Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Spring Chapter 1

New Spring was first published in the Legends Anthology in 1998, before the Path of Daggers came out. Later in 2003, it was released on its own with an additional 200 pages of material placed at the front. New Spring the Novella was meant to stand on its own. New Spring the novel was also meant to stand on its own. This prequel essentially added a prequel to itself! For these reasons, New Spring feels structured differently than a typical novel.
We often talk about Jordan’s ability to pack plotlines into the story, so I took a bit of extra time to look at a single chapter in detail, a chapter I found a bit dry, to see what was going on technically in the story. I came away a little amazed at how densely the subplots are packed together in Chapter 1 “The Hook”. The best way to present this is visually, so I laid it out in a spreadsheet which you can hopefully access by clicking this link.
The spreadsheet should be self-explanatory, but nonetheless here is a brief explanation. For each paragraph in the chapter, I have briefly described the main action taking place, and in other columns briefly described the information relating to each of a number of subplots I identified. I am sure you can find more subplots, or order them differently, but the point of the exercise is to look at what the authors is doing, and where. It is surprising to see plot points that will be touched on later in the story already being gently and unobtrusively placed.
I found that for this chapter, roughly ten paragraphs each would be consecrated to a subdivision of the main plot. Lan tours the camp; Lan and Bukama ‘debate’; a messenger arrives; they race to the Hook; the Aiel arrive; the battle is avoided. Meanwhile, larger plotlines are barely touched on but groundwork is laid here. All of Lan’s Malkieri behavioral codes make more sense later in the story after we’ve seen what his honor dictates he should do in this ‘simple’ situation.
Even more amazingly to me, I found that almost every single paragraph told the reader something about the Milieu, an Idea, the Character(s), and the Event (The MICE quotient, from Orson Scott Card if I recall correctly). Every paragraph? Heck it might even be every sentence. This doesn’t happen accidentally, writers, you must have to be thinking of it.
I’d like to try this grid analysis again on a later chapter if time permits.
Writing Lessons:
Are you fitting as much (or as little) as you want into a sentence, paragraph or chapter? Be aware of opportunities to lay groundwork for later understanding and avoiding the dreaded info-dump.

No comments:

Post a Comment