Rhythm of War Chapters 4-5
Here's an annotation for these chapters! One of the most revised sequences of this book were these Shallan chapters--continuing through the entire novel. As I have said elsewhere, I originally designed Shallan's mental state to be a more fantastical look at something like Dissociative Identity Disorder. (Like the fantastical look at Schizophrenia I did with Stephen Leeds.)
I was fascinated by how something like mental health challenges relating to identity would intersect with magic that let you quite literally become someone else. The original version of this was for a character I wrote in Dragonsteel--which I'll eventually release to the public like I've done with TWOK Prime.
In this series, however, I've found myself leaning away from the fantastical elements more and more, and trying to lean into the real science and best mental health practices. This is because I've realized that having Shallan's ailment be completely fantastical was both irresponsible (in representation terms) and less realistic. Where I settled earlier in the series was in representing not someone with a fantastical disease, but someone with a very real disease--that is exacerbated by fantastical elements.
Because of this, I listened very hard to my beta readers on Shallan, particularly those with specific experience in this area. In the original draft of these scenes, for example, Shallan wasn't shifting between the various alters of herself nearly as often--and with some feedback, I tweaked that, and found it not only worked better in a realism way, but it also read far, far better. It's simply more interesting to see Shallan's different aspects doing different things, thinking different ways.
Some of the most satisfying moments in revisions come when you try something different, and find that it's what you wanted to do all along--but didn't quite know how to accomplish until a comment nudges you.
Just had a random idea regarding the Dragonsteel character, could it be Bavadin? (the avatar forming seems in line with this)
That's interesting that you had this DID direction planned for Shallan since the beginning (pre-Way of Kings I presume). I had just assumed it was something that you developed in between WoR and Oathbringer. I know you've commented on subjects related to this before - but in light of what you're saying about leaning away from the fantastical, I'm curious to know if you think that if Shallan had become, say, an Edgedancer instead (or just never continued in her truths), that she would have developed DID and those aspects regardless? Or would she just have had her trauma manifest in other ways (such as other dissociative disorders like depersonalization/derealization/amnesia)?
I would say that she would have gone the same way she has, but the manifestations of her disassociation would have been different. But this is something I could perhaps waver on.
I've seen quotes from you before that you didn't intend her to actually have DID, is that just about it originally being more fantastical, and now you're trying to make it actually be realistic more?
Yes, that's what is happening here. I originally shied away from it, as I didn't want to open that can of worms--but then, I realized I was opening it anyway, and the only way to be honest was to admit what I was doing and get some people who have DID themselves to advise me.
I think, in hindsight, I was trying to take too much of an easy path--and the path that didn't require me to do the work like I needed to
Aha! So that's what you did. I immediately noted in the first chapters that Shallan's illness seemed to have gotten worse. I thought that it was you alludIng to a downward spiral of the characters in conjunction with the world of Roshar - which made sense because, if you place a mentally ill person in a world with no access to mental healthcare and then make their situation worse, what would happen? Their mental illness would get worse.
I'm surprised that it was just a change in the way you write her.
If you had the option to go back and revise all of her chapters that way, would you?
Because as it is, the real-ness and definition of her other egos reads like a downward spiral.
What you're noticing is not just me changing the way I'm writing her. More, I realized that her downward spiral was going to require me to actively deal with her mental illness in a responsible way, if that makes sense.
I wouldn't change much about the past books. It was more that I realized that the place she was going in this one required a more delicate touch than I could manage without some expert help.