You can read this chapter of The Mechanical Crown over on Wattpad.

This chapter turned out to be very easy to write, with it forming itself onto the page in a single evening. Getting to that point was extremely difficult, though, mainly for structural reasons.

The issue I had was that there is a lot of PLOT to get through here, because we’re in the finale. Earlier in the story there was a lot of flex in terms of Stuff Wot Happens, but right now, at the end of arc 7, it has to be tight and precise in order to hit all the right beats and accomplish everything I want to do with the end of the story.

So what we’ve had in the last couple of chapters is a series of critical events:

  1. Tarn and Kraisa engage
  2. Their battle takes them out of the machine rooms and the prison pit, in the process destroying the only way in and out
  3. Stryke and his crew converge on the prison
  4. Holst brings the Mountain Breaker around
  5. The Avii fleet arrives
  6. Everyone has a Big Meeting to figure out what to do next
  7. Holst uses the Mountain Breaker to break away the destroyed roof and structures in the pit
  8. The Avii use their telekinetic powers to clear the debris
  9. Stryke and others descend in to the pit to clear a way down and find out if Trantand Kirya are still alive.

That is a LOT of Things That Have To Happen, and there was a big risk that it would become tedious, or shallow.

For this chapter I wrestled with the POV for ages. Initially it was going to be Stryke, but that would result in a very procedural, laboured depiction of all those events. I thought about doing it via a flashback structure, with Stryke descending into the pit and thinking about how they’d got to that point in retrospect; but that felt like a bit of a cheat, and also seemed like it would connect weirdly with the previous chapter. It would have been using a narrative crutch to disguise boring plotting. I thought about going back to Holst, but that again would be a bit simplistic and linear.

It was only when I realised that going back to Tranton and Kirya was an option that it clicked into place. That way we don’t have to see the events ‘on screen’, and the rescue mission’s particulars can happen out of sight, only revealed when the moment of rescue actually happens. It ensures that the chapter is more introspective and characterful, focusing on Kirya’s motivations rather than the sequence of rescue plot beats. It also makes the moment of rescue at the end something exciting and memorable, rather than expected and mundane.

It was the non-obvious solution, in that it moves the perspective entirely AWAY from the specific plot points that I was wrestling with, but the solution normally comes from a bit of lateral thinking.


Mike Miller · July 13, 2019 at 11:16 am

Most importantly FIFFDEE!

Seriously he’s referenced enough that he had to make another appearance, either turned, slain, or remembering his friend. Glad you chose Kirya for the chapter.

    Simon Jones · July 16, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    I was quite excited when I realised that I could have a moment in which everyone gets very confused about the prisoners saying numbers, given the lack of available context. A nice moment where the readers know what is going on, but the characters don’t.

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