Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Does Genre Dictate the Level of Description?

   I've been reading books for almost sixty years now, starting with the typical dog and horse stories for children, then graduating into historical , science fiction and finally, fantasy. The one thing I've noticed after thousands of books, is that the amount of description varies depending on the genre. This makes complete sense if you think about it.
   For me, the more words in a book the better. This is one of the reasons I love fantasy and science fiction. A true fantasy is based on a world totally different than our own with creatures and landscapes never seen before. I'm a visual reader, so the more description provided, the better the picture that forms in my mind as I'm reading. The same applies to stories based on space travel. I've never experienced space or the feeling of approaching a new planet for the first time. Fill me up with the sights, sounds and smells so that I can experience it.
   On the flip side, if I'm reading a mystery, thriller or romance set in our present day world, very little description is needed. If I haven't actually visited a place on this earth, I've probably seen enough TV shows or movies to form a pretty good image without a lot of description. Just let me know the story is based in New York, Southern California or the Great Plains and not much more is needed.
   Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of info dumps. Character driven stories are what I like best, but keep filtering in little tidbits of description throughout the narrative to help me form a complete mental picture.
   There is not a lot of description in the following scene from my fanfic because, let's face it, after thirteen books, the reader should have a pretty vivid image of the world. There is just enough description to highlight things that have changed and to place the reader in a specific place.
   Thanks for reading!

Now that Alanna knew when Lan was planning his attack, she needed to hurry and inspect the borders of Kandor and Arafel before returning to Rand. Having spent the last couple of nights inside the wagon, she knew it well enough to open a gate to a small stand of trees about a league west of Chachin, the capitol city of Kandor. The skies here were darker here than anywhere else she had been. The underbrush showed no signs of life and the trees were dry, bare skeletons, their branches hanging limp. Littering the ground were the bones of small animals who had called this spot their home. As she hurried away from the death and decay, she couldn’t stop brushing her hands against her skirt in a vain attempt to wipe away the evil she felt.

The time for secrecy was past so she removed the weaves that hid her features and her ability to channel. Alanna knew that there were Aes Sedai with the army camped around the Capitol and they would be the best source of information.

She strode, unchallenged, through the rings of sentries surrounding the camp and after receiving directions from a young officer, approached a large isolated tent. A privacy weave had not been raised since she could hear voices from inside the tent which meant she wouldn’t be interrupting. In a normal voice she announced, “Alanna Mosvani of the Green Ajah. May I enter and speak with you?”

A moment of silence from within, then the tent flap was thrust aside revealing a tall, fiery haired woman with a boyish figure, a multitude of freckles and wearing a dark green dress.

“Alanna!” she exclaimed with a smile lighting up her face. “It really is you. Light be praised! It’s wonderful to see you again. Please come in. We have been in the dark for so long, hopefully you can separate truth from rumor for us.”

Alanna relaxed and returned her smile, “Candance, what a relief to find a friendly face. I will tell you what I can but my time is short. I was sent to assess your situation and report back quickly.”

Entering the tent she scanned the faces of the women gathered inside. It appeared that every Ajah was represented by at least one woman. Graciously accepting a chair and a cup of tea handed to her by a young Yellow, Alanna relaxed even further as she recognized every Sister there and none were on the list of suspected Black Ajah that the Amyrlin had been circulating.

“To avoid wasting your time and mine by asking me questions I might not have answers to, I will tell you what I know to be truth. The White Tower is whole again and Egwene al’Vere was properly raised as Amyrlin. She chose Silviana Brehon of the Red Ajah to be her Keeper of the Chronicles. Let me assure you, Egwene may be the youngest Amyrlin the Tower has ever had but she is no one’s puppet. She has already defeated one of the Forsaken in a direct confrontation and managed to un-mask the Black Ajah. I will see that the list of known Black Sisters is sent to you. Also, Rand al’Thor, along with Nynaeve Sedai, cleansed the male half of the Source which means we no longer need to fear men who can channel. The Dragon has gathered all the armies of the south and plans to send them to the areas of the Borderlands which are in greatest need. Possibly as early as tomorrow he plans on traveling directly to Shayol Ghul , break the remaining seals and confront the Dark One.”

 Alanna paused to take a sip of her tea and wait for the Sisters to absorb what she had just told them. She knew they would have questions even though she had asked for none.

Candance glanced at the other Aes Sedai, stood up brushing her skirt and then cleared her throat. “Alanna, my old friend, we are here because we disagreed with the Tower’s intention to guide and control al’Thor. The Prophesies are clear. The Dragon must be free to fight this battle in the way he decides. We believe that the Aes Sedai will only play a supporting role in the upcoming battle. So, how can we assist you in accomplishing your mission?”

Alanna saw nothing but determination in the faces of the women around her and a real desire to help.

“I have heard that some of the Watch Towers north of here have gone silent. Do you have any estimate of the number of Trollocs moving south or when they might attack the Capitol?”

A few of the women lowered their heads while several raised tea cups to pursed lips, but none would look her in the eye. A moment passed in awkward silence as Candance sat down, then answered Alanna in a quiet voice.

Heath Tower, which is about halfway to the Blight, was the last tower to be heard from and they went silent last night. None of the other towers have reported in days. We’ve opened small gates by several of the towers to send out scouts but none have returned. We could see Heath Tower in the distance and it had a column of smoke rising from the top. The other towers appear dark and deserted.”

Alanna surged up out of her chair, threw her cup to the floor and glared at every one of her fellow sisters. “Why has no one traveled to Heath Tower to bring men and supplies or at least check for survivors? How can you sit here and do nothing when you know that men could still be alive out there?”

“Alanna Mosvani,” Candance fired back. “Do you think we would just sit here if we could do something for those men? I am the only one of us strong enough to open a gate and then it’s only large enough for one person. The Queen decided it would be a waste of lives to try and send men through one at a time.”

Scorn dripped from her voice as Alanna surveyed the room. “Have I discovered a tent full of Novices? Since when do Aes Sedai listen to the whims of a Queen. Bloody ashes, Candance. There are enough of you to link and form a full circle which would enable you to open a gate large enough for a full squad of men to pass through.”

Earlier she had felt Rand move to a spot not far to the south which meant that he was at the Fields of Melinor and would need her report before meeting with the rulers gathered there. She was running out of time.

“Candance, I don’t have the time to sit here long enough to learn this spot so you will open a gate for me as close to Heath Tower as you are able. I will do what needs to be done from there. Set up two poles on the west side of your tent and I will use them when I return.”

Since Alanna was stronger in the Power than anyone else present, Candance had no choice but to obey. A small gate opened in the center of the tent and Alanna strode through into an area of desolation with signs of the Blight already beginning to show. Heath Tower sat on a slight rise just to the north of her with a faint wisp of smoke rising from the top but no flames that she could see.

Before the gate had closed behind her, she began the weave to travel to the top of the tower. At the faint rustle of dried grass she started to spin around but froze as the blinding pain of two, cold steel spear points burned their way into the small of her back. As she collapsed, the last thought before darkness over-took her was, ‘I have failed him’.


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