Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Diagramming Babel (Part 21)

Diagram 21: It's odd how popular these things are in certain circles. In the January Locus, Russell Letson gave The Dragons of Babel a glowing review, which I'll almost certainly be quoting here in the near future, and ended with a plug for this blog and the diagrams in particular.

We're moving into the endgame here. From top to bottom:


Lion . . . . . . . . Lion



Madness! Fear!


Nat . . . . . . . .Will & Vixen
Relationship of Nat & Esme

Determines to follow it through

“Well,” she said

Bond over cigarettes

“He’ll never lie. He’ll just
convince you not to
believe when he is telling
the truth.”


You know my methods by now, Watson. Will has an encounter with two stone lions, one talkative and the other silent. Esme appears briefly and then Nat for some serious face time. When Z (none other than our old friend, Zorya Vechnayaya) appears, there is an essential split the nature of which is narrative surprise, and Will "determines to follow it through." Which moment is brief in the telling but essential to the book.

The lions, for those who don't live in NYC, sit outside the central branch of the New York Public Library.

Funny thing about the cigarettes. Everybody used to smoke in popular fiction. Open any book of a certain age, and the air is blue. Nowadays, nobody smokes at all. Not even the villains. They chomp down on raw broccoli instead, I guess. In the interest of realism, I decided to reverse that. In the course of the book, Will acquires a nicotine habit which he never does abandon.

(At one point, I was going to evoke a recurrent sacrifice-based magic. That way, Will could achieve some large magical effect by giving up smoking. Which, paradoxically enough, would give him a reason to acquire the habit again, as soon and hard as he could. Clever bit. Didn't need it.)

The final "he'll never lie" bit is just one of many similar snippets jotted down quickly as they occurred to me on the rest of this and all of the facing page. They're things I've thought of that need to be fitted in but which aren't structural. The vixen delivers this riff to Will, but Zorya V could have done it as well, or even (if it were set up right) Esme. And it could go earlier or later in the chapter. But Nat must depart as the Vixen enters, and Esme must appear before Nat does. The diagram is the frame and the other notes are the flesh.

Note how crisp the lines are for the parts of the chapter I've figured out, and how the diagram dissolves into scribbled words thereafter.

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