CSFF Blog Tour – The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

I’m a writer, so no matter how much I want to look at books the way readers do, and to convey information I think readers care about, I can’t help but notice things like story structure, especially when story structure plays a big part in the reading experience.

Some while ago I read a novel I’d heard many good things about, but no one had warned me about the … creative story structure. It was told from two points of view — nothing special there. The thing was, in following one character, the story was moving forward, from “the beginning” to “the end.” In the other character’s point of view, however, the story was traveling backward, from end to the beginning. Creative, yes, but I felt confused for at least half of the book, and I didn’t care for it in the end (or the beginning … which ever! :roll: )

On the other hand, I read George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon with its story within a story within a story approach, and I loved it. It was innovative and took a little getting used to. For stretches I didn’t know for sure what was happening on the outermost layer of the story, but that was OK. I was sure I would know and in fact kept reading in large part because I wanted to know.

I mention these two experiences to point out that I don’t think innovative story structure is a make or break deal. I don’t hate or love a book based on its structure. That it’s creative in how the scenes fit together doesn’t make a story better or worse to me. I don’t, however, want to be confused — at least not for long stretches.

And why am I starting the CSFF blog tour for Ross Lawhead‘s The Realms Thereunder with a discussion of story structure? Surely you’ve guessed it. This Christian fantasy for young adults and up is not your standard journey-quest story structure. In a manner somewhat reminiscent of his father Stephen’s latest, the Bright Empires series, with its ley lines and travel from one time/dimension to another, Ross tells his story from the front end and the back end, with some realm shifting in between.

Forewarned is forearmed, I figure. It’s undoubtedly better to know going in that the story you’re about to read is going to be a little different than a “Once upon a time … the end” sort of tale. Did it work? Abundantly so, in my opinion.

I’ve never been a fan of large numbers of point of view shifts, and the shifting from story past to story present added a dimension to those shifts, but not in a distracting way. Yes, there was more to keep track of, but all in all, I thought the unique story structure worked in the book’s favor.

Now we’ll have to see what others reading the book as part of the CSFF tour thought.

Here are this month’s participants with the check marks linking to specific Tour articles:

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. This is a great way to start your review, Becky, and an important issue to cover up front. I thought the structure worked well, although I am looking forward (hopefully) to being completely in the “present” in book two.

    Hey … I did decide to feature THE REALMS THEREUNDER for the Excellent YA Christian Fantasy & Sci-Fi page this week … thanks for the encouragement to do so!

    Jacob Parker’s novel actually won the poll, so I’ll make sure to highlight KESTREL’S MIDNIGHT SONG next week.

    https://www.facebook.com/YAFantasySciFi

  2. Becky, Thanks for the opportunity to review The Realms Thereunder. I enjoyed the book even more than expected. Thanks for including yor story structure writing point. It’s always good to learn what readers want and expect from a story.

  3. I mostly prefer stories in chronological order, I get too distracted with stories that shift around too much, but was able to follow this one OK.

    Hidden object: I have hidden a u-bolt unscrewed by a kitten (Yes, kittens can unscrew u-bolts. Who knew?)

  4. I like “sideways”, when it’s done well, and therefore really enjoyed this story, probably more as it’s done now than I would if it had been told in a linear fashion.

    Some of my favorite science fiction show episodes were originally “beginning, middle, end” in their structure, but were re-written or edited together differently before being aired; as a result, a potentially boring story became instantly mysterious and intriguing.

  5. [...] First, he adopted an advanced story structure, which I mentioned in my day one post. [...]

  6. Robert, thanks. It was your recommendation that put me onto this book, BTW. I’m glad you included the FB link.

    Tim, it’s so great to have you back in the tour. Your posts are always adding something unique or thought-provoking or interesting. Thanks for adding to the conversation here.

    Nissa, I can hardly wait to find out about all these hidden objects. ;-) Thanks for adding one here (I think. :-o )

    “Sideways” — that’s a good way of thinking of it, Keanan. It’s interesting to read which people liked that way of framing a story and which didn’t. As I said in this post, story structure is neutral to me. I would probably say I prefer a linear telling, but that’s because I’m used to that the most. The fact that I’ve read and loved books with different structure convinces me that alone is not a barrier. So bring it on, Keanan! :-D

    Becky

  7. [...] In my day one and day two posts, I’ve touched on some of the things I consider to be strengths of The [...]

  8. I loved Blaggard’s Moon!


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