Formulas

So, there's a formula to writing books. Right?

I mean, each novel is unique and special in its own way, and some are startling in their creativity or reach or ambition, but every book out there follows the basic formula of Beginning, Middle, Crescendo, End. It has to. When it doesn't, it turns into the confusing mire of mid-series Lost (or so I've heard; I've only seen the first season), or the really underwhelming series finale of Veronica Mars (Logan, my heart still weeps for you!).

In genre books (romance, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, etc.) the formulas are really pronounced. In romance, there's a heroine and a hero, and they meet at the beginning, and they get together at the end, and there's a subplot that involves orphans or missing inheritances or something like that. In fantasy, there's a hero and a heroine, and there's an incident that puts the world in peril at the beginning, and they save it at the end, and there's a subplot in which they fall in love. This isn't always true, and it doesn't always go exactly like that, but that's the standard formula.

Lois McMaster Bujold had written 18 (count 'em!) novels, both science fiction and fantasy, when she had an idea. What if she wrote a fantasy novel in which she switched the a-plot and the b-plot, so that the hero and the heroine's relationship took center stage, and the fate of the world bubbled along in the background? And so was born The Sharing Knife series, the fourth and final volume of which has just gone on sale.

THE SHARING KNIFE series is about a young woman, Fawn, an older soldier-sorcerer, Dag, and the fate of the world in which they live. And, yes, the relationship between Fawn and Dag really is the driving narrative force in the series, especially in the first two books; and the fate of the world sort of takes a backseat.

Obviously, Lois had to play around with some of the formulaic traditions: the world couldn't be imperiled by something as attention-getting as, say, an evil empire or a magical attack, because that requires immediate action; and the relationship between Fawn and Dag couldn't be neatly closed off by a proposal and a wedding, because how do you carry that through four books? But THE SHARING KNIFE succeeds, incredibly well, as a romantic fantasy -- as a series that looks at the political without disregard for the personal.

You can preview HORIZON at HarperCollins.com. Or if you want to start at the beginning, start with BEGUILEMENT. These characters will stay with you for a long time, I promise.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Beth Miller said:

Sounds like a great new series. I'm looking forward to picking up Beguilement.

FYI...us readers like to know who's posting - don't keep us in suspense! Give us a name, or one of those cute little avatars. :)

6:27 AM  

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