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  #141  
Old 03-26-2013, 06:46 PM
Garak Garak is offline
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I'm aware we're straying off topic... but you found Sanderson's dialogue good? Absolutely no cues on what the characters are thinking or doing, no mention of body language to round out conversations, clunky, short statements... I could go on. Sanderson's weak dialogue has been remarked upon in his own works, and I believe there's even an interview where he admits this is one of the flaws in his writing.
Many authors use a minimalist approach to dialogue. Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelanzy - to name a few. All of these authors have written books where dialogue goes on - sometimes for pages at a time - without any break in the conversation.

Dialogue is judged by WHAT the characters say, not by the surrounding text outside the quotation marks. Dialogue is held to a different set of stylistic standards from regular prose. If the characters' statements are short and choppy, that is because people often speak in short, choppy phrases. Brandon has shown a remarkable ability to capture the flavour of everyday conversation.

The fact that he doubts his own abilities in this regard is probably a sign that he spends too much time listening to people who don't know what they're talking about.


Quote:
As for Rand in tPoD... he isn't becoming an ass, he's becoming insane. He's intent on his goal of pushing back the Seanchan, and he's becoming unstable at the same time, culminating in him killing thousands of his own soldiers. You're supposed to feel queasy, and question how this person can possibly save the world, and it gives credence to Cadsuane's insistance that if he fought the DO this way, he'd lose. That's the suspense in these scenes. Not a matter of plot but of character.
That's a fairly weak form of suspense since the question, "Can Rand really do it?" has been in our minds from the very beginning. Turning him into an unlikable character does not heighten the sense of tension.

Moreover, even if your argument was true, it would not change the fact that Rand remained an unlikable character for the better part of six books and that his subplot took far too long to come to a resolution.
  #142  
Old 03-26-2013, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
Do these chapters create suspense? Well, no not really. Rand is not in any physical danger and he’s miles removed from the actual conflict.
We are so far apart in our views that I'm not sure it will really help to continue on this topic. I really don't know what to say if you can't see the suspense in those scenes on a number of different levels. Also as for being removed from the conflict.
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"We’re finished, here. Part of fighting is knowing when to go, and it’s time...Bashere knuckled his thick mustaches with a wry laugh. "You want to find them. Look out there." He swept a gauntleted hand across the hills to the west. "I can’t point to a particular spot, but there are ten, maybe fifteen thousand close enough to see from here, if those trees weren’t in the way. I danced with the Dark One getting through them unseen to reach you. Maybe a hundred damanedown there. Maybe more. More coming, for sure, and more men. Seems their general has decided to concentrate on you. I suppose it isn’t always cheese and ale being ta’veren."
You also seem to forget that there are DFs countermanding his orders and he almost gets murdered.

As for writing quality, not sure how helpful it is to cherry pick a single paragraph. Imagine if you did that with various examples from Brandon's work in the WoT. It would not be pretty.

The chapters highlight Rand's descent into madness and growing megalomania. It's also funny that you would see nothing good in the Rand/LTT exchange and yet credit Sanderson when his dialogue is something that he struggles with mightily. It certainly is not one of his strengths. Not only do the characters often sound exactly the same(see the battle plan scene in AMoL as an example. There literally is nothing to tell the generals apart except their names) but he often just slaps on "random cultural trait" when working the Aiel or Seanchan characters. Then we get to how forced and awkward it often is. No bueno.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garak View Post
The characters, for instance, are much more likable in Sanderson’s hands. The dialogue is better. The tone of the series improved with more use of levity to balance out some of the darker scenes. Once Sanderson took over, WOT could laugh at some of its own clichés.
I honestly don't feel like we are reading the same books. Sanderson's use of levity is often cringeworthy. Even he admits he took it too far, as with Mat..

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I didn't understand Mat. I tried so hard to make him funny, I wrote the HIM out of him
He took a rogue and turned him into the court jester with his over the top humor. Another example would be the Rand/Mat bragging contest where they almost broke out the ruler.

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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
How do I explain how this small exchange accomplishes so much with so few words?
This certainly is not the norm for Brandon. His "tell don't show" style and seeming inability to use literary devices like ellipsis led to an appalling amount of bloat and filler.

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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
The quality of writing improved when Sanderson took over. In just about every respect.
This is just absurd. The lack of polish and writing quality was such a huge issue after ToM that they actually changed Brandon's writing process to address it and pushed back the release date as they had to make sure they got this one "right". There are many good things you can say about Brandon's work on the Wheel. The overall quality of writing improving is most certainly not one them however.

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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
It’s really an exchange of one kind of mediocre prose for another kind of mediocre prose.
Brandon has been very clear all along that prose is not a strength.

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Brandon Sanderson
There are a couple of things that Robert Jordan did, like...there are many things he did better than I do, but there are two things that he did amazingly better than I do that have been really hard to try and approach. The first one is his mastery of description. I...prose is not....you know, I do serviceable prose. I don't do beautiful prose in most cases. I occasionally can turn a phrase, but he could do beautiful prose in every paragraph, and that's just not one of my strengths. Pat Rothfuss is another one who can do that, if you're read Name of the Wind; it's just beautiful, every line. Robert Jordan I felt was like that, just absolute beauty.
Further since the inception of the WoT what set it apart from other fantasy was the strength of RJ's detailed prose. With some of these fantasy conventions you bring up and statements like the above it almost seems as if you are just making things up as you go.

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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
It’s almost fair to say that Brandon Sanderson inherited RJ’s literary debts – inherited the promises that RJ made to bring closure to this story – and now we, the fandom, are his creditors. If RJ made promises that he couldn’t keep by creating too many subplots, bringing the story to a grinding halt and losing any sense of narrative focus, then it’s not fair to blame Sanderson for the fact that RJ’s mistakes impacted the final books of the series.
No on argues that RJ couldn't have used a more stringent editor. Regardless many of your points have already been addressed and it is totally false to say that the major issues people have with Brandon's work are due to RJ's handling of the series.

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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
The fact that he doubts his own abilities in this regard is probably a sign that he spends too much time listening to people who don't know what they're talking about.
Errmm what?
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Last edited by suttree; 03-27-2013 at 09:42 PM.
  #143  
Old 03-26-2013, 07:35 PM
fionwe1987 fionwe1987 is offline
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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
Many authors use a minimalist approach to dialogue. Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelanzy - to name a few. All of these authors have written books where dialogue goes on - sometimes for pages at a time - without any break in the conversation.
You don't need a break in conversation to insert the cues and thoughts that give context to the conversation. None of the authors you mention (at least, I can speak for Zelany and Pratchett) is nearly as barebones as Brandon. RJ overdid it, at times, but Brandon takes it to the other extreme most times, and for a series like WoT, where so much nuance is buried in character PoVs, the absence of these cues totally takes away a lot from the plot. Its also a major reason why Sanderson had to write so many extra scenes. DomA, elsewhere, made an excellent point about how so many Gawyn PoVs would have been more briskly handled by RJ, because he'd show those actions in someone else's PoV, and use their thoughts to let the reader know what was going on. Instead, we got more Gawyn in Brandon's three books than the previous 11 combined, many of those scenes serving little or no purpose.

Quote:
Dialogue is judged by WHAT the characters say, not by the surrounding text outside the quotation marks.
Huh? The greatest strength of the written medium is that we can see inside the heads of characters to gauge their true intent, have our attention drawn to various physical reactions so we can get an idea of how the dialogue is received, or sometimes be misdirected. Context is all important to flesh out dialogue in literature, and is the means by which authors enrich the dialogue to inform the readers of many things without having to state them baldly.

Quote:
Dialogue is held to a different set of stylistic standards from regular prose. If the characters' statements are short and choppy, that is because people often speak in short, choppy phrases. Brandon has shown a remarkable ability to capture the flavour of everyday conversation.
Everyday modern conversation, maybe, but even that isn't true. He doesn't, for instance, have characters cut each other off midsentence all that often. In a real conversation, people trail off all the time, especially because of the facial expressions and body language they observe. They make grammatical errors of epic proportions... but I don't see authors being given a free pass on bad grammar in dialogue unless they do it consistently. If Brandon's dialogue is choppy and short for the purpose of verisimilitude, he needs to do so consistently. He doesn't. And he also uses short, choppy sentences in the rest of his prose, which is the true reason his dialogue is choppy.

Take this case, for instance:

Quote:
“That is Doniella Alievin’s copy of the Termendal translation of The
Karaethon Cycle” Egwene said. “Doniella made her own notes, and they have
been the subject of nearly as much discussion among scholars as the Prophecies themselves. She was a Dreamer, you know. The only Amyrlin that we know of to have been one. Before me, anyway.”
“Yes,” Elayne said.
“The sisters who gathered these for me came to the same conclusion
that I have,” Egwene said...
What is Elayne even saying "yes" to, here? Does she mean "yes, I know"? Does she mean "Yes, you are a Dreamer Amyrlin"? Is she using the word the way we use "okay"? Is she using it as a contemplative filler?

There are several options here, but without context, we just cannot know. Which makes the entire sentence completely redundant. But remove it, and Egwene's transition to a new thought isn't smooth at all.

Then consider this:

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“Is it true, Mother?” Nynaeve asked, rising. “About Caemlyn?”
Egwene nodded.
“This is going to be a long night,” Nynaeve said, looking at the wounded still pouring through the gateways.
So Nynaeve's reaction to Caemlyn being taken is... nothing? And Nynaeve can see wounded people puring out of a Gateway... so why does she even have the question? Her asking for specifics is another thing. But once again, with short choppy dialogue, nothing is achieved but a waste of space. We don't get an emotional reaction. We don't see a character learn new information. We don't learn anything either. This is just dialogue to fill a gap.

Quote:
The fact that he doubts his own abilities in this regard is probably a sign that he spends too much time listening to people who don't know what they're talking about.


Quote:
That's a fairly weak form of suspense since the question, "Can Rand really do it?" has been in our minds from the very beginning. Turning him into an unlikable character does not heighten the sense of tension.
It does. Certainly more than that scene where Androl gets the Seals, since there was absolutely no doubt the plot would end with the Light winning. WoT has never had suspense over how things will end. But how characters will come to the point where they can help the Light win has been the main point of the series.

Quote:
Moreover, even if your argument was true, it would not change the fact that Rand remained an unlikable character for the better part of six books and that his subplot took far too long to come to a resolution.
I'm not going to deny that there aren't structural issues with WoT, but Rand's arc is one the least offensive, and was actually helped by the slowing of the pace by making his descent from nice guy to heartless, insane maniac more gradual and believable.
  #144  
Old 03-27-2013, 12:00 PM
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I wanted to add that I agree with above posts from Suttree, Dom and Fionwe.
So do I.


Also, BS's dialogue is terribly weak. All of his characters come off sounding the same. This is present in all of his own books as well.
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  #145  
Old 03-27-2013, 09:09 PM
EvilChani EvilChani is offline
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Originally Posted by Garak View Post
While it's true that I don't have the finished product as a basis for comparison, it sounds to me like what you're describing is a situation where the point of view character is a spectator but not a participant. There are genres where the point of view character is primarily a spectator - although, usually, this is accomplished through the use of first-person narration for the observer who then tells the story in third person - but fantasy is not one of them.

In fantasy, the standard convention is for the point of view character to be an active participant in the story. Could this have worked with Pevara? Maybe but it would have set up a situation whereby the Black Tower was rescued by outside forces. Thematically speaking, it would be the same as what we'd get if Rand had been the architect behind the White Tower's reunifaction instead of Egwene.

Creating an Asha'man character to tell this part of the story is a much better decision. And Brandon did a superb job with Androl.
I pretty much agree with the things Dom, Suttree, and others have said on this subject, but if you recognize that the POV character matters, then you have to see that using Androl in every instance was a huge mistake. Why? Because the story at the BT was not Androl's...he was, indeed, a player, but he was not the only one, and he was far from the most important one.

Yes, this plot was the story of the Asha'man saving themselves, of them deciding their fate - as a group - and choosing to fight what seemed an impossible battle. They were outnumbered, the man who the 'good ones' had looked to for leadership (Logain, in case the description is not obvious) was captured and, as far as they knew, possibly turned to the Shadow, and they had Aes Sedai breathing down their necks. The men at the BT were being pushed into a corner from all sides. Androl's POV was useful, but we needed to see other perspectives:

1. Logain's POV was desperately needed. This should have been his story, to some extent. We knew Min's viewings of him showed 'power and glory', and that the future Logain had before him was going to be a very bright one. Instead of showing him being rescued, and the darkness that he felt after what was done to him, we should have seen what was done to him, through his eyes.

His story paralleled both Rand's and Egwene's, but we were not given the tiniest glimpse into his feelings, other than the anger he felt after he was freed, and his determination never to be controlled again. And even that was written poorly. Logain went through hell for weeks, managed to resist what others fell to in mere minutes/hours, and then he managed to overcome the emotional turmoil/depression/fear/trauma he suffered in a very short time. Why? Because he knew, deep down, what he wanted for the Asha'man - and that protecting/helping people was more important, and a more noble way of gaining trust, than trying to force everyone to submit.

His story could've been extremely powerful, if we had seen his experiences from his POV instead of Androl's. Though his choice at the end brought a smile to my face, it was weakly written because all we ever got to see was the anger, followed by the right choice. If we had seen how horrible things were for him before all of that, and had seen more of the transition from one stage to another, his would have been one of the most powerful stories in the series. And his future "glory and power" would've made a lot more sense than "Androl saved the Tower and chose Logain to lead it".

2. Pevara: While I agree with you completely that the BT story is about the BT and not about AS, and I think the role of the AS in this plot should have been minimal, I think her POV could have added a lot to the story. Her bond to Androl was useful and cute, but more was needed from her, not in action from her character - I think the Asha'man were right to want to fix the Tower themselves, instead of allowing the AS to take over, or even take an important role - but in a 'hostile' view kind of way.

What better way to show that the Asha'man are decent, trustworthy men than to show it from the point of view of someone who inherently distrusts male channelers and views them as criminals/enemies/wild animals? Pevara started seeing Androl in a different light due to the bond. Had she had more POVs when other Asha’man were doing some of the things Androl did (and, perhaps, after viewing some of Logain’s torture firsthand and seeing how he managed to resist being turned), then it would have made a huge impact on the reader. To see her moving from “they need to be controlled via a bond”, to “some of them seem okay”, to “they are decent men, but still men so need to be told what to do”, to “they can handle themselves without AS interference”, to “their leader helps people and treats them as equals, and people love them without being forced to accept being bossed around by them!” would’ve been entertaining, as well as being a good way to lay the groundwork for a more cooperative relationship between some of the Aes Sedai and the Asha’man.

3. A POV from another Asha’man who was turned: Had we gotten to see Logain resisting being turned, a good companion POV would’ve been from a man (or an Aes Sedai) who was turned. Show us what happens to them, the pain they go through, and use that not only to add more urgency to the storyline, but to drive home the importance – and the impressiveness – of Logain’s ability to resist.

I could keep going, but I just wanted to give some examples that show why Sanderson’s choice to turn the BT plot into “The Androl Show” was a bad idea. It took what could’ve been a fast-paced, emotional storyline and made it into a shallow bunch of crap. I liked the end result for the BT, for the most part, but the path that got us there was covered in a load of horse crap.
  #146  
Old 03-28-2013, 01:15 PM
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Easy now.

There will come a time when we all long for good old roads covered in loads of horse crap.
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  #147  
Old 03-28-2013, 02:26 PM
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First, an apology to Fionwe1987. I haven't read your reply yet but I would like to retract something that I said in my last post. Two days ago, I told you that the fact that Brandon doubts his skills with dialogue is a sign that he listens to people who don't know what they're talking about. It didn't occur to me until several hours later that it would be perfectly reasonable to assume I was talking about you.

I wasn't.

"The people who don't know what they're talking about" that I was referring to are the numerous people who tweet at him, blog at him and take their personal gripes to Brandon Sanderson himself. These days, an artist cannot create a work of literature, film or music without half the Internet rising up to demand something more of him or her. The point I was trying to make is that Brandon needs to listen to his editors, not random trolls on the Internet. It was never my intention to include you as one of those random trolls and if I've offended you, please accept my apologies.

Discussing Brandon's writing – or that of any author – on Theoryland is perfectly acceptable. It only becomes trolling when you start harassing the author himself.

Now on to the body of my post.

Quote:
Originally Posted by suttree View Post
We are so far apart in our views that I'm not sure it will really help to continue on this topic. I really don't know what to say if you can't see the suspense in those scenes on a number of different levels.
I very much agree with this sentiment, Suttree, and I have decided that it would be best to avoid a blow by blow comparison of the pros and cons of tPoD. Not because my opinions have changed but simply because there would be no way to carry out such a comparison without repeating what we've already said. You've listed the things that you like about the Damona Campaign and I've listed the things that I dislike. At this point, I'm content to leave it at that.

Quote:
The chapters highlight Rand's descent into madness and growing megalomania. It's also funny that you would see nothing good in the Rand/LTT exchange and yet credit Sanderson when his dialogue is something that he struggles with mightily. It certainly is not one of his strengths. Not only do the characters often sound exactly the same(see the battle plan scene in AMoL as an example. There literally is nothing to tell the generals apart except their names) but he often just slaps on "random cultural trait" when working the Aiel or Seanchan characters. Then we get to how forced and awkward it often is. No bueno.
I credit Sanderson for his dialogue because it's often witty and heartwarming. The example that I gave you of Rand and Nynaeve, for instance. That little exchange brought a smile to my face and a few tears to my eyes. Another one of my favourite moments is the “bragging contest” between Mat and Rand. I laughed so hard during that exchange that I honestly had to put the book down for five minutes and sip my hot chocolate very carefully.

Brandon's talent for witty banter is on par with something you might see in a Joss Whedon show. The exchanges between his characters are often very clever. More to the point, Brandon is very skilled at using dialogue to illustrate the relationships between the major characters. For instance, when Rand says, “An idiot? A wool-headed fool in desperate need of an ear-boxing? All true, Nynaeve,” you can sense his reverence for Nynaeve. In his own way, Rand is acknowledging that Nynaeve was right to criticize him during his darker moments, while also using playful banter to demonstrate his affection. Nynaeve is not just one of the many Aes Sedai in Rand's party, she's his friend. Maybe even the older sister that he never had and desperately needed.

This scene works because of the emotions that it evokes in its audience. The author could easily write “Rand saw Nynaeve almost as a sister,” but that is simply a statement of fact. Having Rand act on those feelings makes the sense of emotion palpable to the audience. RJ's characters state their feelings (often in their own heads where it won't do any good) and Brandon's characters ACT on their feelings.

Quote:
I honestly don't feel like we are reading the same books. Sanderson's use of levity is often cringeworthy. Even he admits he took it too far, as with Mat.
Perhaps that is a case of him feeling guilty over fan reaction. RJ's characters are very serious – often too serious in my opinion – and they lack the ability to laugh at themselves. This, to me, is a serious character flaw. If you can't laugh at yourself, it probably means that you're blind to your own shortcomings. Jordan's characters – every last one of them – were all blind to their shortcomings. This is one of the things that turned me away from the series. To have one or two characters with this flaw is fine, in my opinion, but to make it a universal flaw... Well, that just makes it a world full of unlikable people. I know Jordan wanted to write flawed characters – and I applaud him for it – but giving them all the same flaw was unwise.

By adding the levity, Sanderson gave the characters the ability to stop taking themselves so seriously. Discussions between Rand and Nynaeve no longer feel like a contest of wills. Instead, they feel like two people who love each other working together to solve a problem, each bringing his or her own unique perspective to the table. I'm pretty sure that was what RJ wanted from the beginning but it was Sanderson who made it happen.


Quote:
He took a rogue and turned him into the court jester with his over the top humor. Another example would be the Rand/Mat bragging contest where they almost broke out the ruler.
LOL

It's funny because I didn't know you were going to bring this up when I mentioned the bragging contest earlier. I've been responding to your post as I read it.

The bragging contest illustrates the brotherly love between Rand and Mat. They're behaving like two young men who grew up in the same house (or in this case, the same village). Mat has become a respected general and consort to the Seanchan Empress while Rand has taken on the mantle of the Dragon Reborn. However, once they're back in each other's company, they turn back into two young boys from Emond's Field.

This is not derailing a character or undoing the progress that character has made. On the contrary, who we were plays a big part in influencing who we are. It's sort of like how when I reunite with some of my high school friends, I start to behave almost the way I did back in high school. That doesn't mean that I haven't grown up; it just means that being in their presence can remind me of what it was like to be a young man again.

That's important. It's important for the author to show more than the messianic figure that Rand has become. The author needs to make it clear that the sheepherder is still in there somewhere or Rand becomes less of a character and more of a force of nature. Same for Mat.

So, yes, the fandom breaks into hysterics because the characters ARE different now that Sanderson is in charge. His approach is very different from that employed by Robert Jordan. However, since I feel that Jordan's approach was flawed to begin with, I don't mind. It goes back to what I said about the characters no longer taking themselves so seriously.

Quote:
This certainly is not the norm for Brandon. His "tell don't show" style and seeming inability to use literary devices like ellipsis led to an appalling amount of bloat and filler.
I don't know quite how to respond to that because, in my opinion, Brandon shows and RJ tells. As I said above, RJ's characters state their feelings while Brandon's characters act on their feelings.

Quote:
This is just absurd. The lack of polish and writing quality was such a huge issue after ToM that they actually changed Brandon's writing process to address it and pushed back the release date as they had to make sure they got this one "right". There are many good things you can say about Brandon's work on the Wheel. The overall quality of writing improving is most certainly not one them however.
Better dialogue, a tighter narrative focus, characters becoming more likable, better pacing, scenes that are used to deliberate effect rather than simply taking up space in the book: all of this constitutes an improvement in the quality of writing.

Quote:
Brandon has been very clear all along that prose is not a strength.
I agree. Neither was it a strength for RJ. RJ's prose is like a sine wave; when it's good, it's very good and when it's bad, it's very bad. But the net average is somewhere in the middle. Brandon's prose, however, remains consistently mediocre from start to finish.

When I listed an example of bad prose, I did not mean to cherry pick, only to illustrate some of Jordan's bad habits. I'm sure you can see why it would not be prudent for me type out an entire chapter. I merely chose a convenient example. There is more than one example of bad prose in RJ's work. There are also many examples of good prose. As I said, it averages out to somewhere in the middle.

However, prose is only ONE aspect of good writing. It's like different sections on the SATs. You can fail vocabulary but if you manage a good performance in math, science and the rest, you'll still come out with a good score in the end. I give Brandon's prose a solid B. It's nothing remarkable but it isn't horrible either. I'd give RJ a B as well.

I'm willing to be fairly lenient on the issue of prose so long as the author tells a good story. Provided that we never reach Stephanie Meyer levels of horrible – and neither author has – I'm willing to judge them on the development of plot and character. I hate to say this since I know it will upset you, but in my opinion, of the two, Brandon is more skilled with plot and character.

I'm sorry, I won't be able to address the rest of your post. I've run out of time on my lunch hour and I don't think I'll be able to reply anymore today. But thank you just the same for a lively discussion. I've enjoyed meeting you.
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Old 03-28-2013, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garak
one of my favourite moments is the “bragging contest” between Mat and Rand. I laughed so hard during that exchange that I honestly had to put the book down for five minutes and sip my hot chocolate very carefully.
You see, THIS is why we need Negative Rep around here...
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Old 03-28-2013, 04:24 PM
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First of all, I have to thank you for a good laugh. Few posts that I disagree with are so over the top that I can laugh at them. Kudos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Garak View Post
First, an apology to Fionwe1987. I haven't read your reply yet but I would like to retract something that I said in my last post. Two days ago, I told you that the fact that Brandon doubts his skills with dialogue is a sign that he listens to people who don't know what they're talking about. It didn't occur to me until several hours later that it would be perfectly reasonable to assume I was talking about you.

I wasn't.

"The people who don't know what they're talking about" that I was referring to are the numerous people who tweet at him, blog at him and take their personal gripes to Brandon Sanderson himself. These days, an artist cannot create a work of literature, film or music without half the Internet rising up to demand something more of him or her. The point I was trying to make is that Brandon needs to listen to his editors, not random trolls on the Internet. It was never my intention to include you as one of those random trolls and if I've offended you, please accept my apologies.
You should perhaps direct your apologies to the blog reviewer who interviewed Brandon, during which they discussed Brandon's weak dialogue. I find it baffling that you can casually call someone a troll just so you can support your point.

And I don't see how you're willing to write off Brandon either. There have been plenty of criticisms thrown at him, at Twitter or elsewhere, and if he disagrees with the criticism, he has said so.

There is no trolling at play when an interviewer asks an author a legitimate question about his prose. And when an author agrees with the comment, he isn't doing so because he's got a habit of listening to trolls.

Quote:
I credit Sanderson for his dialogue because it's often witty and heartwarming.
Brandon's writing is witty? I'm going to ask for a sample, then.

For myself, I still remember this as Brandon's attempt at "wit":

Quote:
She reached into a pocket of her dress, pulling out several pieces of paper. One was the picture of Mat. "You didn't ask where I got this."
"You're Aes Sedai," Mat said, shrugging. "I figured you . . . you know, saidared it."
"Saidared it?" she asked flatly.


Have you read other works by Brandon, by the way?

Quote:
Brandon's talent for witty banter is on par with something you might see in a Joss Whedon show.
You know, Joss Whedon will trun in his grave, when he has one, over that. Brandon's attempts at witty banter barely rises above the level of a college show. The best example of this is actually a character called Shallan in Way of Kings. The only reason a reader gets that she's supposed to be witty is all the characters around her rushing to inform us she is witty.

Quote:
RJ's characters state their feelings (often in their own heads where it won't do any good) and Brandon's characters ACT on their feelings.
RJ's characters state their feelings? Like the time when Egwene told us explicitly she was falling out of love with Rand? Like the time when Nynaeve told us explicitly she was insecure because she had been given responsibility early in life? Like when Rand told us straight out that he was desperate to prove himself? Oh wait... none of that happened.

Quote:
Perhaps that is a case of him feeling guilty over fan reaction. RJ's characters are very serious – often too serious in my opinion – and they lack the ability to laugh at themselves.
That's because most of them are not in funny situations. Being able to laugh at yourself is something that comes with maturity, or something you can do in stress free situations. Neither of these fit the characters in WoT. They're mostly young people thrust unprepared into immense responsibility. Most human beings tend to get intense and serious in such situations...

Quote:
By adding the levity, Sanderson gave the characters the ability to stop taking themselves so seriously.
With perfect timing, since the approaching end of the world is precisely when real people start finding the humor in life...

Quote:
Discussions between Rand and Nynaeve no longer feel like a contest of wills.
I beg to differ. You may have whitewashed your memory, but even Brandon wasn't so forgetful of Nynaeve's character to change that in every scene. Barring that one instance where she's taking her leave of him, she does indeed continue to push him when she sees fit. Which is exactly as it should be, because a Nynaeve who's gets mirthful and sunny tempered is boring. She's meant to be a prickly, irritable person whose deep sense of loyalty and great courage enables her friends to overlook those features of her personality. Thankfully, even Brandon didn't change that.

Quote:
Instead, they feel like two people who love each other working together to solve a problem, each bringing his or her own unique perspective to the table. I'm pretty sure that was what RJ wanted from the beginning but it was Sanderson who made it happen.
Nynaeve and anyone she was nagging about something or the other always felt like that... its incredibly obvious she cared for Rand since about her third or fourth scene in the book. That doesn't turn her into a sappy eyed lackwit around him either.


Quote:
The bragging contest illustrates the brotherly love between Rand and Mat.
The brotherly love that makes Mat scramble away in fear the moment he discovers Rand can channel? The love that makes Rand cynically plan to use Mat? The love that led Mat to always fear and be weary of Rand? Please.

What Brandon was trying to show, I suppose, was the recognition from Mat that Rand was the guy who was his friend in the TR, underneath everything else. But the fact that the realization just came to him with no rhyme or reason cheapened the entire experience. For Mat to accept that Rand was not mad, and still the same man required the kind of writing Brandon is just incapable of.

He came closer to getting it right when Egwene changed her mind and decided to let Mat have command of the Light's forces. But then, Egwene was always better at trusting Mat than Nynaeve was anyway.

Quote:
They're behaving like two young men who grew up in the same house (or in this case, the same village). Mat has become a respected general and consort to the Seanchan Empress while Rand has taken on the mantle of the Dragon Reborn. However, once they're back in each other's company, they turn back into two young boys from Emond's Field.
Except they never have, in the past. This scene made a mockery of Mat's character, because he has always feared what Rand had become. He has always been happy to put distance between him and Rand, and he doesn't think Rand is just another boy from Emond's Field. In the very same chapter, Mat thinks:

Quote:
He had done whatever he could to avoid Rand!...
“Hello, Mat,” Rand said, voice pleasant. Light, he was mad!
Then Sanderson has Mat making jokes about Rand going mad... as if he's ever done that in the past. If he wanted to grow Mat's character to come to accept the changes in Rand, and be comfortable enough that he can make jokes about Rand going mad, he should have actually written that. As it was, suddenly having this humorous exchange between them did disservice to the character, and the scene.

Quote:
I don't know quite how to respond to that because, in my opinion, Brandon shows and RJ tells. As I said above, RJ's characters state their feelings while Brandon's characters act on their feelings.



Quote:
“Bah. You and your Asha’man are already crazy,” Mat said, “so what
does it matter?” He glanced to the side. “You look nice, by the way. You’ve
been taking better care of yourself lately.”
So you do care,” Rand said.
Of course I do,” Mat grumbled, looking back at Tuon. “I mean, you
have to keep yourself alive, right? Go have your little duel with the Dark
One and keep us all safe? It’s good to know you’re looking up to it.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Rand said, smiling.
This is called telling, not showing. Characters explicitly stating out lout that they care about someone (while, apparently, thinking that they are mad too!).

Quote:
Tuon stepped forward, Selucia waving a few last finger-talk words toward her. “You will be taken to Seanchan, Dragon Reborn,” Tuon said. Her
voice was collected, firm.
Mat smiled. Light, but she made a good Empress.
Again, telling, not showing. In a similar vein, till Sanderson took over, we didn't get many instances of Siuan directly telling us Egwene was a good Amyrlin. That instead was implied in their conversations, in the way Siuan respected Egwene's opinions while running roughshod over most others'. That is showing, not telling. Brandon does the exact opposite.
  #150  
Old 03-28-2013, 06:02 PM
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BTW, on a side note, here is the best scene in the entire books between Rand & Nynaeve. RJ perfectly nailed their relationship here and its brilliant writing:

Quote:

The Eye of the World
Chapter 16: The Wisdom

He had no idea how long he had been standing there when the door finally opened. Nynaeve stepped out, and gave a start when she saw Lan. The Warder murmured something that made her toss her head angrily, then he slipped past her through the door.
She turned toward Rand, and for the first time he realized the others had all quietly disappeared. He did not want to face the Wisdom alone, but he could not get away now that he had met Nynaeve's eye. A particularly searching eye, he thought, puzzled. What did they say? He drew himself up as she came closer.
She indicated Tam's sword. "That seems to fit you, now, though I would like it better if it did not. You've grown, Rand."
"In a week?" He laughed, but it sounded forced, and she shook her head as if he did not understand. "Did she convince you?" he asked. "It really is the only way." He paused, thinking of Min's sparks. "Are you coming with us?"
Nynaeve's eyes opened wide. "Coming with you! Why would I do that? Mavra Mallen came up from Deven Ride to see to things till I return, but she'll be wanting to get back as soon as she can. I still hope to make you see sense and come home with me."
"We can't." He thought he saw something move at the still-open door, but they were alone in the hallway.
"You told me that, and she did, too." Nynaeve frowned. "If she wasn't mixed up in it ... Aes Sedai are not to be trusted, Rand."
"You sound as if you really do believe us," he said slowly. "What happened at the village meeting?"
Nynaeve looked back at the doorway before answering; there was no movement there now. "It was a shambles, but there is no need for her to know we can't handle our affairs any better than that. And I believe only one thing: you are all in danger as long as you are with her. "
"Something happened," he insisted. "Why do you want us to go back if you think there's even a chance we are right? And why you, at all? As soon send the Mayor himself as the Wisdom."
"You have grown." She smiled, and for a moment her amusement had him shifting his feet. "I can think of a time when you would not have questioned where I chose to go or what I chose to do, wherever or whatever it was. A time just a week ago."
He cleared his throat and pressed on stubbornly. "It doesn't make sense. Why are you really here?"
She half glanced at the still-empty doorway, then took his arm. "Let's walk while we talk." He let himself be led away, and when they were far enough from the door not to be overheard, she began again. "As I said, the meeting was a shambles. Everybody agreed someone had to be sent after you, but the village split into two groups. One wanted you rescued, though there was considerable argument over how that was to be done considering that you were with a ... the likes of her."
He was glad she was remembering to watch what she said. "The others believed Tam?" he said.
"Not exactly, but they thought you shouldn't be among strangers, either, especially not with someone like her. Either way, though, almost every man wanted to be one of the party. Tam, and Bran al'Vere, with the scales of office around his neck, and Haral Luhhan, till Alsbet made him sit down. Even Cenn Buie. The Light save me from men who think with the hair on their chests. Though I don't know as there are any other kind." She gave a hearty sniff, and looked up at him, an accusing glance. "At any rate, I could see it would be another day, perhaps more, before they came to any decision, and somehow ... somehow I was sure we did not dare wait that long. So I called the Women's Circle together and told them what had to be done. I cannot say they liked it, but they saw the right of it. And that is why I am here; because the men around Emond's Field are stubborn wool-heads. They're probably still arguing about who to send, though I left word I would take care of it."
Nynaeve's story explained her presence, but it did nothing to reassure him. She was still determined to bring them back with her.
"What did she say to you in there?" he asked. Moiraine would surely have covered every argument, but if there was one she had missed, he would make it.
"More of the same," Nynaeve replied. "And she wanted to know about you boys. To see if she could reason out why you ... have attracted the kind of attention you have ... she said." She paused, watching him out of the corner of her eye. "She tried to disguise it, but most of all she wanted to know if any of you was born outside the Two Rivers."
His face was suddenly as taut as a drumhead. He managed a hoarse chuckle. "She does think of some odd things. I hope you assured her we're all Emond's Field born. "
"Of course," she replied. There had only been a heartbeat's pause before she spoke, so brief he would have missed it if he had not been watching for it.
He tried to think of something to say, but his tongue felt like a piece of leather. She knows. She was the Wisdom, after all, and the Wisdom was supposed to know everything about everyone. If she knows, it was no fever-dream. Oh, Light help me, father!
"Are you all right?" Nynaeve asked.
"He said ... said I ... wasn't his son. When he was delirious ... with the fever. He said he found me. I thought it was just ..." His throat began to burn, and he had to stop.
"Oh, Rand." She stopped and took his face in both hands. She had to reach up to do it. "People say strange things in a fever. Twisted things. Things that are not true, or real. Listen to me. Tam al'Thor ran away seeking adventure when he was a boy no older than you. I can just remember when he came back to Emond's Field, a grown man with a red-haired, outlander wife and a babe in swaddling clothes. I remember Kari al'Thor cradling that child in her arms with as much love given and delight taken as I have ever seen from any woman with a babe. Her child, Rand. You. Now you straighten up and stop this foolishness."
"Of course," he said. I was born outside the Two Rivers. "Of course." Maybe Tam had been having a fever-dream, and maybe he had found a baby after a battle. "Why didn't you tell her?"
"It is none of any outlander's business. "
"Were any of the others born outside?" As soon as the question was out, he shook his head. "No, don't answer. It's none of my business, either." But it would be nice to know if Moiraine had some special interest in him, over and above what she had in the whole lot of them. Would it?
"No, it isn't your business," Nynaeve agreed. "It might not mean anything. She could just be searching blindly for a reason, any reason, why those things are after you. After all of you."
Rand managed a grin. "Then you do believe they're chasing us."
Nynaeve shook her head wryly. "You've certainly learned to twist words since you met her."
"What are you going to do?" he asked.
She studied him; he met her eyes steadily. "Today, I am going to have a bath. For the rest, we will have to see, won't we?"
That is what good dialogue sounds like too, BTW.
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Old 03-28-2013, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Davian93 View Post
BTW, on a side note, here is the best scene in the entire books between Rand & Nynaeve. RJ perfectly nailed their relationship here and its brilliant writing:



That is what good dialogue sounds like too, BTW.
When I said that her caring for him is established early on, this is the scene I meant to quote.

It does such a good job of informing us that Nynaeve was fiercely loyal to her own, so ready to jump headlong into the fray to help them. No one had to spell it out. It's implied, and implied well, both through the words they're saying and the non verbal cues around the dialogue.

Wish we had something like this for Moiraine's entrance, or when Rand meets Tuon, or any number of major scenes.

Last edited by fionwe1987; 03-28-2013 at 06:14 PM.
  #152  
Old 03-28-2013, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
When I said that her caring for him is established early on, this is the scene I meant to quote.
I figured as much...its the scene that RJ uses to define their relationship for the entire series. Rand is also the only Two Rivers person that she doesnt treat completely like a child and that is illustrated here as well. She's more like a protective older sister with him.
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  #153  
Old 03-28-2013, 06:44 PM
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^ Easily one of the best scenes in the entire series.
Another one I like between Rand and Nynaeve, despite the fact that it was A) written by Sanderson and B) follows with his lackluster dialogue, is the scene in TGH when Rand finally tells Nynaeve he "knows" (because he doesn't) he will die, after he Balefired Graendels hideout.

Mostly I liked it because it, again, reinforced just how loyal Nynaeve is and how unlike AS, she was/is always fighting for what's best for Rand
  #154  
Old 03-28-2013, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garak View Post
So, yes, the fandom breaks into hysterics because the characters ARE different now that Sanderson is in charge. His approach is very different from that employed by Robert Jordan. However, since I feel that Jordan's approach was flawed to begin with, I don't mind. It goes back to what I said about the characters no longer taking themselves so seriously.
One point for you to consider:

Those of us who have followed tWOT for twenty-some years, did so because we LIKED the way RJ built his characters, the multiple layering of meanings that make re-reading so much fun, and his disregard of "conventions."

I've been reading Fantasy for fifty-five years or so, and have watched "conventions" of the genre change over time. The authors I treasure the most are those, like RJ, who bend and stretch conventions or outright demolish them.

Sanderson's less complex, more conventional treatment of the characters is far less satisfying for those of us who have been with the series from (or near) the beginning. That doesn't necessarily make it "bad," just different.
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Old 03-29-2013, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by fionwe1987 View Post
You should perhaps direct your apologies to the blog reviewer who interviewed Brandon, during which they discussed Brandon's weak dialogue. I find it baffling that you can casually call someone a troll just so you can support your point.
Well, that's a little rude, don't you think? To simply rebuke someone after he apologizes to you? More to the point, I haven't called any specific person a troll. When I mentioned people harasssing artists on the Internet - not just Brandon Sanderson but actors like Felicia Day, authors like Neil Gaimon and other notable people - I was not talking about this one particular blogger that you've brought up. In fact, that would have been impossible since I didn't know that this blogger existed until five minutes ago.

My point is that some people have a tendency to heckle artists. That doesn't mean that everyone who tweets or blogs about an artist is a troll but I've certainly seen plenty of disrespectful comments on Twitter, Facebook and various blogs throughtout the Net.

People have a tendency to assume that an artist owes them something, to assume that if an artist does not take their feedback into consideration, he has failed to do his job. This is impossible since art, by definition, cannot be a democratic process. As proof, consider our divergent opinions on the issue of Mat's bragging contest with Rand.

If I tell Brandon that he did an excellent job with that scene and then you tell him the scene was an utter travesty, which of us is he supposed to listen to? I can assure you that I'm as honest in my opinions as you are. I'm not praising the man's work just to start an argument. You can't claim that Brandon should listen to your feedback over mine with any hope of remaining objective. (And just to be clear, neither can I). It is simply impossible to accept feedback from all the fans because many fans want contradictory things.

Brandon needs to listen to his editors because editors are professionals who know the standards of good literature. Certainly an author needs feedback - just as an engineer needs someone to check his math - but that feedback should come from someone with the proper credentials.

That doesn't mean that fans can't voice their opinions - they can and should in the proper forums and good editors keep an eye on those forums - but they should not expect an artist to immediately grant their every request. There are many people out there who lash out at artists when they don't get their way and unfortunately, this can have a negative impact on the artist's self-image.

I'd also like you to note that with the exception of a minor slip of the tongue, I've been nothing but polite to you and I would like you to show me the same courtesy. I haven't called any of your arguments laughable or over the top and I've tried to respond to them with an honest summation of my position.

Quote:
And I don't see how you're willing to write off Brandon either. There have been plenty of criticisms thrown at him, at Twitter or elsewhere, and if he disagrees with the criticism, he has said so.
Yes, but this is another reason why authors need editors. Authors are often too close to their own work. That can make them blind to their failings but it can also make them blind to their strengths.

An exchange between Rand and Min.

Quote:
"No," Rand said. "You're more vital than all of them. You remind me of who I am. Besides, you think more clearly than most of those who call themselves my counselors. You could be a queen if you wanted it."

"All I want is you, stupid looby."

"Thank you." He hesitated. "Though I could manage without quite so much name calling."

"Life's tough, isn't it?"
That was adorable. So full of tenderness and empathy. When Brandon wrote this converation, he did so for a reason. Probably because these words seemed to fit with the characters in his mind. He could feel the empathy between Rand and Min and he chose words to express it. Criticism might make him doubt his choices but that doesn't mean his choices were wrong. That's one of the problem with putting too much stock in opinions on the Internet. They can make an artist doubt himself in unjustified ways.


Quote:
There is no trolling at play when an interviewer asks an author a legitimate question about his prose. And when an author agrees with the comment, he isn't doing so because he's got a habit of listening to trolls.
I didn't say that and you know I didn't say that. Please do not put words in my mouth.

Quote:
Brandon's writing is witty? I'm going to ask for a sample, then.
See above.

Quote:
For myself, I still remember this as Brandon's attempt at "wit"
Quote:
She reached into a pocket of her dress, pulling out several pieces of paper. One was the picture of Mat. "You didn't ask where I got this."

"You're Aes Sedai," Mat said, shrugging. "I figured you . . . you know, saidared it."
HAHAHAHA

I love that line! Joss Whedon to the core!

Quote:
Have you read other works by Brandon, by the way?
Every last one of them.


Quote:
You know, Joss Whedon will trun in his grave, when he has one, over that. Brandon's attempts at witty banter barely rises above the level of a college show. The best example of this is actually a character called Shallan in Way of Kings. The only reason a reader gets that she's supposed to be witty is all the characters around her rushing to inform us she is witty.
I disagree. About Whedon.

As for Shallan, I never thought she was particularly funny either. Or witty. She was definitely crafty, though she never made me laugh. I'd say that I agree with you but I can't remember her receiving many compliments as to her wit. Maybe from that acolyte who had a huge crush on her but you can't really expect him to have an objective opinion.

Quote:
RJ's characters state their feelings? Like the time when Egwene told us explicitly she was falling out of love with Rand? Like the time when Nynaeve told us explicitly she was insecure because she had been given responsibility early in life? Like when Rand told us straight out that he was desperate to prove himself? Oh wait... [I]none of that happened
.

Oy... These replies are getting so long. It's taken me an hour just to write this one.


Okay.

Egwene DID explicitely state (both in her POV and outloud) that she was falling out of love with Rand.

It's questionable whether Nynaeve ever actually felt insecure about anything. Throughout the first few books, she behaves like a relentless harridan. It's possible to infer a sense of insecurity from her actions alone but her internal POVs seem to shoot that idea in the foot. Most of Nynaeve's innermost thoughts involve naming and categorizing the several doezen types of fool that surround her. Elayne's an impulsive, hot-headed fool, Rand's a stubborn wool-headed fool and so on. The Aes Sedai are all fools. When exposed to her inner thoughts, Nynaeve seems VERY self-confident. So, I think you're assuming the existence of an emotion that was never really there. I suppse you could make the argument that she acts out her self-confidence. And I might have to concede that point. But that's about as far as it goes.

Again, she changes toward the end of the seires but those changes are most evident in the Brandon books.


RJ's characters are very good at acting arrogant.

Rand...

Rand's a tough nut to crack.

I realize that I should amend some of my earlier statements. RJ's characters do act out their feelings if those feelings involve anger, indignation or distrust. But if the feelings involve love, imtimacy, trust or humor, they tend to behave like cardboard cut-outs.

Elayne LOVES Rand but we never see it, we never feel it short her telling us over and over that she does. It's sort of like your complaint that everyone tells us Shallan is witty but she never does anything witty.


Same with Egwene and Gawyn. She LOVES him but there's no real chemistry there. She thinks it (which is what I mean by "states it") over and over but her behaviour is not really congruent with those thoughts. (No, making out with him does not count. Nor does dreaming about having sex with him. That's just a form of stating it with vivid descriptions)

In the later books, Rand often talks about how much he misses Moiraine - and I think RJ really did intend for him to feel that way - but while she was actually present in his life, he mostly treated her like an inconvenience. Again, the closeness might have been there in RJ's mind but his characters don't show it.

In fact, most of his characters seem to openly dislike each other and only tolerate each other out of sheer necessity. They're very good at puffing up their chests when anyone gives them a hair less respect than they think they deserve but openness, empathy, warmth? Those aren't qualities you will find in abundance. This is one of the reasons that I think RJ's characters are detestable people and why I credit Brandon with improving them.

All right, I'm out of time. I'm very sorry. There's just too much to get to.
  #156  
Old 03-29-2013, 04:27 PM
Garak Garak is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davian93 View Post
BTW, on a side note, here is the best scene in the entire books between Rand & Nynaeve. RJ perfectly nailed their relationship here and its brilliant writing:



That is what good dialogue sounds like too, BTW.
I suppose I should be fair. I've been hard on RJ - not because I wanted to go after the man but because I wanted to illustrate the fact that there were big problems in the series prior to Brandon's arrival - but there was a time when his work was quite excellent. The Eye of the World stands out as one of the best works in modern fantasy that I've ever read. That's how I got into the series. The Great Hunt, Dragon Reborn and Shadow Rising were all excellent books in their own right. There were things that I didn't like about them but I consider most of them to be matters of personal taste and not actual flaws. For instance, it always bothered me that there was so much annimosity between Mat and the girls and I never did care for Jordan's gender politics but those aren't flaws so much as matters of taste.

In my opinion - and I stress that because it IS an opinion - the problems with WoT set in at about Fires of Heaven. Most of the problems that I've talked about in the series were completely absent form Eye of the World.

For instance, Nynaeve had not yet adopted many of her more annoying character traits. The scene you quoted does in fact show some affection between Nynaeave and Rand. Rand does act out his emotions in this scene (fear, insecurity, love for his father).

I do think Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight are god-awful books but in my defense of Sanderson, I've made it seem like I hate everything Robert Jordan ever wrote. Not so. His earlier work was quite excellent.
  #157  
Old 04-05-2013, 04:29 PM
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I had considered posting this in the Brandon Sanderson forum but since it follows from a discussion in this thread, I decided to put it here.

Once again, I'm forced to amend one of my previous statements, this time in favour of Shallan. It's funny, I haven't read the The Way of Kings in over two years but when I loaded up my kobo, I just happened to land on a Shallan chapter.

And it turns out that she is quite witty.

Quote:
“I assume from your outburst that this topic is wearing on you,” Jasnah said, sorting through her volumes as the parshman withdrew. “You expressed interest in being a scholar. Well, you must learn that this is scholarship.”

“Reading argument after argument from people who refuse to see any other point of view?”

“They're confident.”

“I'm not an expert on confidence, Brightness,” Shallan said, holding up a book and inspecting it critically “But I'd like to think that I could recognize it if it were before me. I don't think that's the right word for books like this one from Mederia. They feel more arrogant than confident to me.” She sighed, setting the book aside. “To be honest, 'arrogant' doesn't feel like quite the right word. It's not specific enough.”
Two uses of body language. (Three if you count Jasnah)

Quote:
“And what would be the right word?”

“I don't know. 'Errogant' perhaps.”

Jasnah raised a skeptical eyebrow
I don't need to point out why I'm bolding these sections, do I? We're up to four.

Quote:
“It means to be twice as certain as someone who is merely arrogant,” Shallan said, “while possessing only one tenth the requisite facts.”

Her words drew a hint of a sime from Jasnah. “What you are reacting against is known as the Assuredness Movement, Shallan. This 'errogance' is a literary device. The scholars are intentionally overstating their case.[/b]

“The assuredness movement,” Shallan asked, holding up one of the books. “I guess I could get behind that.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Much easier to stab it in the back from that position.”
Witty retort # 1


Quote:
That got only an eyebrow raise So, more seriously, Shallan continued. “I suppose I can understand the device, Brightness, but these books you've given me on King Galivar's death are more and more irrational. What began as a rhetorical conceit seems to have descended into squabbling and name-calling.”

“They are trying to provoke discussion. Would you rather that scholars hide from the truth, like so many? You would have men prefer ignorance.”

“When reading these books, scholarship and ignorance feel much the same to me,” Shallan said. “Ignorance may reside in a man hiding from intelligence but scholarship can seem ignorance hidden behind intelligence.”

“And what of intelligence without ignorance? Finding truth while not dismissing the possibility of being wrong?”

“A mythical treasure, Brightness, much like the dawnshards or the honorblades. Certainly worth seeking but only with great caution.”

“Caution,” Jasnah said, frowning.

“It would make you famous but actually finding it would destroy us all. Proof that one can be both intelligent and willing to accept the intelligence of those who disagree with you? Why, I should think it would undermine the scholarly world in its entirety.”

Jasnah sniffed. “You go too far child. If you took half the energy that you devote to being witty and channeled it into your work, I dare say you could be the greatest scholar of our age.”
I think it's important to note that Jasnah is not praising Shallan's wit here.

Quote:
“I'm sorry, Brightness,” Shallan said. “I... Well, I'm confused. Considering the gaps in my education, I thought you would have me studying something deeper in the past than just a few years ago.”

Jasnah opened one of her books. “I have found that youts like you have a relative lack of appreciation for the distant past. Therefore, I selected an area of study that is both more recent and sensational to ease you into scholarship. Is the murder of a king not of interest to you?”

“Yes, Brightness,” Shallan said. “We children love things that are shiny and loud.”
Witty retort # 2.

Quote:
“You have quite a mouth on you at times.”

“At times? You mean it's not there at others? I'll have to...” Shallan trailed off.
And there's number 3. So, again, I must revise my original statement. Shallan is quite witty I had just forgotten some of her better moments.
  #158  
Old 04-05-2013, 05:45 PM
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So, Suttree got me to reread sections of PoD and I decided to keep flipping through it. It's been about nine years since I read thing and I figured I needed to give it another go. One of two things was bound to happen: either I'd discover a new perspective on the novel or I'd reacquaint myself with the many, MANY reasons why this book should have been revised. I'm sorry to tell you that it was the latter.

I went through the first chapter with a pad and pen, making notes of everything I didn't really care for and found that I had filled two pages of yellow paper before giving up in exasperation while our heroes were still in the Tarasin Palace. I won't share those reflections with you, since I know it will only piss off a lot of people. Instead, I'll keep my critiques to some of the major flaws of this novel.

In some ways, this book is actually worse than Crossroads of Twilight. Crossroads was consistently awful from start to finish but Path of Daggers actually has its enjoyable moments. The problem is that the book shoots itself in the foot every time one of those moments shows up.

Observe:

So, Elayne, Aviendha, Nynaeve and various members of the Sea Folk and Kin use the Bowl of Winds to fix the weather. There's some beautiful description of what they did along with some insight into the inner workings of the One Power. It's a great little scene and then RJ makes it even better by adding a bit of action afterward.

Quote:
“Shadowspawn!” someone screamed and suddenly women were embracing saidar all over the hilltop. Balls of fire shot up from Merilille's hands, from Carene's and Sareitha's as fast as they could throw. A huge winged shape enveloped in flame tumbled out of the sky, trailing oily black smoke.

“There's another one!” Kirstian shouted, pointing, A second winged creature dove away from the hill, its body as big as a horse, ribbed wings spanning thirty paces or more, long neck stretched out before and longer tail streaming out behind. A storm of fire rained after it, quickest of all from Aviendha and the Sea Folk who made no throwing gesture as part of the weaving. A hail of fire so thick it seemed that fire must be forming out of the air and the thing dodged behind a hill on the other side of the farm.
What a great little sequence

Excellent prose, good description, palpable tension: this is a perfect example of fantasy writing. A soon as the raken depart, Elayne and the others debate what to do in a frenzy and then conclude that the Seanchan must have seen their little display of channeling.

So far so good.

Then we get this...

Quote:
“Well,” Elayne said, brushing her skirt, “you did say she was a very capable woman.”

“I never said that,” Nynaeve snapped. “I never said 'very!' Hmmph! Where did my hat get to? Thinks she knows everything. I'll wager she doesn't know that!” She flounced off in a different direction than Alise.

Elayne stared after her. Her hat? She would have liked to know where her own hat had gone to – it was a beautiful thing – but really!
Nynaeve running around, searching for her hat? Seriously?

Of course, Elayne isn't much better as she immediately begins fussing with the ter'angreal in their wagon despite the fact that we ALREADY saw her do just that two chapters ago and there's really no reason to believe the contents of that wagon have changed. Moreover, is this really the time to start worrying about ter'angreal?

I guess it is since we also get description of the most leisurely evacuation in the history of literary fiction.

Quote:
Aviendha took a seat crosslegged on the ground, blotting sweat from her face with a plain linen handkerchief that seemed at odds with her pretty silk riding dress.
Yes, that's exactly what I want in a fast-paced escape scene: sitting around in the grass, making idle conversation. Oh and a narrator that has time to take note of fashion. Instantly, all the tension evaporates.


Quote:
There were bumps, of sorts, even with what might be rushing toward them. What surely was rushing toward them. Nynaeve getting her blue-plumed hat back was not really a bump, though it almost turned into one; Alise had found it and handed it back, telling Nynaeve to shield her face from the sun if she wanted to keep that smooth pretty skin.
The hat again... Ugh!

I'll spare you the rest – there is more – and get to my point. When you create tension by putting your characters in danger, you should not completely undermine that tension by having your characters fixate on the most frivolous, trivial problems. Nynaeve's hat? I can somewhat forgive Elayne wanting to check on the ter'angreal because keeping them out of Seanchan hands is a priority but one paragraph would do for that. Maybe even a sentence. “She took a quick look inside the wagon and, finding that everything seemed to be exactly where she'd left it, decided to help organize the Kinswomen.” RJ gave us a page and a half of useless description.

This scene would have benefited from a narrow escape where Elayne and Co were lucky to get out with their lives. Raken should have appeared with soldiers on horseback following immediately afterward, men with crossbows taking up positions on the hill and pelting the marath'damane with arrows. Elayne should have immediately jumped into a leadership role, organizing a defense with the One Power.

Then actual damane would show up, forcing her to think fast and use a circle to counter their attacks while Nynaeve got everyone out through a gateway. You could even have a moment where one of the sisters has to be convinced that her life is in actual danger. It should have been fast, exciting and tense.

Instead we got a series of hissy fits from the so-called empowered women of this series, each of them behaving like a complete idiot while they sort out the pecking order. And there's a kind of understated sexism here because RJ seems to be saying that even when women are under the threat of capture and death, they will still place the pecking order above any other priority. Sea Folk filching angreal, sisters sniffing at Kinswomen. On and on it goes. By the time the Seanchan finally arrive, our heroes are all safely settled in Andor.

Add to that some pointless description of scenery, some blather about Nynaeve mooning over Lan and some pointless cat-fights over who should make the gateway and what you have is a complete failure to capitalize on tension from the previous chapter. This chapter seems to be saying “No, no, don't worry. These characters were never in any REAL danger.”

If they can behave like total idiots and still get out with their hides intact, the situation must not have been all that drastic to begin with.
  #159  
Old 04-05-2013, 07:01 PM
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Loved the hat bit. It wasn't trivial; it was the use of a trivial detail to highlight two things: 1) the building tension between Kin and Aes Sedai, 2) Nynaeve's slow realization that she isn't always the most capable person to be in charge. But even if it was trivial, it's not like it took up a lot of space, and it certainly doesn't make TPOD an 'awful' book. The Bowl sequence gets the most criticism of any part in the book. I didn't find it particularly bad, and the rest of the book is pretty amazing, especially Rand's arc.

I don't think the women are any more concerned with pecking order than the men are. If you're going to read sexism into things RJ wrote, there are some legitimate opportunities, but I don't think this is one of them, nor do I think his sometimes caricaturish portrayal of gender differences is particularly unrealistic, knowing something about the era in which he was raised and the culture in which he lived in Charleston. The odd thing about RJ is that he wanted to be egalitarian, and considered himself to be so, and his attempts along these lines are observable in a number of ways. In other words, I don't think it's particularly logical or helpful to read sexism into everything women do in WoT. There's a debate about 'historically accurate' sexism in fantasy literature; I'm not sure where WoT fits in that discussion. Certainly in a unique place.
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  #160  
Old 04-06-2013, 05:11 PM
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Ah, excellent.

Thank you, Terez; I always appreciate a cordial and detailed reply.

Quote:
Loved the hat bit. It wasn't trivial; it was the use of a trivial detail to highlight two things. 1) the building tension between Kin and Aes Sedai. 2) Nynaeve's slow realization that she isn't always the most capable person to be in charge.
I'm afraid I must disagree on both counts. At best, the hat shows us growing tension between Nynaeve and Alise; it says nothing about the general state of affairs between Kin and Aes Sedai. The animosity between those groups had been established in earlier chapters. As for whether it counts as some kind of revelation on Nynaeve's part, I'm afraid I just don't see it. Nynaeve walks around stomping, huffing and puffing but this behaviour is no different than it had been at any point since the Dragon Reborn. I found myself wondering why I once disliked Nynaeve so much. In Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight, she was one of my favourite characters: competant, introspective and clever. I asked myself why it was that I once found her so objectionable.

This is why.

Throughout this scene – and many that preceded it – Nynaeve behaves like a complete imbecile on top of being petty, vain and rude. There is no outward sign of any kind of growth on her part and though I appreciate your input, I have to conclude that you're seeing something that simply isn't there.

Which leads me to my next point.

Quote:
I don't think the women are any more concerned with pecking order than the men are. If you're going to read sexism into things RJ wrote, there are some legitimate opportunities, but I don't think this is one of them, nor do I think his sometimes caricaturish portrayal of gender differences is particularly unrealistic, knowing something about the era in which he was raised and the culture in which he lived in Charleston. The odd thing about RJ is that he wanted to be egalitarian, and considered himself to be so, and his attempts along these lines are observable in a number of ways. In other words, I don't think it's particularly logical or helpful to read sexism into everything women do in WoT.
Those are valid points; so, please allow me to elaborate on my objection to this scene. As I've already stated, Nynaeve displays pettiness, rudeness and complete ineptitude. The fact that she wastes time by fretting about a hat during a crisis proves that she is perhaps the worst candidate for leadership of any kind. However, Nynaeve is set up as a character that we – the readership – are supposed to respect. She is often lauded as a strong empowered woman.

Throughout the entire series, all the way up to Gathering Storm, Nynaeve gets her way by sheer force of personality. She badgers and browbeats other people into compliance; she rarely offers a rational explanation for her decisions and when she does, her logic is full of holes. Most people comply with Nynaeve simply to make her shut up. Moreover, her accomplishments are not really her own in any tangible sense. She was made Accepted by fiat, allowed to skip the novice stage simply because Siuan thought that would make her more pliable. She then left the Tower – despite strict prohibitions against doing so – twice, and upon joining the Salidar rebels was made Aes Sedai by fiat. By her best friend no less. The other Aes Sedai are right to question her because Nynaeve has not not really earned any of her promotions. Her leadership skills amount to “Now you stop being foolish and straighten up or so help me I'll box your ears.”

This on its own is not so bad. The problem is that RJ's women can only display authority by standing with fists on their hips or arms folded over their breasts and scolding everyone else into compliance. They are not leaders because of innate competence but instead because of innate stubbornness. Leadership goes to whichever woman speaks the loudest and talks the sternest. Nynaeve is far from the only woman to suffer from this flaw; Alise, Renaile, Zaida, Cadsuane, Sorliea, Tsutsama and various others all behave in the same way. The only exception is Egwene and the only reason RJ gets credit for that is she does show some genuine leadership skills in Knife of Dreams.

The sexism is in the understated assumption that empowerment = stubbornness (or bullying as the case may be) and this scene is just one such example. Time and again, women are shown to be unqualified for positions of authority – Nynaeve, for example – and yet they are allowed to attain and keep those positions of authority by threatening, cajoling and browbeating their detractors into submission. Since there are so few examples genuinely competent female leadership, the series is almost claiming – in a back-handed way – that women should not be in positions of authority in the first place.
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