My approach to writing is simple: I try to put you into the mind of my characters, behind their eyes, and allow you to see the world from their perspective.
The Assassin’s Cradle is written in first-person and gives you very little information from outside of Idries’s awareness. I give you just enough of a glimpse behind closed doors to let you know that there are complex machinations taking place elsewhere. The intent is to make you as oblivious to what is happening as Idries is. I want your lack of knowledge to be organic, not like a poorly written mystery where the hero hides their secret knowledge until the end after the author has taken you on a wild chase following false leads.
Certainly, I could have given you much more knowledge about the ongoing plots and intrigue, but I felt it would have taken away from the more up-close and personal journey Idries is on. When he misses the forest for the trees, I want you to take the parallel path with him. I want you to be as surprised by his lack of situational awareness as he is. When Idries says, “Crap!” I want you to feel it as profoundly as he does, and if you’ve already recognized something Idries missed, I want you to chuckle when he finally catches on.
As a reader, I often second-guess the decisions characters make in the stories I read, I question their reactions, supplant their emotions with my own. For me, that says I have put myself into the story. Eventually, if the character is consistently written, I will adopt their emotions and reactions and no longer question their decisions. I hope to accomplish the same thing in my writing. I want you to understand my characters, but I can’t expect you to understand them as well as I do. If I do my job well enough, I leave just enough mystery behind that you want to know more about them.
Speaking of characters, The Assassin’s Cradle introduces a concept of conglomerate empires, which I call empirates. In preparing to write, I developed profiles for the empirates involved in the story, giving them the kind of history and personality normally reserved for characters. Then there are the locations. I drew a map of Ganoten, created continents that went through tectonic shifts, designed ocean currents, planned weather patterns, mountain ranges, fertile plains, deserts, forests, lakes, the whole thing. I created stories for each city, giving them character, a climate, a demographic mix, an ambiance. In both cases, I wanted there to be substance behind the mechanical function. Neither the empirates nor the locations are supposed to be window dressing. I want them to exist in all four dimensions (the normal three and time).
Everyone notices different things about their surrounding, and readers are the same. I believe in offering my readers food for their imaginations. I try to make the characters and the environments memorable. At the same time, I try to present the elements in a visceral way to involve you and plant seeds in your mind that will grow as the story progresses. If I create a believable context, you’ll fill in the blanks from your own experience, from your imagination.
I can still see the paths and courtyards aligned between the grids of blocky towers in Protol City, the lake canals below the mist-shrouded temple in Depung Tso, and the winding, sand-colored streets and alleys of Oscalla. Hopefully, the people who have finished The Assassin’s Cradle still can too. That’s how I approach writing. When Idries wakes up in his bed after passing out from exhaustion, confused and disoriented, I hope you wonder what happened just like he does.
It was a joy for me to join the characters as they traverse the story I sketched out for them. They gave me numerous surprises along the way. I hope you get a least a little of that joy and surprise as you read The Assassin’s Cradle.
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