Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Prologue & Chapters 1-4

Prologue – Dragonmount has to be the part of the Wheel of Time I’ve read the most often. Readers are still scrutinizing it for clues. First appearances of True Power, Ishamael’s half-imprisonment, and more are subtly tucked in here. Most recently I’ve wondered if the bolt of light at the end wasn’t the Dragon’s doing at all. He asks for forgiveness three times before the bolt strikes from the heavens, a shining bar that lasts but a second and still scores a hole through the earth’s crust. Earth-shattering lightning bolt? Or divine intervention? Did Lews Therin call for a time out and get it? Was the Dragon able to summon the Creator? Does the end of an Age come when the Dragon hits the ‘keep spinning’ button? Does the Dark One win when the Dragon decides to stop pressing it?
The reader's head is left spinning, some first-time readers reportedly just skip the prologue because they have no framework to understand the references Lews and Elan are making. That’s what Ravens was for (see previous post). And the Glossary. I’d have been lost my first read through without the Glossary.
But assuming you have no glossary, or don’t want readers to step out of the story to look something up, the author has to establish the framework and setting of the story. That is what I’ll be looking at for chapters 1-4.
The Two Rivers is a remote farming community, and the subplots of these chapters evoke that feeling of insulation from outside affairs. A traveling performer in town is the highlight of the festival. They last saw fireworks ten years ago and everyone still talks about it. War is an unfamiliar word.  A lone rider in a black cloak is enough to draw attention because everyone has a strong familiarity with everyone else in the village. No one in the village has any authoritative knowledge about anything outside the Two Rivers.
The characters interactions also reveal that insulation from the outside: Egwene thinks of leaving the Two Rivers to see the outside world, a preposterous notion. It also means Rand would never see her again. Padan Fain is able to satisfy his ego by drawing out his news report. Thom makes fun of the boys for being ‘well-traveled’.
Farming is a familiar and understandable activity. Readers have no trouble understanding the setting and characters of the Two Rivers. We all know someplace that is in the back end of forever. The town I grew up in had this sign:
It's not the Quarry Road. If you look close the stripes show where they taped over the old 381 km sign.

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.

Writing Lessons:
Readers need a grounding with something they can relate to. It can be just a small thing, or it could be the entire setting, but familiar things will help them relate to the strange new world you’re introducing them to.


  1. What about that bit with Lews not sensing anyone around, so it would be safe to blow himself up there? Haven't really seen this ability come into play at all.

  2. You mean safe for others. Sensing people might be a special Dragon ability, or just a particular weave. I'm keeping my eye open for gut feelings and other 'true' senses to see if they have an in-story explanation. A weave seems the simplest explanation other than it being a gut feeling he had. I could reluctantly also ascribe some never again seen powers to explain the ability.