“Through Storm and Night” Chapter Two 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.

Through Storm and Night Covers OfficalI’m currently sitting in a chair in my room, nursing a throbbing headache.  I’ve been experiencing tension migraines again and it’s really screwing with my writing schedule.  I have been trying to read a chapter ahead before posting commentary, but I was unable to do that today.  So now I’m feeling rather frustrated.  I’m currently debating about whether or not I would exacerbate the problem if I listened to some music.  Hmm . . .

I was thinking about something just now:  are stories stronger if an author is attached to his/her characters or are they weaker?  I’ve thought about this off and on since I began writing.  A lot of speculative fiction has taken a turn for what has been termed as “gritty realism” (I call most of it “mopey navel-gazing assholery”).  Part of this equation seems to be mass character slaughter and that really bugs me.  Someone I’m friends with on a social network wrote that he wondered if authors that do this ever experienced a loss.  To treat death so cavalierly, it baffles me.  As I’ve mentioned before, some characters do die in my novels (some of whom really tore me apart), but nowhere near the number it takes to fall into this “gritty realism” category.  I don’t have the stomach for that kind of flippant approach to death.

Of course, I might come off as a hypocrite when it comes to the commentary for my fourth novel, which is pretty much a study in grief.  Whatever is going on in my life tends to get poured into whatever I’m working on.  I was experiencing an intense amount of grief due to a couple things while I was rewriting book four, so I used my writing to try and work through some of it.  Huh, I just thought about something:  maybe my issue with the mass slaughter of characters is just that few authors spend any measurable time on grief.  It’s like once a character dies, they’re forgotten rather quickly.  As if they didn’t matter.  And that leads right back to the casual nihilism I mentioned yesterday (I think).

But I’m rambling now.  We should get onto the commentary 🙂

Page 16 – 20

I knew for part of this novel there would be two investigations going on:  Isis’ and the protectors’.  This proved to be a little tricky because they’re basically investigating the same thing:  the mystery surrounding Coop.  It became really challenging to keep the two investigations straight and what each group had available.  Isis has a little more information, but Jet has a lot more resources.  He also has Sly.

Isis goes back to where the whole thing began:  Dionysia.  I really wanted to revisit this place at least once because I fucking love that name.  I’m a massive myth nerd and damn proud of it 😀  Part of the inspiration for this name came from the idea of the Apollonian and Dionysian, which I came across when reading Stephen King’s Danse Macabre.  While I don’t entirely agree with all theories of the Apollonian and Dionysian, I think it has some interesting applications in literature.

Isis spent a good portion of her life making herself invisible and avoiding people.  She knows how to move quietly and can easily sneak up on people, sometimes without even meaning to.

Isis’ social skills still need a little work 🙂

I had to drop in some clues about Coop.  Experiments are without a doubt the hardest group of characters to write.  The way they think is completely different from most people and their mannerisms can be an absolute nightmare to get across.  They don’t tend to stick out unless you happen to see one.  Had he not interacted with (or attempted to) Coop and Dane, Phil would not have remembered them.

Phil compares Coop to a flesh and blood ghost.  This is really what the experiments are:  they are shadows of who they once were (or, in some cases, who they could have been).

The reader (who Isis is acting as proxy for.  I think that’s the right terminology.  Fucking migraine) is also given a few more hints about Dane.  One of the only things I regret about From the Ashes is that I couldn’t fit Dane into the novel (I was doubly pissed off because there are so, so many Hamlet references in that novel and his name is Dane!  It would have been so fucking perfect!  Dammit!).  Dane is a fascinating character, one who is really fun to write.  He’s probably the only experiment who is actually fun to write.

It’s really easy to put experiments out of mind.  They’re strange, but not so strange as to be completely unforgettable.

Page 20 – 23

This was a scene that required extensive reworking.  My brother pointed out that I have the tendency to be distracted by details and random interactions, which completely interrupt the narrative flow.  Everything needs to have a purpose.  If it doesn’t, it should be on the cutting room floor.

And Sly’s disdain for humans is still going strong 😀

Sly is a very dangerous character.  I can’t over emphasize this.  It’s easy to forget that because she tends to be indifferent and laid back, but she’s laid back because she can be. Sly has a fairly bloody history.  As I think I mentioned in the commentary for book one, Sly is morally gray.

Character print:  Sly is always armed.  She tends to bring a few weapons, including at least one firearm.  Sly is a character who prefers silence and stealth, so she favors blades.  However, she also recognizes that modern weapons offer valuable advantages.

I originally had Sly looking at microfilm, which was pretty pointless (not to mention time-consuming).  Sly’s able to keep up with the times and would take advantage of the internet.

I had to cut a scene here where the student in the library tried to hit on Sly (extremely clumsily).  It just didn’t add anything to the story and only served to interrupt the narrative.  I thought the scene was mildly humorous, but not enough to justify leaving it in.

Sly really doesn’t like humans.  Even their scent irritates her 🙂

I’ve always found the idea of someone knowing about me without my knowing about them to be somewhat unsettling.  Sly is really bothered that Coop knew her, especially since nobody knows anything about him.  She has a somewhat dangerous life and therefore doesn’t like random strangers having an advantage over her.

Sly finds the first clue about the mysterious Coop in the form of a missing persons poster.  Interestingly, I had originally intended this man to be someone else, but my brother pointed out that if this was Coop, it made for a better story.  I’m glad he did because he was completely right.  I’ll point out one of the reasons why when we get a bit further into the story.

Page 23 – 29

Scenes between Jet and Sly are so fun to write (not as much as scenes between Passion and Jet, but still fun).  Jet is frequently exasperated and Sly is usually bored.  I have no idea why that dynamic amuses me so much, but it does.

Sly interrogates.  She doesn’t do pleasant chit-chats 😉

There are a couple pessimists in this series, but I never wrote Sly as one.  She’s cynical, without a doubt, but she’s not pessimistic.  She is very much a realist, which I’ve noticed is sometimes mistaken for pessimism (usually by overly optimistic people).  Sly recognizes the world for what it is and what it likely will be.  She’s very adaptable, which she sees as key to survival.  Protectors (and some of the other shape shifter groups) want to change the world for the better.  While Sly believes this is certainly possible, she doesn’t think it likely.  As it says on page 24:  she sees the world as it is, not how she wishes it were.

Sly hates children.  This should not come as a surprise to readers 😉  This is one of the few things she has in common with Isis.  In some early drafts, Jet teased her about her dislike of children.  It changed their dynamic just a bit too much though.

In this novel, I introduced the idea that there are some shape shifters who try to live as humans.  They prefer a “normal” life, avoiding most other shape shifters.  This is more common among protectors due to their often short and violent lives.  [Spoiler!  Cara was a protector originally.  Her family’s ties with the Corporation is what made her turn away from the life.  So this moment is like her worst nightmare].

Jet is not a judgmental man.  Though he is the leader of the protectors, he respects their decision and freedom to choose how to live.  The only time he ever pulls rank, as he does here, is when there is no other option.

When I wrote this, I pictured Sly as despising every minute of the situation.  If they didn’t need this information (and if she didn’t see it as potentially valuable), she wouldn’t be there.

I tried to go against gender expectations/roles in this small interaction.  Jet, being a father, loves children and comments on how Cara’s daughter looks just like her.  Sly just rolls her eyes.

Most shape shifters don’t celebrate Christmas and Sly finds the holiday quite obnoxious.  Because she really needed another reason to find this situation intolerable.  Actually, come to think of it, not many of my characters particularly like Christmas.  See the commentary for chapter one for why that might be 😉

This scene is one of the very, very few times when Sly is actually impressed with Jet.  While she might not completely respect him, Sly does think Jet is a good leader (and a good man).  Even though they really aren’t friends anymore, Sly does believe Jet is a good man.  It’s one of the reasons she continues to be his informant.

Cara comes from an unusually small family.  I made a small mistake in not clarifying why this was.  [Spoiler!  Cara’s family is connected to the Big Bad’s Corporation, which would require them to follow a lot of rules.  The Corporation gradually chips away at individuality and it starts with stripping away customs and culture.  They view shape shifters as animals and immoral.  They force them into the practice of monogamy.  They also split up families if they decide to experiment on a member].

Cara’s mother is in hiding, which is another clue about how dangerous this Big Bad is.  When shape shifters go into hiding, especially protectors who are natural fighters, that’s really not a great sign.

Sly has no problem threatening people, especially if it speeds things along.  Her patience runs thin when she’s surrounded by humans (or shape shifters posing as humans).

Jet and Sly have very different approaches to questioning and these methods always clash.  Jet is more diplomatic and maintains professionalism.  Sly threatens and she is not above torturing (though she wouldn’t use force in this situation).

I had to figure out how much to reveal about the Key prophecy in the guardians’ Book of Oracle.  I chose to remain vague because the characters don’t really know much about it (the prophecy is vague, as prophecies often are).  There’s actually a reason behind this will be gradually revealed over the series.  There are only a few people who know the whole truth about the Key (only about 5, I believe).  Jet is at a severe disadvantage and Sly senses this.  It’s part of why she’s feeling so uneasy.

And here’s the part where I’d usually write something in the hopes of being witty.  Unfortunately, my headache hasn’t abated.  Grrr, this is really frustrating.

There’s a pretty big reveal in the next chapter, which I’m still figuring out how to comment on without giving anything away.  Still very excited to comment on it though.  Indie authors don’t really have a chance to talk about their work, so we need to get infinitely more creative, hence my experimenting with chapter commentary 😉

Questions and comments are welcome.  Spammers can fuck right off. 

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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