“Sere from the Green” Chapter Six Commentary

WARNING!  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!

This post will make much more sense if you’ve already read the novel.  Help out a little indie author and pick up a copy of her book (or books).  You can find them on Amazon, CreateSpace, Smashwords, or my personal online store.

Sere from the Green [front cover]Sorry for my absence yesterday!  My sinuses went completely haywire and I wound up not being able to finish writing up the commentary for this chapter (at the risk of being gross:  I ruined a couple pages because I couldn’t stop freaking sneezing).

I managed to finish up chapter six commentary while working at WindyCon today.  I met a couple Facebook friends and a reader today, which is always nice.  Cons are quite nerve-wracking for me:  large groups of people can cause mild anxiety attacks and I can sometimes get a bit tongue-tied.  So whenever I see friendly and/or familiar faces, it makes the experience quite a bit easier.

But I’m rambling a bit.  I really have nothing else to comment on, so we should just dive right into the commentary.

Page 74 – 75

Picking up where we left off.  This chapter opens a bit strangely.

Jet is shaken in this scene, but he’s suppressing it.  Having seen the marks on Isis’ neck, he has some idea of how close she came to serious harm.  One of the things I hope I’ve improved upon as I’ve continued writing is character tells.  In book one, I was still writing as if the reader were a mind-reader or writing the story as if it were a visual medium.

Jade’s frequently all business.  Again, she’s been doing this far longer than a lot of the other characters.

There were a couple important revelations in the exchange between Jet and Jade:  the Big Bad can slip by guardian notice and whoever attacked Isis had an ability they shouldn’t have.  These eventually pay off in the next couple novels.

Isis is a bit of a trouble magnet, which becomes apparent as the story goes on.

Jet’s love of clocks:  I was experimenting with character prints and I liked how this one fit with Jet.  Jet appreciates fine craftsmanship.  Plus, time is kind of important, whether or not one is immortal.  There aren’t many clocks in the Meadows.  Guardians are not as concerned with time.

Page 76 – 78

If I rewrote this chapter, I would tone down Electra’s anger just a notch in this scene.  In the first draft, it was completely over the top and this was as subdued as I managed to get it.  Knowing what I do now, I think I could actually scale it back even more.  I do like Jade’s unspoken warning to Jet.  These two have known each other for quite a while and don’t always need words.

I hadn’t realized I left in Jet being thankful Sly wasn’t there.  I’m glad I did though.  Readers can imagine her take on this whole scene 🙂

Jade is quite non-judgmental in this scene.  What’s done is done and now they will just deal with whatever fallout there is.  Jade is the kind of character who is almost always looking forward and doesn’t often look back.

When I write conflicts between characters, the first drafts tend to be extremely over-the-top and melodramatic.  In subsequent drafts, I scale back the emotion and physicality until I find the right beat for the story.  The fights involving Passion were the most difficult to write because she’s such an emotional character and it’s really hard to write an emotional character without straying into melodrama.  God, especially if it’s a woman.  I’ve been trying to convey this idea that emotions can be a kind of strength, which is almost impossible with the societal stigma attached to the term “emotional.”

Passion’s effect on lighting:  it’s something Electra and Isis have inherited, but it manifests when they’re experiencing a different emotional state.  As readers of the other novels already know.

In the earliest drafts of this story, Jade and Lilly were much more hesitant to leave.  I changed it because they both know Passion.  Jet isn’t in any real physical danger.

There had to be some physicality to this argument.  Jet crossed a line and betrayed Passion’s trust.  The argument can be made that he didn’t really have a choice, but Passion’s feelings are also valid.

This was an incredibly difficult scene to write.  Passion is completely heartbroken in this scene.  Jet has always been the one person she’s trusted unconditionally and he’s never abused that trust before.  She’s been betrayed by one of her best friends, her daughter’s life has been destroyed (in her view), and her other daughter isn’t speaking to her.  Passion is very alone right now and has pretty much lost her support system.  She’s devastated.

Hunter!  Ah, another character I have such a soft spot for.  Hunter was another one of the first characters I ever thought up.  In my most recent novel, I was finally able to give her a subplot, which is was so much fun to write.  Oh man, it is so tempting to talk about that right now.  But I must resist.  Spoilers and all 😀

Jet’s family is used to the guardians (they’re the shape shifters who are closest to them).  So they’re not really intimidated by them.  The relationship between Passion and Jet’s kids would be similar to an aunt and her nieces and nephews.  Hunter isn’t phased by the guardians at all and is actually really fond of Passion.

And I’m cringing again.  To be clear:  Jet doesn’t really care about what Hunter wears.  It’s more concern about the uptick in crime.  I wish I had made that a bit clearer.  It reads just a little too patriarchal.  Fucking dammit!

Page 78 – 82

Figuring how to get Isis out of that damn room proved to be really challenging.  I can’t even count how many drafts of this damn scene I went through.  At one point, I had her just dropping from the balcony.  That was just a tad too unrealistic (shape shifters are susceptible to broken bones).  I wrote up a whole list of possibilities:  nearby trees, wooden lattices, climbing down the wall like a lizard.  In the end, I settled on the makeshift rope.  I thought up a back story to Isis learning this particular skill [massive spoiler alert]:  Steve realized his friend had a knack for getting into trouble.  She was already interested in fighting and dragged him to a ton of self defense classes.  Steve knew it was possible he wouldn’t always be there to help her out and also knew she really valued her independence and she’s not one who would willingly ask for help.  However, she’s also very loyal to her friends and willing to try things that interest them.  So Steve convinced her to take classes with him that would teach her useful talents (like rock climbing) under the guise that he wanted to do more outdoor activities.  And look, it came in hand.

This scene really demonstrates how clever Jade is.  She’s waiting for Isis, having pretty much anticipated her escape attempt and timed it perfectly.  In my mind, Jade’s only been there about fifteen or twenty minutes.

I always wanted there to be a bit of suggestive subtext here.  When she’s not working, Jade’s a flirt.  Jade’s a very passionate woman and she’s not ashamed of that.

Page 78 – 82

There’s something about Jade eating a peach and licking her fingers that’s a bit erotic.  Or at least, I hope there is.  I’m an aro-ace woman, flirtation and erotic subtext isn’t my area of expertise.  Still, I think the scene is suggestive enough.

Jade is very laid back in this scene.  This is one of the easier parts of her job (considering she had been shot when the novel opens up, this is a damn walk in the park).  She could do this in her sleep.  The nice thing about a character like Jade is that she allows me to get information to the reader without bogging them down with mountains of exposition.  I was able to give tidbits of information about shape shifters and little about the guardians too.  I was also able to reveal a little more of Jade’s background and personality.  Jade’s both a lover and a fighter.

When I wrote this novel, I wanted to avoid labels as much as possible.  This proved to be yet another challenge, mostly due to Isis’ background.  The only way she knows how to see the world is through human eyes and therefore human labels.  There’s a definite clash of worlds here.  Bizarrely, Isis reads like a teenager.

Earlier drafts had Isis being much less skeptical.  Then I realized how completely ridiculous this would be.  This woman has been raised by humans and now suddenly there are these creatures right out of mythology, who, oh yeah, are immortal.  She’s going to have a bit of a reaction to it.

Here’s another thing I hadn’t noticed:  Jade and Electra have a tendency to talk about Isis like she’s not there.

Isis never stops plotting.  The wheels in her mind are always spinning.

Page 82 – 85

Jade likes the band Garbage.  Because they’re fucking awesome incarnate.

Poor Isis is completely oblivious about the cause of the tension between Jade and Electra (or rather, she has some idea, but is choosing to ignore it.  She’s got a few other things on her mind at the moment).  Isis is so used to conflict that it really doesn’t even phase her.

Dead plant = massive red flag (as readers of the other books are well aware)

Shape shifters are nothing if not resourceful.  Remember, the only place where Jet doesn’t have a contact is the morgue.

Neither Electra or Isis really knows what to say to the other.  I wrote these scenes in the hopes of conveying their discomfort.  They’re essentially strangers who share a face.  In the earliest drafts of this novel, they warmed up to each other almost immediately.  It never read quite the way I needed it to.  For one thing, Isis has major trust issues.  She isn’t going to warm up to anyone right away.  Electra has just had the metaphorical carpet ripped out from under her and so is not exactly inclined to trust anyone at the moment either.  There had to be a certain amount of apprehension between them.  These two women are still strangers.

Isis is the kind of woman who doesn’t like communicating, so of course she’s going to lose her phone charger and then not bother to look for it.

I always knew Steve and Isis would have their own language, which only they would understand.  I’m fascinated by language, particular the shorthand we tend to develop with friends and family.  Nobody else will understand that message but Steve.

Cliffhanger!  The chapter ends on a nice cliffhanger.  Cliffhangers are fun to write.  Any writer who tells you differently is lying.

And so ends chapter six commentary.  I’m going to try working a little on chapter seven commentary at Windycon tomorrow, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to if the room is busy.  Remember, I’m a starving indie artist and this is my livelihood.  It is my last con of the year, so after this weekend, I’ll probably be posting chapter commentaries fairly regularly. 

If you’re in the area and are at Windycon, you can stop by the dealers room and say hi.  I’m working from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.  (Book Four “Haunted by the Keres” is making its convention debut at this con). 

Until next time!

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About Lauren Jankowski

Lauren Jankowski, an author from Illinois, has been an avid reader and a genre feminist for most of her life. She holds a degree in Women and Genders Studies from Beloit College. In 2015, she founded “Asexual Artists,” a Tumblr and WordPress site dedicated to highlighting the contributions of asexual identifying individuals to the arts. She has been writing fiction since high school, when she noticed a lack of strong women in the popular genre books. When she’s not writing or researching, she enjoys reading (particularly anything relating to ancient myths) or playing with her pets. She participates in activism for asexual visibility and feminist causes. She enjoys speaking about genre feminism, a topic she is quite passionate about, and hopes to bring more strong heroines to literature, including badass asexual women. Her debut novel was "Sere from the Green," the first volume in her ongoing series "The Shape Shifter Chronicles." The sequels, "Through Storm and Night," "From the Ashes," and "Haunted by the Keres" are also available. All books can be purchased through Amazon, CreateSpace, or Smashwords.
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