Right as I struggle to get a new story off the ground, along comes a great read to make mine look even suckier.
Matthew Kirby’s Icefall is an inspiration. The book has a good storyline and engaging characters. It is a model of superb writing, the kind of story I want to write.
Setting can be a main character and Kirby sets the tone the first sentence: “The fjord is freezing over.” Like this January in Salt Lake, winter grips the Scandinavian landscape and refuses to relinquish. Solveig, the narrator, tells us “winter is here to wall us up, bury us in snow and keep us safe.” That leads to plot.
Solveig and her siblings and guards to protect them are sent into hiding in this barren terrain to keep them safe from the warlord her father is battling. The winter is harsh, the soldiers become restless, and the effect of being cooped together in a small area is compounded when it becomes apparent that a traitor is in their midst. Who among her father’s trusted men has turned against them?
Solveig, is not pretty like her older sister, nor bound to inherit her father’s kingdom like her younger brother. She is plain and unimportant. She embarks on a journey to find her calling and is assisted by strong supporting characters and the inner strength she finds within herself.
Matthew Kirby is (or was – I heard he moved) a local Utah writer. He ran a workshop last year at WIFYR and is on board to do so again this summer. Two years ago, he presented an incredible afternoon breakout session about plot. He said characters must drive the plot, as does Solveig in Icefall. Kirby talked about layering the outer and inner plots. The outer plot is the series of events and the inner is the emotional change it produces in the protagonist. An inciting event occurs which raises the stakes. This incites a re-orientation of the MC who reacts. Another outer plot incident ratchets up the tension and is followed with inner psychological change. The outer and inner plots must escalate together and the author must aim the trajectory at a point where it seems all is lost. This goes on until the climax, the moment at which point the inner and outer plots confluence.
Kirby effectively uses this strategy with Icefall. He nailed it with his first book, The Clockwork Three. The guy is a master storyteller.