‘They looked like butterflies in a field of wildflowers’. We don’t yet know about the Way of the Leaf, but this description is already preparing us for that revelation. What could be more harmless or less violent than a butterfly? The comparison to butterflies was  done to serve more than one purpose.
Elyas’ cloak is called ‘a crazy quilt of rabbit and squirrel’. There are two words in there that are associated with erratic behavior, which Elyas demonstrates as soon as he opens his mouth. The choice of adjectives and nouns introduces the concept that Elyas doesn’t behave like normal people do, even before we’ve seen any of that behaviour.
Writing Lessons:
With so many words to choose from, use the ones that best introduce or reinforce the concepts you want the reader to get.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 20-24

For the first time, we get new points of view: Perrin and Nynaeve. Each is told in a third person limited narrative voice, common in fantasy novels, which has the advantage of familiarity and letting us get to know these characters better.
When your party splits into different groups or a character peels off from the main group, you can leave what happens to one group mysterious by not following up on them at all. This allows you to focus on the story elements you want, and continue telling your story linearly. But you run the risk of a reunion like this: “Rand you’re alive! Guess what? I learned I can talk to wolves!”  “Just in time Perrin, we need some wolves right about now!” The alternative is to split the narrative, following one group, then another, in whatever proportion you see fit. You’ll be better able to make the reunion realistic to the reader, but at the possible cost of slowing the story down. You have to balance what the split narrative brings to your story with what it takes away from the story. Many readers felt Robert Jordan took the splitting of narrative to an excessive level in later books, but he said it had to be done to make the story believable.
One thing a split narrative allows you to do is hide clues or secrets in plain sight. My first example is how Moiraine describes in excruciating step by step detail how a natural-born channeler begins to use the One Power and the accompanying symptoms. In the preceding chapter, a tied-down ship’s boom is mysteriously undone, saving Rand from a Trolloc. Three chapters later in another narrative, Rand is giddy and reckless atop the ship’s mast. Rand has been shown doing all the things that a channeler would do if learning to use the One Power on their own. But since it is not shown in the same context, and is in a different narrative, readers may not immediately realize it is the same thing that Nynaeve went through. Moiraine’s explanation to Nynaeve may have been the only means available to explain in-story how men begin to channel. I suppose they could have met Logain, but that would have quickly resolved any mystery around Rand’s erratic behavior.
Another example is a particular burnished steel tower noticed on the flight down the Arinelle aboard Spray. Had this been the first and only strange thing pointed out, it would stick in the reader’s memory. But first, we had Shadar Logoth, then Perrin and Egwene see stone ramparts, then a stone tower, that are both very old and mysterious, before Rand sees a mile of hundred foot tall statues lining the riverbanks, and finally the steel tower. And then we get a handful of even more fantastical structures described by Bayle Domon. The idea of old structures, even magical structures, had been placed in the reader’s mind earlier. When the characters are shown another old structure in a series of them, it doesn’t draw special attention, but it adds consistency to the world, and makes it more believable. If there’s a place it didn’t work so well, it was at Shadar Logoth itself. I doubt there are very many cursed abandoned cities in the world, so when one just happens to be close when you need it not ten days out of your village, it is difficult to lay a foundation for that ahead of time. Not wasting a chance to prepare us for the future long before we need it, Bayle’s descriptions introduce heartstone, the museum in the Panarch’s palace, and a sa’angreal on Tremalking.
Rand’s dreams fall in some weird category where it’s not clear who started the dream, whether it’s in the World of Dreams proper, and how Ba’alzamon finds his dreams. Was Moiraine’s coin providing dream protection?
Up until now, we’ve been led to believe that the full complement of Aes Sedai at Tar Valon, and the Amyrlin Seat, are strong enough to fix any problem. Elyas then hints that the Aes Sedai are not as powerful as thought, and there are things that make them nervous. He eluded them after all. And they don’t understand what Elyas is. He also is the first to name the Black Ajah, before we’re even clear on what Ajahs are (if you didn’t read New Spring, that is).
Funny how Moiraine vastly underestimates what Forsaken can and cannot do. Moving a thousand Trollocs? Ridiculous. She offers no alternate possibilities.  Also, aside from brief descriptions of Forsaken as channelers serving the Dark One, Dreadlords, we’ve been told little about them.
Notice how Rand and Mat make the mistake of giving away their coins from Moiraine before we are told it is a mistake. Do you think it would work better if Moiraine had revealed to Nynaeve how she tracks the boys before we see the boys hand their coins away? Do you think the reader feels exactly the same emotions in either case? Is one way more horrific? Does the other way create more tension?
Similarly, when they get separated, the character the reader is supposed to worry about is Egwene. Rand wishes he could have helped her, Perrin loses track of her, Moiraine can’t find her. Was this the right choice of character to have the reader focus on? Would you have cared as much had it been one of the others?  
Writing Lessons:
Suggest what is possible, so that when you pull it out of your hat, it is plausible to the reader. Know what you want to accomplish when you split your characters up.