Earlier this month, I decided it was about time I ordered the first of The Runelord series. David Farland judges Writers of the Future after all, winning the contest himself at the beginning of his career, so I could do worse than to study his writing. I’ve been reading all the advice I could get from his websites, and I’m a big fantasy Nerd (note the capitalization), so his bestselling fantasy series was my first choice out of his many novels.
It was a hell of a novel, and I don’t say that lightly. Farland is a commanding writer. A few chapters in, I stopped reading just to tell my mother about how great it is (she later stole it, and agreed, and ordered the next ones). Because one of the things I noticed off the bat was how interesting all of the characters were.
Confession: when I read 3rd person POV novels that skip around to different character’s head, I will also skip, and skim, through the characters I find less interesting. I know, I can hear the gasps now.
So, when I turned the page to Chapter 2 of the Sum of All Men and realized it was going to be one of those novels, I inwardly groaned…for a grand total of two seconds, until I realized that this new character was just as interesting as the one in Chapter 1. Let me emphasize this next statement: I did not skip/skim through any part of this book. Not even a little. I enjoyed reading from every character, even Raj Ahten, the villain. No, not enjoyed. Gobbled down viciously and snapped at anyone who dared interrupt me while I was in The Reading Zone.
I reached the end (a little cross-eyed). There were characters I loved that had died. It was a strange sensation. Yes, I’ve read so many other books where characters died, and I cried. I did not cry this time, but hell, it hurt. Is it a strange thing to say you’ll miss a character? Because I miss King Orden and King Sylvarresta. Both of them equally. I really felt for Iome and Gaborn, and nearer to the end, especially Borenson. I am coming dangerously close to sounding cliché, but it was a real feeling of loss. And Orson Scott Card’s little review of this book was correct: there was grace that came out of the character’s pain. Grace. I want to both thank David Farland for writing a tale so magnificently, and write him demanding he give me back the characters I’ve fallen in love with.
Books like that do two things simultaneously for an aspiring writer like me. Firstly, they ignite your imagination for your own characters, the ones you love with as much fervor and spend so many years with in the back of your thoughts. They inspire newer, better versions of your own worlds. Secondly, they make it utterly impossible to write until you’ve had significant time to recover from all the love you’d shoved at these characters crafted by someone else.
For me specifically, the Sum of All Men did something after that. When I went out after finishing reading, doing errands and such, contemplating Farland’s novel gave me real space to look at my own book. It helped me know exactly what I needed to do with it, who I wanted my characters to be, where they would go, how they would interact with the world I created. My book has had a very rough ride with me, was very muddled. I could see what needed to be done with much more clarity. When I came home later that evening, I sat down and drafted a summary to my novel. A real outline for the first time since I scrapped the rough draft two years ago.
Great books will do that to you.