Trudi Canavan

bestselling author of The Black Magician Trilogy

Trudi's Blog

Making a Start

Yesterday I worked on The Ambassador’s Mission for the first time since I wrote the proposal back at the start of 2006.

I’ve always found that the first four to six chapters of a book are the hardest to get right. The main fiend working against me is ‘infodump’. There are so many worldbuilding ideas, character backgrounds, and (except with first books in new worlds) recap all demanding to be included that it’s very hard to avoid writing paragraphs of pure information. Nothing could be more stifling to a book’s narrative – it’s a classic case of breaking the Show Don’t Tell rule. I call this fiend ‘infodump’.

There are creative ways to impart detail without infodumping. You can deliver it in dialogue (so long as you avoid “As you know Bob…” syndrome, where characters stop – usually in the middle of the action – to tell each other things purely for the reader’s benefit). You can have characters learn about something through lessons, overhearing or reading something. Better still, you can have something interesting happen that demonstrates the point you’re trying to get across.

At the start of a first book written about a world, I need to show how that world works while also introducing the characters. In future books I can reduce that to reminding readers of the essential facts as well as past events – recap. (Ah. Recap. There’s an issue all of itself. Some readers hate it, some can’t get enough of it. Personally, I don’t have that great a memory and don’t often have the luxury of reading entire series in one sitting, so I like a bit of recap and can see the need for it in my books.)

Writing a book set twenty years after prior series, where the world has changed, means I have a lot of both introduction and recap to fit in. So yesterday I started writing about how I might reintroduce familiar characters while showing how much they and the world has changed, as well as introduce one new character. Preferrably in gripping scenes to thrill an old reader and capture a new one.

Now there’s another challenge to add to avoiding infodump at the start of a book. A good book should have a fantastic first line followed by a pacy first chapter. So yesterday I considered carefully which character would suit such a scene. And what sort of event might hint at conflicts to come.

But that’s not all. There is a third reason these first chapters take far more work than the rest in the book: if I introduce new characters I don’t really know them well enough to write them as well as I will later. I may have fairly firm ideas about them, but they tend to develop and change as I write a book. By the time I reach the end of the book I tend to go back to the start and rewrite their scenes with a much better understanding of who they are. Knowing this, it can be a little hard rousing the enthusiasm to write a scene I know will probably be trashed and redone later.

Fortunately I only have one new main character in The Ambassador’s Mission, Sonea’s son, Lorkin, and I know I’m going to enjoy getting to know him.

But I also realised yesterday that I’m going to have get to know another character. One I’ll have to do a bit of research on. This character is rather slippery, so I suppose it’s appropriate that I didn’t notice that he or she required some attention.

The bad guys are going to need a leader, and I’m going to have lots of fun creating him.   

Welcome to my new blog!

Why a new blog? Well, the old blog program was a bit clunky, particularly when constructing posts. In the first months the blog existed, the only comments that appeared did not relate to the posts I’d written, or they contained spoilers. So I turned comments off.

I was pretty new to blogging and hadn’t grasped all the ways I could control the blog’s content, and how it was used by myself and visitors. Between the clunkiness of the program and having no ‘conversation’ with commenters, I lost enthusiasm for it. And all that stuff that happened last year didn’t help, either.

Then this year I started reading Justine Larbalestier‘s lighthearted and confident blog. Suddenly (perhaps I’m a bit slow) I realised that it’s my blog. I get to decide how my blog is used. I get to make the rules. And I can ensure people follow them by using the wonderful comment approval feature.

The rules are in the sidebar, to the right.

Some of these rules are there to help make a visit to this blog a pleasant one. The most important one is the No Plot Spoilers rule. Lots of readers who haven’t finished reading a book or a series, or have read one series but not the other, visit this site. I don’t want their enjoyment of the stories spoiled by a comment revealing the ending of a book, or the conclusion of a romance. However, I get to decide what is a plot spoiler and what isn’t. (I so love this making the rules thing.)

Rants or insults are not welcome. In order to reduce the chances of rants and insults, I’d prefer if discussions of the three subjects best avoided in polite company – sex, religion and politics – were avoided. I’ve read my share of forums, and would love a dollar for ever time a furore has started over one or a combination of the three. I may allow some discussion of either in the context of my books, but reserve the right to delete comments if things start to turn unpleasant.

Some of the blog rules relate to legal issues. Read my FAQ page if you want to know why I don’t want people making story suggestions. The reasons for the private information rule ought to be obvious, but occasionally a naive child sends me their home address and then wonders why their guestbook entry doesn’t show up.

Finally, leading back to where I started, I will not be approving comments that don’t relate in any way to the post I’ve written. The place to leave fawning praise, intelligent observation or bouncy enthusiasm is the guestbook. There is a no-spoiler rule there as well, so if you are bursting to say something spoilery just send me an email via the fanmail page.

Which brings me to another important thing for you to note. If you make an interesting point or ask a question that I think other readers might like to read my response to, I may copy, anonymously, it into an entry on this blog. If you do not want me to quote you, even anonymously, let me know in the email or guestbook entry.

Well, that about covers it. Now I just need to get back into the habit of thinking “Ooh! I can blog about this!” whenever something bloggable happens along.

Where is my feed?

There it is!

testing images

Every blog needs a cat photo


test entry number 1

hello, hello, is this thing on?