Monday, December 19, 2011

Long Journeys Part III – Dark Descents

Holidays are tough on writers. Even when you think you’ll have time to write, something gets in the way. Agent Rachelle Gardner recently suggested that writers should plan out how much time they think they’ll have to write during the holidays – and then divide that in half. This year, I should’ve divided that number by ten. That’s how far behind I am, which is the reason for the current dearth of posts. 

For some, the end of the year can also be tough, especially when the year ends worse than planned. In the long journey of life there are always valleys, some more deep and dark than others. It’s how a person climbs out of those valleys that matters, which is another reason I find the story type called the “journey” or “quest” to be so appealing. In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins not only had to make the long and dangerous physical journey to Mordor, but he also had to endure the grueling mental and emotional journey of bearing the One Ring. As anyone who’s read The Lord of the Rings knows, it’s the latter journey that was the hardest to survive.   

In Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has both a physical and a mental/emotional journey to overcome. One of my favorite episodes in that long journey is King’s second book in the series, The Drawing of the Three.

The novel starts where The Gunslinger ended, after Roland is reeling from his failures, lost in a guilt-ridden haze on the edge of the Western Sea. Then the unexpected occurs. Roland suffers a sudden attack by a creature from the sea, costing him the first two fingers of his right hand. This injury cripples his ability to fire a gun, which for a gunslinger is a very bad thing. Then infection sets in. Roland is going to die unless he can find away to recover from this terrible event, and that’s where The Drawing of the Three begins.  

Roland encounters three doorways along the beach, each of which is a portal from his world to ours. Through those doors he must draw three people who were revealed at the end of The Gunslinger as being crucial to his quest to find the Dark Tower. These three figures will also be the key to Roland’s own survival. But first, he must help them settle the score with their own demons. 

From here, King introduces us to three of his most memorable characters. The first is Eddie Dean, whose demon is an addiction to heroin, leading to some serious trouble with the mob. The second is Odetta Holmes, whose own demon – a violent and alternate personality named “Detta” – stems from a sudden and seemingly random childhood attack, which left her in a coma and damaged her mind. The third is Jack Mort, a sociopath whose evil deeds have touched more than one of the other characters’ lives. Roland’s journey continues through each of these doorways and his harrowing encounters with each of these characters. And by the end, Roland must fight for something more important than his mere survival – his redemption. 

Loss, failure and redemption are often elements of a good journey tale, and in my opinion The Drawing of the Three serves as a perfect example.

Stephen King has a new Dark Tower novel coming out in April 2012!

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