caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Until I started this comb-through of Lord of the Rings, I'd forgotten just how much of this Tolkien manages to pack in. You can hardly turn around at any point in the first book without falling into another bout of it. The fact that this impression never particularly lingered until I went looking for it, suggests that it's very well integrated indeed.

If exposition by loremaster routes large numbers of secondary stories through a single master-node, peer-to-peer exposition distributes them widely amongst whichever nonspecialized characters are appropriate. The technique can be as direct as having characters walk offstage, and return with a more or less condensed description of what happened while the reader was following the main story; or as devious as having them tell a secondary tale which is only relevant at a slant, at just the point where the reader needs to hear it. Sometimes the story might be more important for what its matter or its manner says about the character, or about a way of looking at the world, than for any content of its own. Sometimes, though not in Tolkien, it affords a convenient way of lying to the reader without making the actual narration unreliable.

Peer-to-peer exposition in Tolkien, and its several subtleties. )

Reflections on p2p, with its uses and absences, in my first draft and going forward. )

General thought. Peer-to-peer exposition seems naturally best suited to broad-canvas stories with large, strongly-differentiated casts and well-distributed character agency. This certainly describes Lord of the Rings. Three Katherines is deliberately a far more parochial tale, but the landscape is deliberately denser; and Killer-Kate has that feeling of broadness to me in a way that Katy Elflocks doesn't, because its threads diverge and rejoin so much. Does anybody else find this connection between the feel of the story and the method of the exposition a natural one?
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
"Last night you began to tell me strange things about my ring, Gandalf," said Frodo. "And then you stopped, because you said that it was getting late, and we still had another sixteen pages to go..."


Well, nearly!

Tolkien loves this technique, as well he might, being no little of a loremaster himself. Lord of the Rings is full of the beggars. Gandalf, Elrond, Tom Bombadil, Aragorn, Galadriel, Treebeard - and Faramir and Bilbo and Merry and Frodo himself, on a lesser scale - all serve this function at some point or another. Loremaster exposition is one of the opposed methods to maid-and-butler dialogue/As You Know, Bob: it allows one character, who knows huge dollops of stuff almost nobody else knows, to helpfully inform the reader in the process of reasonably informing the character.

For my present purposes, the main use of a loremaster is to tell a story, or the selected highlights of a story, which neither their real nor his fictional audience could otherwise be expected to know. Because they are so lore-wise, they potentially have a lot of such stories at their fingertips.

Loremasterly exposition in Tolkien, and its higher mode's aspirations to cover current and future narratives. )

On re-reading Chapter 2, The Shadow of the Past, I find whole new levels of craft in the way Tolkien breaks down this massive infodump, sets it to a compelling rhythm, and controls its tone for fascination, tension, oppression, and release. The only reason I'm not going to analyse it right here and now is a practical one - it's not very close to what I'm trying to achieve. It would be truer to say, in fact, that several features of Three Katherines are a reaction against what it represents. Let's turn now to what I hope to get out of this.

Survey of loremaster exposition opportunities in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. )

So I don't get to do much exposition of secondary stories by loremaster at all in Three Katherines - and what I do, is not likely to come from the mouths I expected. My takeaway is to focus on Elegant Elder Sister where that needs doing, and to a lesser and highly specialized extent on: Shiny Lurker, Hero-Father, and Mostly Okay Genius. Hm-m-m!
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien has so many intricately detailed secondary stories which require exposition, that he uses just about every single expository technique on Earth, and several in some pretty exotic orbits. I think this variety is one of his strengths, because of all narrative techniques, exposition is one of those which get oldest fastest. And the richness of this particular story demands a lot of it.

What is exposition? Back to basics:

...most complex compositions fall into the intermediate zones, where only part of the imaginary tale is actually made explicit - just as much, in fact, as serves a proper reading of the real one. The methods of achieving this partial telling are what I mean by exposition.
By imaginary stories, to recap, I mean stories which are not exactly told as stories at all, except in the limit as they approach reality and are glommed onto the 'real' story whole. But they are intended, essential to the overall composition, and actually presented in some clear sense, or else we don't care about them. In the next few posts I'm dealing with the expository techniques of making them somehow explicit and localized, as opposed to the incluing techniques of implicitly spreading them throughout the text.

The crudest and simplest method of exposition is just this: the narrator dumps on the reader exactly what they need to know of the exposited story, when they need to know it, by Word of God, or at least Word of Phil the Fibber whom it is pleasing the reader to stand the drinks.

Example of direct narrative exposition. )

Narrative exposition in Tolkien. )

So. What does this mean for my own project?

What it means. )

Next up, a Tolkien favourite and now a big-time genre trope in its own right: Exposition by Loremaster.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
First off, I'm killing that extended metaphor of complex composition as mapping its real and untold 'imaginary' stories to the mathematical complex plane. Nice provocation but useless visualization. I'll keep the term 'complex' for the use of untold or very partially told implicit stories as critical elements of a whole tale, until I've a better. This done...

I don't think like Tolkien and, enormously as I admire his work, I have no desire whatsoever to write like him. That job has already been done once, and by a master. But when looking for a masterclass in really complex composition, who I gonna call? Who else?

In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien uses just about every possible technique and level of story composition. Around the central narrative of The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King - which does exactly what it says on the tin - he works huge amounts of other matter, much of which one would not expect to work in a month of Sundays, to produce a whole enormously greater than the sum of its parts. Some of this is told directly, which does not so much concern me just here, and some of it is... not. His most audacious trick of all, the wrapping of that great story around the almost wholly hollow core of The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, makes a positive virtue of not telling a tale which suits neither his Muse nor the novel he is writing. To this I shall recur anon.

Here I want to look at the really weird things Tolkien does in the framing material.

Historical treatment of Tolkien's world, its identification with our own, and the implicit story arising when one tells a fantastic tale from within its own setting. )


Next: Tolkien's use of reduction and exposition. "Alas!" said Gandalf...


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
A happy New Year to one and all!

I have not been awful active in a literary way over the holiday. 2,650 words of Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland, all of them from a long Council of Infodump very little of which will survive the redraft. But the developments it sparked have changed both my present chapter and the whole dynamic of the Rising beyond all expectation. Again, I am cast upon strange tides, and many-braided Allwater has taken me to some places I never imagined I'd see.

Two new visions which may bear future fruit, and which have at least helped keep me out of mischief. One was a reverie into which I fell upon the Holyhead train, in which I learned that one Man's Eru is another Orc's Azathoth - and that one side's desperate doomed stand against overwhelming horror and power can look remarkable similar on the other side of the lines. But not necessarily in the same genre. I like Doc Wolfram and Splicewire and the Lady of the Last Ditch almost as much as I would hate to live in their world, and it is just conceivable that I've met a dark fantasy notion with enough heart that I might be able to yarn about it. Certainly I haven't stopped having new flashes about that setting yet.

...And one that came to me in a dream, of a hunt on St Lucy's Eve, where I involved myself in a thousand-year adventure with St Lucy herself, and the Titaness Luna, and a charming and witty Iranian emigrée named Soraya, to wrest the light of the world from the heartless legalist glare of Delian Apollyon.  The end of this dream is not yet, so I shall say no more.  But if there is really a sensible answer to its central problem, I should give a great deal to be able to tell of that, too.

Ars longa, vita brevis, as always.

Meanwhile, here is a merry year's-getting toast from me and all the Katherines; and here are certain New Year's resolutions, looking to a day when they have gone to their long slushpile. 

Wassail, dear friends and good neighbours!  Drink hale! 

[Glug]


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

A massive 180 words since Friday on the Luke Lackland part of Killer-Kate &... - but at least I've got it started off. My trouble here is that I'm so consummately not a soldier, and yet at this point I have to have some real mediaeval irregular warfare going on. Can't skate over it, can't add any more Robin Hood derring-do or magical tricks than I have already, without turning the Langdale Rising into the kind of lies I don't want to write. At least I know what game Luke is playing now.

I'm now five chapters from the end of the yarn, which is exactly where I've been for nearly half the year. But this is five chapters a lot nearer the end than I was in the summer! 

To illustrate my meaning, this was my original chapter outline for Lord of the Rings before the tale grew in the telling:

1. A Long-Expected Party
2. The Shadow of the Past
3. The Wight Stuff
4. A Knife in the Pub
5. Many Meetings
6. "We Cannot Get Out!"
7. Fosterling of Laurelin, Daughter of Ungoliant
8. The Breaking of the Fellowship
9. The Muster of Rohan
10, The Passing of Foromir
11. Helm's Deep and Ugluk's Stand
12. Where the White Moon Dies
13. The Battle of the Cross-Roads
14. Mount Doom
15. Galadriel in Gondor
Epilogue: Mistress Lobelia's Spoons.

But in this tale I am (so to speak) now five chapters away from the end at the Siege of Gondor, rather than five chapters away in Helm's Deep.  Which is quite a lot of progress, really!

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
This was quite an unexpected place to spend my dreams last night.  It's probably as well that it phased into my brainspace rather than Tolkien's, as Lord of the Rings might otherwise have been a far shorter and strangely unsatisfying book.

It could fold down into a dimensionally transcendental winkle-shell, too.

It seemed me that there was at least a novel's worth of Ripping Yarn going on within the city, but - alas - I can no longer remember one point of it.


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