This Book Ain’t No Sandwich! (On the Subject of Filler)

This blog post is coming off a comment a friend made to me at a book signing, Specifically that second book in this particular series was a bit of ‘filler’ and it really picked up again in the third and latest book.

And that got me thinking.

I’ve heard tell of people having that opinion of Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and I’m warning you now, that this isn’t  really spoiler-y but if you want absolutely everything in that book to be a surprise then look away now….

Okay you were warned!

Well my friend said that by the end of the book Kvothe ‘is still at the University’. Now, he said this to me when I was just getting into the book (damnable actual work getting in the way!) so I was surprised by this, especially as I regarded the weight of the volume. But, I trust Patrick Rothfuss, not only does his writing excel but he’s a very funny man and does a tremendous amount for charity. And I’ve often thought that the Kingkiller trilogy won’t necessarily wrap up Kvothe’s entire storyline but will rather wrap up the story he’s telling the Chronicler and possibly end with him running off to do more adventuring and truly becoming Kvothe the Bloodless once more rather than Kote the Innkeeper. But that’s my opinion.

Anyway! What surprised me once I’d finished the tome (that seems appropriate for the gargantuan hardback) and checked back with my friend is just the sheer amount of stuff that he seemed to gloss over in his statement that he’s ‘still at the University’. Kvothe effectively goes on a gap year across the Four Corners! I won’t say any more than that but still. I thought he was doing a great injustice only thinking about the start and end position of the protagonist. He was missing out all of the character development, all that he’d done! Argh (I thought, vehemently, at the time)!

But it’s not for me to judge (aloud) how people interpret and enjoy books, their experiences will be very different from mine and it’s all the more personal and unique for that. So fair enough.

And I was reminded of my friend’s comment at the book signing last week. Commenting that Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and the second book in the Gentleman Bastard sequence felt a bit like filler for him.

I have to say here that what filler is can differ for different people but it seems to me that the stories that focus on character development rather than plot development will get hoisted and people will call them out for being ‘filler’ and not really moving forward.

That’s just not true though. If at the end of the story your characters are better off, and they’ve learned something (even if they haven’t defeated the bad guy!) and aren’t exactly where they started then the story has moved forward.

It can be difficult to try and introduce new elements without halting the story for a time, especially in fantasy as you need to give the audience time to adjust and get used to your world. And I think that this is in a way what’s happened with both of those books. The readers become disparaged when you can clearly see the obstacle and it hasn’t been overcome, they’re almost spoiled by episodic programmes and works and so expect it all to be wrapped up in a neat little bow.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want all my stories to never end, and I think that it also reflects as bad storytelling if you have a book and absolutely nothing gets resolved at the end. You need to have resolution at the end of your book, it doesn’t have to be the be all and end all resolution but there has to be something the audience can hold on to.

So what am I getting at? A good question.

That you need to be careful when accusing/using writing that might be filler. Before you consider how much the plot has progressed take a look at the characters, there might be a huge emotional pitfall that they’ve overcome. If the setting is still the same as it was on page one, what have they done since then? Have their efforts moved them towards the ultimate goal, no matter how small? And if they were small steps have the characters developed? Keep all those things in mind before you start talking about filler. It can be harder to identify if the series doesn’t have a clear indication of where it’s going and the books could be largely stand-alone (Yes I’m looking at you Gentleman Bastards), but do keep it in mind.

That’s my thoughts on the matter anyway. I know that turned out into a bit of a rant so thank you for sticking around!

I’ll be back soon with something less rambley. Until then, be well, be kind and have fun!

Update of the Beard, WFC2013 and Book Covers (For some reason)

Well seeing as the WFC has released a much more detailed schedule let’s talk about that!

You can now see the details of the wonderful things that they have on rather than just the glorious titles!

So I thought that today I would chat about some of the ones that have jumped out at me (apart from Terry Pratchett and Patrick Rothfuss)

There is to be a panel about book covers, now this may not sound all that exciting. But think about it, that’s a single image, sometimes not even that when all you can see is the spine of the book, that has to ensnare and sell a book to everyone. I think it’s a very important part of the production process and can easily, easily make the difference between making a book look professional or something you’ve thrown together.

I think that’s the same reason it’s quite hard to make your book as professional when you’re publishing, especially in fantasy. And I have seen some books which go from looking professional (although similar to others on the market …. but it was like a best-seller so is that a bad thing?) to, at least what I see as, looking more like a self-published book. This is I think an important distinction to make purely because I think that it can be off putting for some people to go with self-published works.

It is nice to give your money to the little guy and support writers who may well be just getting into the wacky world of writing, but then there’s the flip side from a sales point of view that some people just won’t want to spend their money on something that will be a bit of a gamble. Of course you can have some fantastic self-published works, Michael J Sullivan is one of those very people! But of course a lot of people won’t necessarily see it that way and will look out for covers as easy targets to discern whether they want to spend their hard earned cash.

Anyway! That turned into a bit more of a rant than I was expecting on that topic!

Just a short blog post today because I (and others!) are busy in preparation for the WFC as it starts today! I am finalising my train ticket and don’t you worry, I shall be sticking my head out of the window like an excited dog the whole way!

There will be lots of updates on here throughout the convention and then I’ll also do a nice round u.

BREAKING ROTHFUSS NEWS!

On another note dear reader, we find that Patrick Rothfuss is doing a bit more of a tour around the UK! Well to London at least, for the moment. Upon his facebook page he has created several groups and is traversing Europe to do signings! I thought that this would be a very important piece of information to share with you and I suggest you go to whichever is closest! There are a  few in the UK and also a couple in Spain! Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the extra event in Brighton has sold out, but you can’t say that wasn’t going to happen! They’ve got all the fantasy fans in the world there right now!

But, let us part ways once more and I shall keep you posted about the hippenings and happenings throughout the convention! (And yes I promise never to say ‘hippenings’ again…)