“Through Storm and Night” Chapter Four 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 OfficalHello, dear reader.  Well, this story keeps moving right along 🙂

I was thinking about the different kinds of writers and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m very much a character writer.  I’m fascinated by characters.  Their psychology, their motivation, their desires, their fears.  I’m interested in identity:  what makes a person who they are?  I read myths and contemporary works the same way, focusing mostly on the characters and why the do what they do.

When I was writing book two, I knew how dark book three was going to be.  Book two is kind of the last moments of blissful ignorance the protectors have.  I tried to have a vague sense of uneasiness in the background while life continued on.  Judging by some of the reactions to this book, readers really don’t expect the climax (which I feared would be seen from a mile away).

I’m a bit rambly at the moment.  I’ve got about a thousand thoughts in my head and my mind is just racing a mile a minute.  Since I’m getting really easily distracted, I should probably hurry up with this commentary.

Shall we?

Page 48 – 54

Isis despises the winter (she’s definitely warm blooded).  She hates the cold and the gaudy holiday decorations.  It makes her even more irritable than usual.  Yet she’s willing to suck it up for Steve.

Grenich is like a Venus Flytrap:  it lures shape shifters (and other species) in.  Once they’re in, escape is an impossibility.  They’re not even aware of the danger until it’s too late.

I sometimes write double entendre without even realizing it.  I think it was in this chapter (or possibly the previous one) where I wrote something like “Jet and Lilly were locked away in the study.”  My brother wrote an editing note along the lines of, “This makes it sound like they’re fucking.”

This was an interesting scene to work on (and another one that changed completely during rewrites and revisions).  I originally wrote Isis as more reactive, but it really didn’t make sense or fit with the character.  Electra’s news really wouldn’t affect her on an emotional level.  Her reaction is more confused (like, “uh, am I supposed to react to this?”).

Isis is slightly disappointed that they’ve retrieved the suspected Key.  For one thing, they’ve been looking for the damn thing for a while, running into numerous dead ends, and it’s just dropped into their laps.  For another, she was hoping the search for the Key would lead her to some answers about Coop (who seems like he could potentially be connected to it).

I had to get a lot of information across in this conversation between Isis and Electra while also keeping the story moving.  Dialogue is my Achilles Heel.  It’s the thing I’m constantly having to fix and tinker with.  A scene like this is really freaking difficult for me.  I’m better at writing scenes where people get punched in the face 😉

Oh god, I love the somewhat awkward note this conversation ends on.  I wanted Isis to ask Electra about how guardian love lives worked and just having no idea how to approach the topic.  Electra is so amused in this scene (as anyone would be).

As I mentioned in the first novel’s commentary, Alex is the bookworm of the group (and probably the smartest).  If you have a complicated problem, one that requires extensive mental gymnastics, Alex is the one you want helping you.  Isis needed her help making sense of guardian courting practices and traditions (the short flashback on page 53 is one of my absolute favorites).

Being part of a guardian prophecy means having little to no social life.  Not that Isis was really doing great in that department 🙂

Page 55 – 57

Adonia meets with the tiger in the dungeons.  I had been looking forward to writing this scene since starting work on this novel.  Two very strong-willed characters, one of whom is the most powerful in the series, going head-to-head.  Writers love writing these kinds of scenes.

The tiger is never the first to break eye contact, even when confronted by Adonia.  This character has a lot of small (hopefully subtle) quirks and character prints.  I poured a lot of work into shaping the tiger.

You’ll never get a straightforward answer from the tiger.  It tends to answer questions with questions and you have to dig through layers to even come close to something resembling an answer.

The tiger finally gives important information about the Key.  I wanted a lot of the important information about the Key to come from potentially unreliable narrators.  So you are never quite sure what’s fact and what’s fiction, how much is embellished and how much is truthful.  The mystery of the Key is meant to be a frustrating (possibly unsolvable) one.

The tiger is used to being in complete control of any situation.  It’s also used to being around people who understand the urgency of the situation.  This is quickly becoming frustrating for it.

The High Council really does move maddeningly slow.  Being thorough is one thing, but the Council is a bureaucratic nightmare and they don’t take time into account.  A lot of what happens in this novel could have been prevented if the Council was a little more flexible and moved a little faster.  Tradition can be detrimental sometimes.

I tried to make the tiger as animal-like as possible when it came to descriptions (and when I thought up the alias/code).  It’s constantly pacing about, never still.  It’s meant to seem like a coiled spring.

The tiger doesn’t want Passion to get wind of any of the information it has.  The tiger is improvising a bit, which would really aggravate its ally.  It doesn’t stick to instructions and following the rules isn’t something that comes naturally to it.

One of the themes of book two concerns history and how relying solely on the accounts of the victors can lead to history repeating itself.  The tiger specifically requests a shape shifter account of the War of the Meadows.  Shape shifters tend to do a lot of the dirty work when it comes to fighting.  They’re much less likely to glamorize/glorify/romanticize battles.  In the War of the Meadows, the shape shifters took the heaviest losses, more than the legions of Chaos (the enemy).  Even though they were technically on the winning side, it was not without a heavy cost.

Page 57 – 61

This scene was a nightmare for my brother to edit.  I don’t drive, never learned how, and it really shows in the driving scenes I wrote early on.  I’ve learned a little from my mistakes, but I think it still shows how completely clueless I am sometimes (it’s why driving scenes in the series tend to be short and simplistic).  I once mixed up the speedometer and odometer.  In my defense, I was a little low on sleep.

Sly’s on her way to meet with rebels.  Dearest reader, any time I can write about rebels or scenes with them, I’m a happy lady 😀  I’ll go more in depth about them in the next chapter, but I do describe them a bit here.  Rebels are kind of the opposite of protectors.  They aren’t loyal to the guardians and choose to live freely by their own rules.

Sly enjoys the rebels in small doses.  Their regular contact with humans is a bit of a deal breaker for her.  Sly’s a very remote woman and somewhat set in her ways.

In one of the earliest drafts of this novel, I considered killing Sly off.  I decided not to for a couple reasons:  1)  she’s an interesting and very useful character.  2)  As the story evolved, I found I really needed Sly for a few things in the future.  3)  The Big Bad changed a little.  He went from enraged bloodthirsty psychopath to a more subdued, calculating, and power hungry foe, a kind of predator who has a sadistically playful side.  The Big Bad knows exactly what he’s doing and every move is precise.  He knows how to get the results he wants.

This isn’t the first time an attempt has been made on Sly’s life and it’s unlikely to be the last.  She’s very good at hiding whatever nerves she may feel (these strange scentless men are something she hasn’t encountered before, which is more than a little unsettling).  Sly knows how to survive, it’s something she excels at.  I always wrote her as a woman who is great at thinking on her feet.

The mysterious message:  “just wants to say hello.”  At this point in the series, the Big Bad is still fucking with the protectors.  He’s amusing himself while he waits to find the Key.

I’ve always loved Sly’s method of escape.  She just uses the car to smash through (the situation called for force and she didn’t hesitate).

Page 61 – 64

The scene shifts back to Jet attempting to process all the information that came to light since the morning.  He’s almost relieved to get a call so he can think about something else.

Originally, Sly was really pissed off in this scene.  She told Jet off about digging too deep into the Key.  This really didn’t make any sense since it’s also beneficial to her to find out what the hell the Key is.  I also wanted to demonstrate the colder side of Sly.  Like I mentioned earlier, Sly is not above torture.  She uses it when it suits her.  Sly is a very dangerous woman, one you don’t want to cross.

Jet’s concern for Sly’s safety is meant to show something about his character.  Jet can’t stomach the idea of someone getting hurt because of him, even if it’s Sly.  It’s kind of unavoidable in his line of work, but he can’t help but be concerned about it.

“Jet, do you really think you’d be my first call if I weren’t [okay]?” [62].  Sly can’t resist a good barb, especially one at Jet’s expense 🙂

Sly is the type of character who would have no problem loading weapons in public.  This whole exchange made me smile (my sense of humor tends to be darker than pitch).

Whenever Sly is willingly around humans, it’s a bad sign.  However, she’s another character who never does anything without purpose.

Sly passes along the strange message and also mentions the stranger aspect of the people who attacked her:  they had no scent.  In this series, shape shifter senses are slightly better than humans (their sense of smell is closer to a canines).  When something doesn’t have a scent, they’ll notice.

Speaking of, these strange nondescript scentless men will turn up a couple more times 😉

Jet doesn’t try to stop Sly, not just because he knows he can’t.  It’s not his place.  Sly makes her own decisions and the consequences are hers to deal with.

I have always tried to write Jet as an intelligent character.  He can get flustered at times, as most people do, but he’s really good at seeing connections.

Lilly is great at steering Jet in the right direction when he’s feeling overwhelmed.  She helps him keep a clear head.  Despite what Aneurin believes, these two are a really good match.

Page 64 – 67

The first love scene in the series (one of the more challenging things for an aro-ace woman to write.  Seriously, the first draft was embarrassingly mechanical.  It was almost like reading a “How-To” manual.  Insert blush of embarrassment here).

Passion is a woman who prefers to be on top.  Donovan, one of her lovers (believe me, dear reader, there are a few), is the only guardian who can match her skill and intensity when it comes to sexual pleasure.  Ooo, did that sound a bit weird?

“She gasped when he found the spot that sent currents of electricity through her body.” [65].  My brother’s editorial note for this:  “It’s called a clit” (and I very nearly fell over laughing.  My brother enjoys teasing me when editing).

Donovan is a very perceptive guardian.  I know I say this about practically every character, but I love Donovan 🙂

The dialogue between these two was so much fun to write and one of the few times dialogue came easily.  Passion can be herself around Donovan.  He’s as open about his enjoyment of sex as she is.  He also enjoys her company (not just for sex.  Donovan loves her mind and enjoys conversing with her).

Both these guardians are completely comfortable with their bodies, hence their lying naked out in the open.  The women night guardians tend to be more progressive than most, hence their rendezvous in the lands of night.

Donovan is pretty nonchalant about the tiger.  He tends to take things as they come and doesn’t waste energy worrying about the future (or things he can’t change).

Both Donovan and Passion are very loyal (a trait they value in others).  Donovan isn’t going to let Passion throw herself on her sword, especially for something he doesn’t see as a crime.  If it comes to it, Donovan is willing to accept the consequences of his actions.  I picture Donovan as the type of guardian who could live outside the Meadows (can’t say this about most of the guardians, but he’s one of the few who probably could survive on Earth).

“Fuck the lot of them” pretty much sums up Donovan’s feelings towards most of the guardian men who sit on the High Council 😀

Donovan enjoys teasing Passion, but she gives as good as she gets.  These two have such a fun bond 🙂

The protectors mansion has always been a second home for Passion.  The Meadows isn’t always a sanctuary for her and so the mansion is her safe haven.  Jet’s door is always open.  She has her own guest room that she stays in.  The tiger’s appearance has left her with the need to escape, at least for a short while.

Thus ends commentary for chapter four.  That was a fun, short-ish chapter.  Very information heavy.

My biggest fear at this point is coming off as arrogant or like I’ve got my head jammed all the way up my ass.  Honestly, I’m just happy to be doing something other than outlining novels.  This is my break.  It’s kind of fun revisiting my work.  I really only have a chance to glance over it when I’m in the process of writing a novel.  God, I can’t wait to read something I haven’t written.  It has been so long!  I’m so immersed in this odd world in my head.  I honestly think I spend more time there than I do in reality 🙂  Ah well, hazard of the job 😉

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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