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In my planning notes for this chapter, I wrote “Kind of a horror chapter”. That was the driving force behind it and what dictated the style and approach.
It’s a horror chapter in two parts. The first is Kay’s hopeless situation, as a mentally tortured prisoner. The second is Ezekiel’s increasing terror as his carefully controlled power centre disintegrates. Both are told from Kay’s limited and subjective perspective, but the victim shifts from her to Ezekiel as it progresses.
‘Pain’ is unusual due to Kay’s utter lack of agency. For most of ADoF’s plot, Kay is a lead character who makes her own decisions – indeed, the story is in large part about her accepting responsibility, both for her own actions and for the safety of those around her. Arc 3 was explicitly themed around that building of confidence and Arc 4, until now, has been about her self-belief starting to pay off.
That hopefully makes her helplessness in ‘Pain’ all the more distressing, and helps the reader feel as vulnerable as she does.
This chapter, as I mentioned in the previous notes, owe a debt to Intersections in Real Time, an episode of the 90s TV show Babylon 5. In it, a major character is interrogated over and over with seemingly no end in sight and no real demands on the part of the inquisitor. There’s also no physical abuse – it’s an entirely mental torture which is less brutal but perhaps even more insidious.
Almost all of ADoF is told in first person, from Kay’s limited perspective. That said, she is usually able to give a decent idea of what’s going on. In the second half of ‘Pain’ I really play around with the idea of the narrator having no idea of what’s going on.
The real fun in this otherwise pretty grim chapter is seeing Ezekiel slowly realise just how bad things are about to get, and how woefully he’s underestimated the people he’s dealing with (including Kay).
Soundtrack: You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned what I’ve been listening to while writing most Arc 4 chapters. That’s because I’ve been writing silently, which is a bit unusual – but Arc 4 feels like I’m fully tuned in to what’s going on. Getting in the zone is perhaps easier than before.