Friday, November 19, 2010

On things not actually being written by Robert Jordan

Finished the book! Things turned out...fairly predictably. Which isn't a complaint, really. I just have nothing in particular to say about the last 300 pages of the book that I didn't already say about the first 500. (So. Many. Pages.)

This series has really given me a new perspective on the writing process, however. Obviously, Robert Jordan deserves credit for creating something that many, many people wanted to read. The first books in the series completely sucked me in...I read them obsessively, and then obsessed over what would happen and how the mysteries would unfold. I think once I actually managed to read an entire 700+ page book in a single day, probably practically a single sitting. But the last couple that he wrote himself, not so much.* It was obvious that somewhere along the way he lost his momentum on the plot, the books got longer and more bogged down in detail while nothing happened. A lot of time when a TV show gets worse and worse in its later seasons, it's because they're trying to drag it out too long, or maybe never knew how to end it in the first place. I kind of thought that was the case with Wheel of Time, too. Watching what's happened since Robert Jordan passed away though, and the writing was handed over to another author, has been really interesting.  My theory now is that lagging fantasy series probably suffer from a completely different malady than TV shows that have jumped the shark. Each author is supposed to create a whole universe, and then find the balance between keeping the plot chugging and making sure that the readers know all the intricately imagined details of the marriage customs of this or that people and the mythology of that one clan. I'm a loyalist by nature. My first instinct is always that whatever came first is the best...but I'm realizing that might be off in this case. Maybe a fantasy series is more like a growing business. In the beginning, one guy with a vision does everything; answers the phones, maintaining the books, and turning out whatever product they make by hand. But as a business gets bigger, and people want more and more from it (or as a fantasy series gets more popular, and there's suddenly a market for more and more details about that world), you can't just keep the same one guy doing everything. You might need one guy to keep churning out the detail and texture and background that most people are looking for in fantasy (what other kind of popular fiction requires so many appendices?), and another to drag the plot across the finish line. I don't think it takes anything away from Robert Jordan to admit that the series is better because he didn't end up doing both.

*I probably still read them obsessively, but I tend to do that equally as much with books that I am just trying to get through, and books that I am actually loving. It confuses some people.

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