Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (3)

Steven EriksonThis is the third in a series of articles in which author Steven Erikson deconstructs, paragraph by paragraph, an excerpt from his most recent novel Forge of Darkness.


There was but one place and one time when the gods of colour withdrew, vanished from the ken of mortals, and that place, that time, was death.

From the previous paragraph’s describing the coming of death, we come to it directly in this one. It’s earned the right to stand alone, because in this section, death is very important to what follows. Without the natural progressions set up in the previous paragraph, this one would lose its impact. Also, in following syntactical rules (“one place and one time” to “that time, that place”) I reinforce, hopefully, my control over what I’m writing. What would happen if I inversed the second set: that time, that place? If I had simply included this line in the preceding paragraph, I would also risk a diminishment of its effect. What we’re looking at here is control of pace, making use of the natural breaks readers make moving from one paragraph to the next. But this is a different level of manipulating pace: the larger scale for this relates, as I’ve mentioned before, to overall sentence pattern. In general, the pace of this opening to this section is slow and measured despite its alarming content. Note also that we’re still not anchored in a setting, but there is something of the plodding to this pace thus far, combined with the occasional stutter-step. Bear that in mind (because, you see, I know what K is doing right now though I’ve yet to reveal it to the reader; I know where he is, and more to the point, I know what he is looking at).

Kadaspala worshiped colours. They were the gifts of light; and in their tones, heavy and light, faint and rich, was painted all of life.

This line concludes K’s thesis. If separated out from all that surrounds it, this paragraph sounds almost pastoral. “Worship” is a positive notion. “Gifts” are always welcome. And, since K is a painter, he uses his profession, his obsession, in his descriptions. Amidst everything else, this paragraph is an island of peace, and so it was meant to be. You need to draw a spiritual breath, away from the oppression established thus far. But of course, it’s a small island.

When he thought of an insensate world, made of insensate things, he saw a world of death, a realm of incalculable loss, and that was a place to fear. Without eyes to see and without a mind to make order out of chaos, and so bring comprehension, such a world was where the gods went to die. Nothing witnessed and so, nothing renewed. Nothing seen and so, nothing found. Nothing outside and so, nothing inside.

We leave the island immediately and return to “death.” Bound to religious belief there is fear (for K.), and here we are given the nature of what K. fears. Having merged internal and external landscapes, K asserts that, in effect, he (the cognizant mind, the seeing eye) is necessary to maintain the living world. The core of this is central to his greatest fear concerning the cult of Mother Dark, and the stealing of Light that it seems to promise. Note the last three lines and the balance of syllables in “witnessed/renewed,” “see/found” and “outside/inside.” Shifting the order would have imbalanced these three sentences as a unit. Once again, rhythm is established through repetition. This is a poetic device but it works well in fiction, too. The mind likes repetition. This paragraph offers up the terror of absolute negation, and as an argument, at this point it has nowhere else to go. With the last line, we’ve descended into oblivion. Accordingly…


Image Credit

Photograph published with permission of author


Recent Steven Erikson Articles:

  • Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (8)
  • Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (7)
  • Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (6)
  • Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (5)
  • Deconstructing Fiction (For Writers and Readers): Excerpt Deconstructed (4)

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