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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

His Name is Portier

I began the day browsing internet descriptions of Mediterranean landscapes - this book is going to be warmer than the Lighthouse Duet at least. One of my critique partners has set her story in a mythical France, and her descriptions are truly glorious. She finds the right words - mattoral, maquis, dust in the sunlight - so evocative that I am totally jealous and think how can I possibly dare go anywhere near that kind of scenery. By the time I landed on a website about Corsica, and found myself hunting photos, I decided enough was enough. I already know where my beginning scene would be set. Clearly I was avoiding the hard work. It was time to put some words on paper that were not in list form. Time to climb into the head of Portier de Savin-Duplais.

The problem is that I'm writing multiple opening paragraphs for this book. In one of them Portier muses over a trial that seemed to end the search for a traitor. Muses upon his own failure. This is a mature man deeply disturbed over events he has seen and participated in.

Our mystery is solved, the guilty party tried before the king and condemned to die for this most audacious plot. The golden kingdom of Sabria, the hope of the East, the glory of nations, rests easy again, its [a few choice lines]. So why can I not sleep?

Indeed this is the end of the story, reflected to the beginning. Some readers hate it when an author begins at the end. But it's never bothered me. I love evoking an air of mystery and disturbance. Seyonne's words at the beginning of Transformation (one of my favorite of all my openings) had to have been spoken after the resolution of the book.
Still, this might make a better ending, leading into Book 2.

I keep this and write another introductory paragraph that begins a wry [can I say that about my own words?] introduction to my narrator. Forthwith:

What fools has the god graced with a more awkward position than the poor relation of a king?

He expands upon this statement, using a bit of his personal history, and leads us through a brief exposition of youthful optimism and crushed hopes to his present self. And then he begins the story.

This is not the "action" beginning we are taught to seek for genre fiction - the chase, the discovery, the big payoff that occurs before we even know our characters. I have a feeling my critique partners are going to hammer me for this. And indeed, if I were critiquing, I probably would, too. It may very well change as things develop.

But I know Portier SO much better for having written it. I knew he was a failed student of magic - that was in my proposal. But I didn't know that:
After fifteen years of study, I could not charm a flea to sit a dog’s back.
I also discovered he is a librarian! He calls himself a curator. And he is in despair. Which explains why he jumps at an opportunity his more sober-sided self would not consider. I think he'll live to regret it... [ Carol smiles hugely. ]

This is exhausting. More tomorrow.


Anna said...

At the risk of repeating myself... I love this :)

Anonymous said...

Love where this is going... Love the new blog too!

Anonymous said...

On the days-old subject of religion in fantasy: thank you, Carol, for understanding the universal human need to worship something and to examine eternal questions. This makes your "worlds" so much more absorbing and authentic. I think fantasy needs to feel authentic and it never makes sense to me when the sweet, unspoiled country folk (Three Rivers folk, Hobbiton dwellers, etc...)possess a natural morality that is never defined. From where does morality spring, how are the rules made and kept through the generations...I believe truth and justice cannot flourish in a moral vacuum and without some sort of canonical writing to sustain them. (examples...historic: early Jamestown and literary: Lord of the Flies) Most fantasy authors avoid the subject, I think, because they are uncomfortable with the eternal in general and even the possibility of a creator.

Anonymous said...

Carol writes: "Some readers hate it when an author begins at the end."

Here's one of those readers. I love the second beginning, though. The character catches my interest at once. Please, don't start at the end!

One thing that doesn't bother me as much is when the author starts in the middle, somewhere near or at the turning point, like the Maverick movie with Mel Gibson did.

Just please don't start at the end. Why should I read the story when I already know the conspirator was captured but that there still must be more to the mystery? That's like saying right at the beginning: this novel doesn't have a proper ending, so you might as well skip it and wait for part two.

P.S. I'm a huge fan of your books. Transformation is my favorite fantasy novel right after LoR.



carolwriter said...

Well, as it turns out, Anya, I've rewritten the opening to make a slightly less introspective and more dramatized version of the second opening. Will that stand up? I don't know. This book's development is definitely different from my others.