Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A promise to return

Lin and Gwen have left Yulevale and are skating up the frozen river that cuts a silver slash in the forest. There are crooked thickets with more than one surprise, and hidden valleys, and a palisade made of long, sharp thorns to come.

But I promise to return to the town in due time.

As a reader, you see, I'm always worried when a story veers off track. What if it doesn't come back? When I've invested both imagination and dreams into a setting, like a busy coastal town with steep cliffs and cold beaches and creaking ships and seagulls, then I've come to love it. You could destroy it, and that would be horrible in a good way. But I don't want it to be cast off randomly, like a toy some kid suddenly finds boring.

If I've spent time getting to know the underground tunnels of a cold, grim castle, where I've discovered secret doors and how to sneak out lemon cakes from the kitchen, I don't just want to leave for good, unless I've been properly rewarded for my hard work. It's disappointing (and see Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy)!

And consider 'The Two Towers'. In the film version, it is never really clear why the heroes choose to go where they go, they just do. But in the book, their path seems inevitable. Of course they must go to Edoras, of course they must go to Helm's Deep. I think this is one of the main reasons the book version makes sense where the film does not.

This is why I make maps of my stories. I trace the plots to stop them from shooting off in random directions, and hopefully I'll make the story swell and flow, back and forth, carrying settings, persons and mysteries to their final resting place, as if that were the only place they could possibly belong.

Which is to say that you've not yet seen the last of the Observatory, nor of the Falcon Cage, nor of the Witch's Well, nor of Nalle, the quiet, unassuming assistant. That I promise.


Laini Taylor said...

I know what you mean! Also, I don't like fantasy books that are all purely about momentum and the characters go boinging from one place to another, with no real sense of drama. I get anxious about that when I'm writing, and was afraid to set out to write a book half of which is a journey -- how to make it not seem like "And then they went here and then they went here, etc etc."

A map of the story. I'm curious what that looks like. Sounds like a good idea. And I LOVE the idea of skating down a frozen river. Some day I want to do that!

tone almhjell said...

I'm sure you would never write a story that went 'and then they went there, and then they went here'!

It is quite possible to make a journey into a most wonderful story, as I think The Fellowship of the Ring (especially) demonstrates. And if it can be done, you are probably doing it.