Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Gathering Storm - Chapters 6-9

In this section, several more characters get their first point of view, expanding the cast.
Sanderson’s style involves much more frequent changes in the point of view character. It changes at least every chapter, sometimes several times within a chapter. Shorter, more frequent points of view can make the pace quicker, and keep the reader’s attention only for the time necessary to drive the main points home; they are unlikely to be as analytical when there’s little time to digest what has taken place before jumping to the next locale. Jordan’s longer concentration on one locale for several chapters kept the reader more deeply immersed in the world, allowing time to flesh out more details. Jordan’s pacing was most effective when he’d spend only a few chapters in one locale, but returned to that locale several times in the story, allowing the story to progress. In later books, the pacing often felt off because he might only return to the locale once, leaving plotlines unresolved. This is unlikely with Sanderson’s pacing, which trades depth and detail for action and progress. 
In one example, we get Leane’s 4-page point of view, followed by 3 pages featuring Egwene. Why switch at all? Is anything accomplished by showing Leane when we’ve been following Egwene so closely? The main detail too unseemly for her to tell Egwene is the conditions of her captivity. It also makes sense that Leane would know the names of the two Yellows shielding her, but Egwene would not, yet that detail is of no import. Even the comfort Egwene provides to her is stated rather than explained through internal dialogue. The only other reason I can see is to establish that Leane is a point of view character so that readers don’t find it jarring if the action shifts to her at some later point in the story, but I don’t recall any major role she plays in this book. In short, adding a few pages from Leane’s point of view when Egwene’s would have done as well, was unnecessary.
In fact, Egwene’s point of view is pivotal, since immediately after leaving two sections of the Tower are transposed, an event that greatly affects a later battle. Egwene sees that the floor should have been “nondescript gray tiles”, but unless something really is nondescript, that adjective should not be used. There have been several examples of rooms changing, and being relocated, and the scale seems to be increasing. Will we later see entire pieces of countryside being randomly shuffled about the world? What good would any strategy be when the geography is ever-changing?
Ituralde scores a great victory, but realizes that ever more powerful forces will come for him; Seanchan pride demands no less. Several characters’ pride interferes with their decision-making.
Nynaeve senses a storm coming, but I wonder if she senses Rand’s mood? In earlier books, she acts as his conscience, so it seems plausible this great and terrible storm she senses is related to Rand’s future behaviour. I’d have to go back and see where else she has used this ability, and compare with what Rand was up to.
Perrin is lying in the mud fixing wagons, wondering how to fix his marriage. The metaphor of him lying in the mud as he contemplates this compares well to Faile’s own muddy metaphors, both of them relating to infidelities. Some of the language fits well with the earlier metaphors which implied neither of them was being truthful, even to themselves. In other ways, the language is much franker, seeming to embrace the truth presented on the surface. Perrin puts off his problems with Faile though, to concentrate on the other thing bothering him, which requires seeking out Rand and leading his men. It’s an unsatisfying deviation from the more important problem of Faile.
Siuan walks through the makeshift village the rebels have set up, and some of the descriptive text stands out as distinctly different from similar concepts described in earlier books. Let’s look at what the two different styles convey:
In earlier books, Jordan used examples to illustrate some of the points.
Once she gained the Tower, that second kitchen would be opened again, and the Novices still would need to eat by shifts, something unknown since well before the Trolloc Wars.
Delana would discuss anything, from how they were to find proper clothes for nine hundred and eighty-seven novices to whether Elaida had secret supporters among the sisters, another topic that gave most sisters a case of the prickles.
In Sanderson’s text, the same basic information is given, as a reminder, in the same way that Jordan often did when reintroducing a concept established in an earlier book. But here, the examples are more generic, not attributed to any particular person, not compared to any particular situation. Sanderson’s method is briefer, and conveys the apparent truth of the situation concisely. Jordan’s text was rich with detail and context, but much lengthier, surely requiring more research and consistency checks.
One of the only oddities about the village – if one ignored the fact that there were tents instead of rooms and wooden walkways instead of tiled hallways- was the number of novices. There were hundreds and hundreds. In fact, the number had to be over a thousand now, many more than the Tower had held in recent memory. Once the Aes Sedai were united, novices’ quarters that hadn’t been used in decades would have to be reopened. They might even need the second kitchen.
These novices bustled around in families, and most of the Aes Sedai tried to ignore them. Some did this out of habit; who paid attention to Novices? But others did so out of displeasure. By their estimation, women aged enough to be mothers and grandmothers – indeed, many who were mothers and grandmothers- shouldn’t have been entered into the novice book. But what could be done? Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat, had declared that it should happen.
It seems odd that a detail-oriented person such as Siuan would not know more precisely the number of novices, or that the details Egwene reveals about eating in shifts at the kitchens wouldn’t have come from Siuan in the first place. Maybe Egwene learned it during her short stint as a novice?
Writing Lessons:
Each writing style has some trade-offs: detail vs. conciseness, specificity vs. time invested to write. Be aware of the benefits and downsides to the writing style you choose.

No comments:

Post a Comment