STRUCTURE STRICTURE

As I continue roughing out the overall shape of Book 4, I thought I’d reflect on the high-level structure of the first three installments in “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow.” Here are their respective tables of contents, side by side:

I approach narrative structure the same way I approach poetry: I want it to rhyme. It pleases me to pull back from the grit and grime of scene-level trenches and see them as but components of a greater and more beautiful whole. It’s my imprint, my signature as the storyteller.

So. Each novel begins with an Epigraph: a five-stanza poem which immediately sets the mood—priming readers for what’s to come, and persuading them to take it seriously (I put effort into this, dangit! it’s more than a dimestore pulp!). Book 1’s epigraph, which you can read right here right now(!), is a series of quatrains in trochaic tetrameter, but the other epigraphs vary in their poetic structure. (Deep lore: the novels’ titles are taken, respectively, from each of the lines in the opening stanza of Book 4’s Epigraph.)

Next is the Prologue. This is a short, punchy passage—untethered from the subsequent timeline—to whet the appetite and establish vital context.

Now we get into the story proper. Each novel contains sixteen chapters (2×8, 8 being a divine number in Arlam) divided into two parts, with an Overture at the head of Part One, and a Cadenza at the head of Part Two. Each chapter title is comprised of a representative word or phrase lifted directly from the given chapter’s text.

As its name implies, the Overture introduces us to the novel’s major themes in microcosm, encapsulating the book as a whole. It’s a “flashback” which explores some significant event from a main character’s past. Most importantly, it’s packed with action. I view the Overture as a pre-credits sequence in a Bond film: a mini-movie, largely self-contained, which comes out of the gate with a bang. Both of the chapters that received Honorable Mentions at the Writers of the Future contest were Overtures (for Books 1 & 2).

“Cadenza” is another musical term. It means “a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work,” and that’s precisely the function it serves here. Like the Interludes in Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive” novels, my Cadenzas serve as palate-cleansers which allow me to showcase alternate perspectives on current events. The difference is, they always give you the enemy perspective. And because my enemies are all insanely dedicated and freakishly effective, it really does feel like a “virtuoso solo passage” every time we cut to their POV.

Finally, we come to the Epilogue. No carefree breather, this: it’s the springboard which propels you into the next installment. I don’t let readers off the hook until the final page of Book 4. Like Rothfuss in his “Kingkiller Chronicle,” I’ve nested the main action within a separate frame. He achieves this via a story-within-a-story, and the power of memory to shape the present. I achieve it via temporal distortion, and the power of relativity to heal wounds which otherwise would’ve festered too late. My Epilogues are there to remind you of what’s really going on behind the spacetime curtain.

Rather than crimping my style, these structural strictures empower me to make sense on a meta-level. Like poetry itself, storytelling requires form in order to achieve its fullest aesthetic flowering. Unlike chaos, order makes nothing dull; it imbues a work with beauty no matter how far back you stand.

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