Arc 5 is about pulling our characters down into the mire. In ‘Leading the lost’ we get to see a background character come to the fore, as Galisai takes over from the unfortunate Hachim. Galisai is someone who on the surface looks entirely capable and confident and cool in every scenario, while being a complex, fractured mess of contradictions internally.
Nothing much happens in this chapter, which is deliberate. It’s meant to feel somewhat directionless, hopeless, recursive. After the strong trajectory established at the end of Arc 4, where we thought Fenris and co were heading in the right direction at last, here we realise that it’s really not going to be that simple.
One thing that isn’t always evident in the weekly publishing schedule of this serialised story is how there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes wrangling going on in-between the chapter writing. Most days I’m tinkering with the various plot documents inside Scrivener. Arc 5 has very defined start and end points, in that I know precisely where it’s heading towards, but exactly how it gets there is still up for grabs, even though we’re 8 chapters into it.
A lot of this relates to pacing and structure, in deciding when particular story beats are going to hit. Should the next chapter return to Roldan Stryke, or stay in the mountains, or catch up with Pieyna or King Guijus? When a big story revelation hits, which group of characters should experience it first? What makes for the most exciting sequence of chapters? Simply swapping a couple of chapters around or shifting a chapter backward or forward in the arc can dramatically increase the dramatic irony, or tragedy, or tension.
This often shifts week-by-week, with a planned chapter changing on the day of writing into something else. It requires a very agile approach, given that I’m ALSO publishing every week. If I was writing in private, finishing the whole thing and then editing it I wouldn’t have to make these decisions in the samew way. It absolutely suits my method and actively helps my productivity: rather than putting off plot problems or character dead-ends I have to confront and fix them immediately.
In Arc 5, that balance is all about hitting the right amount of grimness. Where exactly is rock bottom? How far do we want to descend before we shift gears? How bad are things going to get?
Tune in next week to find out!