Annotation Elantris Chapter 1
There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn’t originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: “It wasn’t until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned.”
While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn’t really speed the novel up–but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he’d been taken by the Shaod.
My books tend to have what are called ‘steep learning curves.’ In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don’t tend to write very standard fantasies–I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example–taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.
Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don’t usually do things like this–I don’t believe in the standard ‘hook’ idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.
Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I’m revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn’t yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.
I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you’ll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There’s even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the Seon’s words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden’s shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to ‘look damnation in the face,’ helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings–perhaps too much–because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.
Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name ‘Galerion’ just didn’t fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn’t do as much planning for this book as I now for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion’s culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe–my editor–independently decided that he really didn’t like Galerion’s name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn’t like Raoden’s name either–but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don’t understand the Aonic language. Remember–two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)
Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn’t want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You’ll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.