Sunday, February 5

Commitment Phobia

Modern day fantasy authors seem to always do this Thing that I find immensely frustrating.  (Mind you, I am only basing my observation on works of Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin, so it's not at all an inexhaustibly researched hypothesis.) 

The Thing is that they spend one chapter with one character, the next with another, the next with another, the next with another, the next with another, and it takes about seven chapters to get back to the first character again.  This is particularly annoying for me because I get absorbed in one character's story and it is such a pain to tear away from that character knowing it might be several hundreds of pages before I see them again.  Have you experienced this?  Why is this only a fantasy writer's Thing? 

Something that I really respect from writers, and I imagine I've probably mentioned this before in the past, is their ability to keep their chapters short.  Leo Tolstoy, despite the immense bulk of Anna Karenina, is easy to read from because his chapters are at most four pages long, every time.  When the chapters are short, you just feel like popping onto the next one, and maybe the one after than, because each chapter is not an hour long commitment.  And so you end up tricking yourself into reading a lot more than you would have otherwise, and feeling better about it.  This is just my observation.  I know people who hate short chapters, but I like them.  What do you prefer? 


  1. This is an interesting question. But I think a lot of fantasy writers today draw inspiration from Tolkien. And George R. R. Martin has even said as much. That he structures his saga in such a way that everyone is close together at the beginning like they were in The Fellowship of the Ring but then they split up and each character goes on his or her own journey till they wind up in the same place at the same time like in The Return of the King. Also, instead of having a single chapter trying to balance multiple narrative threads we have multiple POV characters in his books.

    I haven't read Sanderson's books yet so dunno about him. But I have to agree that with Martin I have some characters I really like being with - like Tyrion and Arya and Jon Snow and Dany. So I enjoy those chapters a lot more than say those with Bran and Catelyn and Sansa.

    So it is difficult to leave the favourite characters for the not-so-interesting ones.

    But don't you think Tolstoy did the same with Anna Karenina? He'd have bits with Levin and then Anna and then Karenin and so on. And I loved his short chapters actually. The book can be daunting to look at because it looks like this vast tome but I finished it in less than a fortnight because I kept telling myself what's one more little chapter. :D

  2. Phew! That's one long comment! :D


Please leave a comment to respond to my post or start a new conversation about whatever it is that you're passionate about.

If you don't have a Blogger or Google account, you can always leave an anonymous comment. Thankyou for taking the time!