A Confusing Drama)
My very first blog on this site talked about how authors should consider leaving some elements unsaid. That by merely hinting at things, and then letting the reader fill in the gaps, they encourage a more active investment from their audience. The trick, of course, is to not overdo it, and make things so obfuscated that no one has any idea what you’re even talking about.
With the most recent entry of Raise the Black Sun I found myself wondering which side of that line I had fallen on. Specifically I am referring to a scene where the protagonist is fighting with a witch. He and his companions had fallen victim to illusions that she presented them, but when he broke free of these delusions she grabbed him from behind and started to choke him.
Then, in a moment of epiphany, he realizes the way the witch’s magic works is that she suggests a reality to you, and then, once you start to believe in it, it start to become real. With that knowledge he realizes that if he can convince himself that he is holding a dagger in his hand, then her magical aura would make it so. And because he knows that her magical aura will make it so, it is easy to convince himself that there is a dagger in his hand. His cyclical logic manifests in the weapon, and he uses it to defeat the witch.
Knowing More Than I Said)
I thought it was a neat little sequence…but I didn’t actually write it out that way. This is a story of desperation and fear, and it is told by a somber, haunted soul. It just didn’t feel right to have him giddily narrate his epiphany to the reader, so I cut that part out. Instead the dagger just appears in his hand, with only some slight suggestions as to how it even got there. I rather suspect that some–or all–of my audience was left thinking some form of the following:
“Wait, what just happened? Did he have the dagger on his belt all along? But why did it disappear after she died? Did she make it then? Why would she do that?”
I thought about this lack of information a good deal before pressing Publish on the piece, but ultimately decided that a little bit of confusion in the reader would actually be entirely appropriate for a story like this.
It is a story about a young man caught up in something much larger than himself, and a major theme of the entire work is his inability to understand the wheel that turns him. I thought it would be fitting, then, for the reader to have a moment of not being sure how the world was working either.
I enjoyed this little exercise in selective obfuscation, and I think this sort of process has a lot of potential for certain story types. But I would definitely urge extreme caution in choosing to utilize this particular trick. While it may work in some situations, I believe in most cases it would only be frustrating to the audience.
As such, I decided that if I was going to go ahead with this exercise, I was going to adhere to a couple rules that would ensure I was playing fair with the reader. It was important to me, for example, that there be an actual answer as to what happened. I didn’t want to be cheap and write something that was completely unfounded. It’s easy to confuse people if you just write things without any personal logic for them, and I didn’t want to be guilty of cheating the story in that way.
Thus I developed a complete, logical explanation for what had happened, and from that selected which parts to actually share. My hope is that each reader will either be able to tease out what actually transpired, or at the very least be able to see enough breadcrumbs to convince them that the answers are there, even if they cannot work them out.
More Unexplored Ideas)
There was something else I wanted to accomplish in the witch’s scene, something that I have been trying to accomplish throughout all of this particular story. I have sought to introduce numerous ideas to the reader which are then intentionally abandoned before they can be fully developed on.
All of my readers should be able to understand that the witch uses illusion and trickery to project something that is false, but that if she can get someone to believe in the illusion, gradually it actually becomes real. It’s an interesting idea, and one that seems like it could be iterated on quite a good deal further. I like to hope that readers would like to see a few more examples of this in play, that they would like to know more about why the witches even do this, and how they come about their power, and all manner of other questions that will never be answered in this story.
I had similar hopes with the Scrayer, whom I introduced in the second part of this story. I hope the image of a giant of a man, draped in black and wielding a weapon that literally dissolves men into powder makes a sharp impression on the reader. I hope it lodges into the mind and makes them wonder about what else is hiding just behind the curtain of this world.
I hope the story of a doomed caravan driven a thousand miles by men that have surrendered possession of their own hearts stirs somber wonderings within.
In short, I am trying to write a story where so very little is said, but so very much is implied. A world that seems to be made of a thousand folds, of which we are shown only a small slice, rife with unfinished turns and incomplete ends.
This is my approach. It is possible that audiences will not like it, that they will feel too much was left unsaid, and will be left with a sense of frustration. It is possible…and to write this story I had to decide that I was okay with that possibility. I am okay that this tale might be frustrating. Because regardless of all else, I think it makes for a better story. One which I genuinely feel has a lot to offer, with even more than is contained within its words. It may not be for everyone, but I think it is a stronger experience for those that it is for.
On Thursday we will see yet another partial disclosure of this story when our Treksmen arrive at their destination. As with everything else, what they see will be but the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully it will be enough to suggest an ancient and storied lore, one that can be sensed and breathed, even if not heard and seen.