I already wrote about some of the things I liked about Wheel of Time. Definitely not all the things I like about the series, but I was bumping up to two thousand words and not everyone gets ten thousand words to make a point. Now that I’ve mentioned it…
Today I Was Wearing a Black Corset with Matching Lace Around It and a Black Leather Miniskirt, Pink Fishnets and Black Combat Boots
When I first heard Amazon was planning to make a show out of the series, my initial reaction was ‘how are they possibly going to turn such a long series into a viable show?’ When you look at it, it’s an insane prospect. Fourteen books, each around a thousand pages long. So many characters! So many locations! So many twisting plot lines! So many…descriptions!
Yeah, my second reaction was, ‘oh, they won’t need half a page to describe what everyone is wearing or what this tavern looks like even though it mostly looks like all the other taverns our heroes have been to. This will be fine.’
(Fine as in, they have a decent chance at converting the material into a workable script. I have no idea whether it will be good or not.)
If you’ve never read the books, only seen them on the shelves at Barnes and Noble and wondered if perhaps they’re actually weapons in disguise, a lot of the bulk of them come from description. Robert Jordan was the sort of writer who wanted to paint you a picture of every scene, make sure you knew how green the grass is, how the smells from the bakery wafted over the characters, how someone felt during battle. For the most part his descriptions enhance the world and bring it to life.
But sometimes a scene slams to a halt as Jordan takes two entire pages to describe some shit that fully doesn’t matter.
Every time you meet new characters, you are going to know their hair, skin, and eye color, another defining physical characteristic, where they hail from (either from looks or accent), and what they’re wearing. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes, you’re meeting a bunch of Aes Sedai at the same time, and you’re staring down an entire page of long-ass paragraphs as Jordan describes each woman one after the other. And they’re all just…women! Wearing dresses! Talking for a scene and then that’s it. They’re gone, not to be seen again for a dozen chapters if at all. But Jordan needs you to know that this one is blonde with a round face and she’s wearing a gray woolen dress with green embroidery and this one is a brunette with her hair in braids and she’s wearing blue silks with skirts split for riding and this one is another brunette but her hair is loose down her back and she’s wearing (you’ll never guess) a green woolen dress.
Writing tip: I don’t need to know all this.
You almost never need to describe in great detail what your main characters are wearing, let alone what every single tertiary and background character is wearing as they waltz through your scene and then exit stage left, never to be heard from again. When I describe what a character is wearing, it always has a purpose greater than solely describing the character. Clothes can be a great way to establish a part of a character, like personality, social class, profession, etc. If you describe them from the point of view of another character you can give insight on both characters, as in: Sandy meets Lori and the first thing Sandy notices is that Lori is wearing last year’s outfit and cheap shoes. Now we know Lori might be poor or tight with money and Sandy might be a snob.
I also use clothes in describing how characters are moving while they are having a conversation. Maybe too much. Sometimes I go back to edit a scene and I’ve got a character taking off their flannel shirt three times in a row.
Of course, Robert Jordan wasn’t describing what everyone was wearing because he was an amateurish writer. This was a stylistic choice, and not even a new one. Oscar Wilde sometimes went off for literal pages describing a single room in such radiant words that I suspect he only got back to the plot after he’d had a cigarette and a glass of brandy. If you enjoy making sure your reader knows what every person in the scene is wearing down to the button-holes, have at it. Just keep in mind that I’m skimming the fuck out of those paragraphs and I doubt I’m the only one.
Do Any of These People Actually Like Each Other?
An actual question I asked myself multiple times each book.
Admittedly, this might be more of a ‘me’ thing than an actual criticism of Robert Jordan. We saw Uncut Gems back when it came out and I hated every minute of it, because it felt like the whole movie consisted of unlikable assholes screaming at each other for two hours. I prefer characters who like each other to the point where I actually struggle writing characters who don’t get along. I need everybody to not be mad at each other.
Robert Jordan did not have this problem. A lot of these characters are in situations where they’ve been forced together, and they just…hate each other. All the time. Specifically, I’m thinking of one of the main characters, Mat Cauthon, and the Aes Sedai he gets stuck with for two or three books. They hate each other. They never grow beyond hating each other. They’re all stuck in a constant cycle of getting under each other’s skin and giggling about it until the other gets under their skin.
I would have been okay with an ‘enemies to lovers’ situations. Hell, even an ‘enemies to friends’ situation. That sort of shit is my jam. I will read literally hundreds of books that feature a group of distinctly different people from disparate backgrounds coming together and overcoming their own fears and prejudices to form a new found family. It never gets old for me.
In WoT, we start out great with a bunch of different people getting thrown together and then they keep disliking each other until the book ends. It’s frankly exhausting. Everybody seems constantly pissed at each other, unless they’re fucking. And even then, half the time it’s hate-fucking.
Let’s throw up the spoiler chocobo, because now I’m going to talk about the ending.
I’m Going to Get Hate Mail
To start off with, I know the story behind the ending.
If you don’t, let me explain: Robert Jordan sadly passed from cardiac amyloidosis two years after the eleventh book in the series, Knife of Dreams, was published. Before he passed, he had planned for his next book to the final one of the series, to come out in 2009. Even after he was diagnosed he very much wanted to finish the series on his own, but as the disease progressed he began making notes of what he wanted to happen just in case.
Of course, life isn’t a movie and Robert Jordan never got to finish his final book. Tor Publishing, along with Jordan’s wife, decided that the series should be finished posthumously and chose Brandon Sanderson to do it. With the help of Jordan’s notes, his assistant, and the series continuity manager he was able to finish the series. While Jordan had been hellbent on only writing one more book, Sanderson concluded there was too much material to jam into a single paperback and it was split into three more books.
With all of that, I completely understand that the ending was not the way it was supposed to be. Sanderson is another good writer, but he has his own style that is different enough from Jordan’s to be hard to ignore. He was working off nothing more than notes and trying to finish up a series of books that had already run for over a decade and had a dedicated fanbase, of which he was a part of. The pressure this man was under to get it right was at blobfish-levels. I get that.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I’m not talking about all of Sanderson’s contributions here. There were some things he did that I very much enjoyed. Sanderson does not go to the same descriptive lengths as Jordan did. Overall, I think he does a better job with pacing. And he spent most of the twelfth book The Gathering Storm ending a lot of side stories that had been lingering on the edges of the plot without contributing anything meaningful. Getting into the pros and cons of Sanderson’s three books is its own article, and I’ve already got two other WoT articles I want to write and it has to end somewhere.
I’m strictly talking about the ending, which…I mean, it just ends. Almost all of the last book is the actual confrontation with all the various evils they’ve been fighting against for the previous thirteen books, including a 248-page chapter called “The Last Battle.” Most of them are actually fighting trollocks and those Slenderman motherfuckers and shit in a huge field, Perrin is off being boring in the Dream World, and Rand is going toe-to-toe with the manifestation of evil itself. Everybody is fighting.
And then the good guys win.
And then the book is over.
This entire fourteen book, millions-of-words series ends with a single chapter of denouement.
It’s so abrupt I thought maybe I had a defective copy. I looked for pages ripped out. They finally put evil back in its place, and all we get is a single scene after the fact?
I’m not saying I want some Harry Potter style ending where we flash forward twenty years and find out Rand named all his kids Moridin Moridin or some shit (I could write so many words about how much I ultimately hate Snape but forget hate mail, that might get me strangled to death with an official Universal Studios The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Slytherin scarf, $29.99 retail). But…like…something??? Perrin’s gone off with his bitch of a wife to be king of Saldea, and he fucking hates people calling him Lord so how’s that going to go? Matt’s wife is pregnant, and she might legitimately kill him now. Seems like Lan could revive his dead kingdom, what about that?
No. Nothing. We saved the day. Rand’s dead, but oops, he’s not, actually, he’s fine. The end.
It’s all so abrupt. So much story should have gotten a little bit more wrap up, and, again, I understand why this happened. I still hate it.
Anyway, these books took up five years of my life so if you think I’m done ranting about them get ready to be wrong.