Get the Balance Right

I’m not entirely sure how the concept of balance popped up in my trilogy, it just sort of happened naturally.

I think it’s because, when I was writing The Phoenix Effect back in the late 90s, I’d become fascinated by yin-yang relationships in life, and especially how neither side is inherently heroic or villainous.  Each side has good and bad qualities, perfections and impurities.  It’s up to each individual to decide how they want to act (or react) to their surroundings, or to the other’s actions.  Some go with the flow, some do what’s expected of them, some are rebellious and still others refuse to do anything at all.

Originally the trilogy was going to focus mostly on the Mendaihu, with the Shenaihu relegated to textbook villain.  But the more I tried writing that, the more I felt it was horribly contrived.  What if the Shenaihu were doing what they do for a legitimate reason?  Maybe the Mendaihu aren’t all that perfect and awesome after all?  And with Earth stuck in the middle of it all, how are they affected?


It’s not just the character balance I watch for when I write, though.  I pay attention to the plot arc, and where the characters’ defining moments are placed.

A day or so ago while revising/editing The Persistence of Memories I hit the exact midway point.  I was curious as to what that scene would be, as I’d subconsciously put a pivotal Denni scene at that point in A Division of Souls, a point where the book is no longer ‘starting up’ and is now in full acceleration mode.  It seems that I did the same exact thing here as well:  another main character’s pivotal scene that sets the tone for the rest of the book (and the trilogy).  I’ve yet to see if I did that with The Balance of Light, but we shall see, once I start revising/editing that one.

That’s not to say the pivotal now-or-never scene needs to be smackdab in the middle of the book; this just sort of happened organically for me.  Another character’s defining moment won’t show up until near the end of TBoL, with mere chapters to go until the end.  The point here is balancing the character’s evolution.  They start at one level and ascend (or descend) to another, somewhere within the timeline, because otherwise they’re boring.

Point being, by the end of the trilogy, everyone, even the most stubbornly static characters, have changed somehow.  The trick as to when they change is in the pacing.  Don’t just think about how you want the character to change, but how they’d act afterwards.  A character’s evolution too soon might render them boring for the rest of the book; too late and it looks forced.  Think about their timeline within the context of the entire book (or series): what would be the perfect time for them to change, and how would it affect the rest of the plot and the other characters?

Again, with the music parallel:  where would the chorus of the song fit best?  After the first verse?  Just after the bridge?  (Or like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”, waaaay over at the end of the song, after the guitar solo?)  It’s completely up to you, the writer.  As long as you do it right.

Make it pleasurable not only for you, but for the reader.  Creating balance in your creation is a trick on the subconscious level; we feel pleased by a perfectly balanced shot in a film or painted image.  We’re equally pleased by the slow build of an arc that finally explodes in glorious 3D at the perfect moment (again, think the “Don’t Stop Believin'” solo and chorus, or maybe even The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” when it finally hits the “na na na” coda).

The trick is to figure out where to best place it so you achieve the perfect balance.


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