Mundie Moms

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Catching Up with Cassie: Retold Stories, Co-Writing with Holly, Points-of-View and Parabatai Bonds

Cassie has tweeted a few things lately, and if you're like us you might have just missed them between trips to the beach or pool.

Cassie answered a question on what she thinks of retelling stories:

We are seriously excited about The Last Hours. Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens' story.

Cassie also retweeted the link to a 2014 The Guardian interview with Holly Black in which they discussed their co-writing process.

Here's a snippet and a link to the rest of the interview:
Our co-writing process is admittedly unusual. In most cases when books are co-written, authors alternate chapters, or each will take a viewpoint character. Which makes sense, because usually, when authors are co-writing, they aren't in the same geographical space.

The two of us happen to live less than a mile from each other. Our process is very keyed to our presence. We sit together with one laptop, and the first writer, say, Cassie, will write out a scene. Then she'll pass the laptop to Holly, who will go over the scene, edit and smooth it, and then write the next scene. She'll pass the computer back to Cassie who will do her own changing and editing. Therefore every scene is in essence, written by us both.
I love how their process is so organic, and yes, that need to figure out who wrote what is definitely blurred which makes the story seamless.

She also answered a couple of questions on twitter about points-of-view and parabatai:

Q. Hi Cassie, I am a huge fan and I love your books and your characters because they are so realistic and deep and I also think you are an amazing world builder (it is hard to believe that the Shadowhunter world is not real with the amazing world building you do). Anyway I was wondering what made you decide to write your books in third person perspective and not first person? If it was not to narrow yourself down to writing through a single character’s perspective then could you not have used alternating first person? Thanks and I hope you have a wonderful day! — booksarelife128

Cassie: This is one of those questions that may translate to the equivalent of : “Why do you put broccoli in your stir-fry and not snow peas?” “Well, because I like broccoli.” “Hm.” I mean, I do like broccoli. I also don’t think of first-person as the default point of view. It isn’t — it’s more unusual than third person. Many fine books are written in first person, but many fine books are written in all perspectives. There is no reason to use first person unless you feel it is specifically right for the story.

I do write short stories in first person; almost all my short stories are in first, but the reason I do that is that I consider first person a distancing perspective, which can be useful, and because first person is helpful when you wish to introduce unreliability into a narrative. When we read a story written in first person, we know that the “I” telling the story has an agenda. They do not need to be truthful. They do not need to be unprejudiced. We expect them to be telling their version of events, and we do not expect it to be objective.

Alternating first person can be interesting if the point is contrasting the different characters’ viewpoints on the same scenario. That has never been the point of the POV shifts in Mortal Instruments, though. Short stories are one thing: a massive series of novels is structurally very different.

I like writing third person for a number of reasons: it makes me feel closer to the character, it removes ambiguity (if third person tells you Clary saw something or felt something, she saw or felt it, it’s not debatable) which is useful, even necessary, with so many characters. (This is still third person limited — characters can be wrong about things, there is no omniscient “narrator” that tells us “truths” — but this is not an unreliable narrator with an agenda.) It allows me to move around between scenes in different places, and move into different perspectives.

Alternating first-person isn’t really a good second option if for some reason I’d wanted to write in first person. When you’re using third person, you easily and immediately know when you’ve switched perspectives. “Will wondered why his horse was so slow.” Okay, we’re in Will’s perspective. “I wondered why my horse was so slow.” Whose perspective are we in? No idea. The perspective has to be established in-scene by uniqueness of voice and situation, as people don’t think of themselves as “Will Herondale.” They just think of themselves as “me.” Obviously this can be done, but it is choppier, it runs the risk of confusing and alienating readers as they constantly wonder who’s talking, and it means you should stick to a limited number of established voices with unique characteristics.

Scenes like the ones in City of Heavenly Fire from the Consul’s perspective would have been impossible: we didn’t know the inside of her head well enough to jump into it suddenly at that late date. In fact, if you’re going to alternate first person viewpoints, the best thing you can do is limit them and set up a framework by which we always know when we’re going to get a new voice and who’s talking: alternating chapters, for instance. Books like Shiver and Will Grayson, Will Grayson alternate POV by chapter. Many alternating first person books put the names of the characters at the top of the sections they’re narrating, so you know who’s talking. But I switch POVs fast and repeatedly within chapters, so that would be incredibly jarring.

There’s some interesting comments on writing alternating first person here. But basically I do think it comes down in part to a broccoli vs snow peas question. You have to write the perspective you feel comfortable in. I wanted to write the books in third person and keep the option of writing anyone’s POV at any time open to me: I wanted to stay close to my characters and not feel distanced, and because the books are already quite complicated, I didn’t want to introduce extra ambiguity about what was actually happening.

I would not have enjoyed writing TMI in alternating first person, and I think when you’re forcing yourself to do something that feels wrong, your writing will always suffer for it. If first person is what calls to you, you should write in it! Only you can decide what the right perspective is for you, for any individual project.

Q. Hey! I’m a huge fan of your series but as I was going through city of lost souls something kept bugging me. Jace is missing and possibly dead (which is what they all fear) but after reading the infernal devices and finding out that parabatai know when the other dies because their bond is severed and the rune would fade I was wondering why it wasn’t made clearer in the mortal instruments that Jace couldn’t possibly be dead because Alec would know? — readwhilewereyoung 

Cassie: Absolutely he could be dead and Alec wouldn’t know, though.

Clary, Alec, and Izzy do discuss this in CoLS 20:
Clary looked at him steadily. “Alec,” she said. “Don’t you feel anything?”
Alec’s eyes widened, their blue darkening, and for a moment Clary remembered the boy who had hated her when she’d first arrived at the Institute, the boy with bitten nails and holes in his sweaters and a chip on his shoulder that had seemed immovable. “I know you’re upset, Clary,” he said, his voice sharp, “but if you’re suggesting that Iz and I care less about Jace than you do—”
“I’m not,” Clary said. “I’m talking about your parabatai connection. I was reading about the ceremony in the Codex. I know being parabatai ties the two of you together. You can sense things about Jace. Things that will help you when you’re fighting. So I guess I mean … can you sense if he’s still alive?”
“Clary.” Isabelle sounded worried. “I thought you didn’t …”
“He’s alive,” Alec said cautiously. “You think I’d be this functional if he weren’t alive? There’s definitely something fundamentally wrong. I can feel that much. But he’s still breathing.”
“Could the ‘wrong’ thing be that he’s being held prisoner?” said Clary in a small voice.
Alec looked toward the windows, the sheeting gray rain. “Maybe. I can’t explain it. I’ve never felt anything like it before.”
“But he’s alive.”
Alec looked at her directly then. “I’m sure of it.”
Through CoLS, the Clave was reluctant to take any position on Jace’s condition. They were in a state of upheaval in the aftermath of the Mortal War. Some members talked to Alec and believed him that Jace was alive, others didn’t, still others did but thought Jace was as good as dead anyway. They weren’t relying on Alec and Jace’s bond to tell them what was going on, though. Here’s why:

  • Jace was “killed” during a dark ritual held by a Greater Demon, so basically the Clave is dealing with something they don’t know anything about, or how it might work, or what the results would be. They can’t, again, rely on Alec and Jace’s bond when they don’t know how a Greater Demon’s magic would affect it.
  • There are things that can be done to sever the bond. Exile meant Robert never knew Michael Wayland died. Luke becoming a Downworlder meant that Luke didn’t know when Valentine died. There could be other complicating factors, too. If Jace was in another dimension, or a cave of solid adamas, would would Alec know that he had died? Would anything happen? We don’t know; neither does the Clave.
  • The Clave respects the parabatai bond, but they don’t usually use it as proof of life or death. In fact, the Infernal Devices is a good example of why they shouldn’t. Will thinks he’s experiencing Jem’s death when he feels pain and his rune fades. He’s not. Jem’s alive. He’s experiencing Jem’s transition into being a Silent Brother.

Shadowhunters TV: Set Pictures Weekly Wrap Up

Happy Sunday Shadowhunters! Check out the Shadowhunters TV series set pictures that Cassandra Clare, and the cast & crew shared with their fans on Twitter this past week.

Other Shadowhunters TV Series Tweets

Some how I missed these tweets from a week ago:

There was THIS exciting news:

I love the in character bantering the cast has on Twitter.