Writing in a weekly, serialised format sometimes throws up odd challenges. In this chapter it was a particularly morbid one: remembering that Pienya’s crumpled body is lying in the corner of the scene.

The flow of the action across the chapters means that what we have here is a swapping of positions, with an exchange of information between the two groups of characters. Functionally, Pienya has no part to play in this chapter: the resolution of her story arc has already happened, several chapters back – although she was of course referenced in the previous one as well.

The first draft of this chapter, though, had no mention of her whatsoever, because she wasn’t part of the main thrust of the chapter’s plot. I then realised that Stryke had a strong, established, antagonistic relationship there which needed to be addressed, and so went through a couple of passes of working that in.

It’s one of those hairy moments where if I’d missed it I imagine many readers would have found it very jarring. The upside of remembering it is that it injected a much-needed dose of character development into the chapter, lifting what was otherwise quite dialogue and plot-heavy into something more interesting. Stryke having to deal with his previous experiences of Pienya and reconciling those with her final fate is a difficult process with no easy answers.

A moment I like is Stryke’s final line, where he moves past blaming Pienya or seeing her as the enemy, and instead recognises the significant failures of all those around her. The heavy implication there is not that he’s blaming Kraisa specifically or solely, as it might seem on an initial reading, but that they all let her down: Fenris, Stryke, Guijus, Kirya – by not protecting her and guiding her better.

Something else to note is that while writing TMC I’ve been continually reworking the book’s ending. It’s been in total flux the entire time, though I’ve had core beats and thematic through-lines pretty clear throughout. Towards the end of writing arc 6 I finally cracked what had to happen in arc 7, but it’s still been massaged significantly as we’ve gone along. The order of chapters, the POV choices, it’s all being continually tuned behind-the-scenes, with the aim of delivering a satisfying ending to this three-year serial.

Whether I pull it off remains to be seen, but I’m liking what I have in store for everyone in the coming weeks.


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