Threads. I talk about them a lot. I'm pretty sure my authors want to tie me up with those threads and leave me in a closet someplace where they can't hear me blather. But all stories need threads. It's how we get from beginning to end. Without threads, you have scenes with nothing holding them together. But what I talk about most are those threads some will only notice subconsciously. Let me 'splain.
Look at this tapestry (Click for a bigger image.)
It's part of The Unicorn Tapestries on display at the Cloisters in NYC--The Unicorn Leaps Out of the Stream. I've seen the panels. They're gorgeous whether you stand back to get the full scope, or get up as close as the velvet rope and motion sensors will allow. A unicorn, hunters, dogs, the flora and fauna of the forest. It's a brutal, beautiful depiction and one of the finest examples we have of tapestry art. Gazing upon it is a joy, however...
If you know that the unicorn is symbolic of the Christ, the pierced side of the unicorn takes on new meaning, as does the fact that there are thirteen dogs depicted, one with a skewered side, symbolizing the twelve apostles and Christ. And if you know that a unicorn's horn was believed to have healing and purification properties, the depiction is no longer that the unicorn is piercing the dog's side, but that he--Christ--is healing it (symbolizing the Ressurection.) Look at the dog's face--almost smiling. See? And to top it all off, dogs symbolize fidelity.
All that flora isn't there to be pretty. Hawthorne symbolized the crown Christ wore during the crucifixion. Hazelnut stood for union, regeneration, and immortality. Holly symbolized Christ's suffering, and was a protection against evil. Pomegranate seeds were viewed as a symbol of the chastity of the Virgin Mary as well as the medieval Church. It was also a symbol of plenitude and fertility. The red juice symbolized the blood of Jesus Christ.
The number of birds, the stream, the plentitude of flora, the placement of the hunters, the knots tied in several of the trees, and the A
you can barely see dead center all meant something. Depending upon how up one is on one's symbolism, these things changed the way one viewed the tapestry as a whole. See where I'm going?
Not everyone is going to see
all your threads. Not consciously. But the scope gains more depth for having them there. For example: I wrote Beyond the Gate
before either Finder
or A Time Never Lived
, even if it comes third in the cycle. In BTG, one of the characters acquires something called the King's Eye. It's a magical sort of talisman and had nothing to do with either Finder or ATNL, until I came to The Shadows One Walks
and realized that the King's Eye is actually connected to Zihariel and Sully's keys.( Here's a little insider information for those of you who have read both books-- )
I did not purposely write these connections. These threads only came together now, as I write TSOW. And the whole story of this thread isn't going to actually make it into the book itself. It's background information that I need, but the story itself doesn't. If I went off on all the tangents, the cool little details I've built into my books, they would ramble on forever. But it's all there, threaded in for anyone who notices--like the real meaning of a character's name, revealed at the end of Beyond the Gate
, that makes an appearance in Finder
to click firmly into place. Some of my readers will make the connection. Some won't. The point is that such threads give a story depth that infodumps detract from. Eliminating those threads flatten the story out. They need to be there, even if most will never consciously acknowledge them.
It's like looking at that tapestry. You can gaze upon all the color and detail and beauty and be satisfied, or you can look at it with all the symbolism in your arsenal, ready to dive deep. Whichever experience you have, it is what it is because of all those threads whether you can interpret them or not. Without them, it might as well be a unicorn on black velvet galloping through the surf.