Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Craft Breakdown! Soulwoven Ch. 5

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Craft Breakdown! Soulwoven Ch. 5

Hmm...this post was supposed to go up over my vacation, during the middle of week in which I had neither Internet nor running water, and was in fact enjoying myself very much swimming and sailing and playing games with my family and writing in the dead of the night, when all was quiet and peaceful. But I failed at Blogger and it didn't happen.

Also, I built a deck that week. A deck!

Anyway, on to the craft breakdown for Soulwoven Chapter 5. Spoilers to follow! Read the chapter here first.

In Chapter 5, we shift back into Ryse's head. Only a little time has passed since we left her preparing to run away from the Temple. In the interim, she has torn like a bat out of hell through the city and ended up at the Jins' house. She enters Litnig and Cole's room through a window and finds Litnig awake and willing to help her. He then leads her up Sentinel Hill to a childhood hiding place of theirs where he thinks she'll be able to sleep safely.

This is another of my favorite chapters. It was a late addition--in most of the early drafts, I left the time between Ryse's departure from the Temple and her later reemergence at Litnig's side unexplained. But the deeper I got into Ryse's character, the more I wanted to explore what happened in those lost hours. And many of my early readers were clamoring to learn more about Litnig and Ryse, and to see the sweet side of their relationship before events that happen later on in the novel.

So I'm doing three major things in Chapter 5: I'm showing Litnig and Ryse's relationship to the reader, I'm deepening Ryse's character, and I'm furthering the mystery around Sherduan and setting up the next chapter. The first happens pretty naturally through the situation. Ryse comes to Litnig for help. That in itself says something about their relationship. So does Litnig's response, and Ryse's response to his response. She needs help. He offers it. She takes it. He offers more, and she turns it down. We see that he wants to be as close to her as possible, but that she has reservations and wants to keep her distance. Though she's comfortable relying on him, there's also a point beyond which she will not accept further aid. Importantly, that point is one at which he would put himself in significant danger for her.

But there's also a matter of atmosphere. I mentioned in my Chapter 4 craft post that I like to weave aspects of other genres into my writing when I can. I'm particularly proud of one short paragraph in Chapter 5 in that respect:  

She looked up into the gray eyes of Litnig Jin. He was shirtless, his hair mussed at crazy angles. His grip was strong as iron.

Romance, eat your heart out.

There are a couple of other places in the chapter where a few sentences accomplish a great deal (I hope). When Ryse explains why she left the Temple, Litnig responds, "So you left because of us," which vastly oversimplifies and misunderstands the situation. At that point, we start to see some of the problems with Litnig's relationship to Ryse. He overestimates his importance in her life, and he fails to understand a lot of the things she says and does.

The setup of the next chapter, on the other hand, takes two sentences. I struggled a bit in my latest draft to link Chapter 5 and Chapter 6, and I eventually had to look back at old drafts of Soulwoven, from before this chapter existed, to remember how to segue from Ryse's point of view into the point of view in the next chapter. I'll talk in the next craft blog about why that was so difficult, but I ended up recalling that I needed to set up a question in the reader's head that would provide an immediate answer for why the book goes where it does next (This is hard to explain without giving things away. My apologies, but Chapter 6 will be up soon, and then hopefully things will be a little clearer).

At any rate, in order for the next chapter's opening to seem connected to the story as a whole, I needed to make the reader wonder who was going to act on the destruction of the heart dragons. So at the very end of Chapter 5, I raise that question in Ryse's mind, which hopefully raises it in the reader's as well.

This is another chapter where I don't see too many weaknesses. It's got tension, it's got romance, it's got character development, it's got a beautiful setting for me to describe, and I think I execute it fairly well. I do worry a little about over- or under-doing the backstory on the legend of Sherduan (I'm feeding it to the reader in bits in pieces over several chapters), but my hope is that there are enough other things going on in the chapter that it feels seamless, and that readers who want the whole story on the dragon get enough to keep them satisfied while those who don't don't get fed up.

So that's Chapter 5! Chapters 6 and 7 are already up, with Chapter 8 to follow tomorrow. More craft blogs soon to come. Also, Soulwoven is notching about 100 reads and 5-8 votes per day this week, and I'm trying to remain calm about the whole thing while my imagination runs wild with possibilities.

Happy reading, dear friends!

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