Thursday, 16 August 2012

Winter's Heart - Chapters 17-19

In this section, Mat fatefully encounters a number of women and decides he must attempt a daring rescue. Again.
Mat meets almost every important woman of the next few months of his life in these chapters: Aludra, Setalle, Tylin, Egeanin, Tuon, Anath, Suroth, Teslyn, Joline, Edesina.
The Mat chapters have a very distinctive voice, so let’s take a look at how Robert Jordan creates that voice so that the reader can tell these sections are from Mat’s point of view.
The words he uses to describe Mat’s actions always have a tone of carelessness or haste or suddenness about them. The foxhead medallion is stuffed into his coat pocket, so he can snatch it out of need be; flinging open the doors; the plan had just occurred to him; he sank into one of the bamboo carved chairs; ignoring the protests of his leg, Mat moved faster than he thought he ever had in his life; he went straight to Tylin’s apartments; he walked to the first and opened the door long enough to peek in; he unconsciously began humming. Mat’s section contained no fights, no action, just walking and meetings with various people, yet it has an intensity that comes from the words that describe Mat’s actions, as well as his description of other people’s actions. Mat’s life is filled with spontaneity, impulsiveness, and unpredictability, even if it involves him doing nothing more than walking across the room.
Mat is fairly obsessed with the opposite sex in comparison to the other men in the story. Other male characters certainly enjoy the sight and company of the women around them, but in Mat point of view chapters, physical observations of the opposite sex are moved to the front: the statue of Queen Nariene has three possible explanations for its pose, one of which involves a bared breast; “Mud?” he said to a pretty, smiling maid spreading her skirts in a curtsy; (Tylin) pale green lace trimmed the oval opening in her gown that half exposed her full breasts;  (Suroth) a pretty enough woman despite her hair being shaved to that long crest; (Anath) imperiously beautiful, she put Tylin and Suroth both in the shade; (servants) the yellow-haired man in his indecent garment was not the only one either. A slim but nicely rounded red-haired woman wearing the same sheer robe was kneeling beside a table; (Selucia) a short woman with half her golden head shaved and a bosom that might outmatch Riselle’s. The author does not hold Mat back from expressing his interests, and that gives Mat a unique voice in the story.
To a lesser extent, Mat’s other interests in horses, gambling, wealth acquisition, and battle (or battle avoidance) crop up regularly. Anything that doesn’t fit those interests is quickly dismissed. This narrow focus allows the author to drop obvious hints to the reader while Mat cheerily skims over these details. Playing into this behaviour allows many humourous situations to be created.
Even without that, a great deal of humour comes from Mat’s exaggerated view of even mundane situations. Mat is prone to exaggerate more than anyone else, making his point of view distinctive: what good it would do if she still swallowed the whole faradiddle; her muscular husband was a fishing –boat captain with more dueling scars than Mat wanted to think about; Light, did the whole city know?; he kept shooting frowns at his workmen as though suspecting they would lie down and go to sleep if he did not maintain a close watch on them. A dead man could not have slept in that heat; the day after he first kissed the Illuminator, the grandmotherly maids disappeared from her chambers, replaced by women white-haired and wizened; No one could be friends with Suroth; With dozens of Seanchan just the other side of a door guarded by a cook with a spoon; her ageless face still looked as if she ate briars three meals a day.
Any one of the elements described above could lend a strong voice to a character, but when you combine several of them the effect is multiplied, and the voice becomes unique and memorable.
Writing Lessons:
Create a distinctive voice for your characters by playing up some aspects of their behaviour and playing down others, in content, word choice, and tone.

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