This was a controversial chapter for my writing group and my editor, and was wrapped up in the whole learning curve argument. It was suggested several times that if this chapter were from Kaladin’s viewpoint, the book wouldn’t feel quite so overwhelming at the start. After all, Chapters One and Two would then be from the same viewpoint and would give a stronger clue to readers.
I resisted. I had already accepted that this was going to be a challenging book for readers. That’s not an excuse to ignore advice, but at the same time, I decided I was committed to the long-term with this book. That meant doing things at the start that might seem unusual for the purpose of later payoff.
This is an excellent example of that. If I’d done this scene through Kaladin’s eyes, I don’t think it would have been as powerful. Kaladin is on top of things here, in control. I didn’t want the first chapter to feel that in control. I wanted the sense of chaos worry and uncertainty.
Beyond that, I wanted to introduce Kaladin as a contrast to all of that. A solid force for order, a natural leader, and an all-around awesome guy. Doing that from within someone’s viewpoint is tough unless they’re on the arrogant side, like Kelsier. It can work in that kind of viewpoint, but not in Kaladin’s.
Finally, I am always looking to play with the tropes of fantasy where I can. I feel that if I’d been writing this as a youth, I’d have made someone like Cenn the hero. (Indeed, in the original draft of The Way of Kings from 2002, Kaladin was much more like Cenn is now.) Opening with a young man thrust into war, then having him get killed seemed like a good way to sweep the pieces off the table and say, “No, what you expect to happen isn’t going to happen in this book.”
This also let me set up for a future chapter, where I could flashback to Kaladin’s view of these events. As narrative structure was something I wanted to play with in this book, that appealed to me.