Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Craft Breakdown! Soulwoven Ch. 6

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Craft Breakdown! Soulwoven Ch. 6

It's been far too long since I posted one of these, but I'm nose deep in revisions right now and finding the time to blog has been difficult. Soulwoven's sudden burst of popularity died off last week, which was a little disappointing, but I'm doing my best to just shrug my shoulders and keep working and hoping for the best. Readers are inscrutable, even on Wattpad. :-)

So! Chapter 6 of Soulwoven. Spoilers below, so read it here first.

Chapter 6 of Soulwoven introduces a new point-of-view character in Quay Eldani, Prince of Eldan. We join him as he's packing for a journey, we learn where he's going and why, and we get a hint that someone is going to go with him.

Almost all of of that takes place in a discussion between him and a five-year-old child.

This chapter was hard, for many reasons. First of all, it's a chapter that's primarily dialogue and exposition, and I've always felt that those are the most difficult scenes to pull off. The meat of the scene lies in the information being passed along through the dialogue, but there has to be something else that's interesting going on at the same time to pull the characters along. And there's a fine balance between giving enough information to inform and titillate and so much that the reader gets bored. 

I also have to introduce and build sympathy for Quay, particularly in light of some of his actions later in the novel. It's important that the reader understands at the outset that he's not a bastard. He's just---driven. I'm doing more worldbuilding as well.

In order to accomplish the exposition I need to, I make use of a small, inquisitive child who can ask questions of his older cousin. It helps that Quay is a thoughtful person who is trying to hide something, because when Colin asks a question, Quay responds one way while often thinking about something different. The tension between the two responses helps move the scene along while conveying information about Quay and the world at the same time.

The tension comes from other areas as well. You might recall that I end Chapter 5 with the sentence "Because if the Temple wasn’t going to take the destruction of the heart dragons seriously, she had no idea who would."

The reader then flips the page and finds a new character.

The idea is that the reader will make the assumption that this character must be the person who's going to take the destruction of the heart dragons seriously, because otherwise there doesn't seem to be any reason for him to be in the story. So point of tension #1 is: Who is this guy, and what's he going to do about the heart dragons?

Point of tension #2 is what he's doing. When the chapter opens, he's filling a pack with things that do not belong to him. That is a strange thing to do. One wonders, I hope, why he's doing it.

From there we're off to the races. Quay's cousin keeps asking him what he's going to do, and Quay is evasive, which makes the answer to the question all the more interesting. The heart dragons make an appearance on the second page, and even as Quay tells his cousin that Sherduan must not be real, we see through the book on his shelf, the drawing, and his actions in preparing for a journey that he doesn't believe what he's saying. There's an implication that the only people who wouldn't see that the dragon is real are children (or at least behaving like children). 

Halfway through, we find out that that there is some serious political tension going on in Eldan that's going to complicate things. Close to the end of the chapter, we learn that Quay has seen the dragon, too. And at the very end of the chapter, we get the basic setup for the whole rest of the novel ("Then the journey would begin") and how Quay sees his role in it ("He would do what no one else could"). Hopefully, it's got a bit of an epic feeling to it.

To develop sympathy for Quay, I'm leaning in large part on his relationship with his cousin. He's nice to Colin. He humors him. He takes care of him. These are qualities that we will not see from him often in the rest of the book, so it's important to know that  they're there. There's also a bit of his backstory---he's lost family and been thrust into a very difficult position, and he bears it without complaining. Finally, there's a sense of sacrifice. He and his father are both in life-threatening situations, and they're going to stick them out because they want what's best for the people they're responsible for.

I'm always nervous about how well dialogue-and-exposition chapters work, but I feel pretty good about this one. I like the atmosphere and I like the descriptions, and I think there's enough going on in terms of character development that some readers will just fasten on that and passively absorb the exposition, while others will be interested in the exposition and skim more lightly over the character building.

And hopefully, in the end, it all works.

I'm up through Chapter 17 on Wattpad right now. Go check it out! :-)

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