Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 42-46

In this section, Perrin becomes a Lord, and a villainess discovers Elayne and Nynaeve.
In what will become a familiar a scene, Perrin protests his treatment as a Lord and Commander of men. It all happens while he is recovering from a grievous wound, unable to stop it from unfolding. Scenes like this, where the hero is exposed to be vulnerable, are opportunities to remove their influence, and reshuffle the state of affairs if things were beginning to look too easy. Perrin has been in firm control of events up until now, and has managed to avoid making the worst blunders and minimize the damage caused by the mistakes he didn’t avoid. As entertaining as Perrin’s victories have been, his consistent ability to come out on top creates the expectation that he will always come out on top. A major mistake that bloodies him and shows that he can lose, and lose badly, is required in order for the reader to have genuine concern about the outcome of the final confrontation. Enemies test his defenses, more are hidden waiting for their chance to strike. Other enemies are invited inside the protective barriers, some allies may not be trustworthy, and Perrin is still weakened. Now, the reader should be properly concerned.
Similarly, the ‘Aes Sedai’ in Tanchico are moving cautiously, but remain in control of their situation. The numbers arrayed against them demand sure slow steps. Even so, a Forsaken stumbles upon them after Elayne makes a necessary fist of Air to save Egeanin. Moghedien is close enough or powerful enough to sense the channeling, and uses Compulsion when she investigates the disturbance. Even if Elayne and Nynaeve somehow defeat the Black Ajah, Moghedien is waiting to scoop them up, and seems like she can take them all too easily. Their defenses have been penetrated and scorned, and they do not even know it. Now, the reader should be properly concerned.  
The people of Emond’s Field and the Two Rivers are becoming familiar. A simple tag or two is applied to each that no other Two Rivers inhabitant has. A drunk, a liar, a mayor, a proud fletcher, a grump, a first kiss, horse-face, a ladies man, a beanpole, that nose, a bull-voiced teen, a woman big enough to lift Daise Congar, Daise’s scrawny husband, troublemaker, sour-face, a standard-bearer, a braggart. In short bursts, they say or do enough to be remembered by their tags. They interact with each other as much or more than with Perrin, telling far more about them. Perrin then cements their importance by remembering them from before the adventure started. They are no longer just quick pastiches, they are characters who have lived and grown. Perrin sees them as his family now, replacing his murdered kin, and an association is forged between his failure to protect them, and his desire to protect these living characters. The stakes of the next confrontation will be their lives, and Perrin’s associated need to make up for his murdered family.
Robert Jordan sometimes crafts lengthy sentences. Here is an example of one that uncharacteristically uses M-dashes, interjectory marks, to separate ideas instead of the traditional commas and conjunctions:
For a wonder, they bowed clumsily—Dav made an awkward leg, looking a complete fool—and murmured hasty apologies—to her, not him!—and turned to go.
In this case, the sentence structure allows the temporal order to be kept, and also the immediacy of the humour.
A sequence with Elayne and Nynaeve getting ambushed shows paragraph-length interjections. As a setup, Egeanin observes the goons preparing to ambush the young women and races to intervene. There follows a page of the young women blissfully ignorant of the danger, thinking of silk dresses, discussing their plans, concerned only about the pickpockets grasping at their pouches. Then, paragraph by paragraph…
Action: Bulky man strikes, Nynaeve cracks him upside the head.
Action: Second man strikes, Elayne conks him out.
Action: Seven more men surround them.
Action: Elayne and Nynaeve both embrace the True Source.
Interjection: they don’t dare channel.
Interjection: The Black Ajah might sense them. In fact trying to sense the Black Ajah is the reason why they are walking down the street in the first place.
Interjection: If they channel to drub the goons, the crowd would see.
Interjection: Aes Sedai are not popular in Tanchico. The crowd would know there were Aes Sedai and mob them, or carry the tales to the Black Ajah.
Action: No other choice, Elayne and Nynaeve stand back to back to defend themselves.
Action: The goon leader prods the goons to attack.
And the action continues for a page or so.
All of the information in the interjectory paragraphs could have been given up front before the action sequence began. It might even have made sense to the reader why the women were walking the streets alone. But it would have undermined their unpreparedness if there seemed to be a design to what they were doing. Imagine the scene rewritten as a pure action scene, the interjections condensed to a simple: And they dared not channel. Light! The immediacy of the fight would then become the focus. Any tension caused by the pause during which the reader finds out how dire things are might be lost. So in this case, the interjection serves to draw out the scene and increase concern, and also to give the information necessary to understand at a moment where it will increase the reader’s involvement, and not undermine the emotional impact of the scene.
Writing Lessons:
Heighten emotional impact on the reader by using interjections of duration and timing that best suit your purpose.

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