Continuing the chapter notes catch-up, here’s a big one on ‘Approaching Thunder’:
I knew this chapter was coming from the moment I started writing this book, back in 2016. In a lot of ways, everything has been leading towards the end of this chapter, even if readers weren’t aware of it.
I *hope* that means that it’s earned, and that it resonates. I hope that it works as a sudden, unexpected binding together of multiple separate plot strands and clues. I hope it’s a simultaneous “aha!” moment as well as an “oh no!”, while also opening up a couple of “huh?”s.
The last few chapters have been deliberately quiet and introspective, almost lulling, because I knew this was coming. And ‘Approaching thunder’ begins in much the same vein, with the training session and no immediate progression of the plot.
This moment, broadly, was in the very first draft of the book, back when it was called ‘Evinden’. In that version of the story it happened earlier and I really fumbled it as a dramatic moment; that was one of the main learnings from that first draft. I knew when approaching this second draft (and total rewrite) that the moment had to work. I still wanted to get to this point, but knowing how it *didn’t* work before helped me reconfigure it this time round, seeding a lot of elements earlier in the story that would only pay off here (the most obvious being Kirya’s seizures and fits, which are presented up until now as being an interesting and sympathetic character quirk, rather than a major plot driver).
While I knew the events of this chapter were coming from the very beginning, a lot of the specifics only coalesced as this chapter was forming this week. In particular, the ‘four warnings’ structure was something that struck me while I was working on a non-writing project a couple of days ago. It seemed like an appropriately portentous way to present the chapter, and a way to set it apart from the rest, immediately notifying the reader that SOMETHING was up.
t was also a way to tie back to some of the earlier plot beats. After all, long-time readers have been reading this book, chapter-by-chapter, for two whole years: remembering all the foreshadowed details might be a bit of a challenge, especially as I don’t have the luxury of a TV-style ‘previously on…’ intro. It also opened up an opportunity to inject an unexpected and momentary perspective shift right at the start of the chapter, with the first sentence giving at least a hint of what the final chapter could mean. My hope is that if anyone ever feels compelled to re-read the book from the beginning, that the foreshadowing will work and kick in early, enhancing the story as all the threads that lead to this pivotal moment are laid down right from the very beginning. I tell you, doing that kind of thing in an online, serialised format is not the easiest endeavour.
Let’s talk about that last line: “Such was the end of Tarn, the boy.” I don’t want to get into precisely what it means/doesn’t mean – that’ll come later. However, I think it might be the most effective, efficient and devastating sentence I’ve ever written. If I may say so myself. As an isolated sentence it’s satisfying in its simplicity, but placed into the context of this story it’s heartbreaking and enraging and awful all at once. In eight words, it informs the reader of the stakes, or what has been lost, and how this moment resonates all the way back to chapter 2 when we first met Tarn. It does this while a) not overtly stating anything, especially with regards to how the reader should feel and b) retaining an air of mystery about what has *really* happened. The line presented itself to me as the appropriate moment, which is how it ended up in the chapter. Sometimes I wrestle a bit with the final line of chapters (a curse of the serialised format, where there’s always a compulsion to encourage people to TUNE IN NEXT WEEK, SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL!), but this particular one jumped out fully formed. Something I’ve really enjoyed with TMC is having layered ‘big reveals’. Every time you think the big reveal has happened (”it’s a floating city in the sky!”), you subsequently discover that it was inconsequential compared to what came next. Sometimes it’s a big, dramatic thing, other times it’s a smaller, but equally significant thing.