During the plotting process of The Ankulen, I decided that I wanted the climatic scene to be a picture of what Jesus did when He died on the cross, the distance He had to span, the sheer incredibility of it. Here He was, the God of the universe, the Creator, Holy and Perfect ... and yet He chose to die - DIE! - for puny, sinful, pathetic, insignificant human beings. He didn't have to - it was the last thing that we ever expected - yet He did. Why? Not so we can keep him company in Eternity. God is three-in-one. He can keep Himself company just fine. No, He did it because He loves us.
So I knew that the climatic scene would be Jen choosing to fight the Polystoikhedron, even though it is almost certain death for her, just so that her imaginary people will no longer be plagued by him.
Of course, the picture isn't perfect. Jen is not a perfect, holy God. She's a sinful, pitiful human being, and the Polystoikhedron being in her imagination is almost as much her fault as it is her characters. Yet her sacrifice is still there. She doesn't have to do this for her imaginary world. She can live without it - she's been living without it for the last eight years, though it's been miserable for her. Her friends don't expect her to do it, they beg her not to. But she does it. She wants to do it. Why? Not because they can keep her company - she'll miss them, sure, but she has family and friends in the real world. No, she does it because she loves them, and she loves her world.
Shortly before I actually got around to writing the scene, I was reading though the back posts on Molly Evangeline's blog, and discovered This One. Go read it. It's short. I'll wait.
Back? Good. Molly got me thinking about all of the books that pictured Jesus' sacrifice, the ones that I loved ... and the ones that kinda fell flat. The first that came to mind was, of course, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Molly had mentioned it herself. Then there was Molly's own picture in Truth. I found it extremely well done. And then there was George MacDonald's The Light Princess. (And if you haven't read this book, I highly suggest it. I know you can get it free to listen to on Librivox. If you can get past all the singing ... it's absolutely hilarious in spots! Other places almost had me in tears!) And then there all of the pictures in the Bible itself - Abraham and Isaac on the mountain, Jonah in the Whale ... so on and so forth.
And then there were the ones that fell flat. Moonbeam by Katie Comstock and Tears of a Dragon by Bryan Davis are the two that spring to mind. Both are books that I otherwise love ... they just fell a bit flat.
Why? I realized that it wasn't that they were cliche or anything. All of these were wonderfully cliche and different. What makes a sacrifice/resurrection scene work is how much it matters to the plot, and how expected it is. Even though I had heard on the radio that Aslan would sacrifice himself for Edmund, I was still at the edge of my seat as I watched (Yes, watched. The BBC version.) Aslan with Susan and Lucy towards the stone table. I despaired with them as the knife was plunged into his heart and all hope was lost. I rejoiced when the table cracked and he was alive again.
And yet, in Tears of a Dragon, Billy's death and resurrection fell flat. Why? Partially because it felt forced. But also because it didn't seem to help the plot. It seemed to me that the plot would have changed very little had Elaine not succeeded in plunging the knife in Billy's back ... and that the way he resurrected was far too easy. I mean, the knife was supposed to be one that once you're dead, you're dead. I loved the series, I really did, but that scene fell flat, and I felt almost cheated. (But I do applaud how he waited until the last book to do it. Made it feel a bit more earned.)
And in Moonbeam, the problem was that she relied too heavily on that part of the plot. It did not catch me by surprise, so I wasn't at the edge of my seat while I read the Jesus-figure's death. I didn't despair as I waited for him to rise again. When he did, I was happy, but it was more of a finally! happy.
So will The Ankulen's sacrifice seen sink or swim? I won't pretend to say, though I love it a lot, and my beta readers have seemed to like it.