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A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY

My Take on the RJ/BS Split


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Ok, this has really been percolating in my head for a while, but here it is:

 

I've found the split between people who approve of Brandon Sanderson's work in this series to be very severely delineated. So many people are very happy with what he has done, while others are furious. Personally, I'm in the latter camp. Don't get me wrong, I never expected much from BS, and what he has accomplished is beyond what I'd hoped. What really irritates me is the overwhelming validation he received initially. (And continues to receive in slightly diminished form.) I feel that some of my own friends have betrayed me in preferring BS to the master himself.

 

I believe that those who like BS' work were very unhappy with the state of the series before RJ died. I, on the other hand , and those like me could have stood another 7 books to close out the story. I truly had no problem with any of the series' books up until 9 and 10. Even those, the first time through, were pretty decent. HOWEVER, I absolutely loved the 11th book. When taking re-reads into account, the 11th book is my favorite. Knife of Dreams is the Mat Cauthon vehicle, and as for many others, Mat became my favorite character.

 

This is where I feel that Robert Jordan really created a truly transcendent series. The first 5 or 6 books focus in on Rand's story, and he is my favorite character. Then Perrin becomes prominent. And finally, Mat Cauthon comes into his own. This is why I had no problem with the longevity of the series; the characterization was so stellar. As I became tired of one or two of the characters, others would come into their own.

 

What makes the Wheel of Time so special is that, sure it has an incredibly EPIC plot, but I feel this is secondary to the characterization of so many wonderful protagonists. If you look at almost all of the characters (sure, some like Elayne never really evolved or had depth) at the beginning of the series and at the end of the eleventh book, they are in very different places. Robert Jordan developed his characters subtly and brilliantly as only the best writers can. His series is so great, because he gives us both plot AND characterization..

 

Characterization, not just in the Wheel of Time but in the Mistborn Trilogy as well, is something BS just can't really do. Look at Rand's breakthrough in TGS; it is an immediate revelatory kind of development. BS can only really make his characters change in fits and starts. And I'm not really throwing stones at the guy. There is a real trend in epic fantasy recently (the last ten or fifteen years) that emphasizes intricate and huge plot lines at the cost of interesting and deep characters. I believe the most glaring example of this is the Malazan series. I read the Mistborn trilogy, and Kelsier and Vin were pretty well done. After the first book however, Kelsier is gone, and Vin becomes very flat, only developing unnaturally in fits and starts. So, BS really suffers from poor characterization in all of his work in my opinion.

 

All in all, I believe that so many of the WoT faithful are more than willing to sacrifice characterization simply to have the plot closed out quickly. It saddens me, but I understand their feelings in wanting closure. It does anger me however when some venerate BS' closing of the plot at the expense of all of the great characterization that Robert Jordan gave us over the years. On my last couple of re-reads, even Nynaeve became this very three dimensional character who used abrasiveness as a way to separate herself to fulfill the social role she wasn't mature enough for. It's just little subtle things like that that I don't even think BS notices or cares to include.

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i am guilty of wanting a ending too.i agree with you about characters in recent "epic" fantasy series.i have really only read fiest,prachett books lately.robin hobb is getting better,i hope for a new world for the next series though.and martin pisses me off five years between books.

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I don't really care about characterization. I love plots. I love plot gratification. I love when someone does something huge and they change forever because of it. If I want to see people changing slowly over the course of their lives, I will go down to the pub. Characterization is secondary to plot because without a decent plot, you will never read the story, but without characterization who cares, it still has a good plot.

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Fiest is pretty shallow, but not bad overall I haven't read Discworld. I read the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb because people told me the characterization was really good. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed. It was nice to only have one main character though. I get sick of all of these fantasy series telling a really intricate story through the point of view of 40 different characters. To me, plot is never a substitute for a lack of characterization. I think you can have a great character study novel with little or no plot. I don't believe you can have a great novel without a deep character though.

 

A couple of really good series that you might want to look at are "The Prince of Nothing" by R. Scott Bakker and "The Acts of Caine" by Matthew Woodring Stover. I only tell you because I sift through so much chaff that I like to tell people about the wheat. Both of those are incredible. Bakker's has a lot of characters, but it has an almost "Le Morte d' Artur" feel to it. What I mean is that all of the characters seem to be pretty deep even if they only appear for a couple of pages. It's like "Lord of the Rings" in that you believe it exists outside of the one story.

 

"The Acts of Caine" is LEGIT. It really focuses on one main character with just a few secondary ones. The first one is Heroes Die. The first two books in this series are of a quality that is almost unheard of in fantasy these days. (It's kind of a hybrid sci fi/ fantasy.) The third one was released very unpolished. It was like it was only a half a book. But the author is really focusing on them now. I definitely suggest it. The fourth book just came out. Sorry to ramble and foist on you. I think I secretly hope it will balance out my book karma, allowing me to find a decent fantasy series.

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I don't really care about characterization. I love plots. I love plot gratification. I love when someone does something huge and they change forever because of it. If I want to see people changing slowly over the course of their lives, I will go down to the pub. Characterization is secondary to plot because without a decent plot, you will never read the story, but without characterization who cares, it still has a good plot.

 

I respect your opinions, and what you want out of fiction. However when someone does something huge and they change forever, this is characterization and development. Personally I believe subtle characterization is much more difficult to write and much more gratifying to read.

 

Further, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the issue of characterization being secondary to plot. In fiction, a character study often exists without plot. A good character arc can BE plot. The best plot in the world feels hollow and meaningless without worthwhile characters, while a novel about a character simply living his/her life can be immensely immersive and gratifying. In a perfect world, I want both. In Robert Jordan's world, I got both.

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Further, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the issue of characterization being secondary to plot. In fiction, a character study often exists without plot. A good character arc can BE plot. The best plot in the world feels hollow and meaningless without worthwhile characters, while a novel about a character simply living his/her life can be immensely immersive and gratifying. In a perfect world, I want both. In Robert Jordan's world, I got both.

Yeah, and the only people who read them are critics and people trying to pretend to be smarter than they are. Good plot is the corner stone to any story you want actual people to enjoy.

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Further, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the issue of characterization being secondary to plot. In fiction, a character study often exists without plot. A good character arc can BE plot. The best plot in the world feels hollow and meaningless without worthwhile characters, while a novel about a character simply living his/her life can be immensely immersive and gratifying. In a perfect world, I want both. In Robert Jordan's world, I got both.

Yeah, and the only people who read them are critics and people trying to pretend to be smarter than they are. Good plot is the corner stone to any story you want actual people to enjoy.

 

Personally I don't know what the point of your insult was. I believe that Robert Jordan seamlessly integrated stellar characterization and top notch plot. While Brandon Sanderson, however, simply gives us RJ's plot quickly.

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I like both plot and charaterization, and I don't lack either in the books after BS took over. And to be honest, the main line for the characters developement was probably pretty firmly lined up by RJ.

 

Also, I absolutely love Robin Hobb and her characterization. Perhaps not so much in their developement as in their complexety. The Liveship Traders have some very fascinating characters that you can hate while you completely understand how they reason and where they come from. If you haven't read that one, i really recommend it.

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Further, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree with you on the issue of characterization being secondary to plot. In fiction, a character study often exists without plot. A good character arc can BE plot. The best plot in the world feels hollow and meaningless without worthwhile characters, while a novel about a character simply living his/her life can be immensely immersive and gratifying. In a perfect world, I want both. In Robert Jordan's world, I got both.

Yeah, and the only people who read them are critics and people trying to pretend to be smarter than they are. Good plot is the corner stone to any story you want actual people to enjoy.

 

Personally I don't know what the point of your insult was. I believe that Robert Jordan seamlessly integrated stellar characterization and top notch plot. While Brandon Sanderson, however, simply gives us RJ's plot quickly.

He states plotless books don't attract a big audience ("only critics and people trying to pretend to be smarter than they are"), and hence are unsellable. Which I agree with. It's job advice, not an insult ;D

 

The wheel of time is llllllllooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggg, which gave RJ time to characterize and subplot all he wanted. BS has to finish it in one three books, which means he cannot.

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I'm sorry I put it like that, I just get irritated when good stories are ruined because the authors feel the need give every character 500 dimensions and a kid to make people like them even when they are the villain.

 

Xeratul, you said that BS isn't as good because he writes characters that change in fits and starts, but my favorite scene in many long form fictions is the huge world changing one where a character embraces his power and opens a can on the bad guy. Good characterization nowadays seems to be some girl with supernatural powers whining all day about how she wished to be normal, which has ruined the fantasy genre.

 

I hate people wallowing in self pity, I could go down to the bar at lunch time any day of the week and see it (or hell, look in a mirror some days), I don't need 4 books of it from a guy in charge of one of the great forces in the world. But that is the only sort of thing that critics and publishers seem to like, the weight of the world beating someone down somehow gives it a sense of realism.

 

I would say that the reason Mat is so popular is that this doesn't happen to him, and he is the character with the most sudden increases in power in this series. Even when he is being pseudo raped by Tylin he doesn't descend into the darkness, which is what most authors would do.

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Xeratul, I doubt very much that even the fans could have stuck it out for another 7 books, as you seem to think they would. At the present speed that would be at least another 15+ years. With the likely hood that it would have taken 40 years from start to finish. That's excessive. The fact is, the series had to be wrapped up, and wrapped up fast. You cannot keep spinning it out, which there was a lot of in the middle to late books. The plot lines have to be done, but there comes a difference between over complicating a plot line just for the sake of it, and removing that device because there's no real need, some of the plot lines could have been removed easily without detracting from the overall picture.

As a reader of the series you must surely have known that despite your wish for seven books, it would never, ever have happened. RJ categorically stated that aMoL would be the last book even if you needed a wheelbarrow/truck to take it from the bookshop.

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RJ categorically stated that aMoL would be the last book even if you needed a wheelbarrow/truck to take it from the bookshop.

 

A built-in wheelbarrow WOULD have been necessary had that version of aMoL made it out as one book. This was said after KoD, so Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight would have to fit in also.

 

*tries to Imagine one book with all of WoT on decent paper*

*fails*

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I don't understand how any of these character changes that people are holding against BS could have been left up to him, given how extensive the notes from RJ are. Those events are major turning points, such as Rand/LTT merging. Could someone please explain to me what I am missing?

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The Wheel of Time is not really an exemplar of either characterization OR plot. Many of the characters are rather flat, and many others are extremely familiar archetypes. To be honest, characterization was a weakness of Jordan's, not a strength. And the plot is derivative even by the standards of genre fiction.

 

Where Jordan excelled was in world-building. And, the world having been built, another author could (and is) ably completing the series.

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I don't understand how any of these character changes that people are holding against BS could have been left up to him, given how extensive the notes from RJ are. Those events are major turning points, such as Rand/LTT merging. Could someone please explain to me what I am missing?

 

BS removes the existing depth from the characters, and it feels that this could have been remedied with more of an attempt to understand the series as written. Even his writing style is diametrically opposed to anything but one-dimensional characters. (As many have stated before, he spells things out instead of writing in a manner that allows for interpretation.)

 

 

The Wheel of Time is not really an exemplar of either characterization OR plot. Many of the characters are rather flat, and many others are extremely familiar archetypes. To be honest, characterization was a weakness of Jordan's, not a strength. And the plot is derivative even by the standards of genre fiction.

 

Where Jordan excelled was in world-building. And, the world having been built, another author could (and is) ably completing the series.

 

I simply don't agree with regard to his plot and "archetypal" characters. Sure if we look at only the veneer of both his plot and his characters, then we could get this. But this is an oversimplification that could ruin pretty much any work of literature. (i.e. good luck not finding a christ-like figure in a book if you really look for one. You can read originality OUT of most works if you try hard enough.) I think you do Robert Jordan's characterizations a disservice. He even put in lots of minor characters that seemed to have lives outside of the series like Julian the thief catcher. I had the sense that Julian left behind a real life.

 

One of the saddest things that BS did was to take any complexity out of almost all of the characters in the last two books. I think it actually reflects negatively on Robert Jordan's painstaking character building, because it forces you to reconcile these new characters and actions with the old. And it just can't be done without harming who the characters were.

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So, out of curiousity, what's your frame of reference? When you refer to Jordan's "painstaking character building," what are you comparing it to? Which other fantasy (or non-fantasy) authors?

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What makes you think that RJ didn't write VoG? I read somewhere that many of the big important things were already written by RJ and that scene seems important to me

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Meh. I'd say the whole point of the Malazan book of the Fallen is how characters change as a result of x, y and z. Not as individuals admittedly, more as group. This makes some individuals flatter, but only the Fall of Manetheren and Nynaeve rousing the Malkieri even come close to the amount of feeling the combination of plot and characters gives in the first Malazan books. And I think most feeling is character-induced, while interest can be induced from pure plot.

 

The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling, the veins of gold were pretty close to me, and seeing as you use the one as an example of bad characterization I don't agree with your description of the divide. If Jordan wrote the latter, well... i'll await your better examples (apart from Mat's letter, that one WAS a bit odd IMO.)

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Meh. I'd say the whole point of the Malazan book of the Fallen is how characters change as a result of x, y and z. Not as individuals admittedly, more as group. This makes some individuals flatter, but only the Fall of Manetheren and Nynaeve rousing the Malkieri even come close to the amount of feeling the combination of plot and characters gives in the first Malazan books. And I think most feeling is character-induced, while interest can be induced from pure plot.

 

The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling, the veins of gold were pretty close to me, and seeing as you use the one as an example of bad characterization I don't agree with your description of the divide. If Jordan wrote the latter, well... i'll await your better examples (apart from Mat's letter, that one WAS a bit odd IMO.)

 

avernite you nailed it.

 

Xeratul kind of threw Erikson under the bus without providing any evidence.

 

One of the amazing things about Malazan Book of the Fallen is how Erikson can provide such rich and deep characterization of so many side characters without providing the reader with pages and chapters worth of backstory on them. And there are also plenty of instances of main characters (if any Erikson characters can be considered main) developing substantially over the course of the series, Fiddler is the obvious example and Karsa is another. These characters noticeably change due to their experiences.

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What makes you think that RJ didn't write VoG? I read somewhere that many of the big important things were already written by RJ and that scene seems important to me

 

I don't know the VoG acronym. I'll be glad to answer, if you explain. (I'm horrible with acronyms...)

 

"The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling"

I didn't like the Ghenjei part in the last book at all. Mat isn't the same guy he once was, and I am no longer interested in his character. The "bonding" that he and Thom went through felt really false. Mat and Thom have always been very close, and it's not in their nature to have such converse so intimately.

 

The same goes with Thom and Moiraine. It goes against everything that they are. They've been in love for a long time, and the feeling is not as petty as their little love scene after the Tower would make it appear. They would also never be so intimate in front of another person. These are just examples of how the characters are completely different. To be perfectly honest, I blame Jordan's wife more and more. She is the editor, and she is the common link between both authors. It really is up to her to reconcile the differences and show BS his misinterpretations.

 

So, out of curiousity, what's your frame of reference? When you refer to Jordan's "painstaking character building," what are you comparing it to? Which other fantasy (or non-fantasy) authors?

't

 

When i say "painstaking" character building, I am using painstaking to reference Jordan's attention to emotional detail and the state of his characters throughout his series. This attention to detail doesn't change. An example of something different would be Dani's inexplicable personality shift in between the 3rd and 5th "A Song of Ice and Fire" books. (She wasn't in the 4th.) Jordan's characters grow and evolve only as he means them to. They never show up 300 or three books down the line inexplicably different.

 

Some other fantasy stuff that I read is "A Song of Ice and Fire", "Malazan" (one of my least favorite though I was too obsessive to stop reading), "A Sword in the Shadows", "Book of the Long Sun", "Book of the Short Sun", "Prince of Nothing-Aspect Emperor", "Acts of Caine", more than I'd like to list. Sci Fi: "Ender's Game", "Dune", "Magicians?" More Literary: Anything Cormac McCarthy, Bukowski, or Bret Easton Ellis, other reading is more content based.

 

I think WoT characters have more depth than any of the above series except for maybe "Book of the Short Sun" and "Acts of Caine." I don't hate plot, I just hate the emphasis on plot to the exclusion of all else that really seems to be running rampant throughout fantasy at the moment. I would also say that, at first blush for me, series like "Dune" and "Ender's Game" seem to have deeper characters. But I think that's just the lack of a decent plot hiding behind poor philosophy.

 

I read way too many book series. I'm always chasing the dragon. I like to stay with the same characters for as long as they develop and stave off stagnation. I loved all 17 or so books of the "Aubrey/Maturin" series.

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What makes you think that RJ didn't write VoG? I read somewhere that many of the big important things were already written by RJ and that scene seems important to me

 

I don't know the VoG acronym. I'll be glad to answer, if you explain. (I'm horrible with acronyms...)

 

"The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling"

I didn't like the Ghenjei part in the last book at all. Mat isn't the same guy he once was, and I am no longer interested in his character. The "bonding" that he and Thom went through felt really false. Mat and Thom have always been very close, and it's not in their nature to have such converse so intimately.

 

The same goes with Thom and Moiraine. It goes against everything that they are. They've been in love for a long time, and the feeling is not as petty as their little love scene after the Tower would make it appear. They would also never be so intimate in front of another person. These are just examples of how the characters are completely different. To be perfectly honest, I blame Jordan's wife more and more. She is the editor, and she is the common link between both authors. It really is up to her to reconcile the differences and show BS his misinterpretations.

 

 

Tower of Ghenjei in ToM was written by RJ.

 

VoG=Veins of Gold (chapter in The gathering Storm)

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Meh. I'd say the whole point of the Malazan book of the Fallen is how characters change as a result of x, y and z. Not as individuals admittedly, more as group. This makes some individuals flatter, but only the Fall of Manetheren and Nynaeve rousing the Malkieri even come close to the amount of feeling the combination of plot and characters gives in the first Malazan books. And I think most feeling is character-induced, while interest can be induced from pure plot.

 

The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling, the veins of gold were pretty close to me, and seeing as you use the one as an example of bad characterization I don't agree with your description of the divide. If Jordan wrote the latter, well... i'll await your better examples (apart from Mat's letter, that one WAS a bit odd IMO.)

 

avernite you nailed it.

 

Xeratul kind of threw Erikson under the bus without providing any evidence.

 

One of the amazing things about Malazan Book of the Fallen is how Erikson can provide such rich and deep characterization of so many side characters without providing the reader with pages and chapters worth of backstory on them. And there are also plenty of instances of main characters (if any Erikson characters can be considered main) developing substantially over the course of the series, Fiddler is the obvious example and Karsa is another. These characters noticeably change due to their experiences.

 

I know what are you saying. That is the kind of thing Tolkien could do with his fully fleshed out histories of middle earth and it's something GRRM can sometimes do successfully. However, I never bought it in Malazan. I don't mean to overwhelmingly deride a series many of you seem to thoroughly love. How open fiction is to interpretation is what I love. And a huge number of people clearly didn't interpret Malazan the same way I did. That is clear from its huge popularity.

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What makes you think that RJ didn't write VoG? I read somewhere that many of the big important things were already written by RJ and that scene seems important to me

 

I don't know the VoG acronym. I'll be glad to answer, if you explain. (I'm horrible with acronyms...)

 

"The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling"

I didn't like the Ghenjei part in the last book at all. Mat isn't the same guy he once was, and I am no longer interested in his character. The "bonding" that he and Thom went through felt really false. Mat and Thom have always been very close, and it's not in their nature to have such converse so intimately.

 

The same goes with Thom and Moiraine. It goes against everything that they are. They've been in love for a long time, and the feeling is not as petty as their little love scene after the Tower would make it appear. They would also never be so intimate in front of another person. These are just examples of how the characters are completely different. To be perfectly honest, I blame Jordan's wife more and more. She is the editor, and she is the common link between both authors. It really is up to her to reconcile the differences and show BS his misinterpretations.

 

 

Tower of Ghenjei in ToM was written by RJ.

 

VoG=Veins of Gold (chapter in The gathering Storm)

 

The notes maybe.

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What makes you think that RJ didn't write VoG? I read somewhere that many of the big important things were already written by RJ and that scene seems important to me

 

I don't know the VoG acronym. I'll be glad to answer, if you explain. (I'm horrible with acronyms...)

 

"The Tower of Ghenjei was a moment of true feeling"

I didn't like the Ghenjei part in the last book at all. Mat isn't the same guy he once was, and I am no longer interested in his character. The "bonding" that he and Thom went through felt really false. Mat and Thom have always been very close, and it's not in their nature to have such converse so intimately.

 

The same goes with Thom and Moiraine. It goes against everything that they are. They've been in love for a long time, and the feeling is not as petty as their little love scene after the Tower would make it appear. They would also never be so intimate in front of another person. These are just examples of how the characters are completely different. To be perfectly honest, I blame Jordan's wife more and more. She is the editor, and she is the common link between both authors. It really is up to her to reconcile the differences and show BS his misinterpretations.

 

 

Tower of Ghenjei in ToM was written by RJ.

 

VoG=Veins of Gold (chapter in The gathering Storm)

 

The notes maybe.

 

No, BS said that ToG is mainly RJ.

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And I do believe the loose outline of Veins of Gold and Tower of Ghenjei were written by Jordan. They are very pivotal plot points. But like the rest of BS' two books they were written by Brandon Sanderson.The elements in the books where you can see the soul of Robert Jordan's plan get eviscerated by BS' relatively poor style are the saddest to me. At least the pulpy chapter with the town Mat explores in TGS were all BS'.

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