This chapter came out a tad long, at 2,012 words. That’s the first ADoF chapter to break 2k, with chapters usually nestling above or below 1500 words. I considered slicing it into two separate chapters but, really, the tension and pacing works best as a single piece. Although most chapters have culminated in some kind of cliffhanger or revelation, I don’t want to shoehorn in dramatic peaks just for the sake of it.
‘Gradualism’ is a chapter which starts to pull aside the Curtain Of Mystery (technical term). If you’ve been paying attention so far, by the end of this chapter you should have a pretty solid idea of what’s going on, even if you’re not yet sure of the motivations. When you have a story that begins with mystery elements it’s a bit of a juggling act to figure out when to reveal the truth.
I have a few reference points for this, primarily from television. TV is an appropriate comparison medium because it starts to air before the story is complete. Novels and films are a very different form of storytelling, for all kinds of reasons, but specifically because they are completed prior to publishing. Unless they’re by Ridley Scott, I guess.
So, to take an example that doesn’t work for me: LOST. The first season is a big barrel o’ mystery, and I loved it. So many questions, a ton of weirdness, but wrapped around compelling characters and action. Season 2 onwards, however, continued to layer on mystery and obfuscation, without clearing anything up, at which point my attention waned. A mystery is only as good as the revelation, and if you wait too long people simply stop caring about the truth.
On the flipside you have Babylon 5, a science fiction show from the 90s. It starts as one thing – the UN in space, basically – then unexpectedly introduces mythic elements of ancient alien beings and time travel, refusing to fully explain what the hell is going on. Season 1 ends with these mysteries entirely unresolved. You’re not even sure what the mystery is exactly – you just know there’s more going on than you initially thought.
Season 2 then rapidly defines those mysteries, answering just enough to keep the audience engaged but leaving key elements unsaid for later revelations. The characters uncover the answers at the same pace as the audience, and the story isn’t kept vague for the sake of it. By the end of season 2 it’s very clear exactly what’s going on, and what the stakes are. Season 3 therefore becomes one of the most thrilling TV experiences as it acts on all the build-up.
That B5 structure and pace is what I’m aiming for with ADoF. There’s mystery in ADoF’s setup, but mystery is not the point of the story.
The First Annual Story Fair took place just before this chapter went out, which brought a bunch of new readers in. Exciting stuff, especially watching new comments pop up on early chapters as new readers discovered Kay, Cal and co for the first time.
Wattpad continues to be an immensely satisfying platform and writing incentive.