Lightbringer Series: Plot Examination, Part 1

I just “finished” a series, called the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks. “Finished” because I just completed reading the third book in the series; “finished” because the series isn’t yet done but won’t release another book until next year.

Overall, I like it. The originality is great. The complexity is great. And although the book is based on a foundation of lies and deceit, the reader isn’t shocked with a slap-in-the-face discovery but led through a plot that makes sense even as it astounds.

Because these books were gargantuan – each one over 700 pages – I would like to back track to review the plot. Because each of these books holds multiple POV’s, I want to pose the question: is each one necessary?

Basically, do they support the plot?

The foundation of this story is based on Seven Satrapies – seven countries who follow a religion that honors a single god, Orholam. In their legends, Orholam created mankind, also called the old gods, from light. And one of those original men stole the light, who is called the Lightbearer. He split the light into multiple colors and used it to create more men, human ones in his own image. The plot that follows in this series is many times later, where civilization has expanded to include certain beliefs and customs, where Orholam acts through the Prism to ‘chain’ the light. The main idea of these customs include that the people follow the Prism as their religious leader, and although his power is mitigated by the Spectrum (a sort of congress with each country/color represented by a different leader), the Prism is the one the people look to for guidance. Because he can balance the colors in the land, honoring color stability, most of the country looks to him for peace. (Weeks 478-479, The Broken Eye).

As further background, when light was split into multiple colors, this included paryl (similar to microwaves), sub-red (similar to infrared), red, orange, yellow, green, blue, superviolet, and chi (similar to x-rays), including two more “colors” called black (absence of light) and white (all colors combined). The idea is that, while most people of the land are normal ‘humans,’ others have the power to absorb one color and transform it into luxin – a colored substance that can form solid objects. For example, someone with blue powers can draft a blue sword by looking at a blue sky and absorbing it through their eyes into their skin. This power carries restrictions since each color has its own weight, tactility, scent, personality-influences, emotional-influences, and purposes. Some people can also draft more than one color, called bichromes (for 2 colors) or polychromes (for 3+). 

Also to note in Orholam’s beliefs, the legends say there will come a man named the Lightbringer – a man who “will slay or has slain gods and kings…is a genius of magic, a warrior who will sweep, or has swept, all before him, a champion of the poor and downtrodden, great from his youth, He Who Shatters” (Weeks 772, The Broken Eye). Basically, he’s a rescuer of the people, but the people have not agreed whether he has come already, is here now, or will come in the future.

SPOILERS!

This brings us to current day, where the current Prism “Gavin” has secretly replaced his brother, “Dazen,” during the Prism War over a decade ago. He is one of the main characters that the books revolve around, being that he plays a strong hand within the fate of the countries politically, religiously, socially…in every sense. He influences everything.

Because his importance is ingrained within the foundation of this society, he is a necessary character. Not only that, but through his simple lie – of changing places with his similar-looking older brother – he has changed the natural course of the Prism’s customs and his relationships with family and friends, none of whom know about his deception. Because Gavin has lasted for such a long time (16 years), with most Prisms not lasting beyond 7,14, or 21 years, he thinks he will last 5 more (13, The Black Prism). As such, he promises himself to fulfill five great purposes within that time. All these hopes fall apart when he reads a note, “I’m dying, Gavin. It’s time you meet your son Kip. – Lina” (13).

Who is this son of his? And is it truly his or his brother’s?

From this preliminary discussion, I think this was great perspective for the story, and by giving him depth, where he was interwoven in the land’s religious history, recent political history from the Prism War, and still has complex lies/deception within the lands current politics, his influence echoes throughout the series.

He is a great addition, and through a deep character study, new writers can learn a lot from him.

Weeks, Brent. The Black Prism. New York, NY: Orbit, 2010. Print.

Weeks, Brent. The Broken Eye. New York, NY: Orbit, 2014. Print.

Story-Telling with Games

The best idea generator for you as a writer: your friends, your colleagues, random people you find on the street…

I recently went to PAX, and although this is a video game convention, there’s a lot of story telling in video games.

As background, I’m the type of player that goes for active-interaction stories, survival games. I just can’t survive any other type of game because when you insert me in a game with shooters or actual violence (or real-live players rather than NPC’s), I die. Figuratively – in the game. Not in real life.

For example, I just got one called, This War is Mine. I’ve enjoyed it. It has a lot of strategy to plan how your civilians will survive the war, and although the setting is great, the story isn’t really in depth. You basically get a bio on each of your characters. But I guess since you play the story, you determine the course of the game. Other story games have included State of Decay, Transistor, Bioshock Series

There’s also a card game I tried. Somewhat similar to Cards Against Humanity, and yet more similar to something like Story Cubes. It’s called Skip Trace Game.

This game has 4 sets of cards, and they’re divided between the player and boss. The boss gets 3 sets: location, target, and method while the players get 1 set: item cards. Basically, the boss draws one card from each of the three decks and frames a story, in which the player must act out the method, using the item they draw. For example, I think our mission was to wreck a bro at the airport, i.e. method to target at location. The winning player played a hangover with an air horn (two items being the max to play during one turn). The idea of this game is to BS your entire story. The boss BS’s the mission. The player makes up a story that fits the items to the story.

This whole game is about story telling.

I’m not saying these stories were anything good enough to integrate within a short story, novel, etc. But it certainly sets yourself up for creativity and originality since the originality is determined by the randomness of the cards, and the creativity is up to your “team.”

Originality in Plots

I want to give a little bit of background before this post and a HUGE spoiler alert, so if you want to keep reading, be aware that I try to keep all my posts related to a story/book I’ve read, and this one is no different. Especially since I talk about plot, I will give a lot away.

I just finished reading The Black Prism (Lightbringer Series, #1 of 3) by Brent Weeks. It was a very interesting read, and I think the reason why is the sheer amount of lies/deception and the creativity/originality involved in creating this book.

First, let me start by saying our world isn’t very original, which seems pessimistic, but when you have so many people living on this planet, and even so many people in one country or city, there’s bound to be commonalities that connect people, thoughts, and ideas together. For instance, when people decided vampires were popular, I swear every other book was about vampires. Same with zombies. There are popularity fads that will get picked up, and most of the time, the ideas are almost verbatim. Zombies eat people. Vampires avoid the daylight.

This is why I love creativity. I love originality. If you’re different, I’m impressed.

And this book is different, especially special. It’s typical a magic-wielding type of book, except the magic is light. And limits are connected to lifespans – you can only wield a definite amount of light, and after, you die. The characters, or drafters, granted with this ability usually have an affinity for a certain color and create objects out of this color. But, the objects have to fit the personality of the color. For instance, red is like anger and passion, so people with this affinity tend to be very passionate, easy-to-anger, and usually spawn flames since red is a flammable color.

This plot-point made the book easy to read. I was interested in the physics, the mechanics, the world built around this point.

And, I know a lot of people may be discouraged, thinking they can’t build something this complex because this is a whole new world that Weeks built. But, they don’t all have to be that big. There are plenty of common myths, like vampires, that you can use. And, they only take a little tweaking to make them yours.

For example, if I were to create an original story with vampires, let’s first examine the common preconceptions: burn in the sun (or afraid of light), drink blood, superhuman abilities like hearing/sight/speed/strength. To create this as a legend of mine, I can change a mechanic. What if instead of afraid of the sun, they were afraid of the moon and the sun thing was a lie they made up to misconstrue the human population?

What if instead of shape-shifting based on the moon’s cycle, werewolves changed based on a planet’s cycle, so it was a very rare occurrence. What if were-wolf packs were divided based on their celestial-shift patterns?

Originality in stories doesn’t have to be a big idea. It can be something as simple as taking an old idea and changing a piece to make it yours. But, I can tell you from my perspective – it makes a huge difference in your story.

Weeks, Brent. The Black Prism. London, UK: Orbit, 2013. Print.