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Strengths and Weaknesses of Robert Jordan's Prose

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And please, by the way, don't turn this into a RJ or Brandon bashing thread. Lets just discuss what you think RJ's strengths were with prose and his weaknesses. Thanks!

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Simply put, I like Brandon's lighter touch on the prose, and his use of metaphors/similes seems a bit more creative to me. My biggest problem with RJ's prose was the density--and I like dense prose, like the work of Mervyn Peake, so it has more to do with RJ's choices of emphasis. RJ's ploddingly heavy use of beats (the interior monologue and commentary in between brief fragments of dialogue) grew very wearying over time, and worse, didn't necessarily help us to understand his characters any better; give me a subtle sword stroke than a hammer over the head any day. Plus he repeated himself ad infinitum. I don't notice this problem with BS.

In the end, for all its strengths, WOT is simply too long. 11,000 pages, only about half of which were absolutely necessary for the scale of the story, leaving room for another 2000 perhaps for atmosphere and artistry. Still, the magnificence of the imagination on display makes up for the wealth of longeurs and makes me glad that I've read all the way through this behemoth of an epic.

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To be clear are you saying Brandon is the "subtle stroke" and RJ is the "hammer"?!?! :blink:


That is the exact opposite of what critics say when they talk about Brandon's "tell don't show style" and blunt/unpolished prose. RJ was the far more subtle writer.


The lack of inner monologue is another strange one as that has been a frequent complaint against Brandon as well. Characters end up having to spell out what they are doing and Brandon rarely trusts the reader, instead choosing to hold there hand in the bluntest manner possible. It's where a good deal of his bloat creeps in.That comes down to personnel preference I guess though.


Dom had a good post touching on this here:


It's like Brandon can't just put "insert a really clever insult here" as he drafts, and later actually spend the necessary time and intellectual effort to come up with one.

In that respect, his and plotting and writing are terribly lazy. He doesn't take the time to polish his dialogue. Instead of making the effort to come up with a very intelligent exchange and demonstrating the intelligence by adding subtext and inner thoughts of the POV character, he just writes a stupid line and spells out the character is supposed to be very intelligent. It's very annoying.

The other very bad and lazy habit he's developped is that instead of making the effort of studying the thought patterns, the little languages quirks that made each character unique, he seems to go through a personal/cultural catalogue or checklist. The way Brandon writes Aviendha, you'd think she came out of the Waste a few days ago, not to mention that it's like she's going in circles, thinking about the same topics since TGS. He's got few RJ-written POVs to work with, so he keeps using the same Aiel cultural stuff over and over again (mind you, when he invents new ones or picks some from the notes he tries to integrate, it's generally even worse...). It's astounding the space Brandon loses giving us information and observations that not only don't fit well, but that so late in the series we don't need all the while not making the efforts of including the stuff we would need. Those inner thoughts are vital, they each followed a unique pattern and they played a large part in making the characters feel like who they were. And the number of extraneous scenes, and extraneous action during scenes (must we "see" each and every messenger a character sends or receives? What happened to character noticing the other left an unopened letter on the table?)) is simply astounding, it's like Brandon never heard about ellipses (except, in his own books he's perfectly able to do that it's rather like he's never really managed to get a proper level of control over the WOT project, it continues to overwhelm him)

I'm surprised every time someone comments Brandon writes "shorter" than RJ. His scenes are shorter, but he's got tons of stuff happening on screen that RJ would have simply cut, to refer to those events via other POV, if the readers really needed to know... Gawyn's inflated arc is a prime example - it's appalling how many POVs and pages Brandon has needed to write that story. Typically, we might have gotten one Gawyn shortish POV in Dorlan (typically prologue stuff) where he learned Egwene's captive, and he is thorn, and then nothing until suddenly he interrupted a Siuan/Bryne scene with a sudden arrival, his growing frustration mentionned only via observations of Siuan from then on (we didn't need a Lelaine scene making completely irrelevant and stupid inquiries about orchards in Andor (!) we just needed a reference by Siuan that Lelaine was manipulating Gawyn, until as a last resort Siuan went to him for the rescue. For the rest, we needed one confrontation with Egwene, and one conversation with Elayne or Bryne or Siuan, not three scenes of the same whining and self-pity, with each of them in turn...

There's an amazing amount of fluff (like most of the new Pevara scene...) and too little substantial stuff in what Brandon has written. Really not surprising he's taken three big books when RJ planned one really huge one (which likely would have ended up split over two WH-sized volumes after he finished the whole, because of publication constraints)



Sorry about the response southpaw but parts  the above post were just so off the wall I had to respond. We can move the discussion to Quality if it continues past a few posts.

Edited by Suttree

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Yes, after this, take it to the Quality Discussion thread. 


This thread is about RJ's prose. It is not about Brandon v RJ, nor the quality of Brandon's work. 


Let's keep this to RJ's prose. (Of course, comparison is a part of it, but make it a side note and the main point being RJ's work, not a xx VS xx thread.) 


On topic: 


I think for me, RJ's prose are strong, a B+ A-. 


His style is smooth, natural and lyrical. He has the quality of - in WoT terms - High Chant. You can become engrossed in the story and mundane events are still enjoyable (although he did push it in some of the story lines.) (Similar authors who have the same quality include Martin and Erikson)


Still, the point being he made the mundane interesting where other authors could not. It allowed - for better or worse - the kind of extended indulgence of certain plots to be bearable - while other authors must maintain high tension and pace to compensate (ie- Eddings, Sanderson, Brooks etc..).  


My favourite aspect of RJ's prose is the depth they have. An interesting analogy I like to think of - while not perfect, it gets the point - his writing is similar to the proverb "A picture paints 1000 words." 


Similarly, a page of RJ's writing could equal 10 pages of another authors (eg. Stephanie Meyer, Eddings again etc..). Subtlety is a big part of this - which makes them so great on re-reads, all the hidden messages and meanings without detracting from the story or it seeming like the author is sitting next to you nudging your ribs and winking. 


I can think of two prime examples of scenes which have a huge amount of information portrayed in a small space. First, the scene where Torval gives Rand the letter from Taim in PoD. A simple scene which is laden with a tonne of information and insight into the characters, culture of the Asha'man etc.. 


The second is Tovine's PoV in the CoT prologue in the BT. That scene is again relatively mundane, Logain taking a walk with his bonded Aes Sedai and meeting some of his friends. Again, it gives us insight into the workings of the BT, the Logain/Taim rivalry, the captured AS plans, the relationships between the bonded, etc... 


The negatives stem from RJ's choices rather than ability. His prose are exceptional - he has displayed a talent in many areas of his writing. 


The problem comes with his choices. He overindulged in certain stories, which slowed them down. He was fond of description to the point that it started to affect the story. However, it isn't a failure of his prose. EotW - tDR showed that RJ could write a tight and fast paced book. 


It was simply he chose to indulge in certain aspects of his prose to the point that it negatively affected his story. 


In regards to prose, I give RJ a lot of praise - however, this is not a fanboy thing. His prose were and could be excellent. I am much more critical of his plotting, conceptualization and characterization. (However, this isn't the topic.)

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