"We actually see the scenery, not just writing good enough to imagine."
A snapshot of my life at the moment would show a brief but happy tour of the mall with my mother in search of birthday presents for my sister and sister-in-law (they were born, conveniently, within a day of each other, if about a decade apart), a haggle with the clerk at CVS over a handful of cold medicine type articles thinly veiled with a good-natured demeanour, a rambunctious cleaning of the house, the ministrayshuns of the medikals upon a sick patient, chicken noodle soup, and an endless loop of water glasses being filled and drunk. In short, the angel of the cold has passed over this house and we who are in it have got the ills. I am getting better, and having someone to care for is a remarkably empowering incentive to feel well. My poor husband worked a few days into the cold and he is doing nastily bad; at the moment he lingers between waking and sleeping (probably waking) before dragging himself back to the not proverbial drawing board.
Which is one reason why it has taken me so long to get back to my A-Z series for Adamantine. (The other reason is that I looked at J and thought, "J? I'll be dashed, who on earth wants to do anything with J?" And it has taken me this long to hit upon a nice word for you.
You know that old trope of epic fantasies, the journey. (My sister-in-law was contrary enough to make her main character crippled just so she could break out of the journeying rut, which I think came back to bite her in the end but I give her kudos for the bravery of the thing.) I'll probably be a little more confined in terms of travel with Gingerune, but certainly Adamantine boasts quite the walking tour. Now, anyone who has read The Hobbit knows a walking tour can be lots of fun (translation: lethal), but the trick is to make sure one's own rendition of the old trope isn't boring.
New to the neighbourhood? Back in October I wrote a piece for another blog on world building and how I do it (it's here, by the way - I had to go hunt it down again), so you may know already how much I love discovering new worlds and showing them off to my readers. I think the joy of that is half the battle - the other half is probably the skill to put it down on paper so that, as Lilly said, "We actually see the scenery, not just writing good enough to imagine." The scenery isn't always wildly new. In Adamantine they have mountains same as we have, rivers and hedgerows and chiff-chaffs rosy in the late winter light just as we do here. But when you can make the reader feel the ominous height of those new mountains, feel the scrape of the hawthorn as you walk by, and hear the rattle of the rivers and the chreep-chreep chreep-chreep of the last chiff-chaff of autumn, then you have made the world come alive for them and as they pass through the long plot of the story, bound from goodness knows where to goodness knows what end, the world becomes not a mere surrounding but another character itself.
Are we there yet? The fact is, readers don't like to stay in one place long. They get itchy feet, and while it's nice to get some place and rest awhile so that you don't eternally feel as if you are walking and walking and walking as if this novel were some torment in Hades, you have to keep going to the climax. Forward movement (up or down, either works), action, drama! It helps to be running from something (nine riders bent on stealing the world's most nefarious piece of jewellery) or against something (time is probably overused, and yet one of the most nasty of enemies, especially when it comes to term papers).
An offer they can't refuse. Of course, the reader has to want to get wherever the characters are going, to accomplish whatever they want to accomplish, to see the journey through to the end. You don't want to build up the basic premise of the plot only to have the reader say, "You know what, guys, I've got another novel I wanted to get to. You go on without me." Adamantine has a slower beginning than I would like, and I'm going to be soliciting opinions from people who have read it on whether or not it is an acceptable slow, and whether or not I need to crank it up a notch to keep the reader's interest. My premise needs to be engaging, my world worth traveling through, the promise of the destination worth striving toward.
The fact is, the reader is as much a presence in the novel as the author, and the author must remember, in all the nitty-gritty details of plot and grammar and character building, that the spectral genius of the reader is constantly there trying to fit in, trying to shadow the characters, trying to be part of the world as well. And if there is no interest or room for the reader, that ghost will pass on elsewhere. Maybe you will meet him again at Philippi, but don't count on it.