Those of you with an analytical bent may find this interesting. Here’s my scene sheet for Patrick Rothfuss’s hit first book, The Name of the Wind:
I’ve been working from Shawn Coyne’s book The Story Grid, and a big part of his analytical method is breaking books down into their component scenes. I spent about a week doing this for TNotW; a few conclusions:
- Lots of short scenes, particularly in the beginning. They get broader and deeper as he goes, which I think is his writing style maturing as he works through the book.
- Plenty of quick scenes where nothing happens. You’d think this is a no-no, right? And for a crime thriller, it probably would be . . . but Rothfuss is writing a fantasy epic. They’re short, usually funny, and generally clever enough that the book would be lesser without them despite the fact that (from a strictly plotting-perspective) they’re unnecessary. It’s a thrill to see a master break the rules and be able to recognize it for what it is.
- These same quick scenes also serve to keep the reader invested in the frame story after we’ve had 200 pages of flashback. Good to remember that particular trick.
- Mapping the value shifts points out the main conflicts of the book. The most dire moments concern the Life/Death axis, as should be expected . . . but there are very few Life/Death scenes in the book. They’re vastly outnumbered by conflicts on the Poverty/Wealth axis and the Love/Loneliness axis. This is a valuable lesson in varying one’s sources of conflict; Kvothe’s moments of deathly peril would be much less intense if he was fighting for his life all the time.
- Related to this point is the fact that antagonists and villains are not the same thing. The people and forces that Kvothe spends the vast majority of his time in conflict with are not the antagonists. He barely even sees the Chandrian, even though we know that the final conflict must inevitably be with them, but he spends most of the book fighting with Ambrose, trying to stay solvent, and trying to find Denna. I’ve decided to call this the Snape/Voldemort principle.
- I have a hunch as to the theme of the series: “We become what we believe we are.”
- Names are important, obviously, and so it’s important that Denna keeps changing her name. Students of Joseph Campbell will quickly recognize the “shapeshifter” archetype.
- Kvothe is the mother of all Mary Sues and I don’t even care.
More thoughts to come, but I think that’s enough for now. I’m thinking about which book to do next, and I’ll be continuing my focus on the Fantasy Epic genre. Suggestions welcome in the comments, of course.