Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Winter's Heart - Chapters 11-12

In this section, Rand and his girlfriends embrace their three-pronged romantic relationship.

An important element of the series is how Rand and three women come to share their affections. Rand is reluctant to accept the love of any woman at all, having gone out of his way to avoid endangering them with his presence. He rightfully knows that his enemies see his love as a weakness to be exploited, and thus avoids feeling any love or warmth towards anyone. Elayne, Aviendha and Min all have to find a way to get Rand to accept and return their love, but also to avoid feeling jealousy towards each other.

Romance is difficult enough to portray, so trying to show a three woman to one man romance requires either establishing the situation and motivations convincingly or using some other tricks to prevent the reader’s disbelief. In this case, Jordan once again opts for humour, using Nynaeve’s distraught reaction to acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situation. The emotional reaction to the humour overrides the immediate logical reaction that the four-way romantic situation is highly unlikely.

But even Nynaeve’s funny reaction isn’t funny enough to simply be thrown into the discussion and distract the reader; the humour is built up prior to that by having Nynaeve in a number of other uncomfortable situations, of which learning about Rand’s live life is the last straw. First she must endure an hour of teaching the Sea Folk, badgering from Alivia and the Kin, and a misunderstanding with Talaan, all of which build up the expectation that events are getting out of Nynaeve’s comfort zone. Subtle phrases set up the distraught reaction later: Having a husband meant that she did not have to share a bed with another woman, or two, and it gained her a sitting room.

An emotional reaction will always trump a logical one, but some readers will have a negative emotional reaction to some topics no matter what tricks or convincing prose are used to try create a different emotional reaction. Sex, love, death and morally difficult topics will always be difficult for some readers, so if your story is going to include such an element, the best you may be able to do is sway readers in the middle into accepting the story element.

When the characters recognize the ridiculous nature of the situation, the reader is complicit, and instead of feeling like they’ve been left out of the story, they feel included. They know their concerns are being addressed, and they will read on to see what happens next.

The women’s willingness to share Rand is an acceptance that Rand does not belong to any of them alone. In this respect he represents the Light itself. When the three women bond him, they feel his love returned. The chapters in Caemlyn opened with a couple of descriptions of the taint, its foulness tainting Rand, Lews Therin’s mad cackling representing his uncertainty about his feelings but it ends with descriptions of warm feelings. The women’s acceptance of Rand’s shared affections, and his acceptance of their affection changes the negative feelings depicted at the beginning of this section into positive feelings.  

Rand’s excitement over the bonding with all three women is presented in metaphor: He spun around, wine sloshing out of his cup, more pouring from his pitcher before he could bring it upright. With a muttered oath, he hastily stepped out of the spreading wetness on the carpet and put the pitcher back on the tray. A large damp spot decorated the front of his rough coat, and droplets of dark wine that he tried to brush away with his free hand. Very satisfactory.

Nynaeve’s training of the windfinders makes excellent use of imagery to describe how she strikes and counters attacks. Were they using swords instead of weaves, the descriptions of parrying and deft manoeuvring of weaves would be just as apt. Piggybacking on existing imagery or concepts that the reader is familiar with makes it easier to explain abstract concepts.

Writing Lessons:

To suspend the reader’s disbelief, build up towards the emotional reaction you want the reader to have when they reach the hard-to-believe element.

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