WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
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I just realized today that by the time I get through all four novels, I will have written 60 chapter commentaries. And the series isn’t even completed yet! I plan on doing these for future novels and, if I ever write any, short stories. Yeah, I’m a novelist who can’t write short stories, weirdly. It’s just not a format I’ve ever gotten the hang of.
Chapter twelve, the fallout chapter. This is the chapter that deals with the effects of the Trap. It also starts to set up the events in From the Ashes. A lot of characters are really out of sorts, understandably so. This was one of the more intense chapters to write. I didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to writing grief and so this proved to be a learning experience. Thankfully, my editor prevented me from straying into melodrama. Overall, I think this is another rather sad chapter, but it has some really interesting parts in it. There is definitely one extremely important reveal in it.
Page 208 – 211
(I was still inconsistent as far as the number of scenes in a chapter: this one only has three).
Originally, one of Jet’s sons accompanied Remington and Jet to the morgue. I edited him out because he just didn’t fit in the scene. It became awkward juggling three characters.
Remington is there as support and also to watch his former protege’s back. He can occasionally act as a guard when needed.
[SPOILER! The reader is given another glimpse of the members of the Grenich retrieval team. This team is seen again in From the Ashes, the next book in The Shape Shifter Chronicles]
Right off the bat, the reader has to pick up that something isn’t right in this situation. My brother had me spend extra time on this scene when we were editing because I had to get it right. The first couple of drafts of it were atrocious (the receptionist wasn’t menacing at all).
Jet’s too worn out and frustrated to pick up on a couple red flags at first. Remington, however, notices the oddness of the situation immediately. It should be noted that Remington is the first to recognize the symbol the receptionist wears.
[SPOILER! I think I mentioned this in the Sere from the Green commentary, but I’ll mention it here too. The Grenich symbol is a corrupted Chi Rho. It has been flipped. The cuneiform at the base spells out the Big Bad’s name. I came up with the idea when I was thinking about symbols and where humans got the ideas for them. What if some symbols were even older than we realized?]
A great way to make people unsettling is to show they have more information than they should. For example, in this scene, the receptionist knows Remington’s name. That immediately puts Jet on edge because there’s no way she could have known that.
I wanted things to get really tense at this point (what better way to do that then to bring in an armed guard?). This is a potential powder keg waiting to go off.
Jet isn’t about to back down from this confrontation and completely misses the guard drawing his gun. If Remington hadn’t been there, this situation would have gotten really bad. The trainer interferes once he realizes this is going to go poorly.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” . Remington loves the works of Shakespeare. This line also serves another purpose [SPOILER! From the Ashes is sprinkled with references to Hamlet, which I’ll go more in depth about in that novel’s commentary. I wanted to attempt a gender-swapped modern retelling of Hamlet originally, among other things. From the Ashes is very much a story about revenge, what constitutes it, what it does to a person, etc.]
I liked the dialogue between Remington and Jet at the end of this scene. It allowed me to reveal some important information without being heavy-handed.
I find the idea of being unable to fully trust one’s senses to be somewhat unsettling. A shape shifter’s sense of smell can be compromised when overwhelmed, such as by the chemical smells in hospitals and morgues. Both Jet and Remington think the guard and receptionist lacked a scent, but can’t be entirely sure because of the fumes.
Page 212 – 220
The brief free-for-all at the mansion was another hard scene to write. There’s a line of dialogue early in this scene that I find to be incredibly cruel (my brother probably disagrees).
One thing I was really interested in (and tried to explore, especially in these last few chapters) is the different ways people grieve. No one grieves in the exact same way.
I wanted this scene to focus first on Electra and then switch to Jensen, because they both rely on avoidance and distraction to grieve, but they do it in different ways. Electra focuses on asinine tasks, such as finding Jensen when he doesn’t show up to a mandatory meeting.
I should talk about how much my brother (the editor) and I disagreed about this scene. I kind of hate Jensen in this scene. I think he’s completely out of line and really cruel to Electra. My brother didn’t think Jensen was being that horrible (and he doesn’t particularly care for the character). He thinks Electra’s way more out of line for entering the apartment without invitation. So yeah, we still completely disagree about this scene.
Jensen’s makeshift alarm system = broken glass. That is probably the most poorly thought out idea. Jensen’s extremely drunk in this scene and doesn’t care about anything. Right now his only priority is getting as drunk as is possible.
One thing I’ve always liked about this scene is Jensen’s responses to Electra. He’s completely smashed, but he has a response to whatever she says (and he says it as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world). This is another scene that I could vividly see in my mind.
Jensen gives Electra such a graphic description of what he saw. I thought this is one of the cruelest things he says to her. Jensen is a really awful person when he’s drunk.
“And those shoes make your ankles look fat, but I’m too much of a gentleman to say anything” . My brother thinks this is the meanest/worst thing Jensen says to Electra. It’s mean, but I still think it’s relatively tame (it’s more childish than anything).
Electra’s really mean to him when she leaves, but I think she’s completely justified. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but I wanted Electra to get in at least one last jab.
There’s a lot of breaking into places in this series. Apparently, shut doors really don’t mean much to a lot of these characters 😉
This is the one scene Coop appears in. As usual, he’s there for a very specific purpose (which I wrote quite a few notes about, but they are just a bit too spoiler-y). Most of this book has been spent looking for Coop and he pops up when it’s least expected. Or at least, I hope that’s how it reads.
I admit, I found the visual of a fairly brutal fight taking place while Jensen sleeps on the couch (completely oblivious) to be really funny. It still cracks me up.
Dane gets the drop on Coop. He’s got a slight edge because he’s still being subjected to intense experimentation, training, and conditioning. He’s also a much newer series than Coop.
Fights are really tricky to write. It’s so hard to not make them repetitive (a problem I experienced a lot with Haunted by the Keres). This fight was interesting to write. These are two living weapons, but they also do what they have to in order to survive. Neither one of these men wants to hurt the other. Dane is only there under orders and Coop is remaining on the defensive for the most part.
I tried to write Dane as being somewhat entertained by the fight. He’s having a lot of fun in this scene (life in Grenich can be extremely boring, especially since Dane is kept on a strict routine that he can’t deviate from). Dane could end this fight fairly quickly, but then he would have to go back to the Corporation. He’s going to drag it out for as long as possible.
The stand off: I could see this scene in my mind as if I were looking at a painting. It was a really interesting visual. It’s pitch black and the only thing visible in the apartment are these two pairs of glowing eyes.
[SPOILER! Experiments have glowing eyes, a trademark of Grenich. It serves to remind them of what they are and is basically a brand. Picture fresh glowsticks and you have some idea of what the glow is like]
“You know, Coop, if there’s one thing more annoying than your wide-eyed idealism . . . no, there’s nothing. That is by far the most annoying thing about you” . I love Dane 😀
I recently wrote a short character scene with Dane where he’s just doing the most insulting imitation of Coop. I’m hoping to find some place for that scene eventually because it’s one of those things that makes me laugh way more than it should. I often have little character scenes jotted down in spirals. Sometimes I find a place for them, sometimes I don’t. I write them to keep the characters fresh in my mind.
These two characters are used to being in the shadows. They’ve been removed from society for most of their lives and so don’t really know how to be part of it (Dane really isn’t interested in trying. He has always seen society as just another extension of Grenich).
There were two very important things I needed to show in this conversation between Coop and Dane. The first was their differing ideologies/philosophies. At this point in the series, Dane is still sort of a nihilist (in the tamest way possible). Things aren’t going to change. All they can do is try to survive. Coop disagrees, but is still trying to figure out what he can do to fight against Grenich. He doesn’t know how to win a war against such a powerful enemy.
The second thing I had to reveal was Coop’s mysterious background. This was something my brother told me had to happen in order to make this novel feel like its own story. Coop loses everything in this novel and the thing I find really tragic is that he is unable to grieve or feel the loss in any way. The Corporation stripped him of that. Coop barely remembers anything about his life before being experimented on. He knows he had a life before it, but it’s like a dream he once had rather than a reality.
It was important that Dane pointed out the flaws in Coop’s (and most of the resistance’s) thinking. They have a very rosy view of what bringing down Grenich will look like, but it’s not anywhere close to reality. Freeing the experiments would just be releasing them from one prison and putting them in another. There is no easy fix, no easy answer, to this problem. Whatever happens, the experiments are going to be the ones who suffer.
Aside from feeling betrayal (mentioned in the Sere from the Green commentary), Dane is extremely frustrated with Coop. He doesn’t understand Coop’s reasoning, which seems to be extremely flawed.
I tried to sprinkle in little references to suggest Dane is well-read. Books are extremely powerful things, capable of changing minds and even saving lives. Hiding his personality all the time is exhausting for Dane. He can feel crushing loneliness, though he hides it well. When he’s out in the field, Dane will occasionally find an opportunity to indulge his curiosity (usually with a book). His reference to Big Brother: Dane has read 1984 at some point.
Though he will never admit it (not even to himself), Dane wants Coop to survive. He doesn’t give a damn about the resistance, but he does want Coop to survive. I wrote this scene as the closest Dane comes to actually believing there is such a thing as hope, when he lets Coop go. He knows Grenich would have Coop put down were they ever to capture him. Coop is an outdated product, not worth much, and has outlived his usefulness decades ago. Not to mention all the actions he has taken against the Corporation since his escape.
Page 221 – 222
This chapter had to end by reminding the reader that there’s still a character in peril (even though he doesn’t realize it).
[SPOILER! Tracy is meant to be scary. She’s very cold and very manipulative. And folks, she only gets worse. She’s older than most of the characters in this story and has a few guardian-type abilities. Because of the way she’s acquired these, they’re nowhere near as powerful as the ones actual guardians possess. Tracy’s not as powerful as the guardians, but she’s definitely stronger than the shape shifters. Even the experiments do their best to avoid her]
This villain is going to pop up quite often. She’s just so damn effective. I really worried that she would be way too bland (she can be predictable at times). Villains are, without a doubt, the most difficult types of characters to write. You have to work so hard to avoid making them one-dimensional. There are so many tropes to avoid. I’m still learning how to create compelling villains. If your villain isn’t compelling, they just seem like simplistic douche bags or stereotypes or both. And that prevents the story from being interesting.
So ends commentary for chapter twelve.
There are only three chapters left in this novel. And then, the event I’m really, really looking forward to: book three commentary! Ooo, I’m rubbing my hands together in eager excitement. I have so much to tell my beloved readers, so many anecdotes. It’s going to be awesome!
My obligatory sales pitch. I could really use some more sales. I don’t have a massive marketing house behind me. I do everything on my own, so I have more power over my work (and I don’t have to gouge readers, like most publishing houses insist on doing). If you believe that readers should make decision about what they read, supporting indie authors is a great way to show that. Please, won’t you be so kind to an indie artist this year 🙂
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Spammers can fuck right off.
Until next time . . .