WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
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Two chapters left in this novel. I can hardly believe it. This commentary has just totally flown right by.
Before the introduction and commentary, I am going to change/fix/alter something. Whenever I finish a commentary, I upload it for download on the downloads page. I’ve been quite vague in this commentary to avoid spoilers for those people who might be reading commentary without reading the novels (for reasons that completely elude me). I think the commentary has suffered a bit because of it. So what I’m going to do is add in some clarifications, additional spoilers, and information in the downloadable completed novel commentary. That way, interested readers can have a few extra goodies and those who are trying to avoid spoilers can do so. Hope this makes everyone happy 🙂
Anyhow, now that that’s out of the way.
Chapter thirteen is a bit of an info dump chapter. There were a few more reveals that had to happen (namely the Big Bad’s identity had to be given). I’ve noticed that I have a really bad habit of writing an information that’s almost all information. I’m trying to break the habit because it can lead to fairly uneven storytelling. Reveals need to be gradually uncovered throughout the course of a novel.
Jet finally comes face-to-face with the 2nd Man in this chapter, an interaction I had been looking forward to writing for quite some time. There is a lot of tension between these characters. They don’t like each other. At all. The 2nd Man finally reveals the important information he has, including the name/identity of the Big Bad.
Page 223 – 225
I knew the chapter was going to start with Jensen waking up the next day (with a massive hangover, poor baby). Even when nursing a hangover, Jensen is a complete neat freak. He’s so distracted by not wanting to vomit on his furniture (or floor) that he doesn’t even notice that his place has been trashed.
Because of the life he leads, there isn’t much opportunity for routine in Jensen’s life. Routine is another word for predictable and predictability would be a death sentence for him. That hasn’t prevented him from maintaining a few small ones, mainly his morning routine (showering, shaving, grooming, etc.). These small routines, which many take for granted, are sometimes a lifeline for Jensen. In this scene, it allows him to have a moment’s peace before he has to face the harshness of reality.
Jensen seeing his apartment completely trashed is a nightmare for him. He really finds comfort in order, to the point of being quite fussy.
Poor Jensen has absolutely no idea what happened the previous night 😉
Coop left Jensen a very important clue. [SPOILER! Jensen recognizes the Grenich symbol from the night his parents, and almost his entire family line, was murdered. I always knew the Big Bad would be the one who ordered the massacre of the Aldridges. Grenich has a hand in most of the really awful things that happen to shape shifters. To the world in general, actually]
Jensen is a traumatized character. He has never gotten over the violent deaths of his family. This is another character who has never gotten any kind of closure and it really affects him. One thing I tried to focus on was triggers. I think Jensen’s are the clearest. If he sees certain things, like this symbol, he can have flashbacks. And Jensen is the kind of character who desperately tries to hide this.
Something I’ve always found somewhat sad is how trauma is stigmatized in our society. We expect people to “suck it up,” “be stronger,” and just “get over it.” Triggers are seen as a kind of weakness. Those who have trouble getting over trauma are sometimes accused of dwelling or, if a person is involved, letting the one who traumatized them win. This is complete and utter bullshit. Trauma victims have nothing to be sorry for and certainly nothing to feel bad about. What happened to them wasn’t their fault. As I write this series, I’ve been very conscious of characters who are trauma survivors. I never want to show having a trigger as some kind of personal failing. Triggers are awful, but we all have them (I certainly have a couple). I want to decrease the stigma surrounding things like triggers, particularly those experienced by trauma survivors.
One good trait Jensen has is that he can and will swallow his pride if it’s necessary. He can be cocky, but is smart and self-aware enough to recognize when not to be.
Page 226 – 227
Jet often seeks out Sly as a last resort. It’s not something he enjoys doing, which is why he only talks to her when he has no other options.
Oh dear god, in the first draft of this scene, Jet wasn’t sitting correctly. My brother actually physically demonstrated what I was describing (and it did look really fucking stupid) and what he thought I was trying to describe (turns out he was right).
Sly as a tigress. This is probably my favorite form to have her take. It suits her.
This is the most civil Jet and Sly have ever been to each other. Jet is just completely worn out by this point. He doesn’t even have the energy to be annoyed with her. Sly, being as perceptive as she is, recognizes that something is wrong.
Sly tells him about her strange experience with the scentless man. She’s still his informant and therefore willing to give him important information (when she deems it necessary).
I wanted Jet and Sly to have a nice quiet moment. Sly often delights in antagonizing him and they’re rarely civil towards each other. These two had been friends in the past though. When one is in pain, the other isn’t going to knowingly contribute to it. I really liked the visual of these two characters sitting together, resting their backs against the same tree. They don’t need words just yet. Sly allows her former friend to find some comfort in her company (she’ll leave if he’s too mopey).
Sly is going with Jet to question the 2nd Man. She doesn’t trust the two of them to have any kind of productive conversation. She has gone into survival mode again: they need to get information to fill in the gaps of what they know. Right now, there are just way too many of said gaps.
Page 228 – 233
This was the scene where one of my brother’s editorial notes was something along the lines of “Lauren, leave [Jensen’s] balls alone!” 😀 Two groin hits in a novel to a single character does seem a bit excessive. Still, the scene was rather funny.
Electra is still using avoidance to protect herself. She has inherited her mother’s tendency to feel emotions more intensely than most. Electra doesn’t particularly like this trait and often attempts to bury it.
[SPOILER! I always planned to have Electra find this really important spiral on Coop. She doesn’t recognize the Grenich symbol right away. It takes her a few moments to place it]
When approaching Electra, you never want to sneak up on her. Jensen finds this out the hard way. Electra is on the smaller side, but she packs a wallop. This was partly inspired by a personal experience. I take kickboxing at a local community college to workout (and, as a woman, it’s generally a good idea to know how to throw a punch). We sometimes use punching bags/mats that you hold to practice punches and kicks. I’m on the thinner side, not very intimidating (I don’t look ripped or toned, but not frail either). Whenever a guy holds the bag for me, I tend to wind up knocking them back a few steps (especially when I use a roundhouse kick).
Electra can sometimes hold a grudge and in this scene, she’s still incredibly pissed at Jensen for the previous night.
“Oh quit being a baby. I didn’t hit you that hard” . If she had known it was Jensen, Electra might have punched him even harder 😉
Electra and Jensen both have short tempers and they’ve both had a very long couple of days. When Jensen shows her what he found, Electra is happy to have yet another distraction. She’s looking for anything to occupy her mind.
[SPOILER! The Grenich symbol is obviously one of Jensen’s triggers. He becomes momentarily paralyzed with fear and suffers from a mild anxiety attack. The one in this scene is much shorter than it would usually be]
One thing I wanted to show in this scene is that Electra has also inherited Passion’s empathy. When she sees Jensen is having an anxiety attack, Electra remains very calm and continues to talk with him. She keeps his focus on her as they try to figure out the significance of the symbol together.
The Aldridges are remembered in guardian songs. They were valuable and important allies. Their loss was devastating in a number of ways. This is briefly touched upon in the next book in the series, From the Ashes.
I really like writing small moments between characters. One of my favorite scenes in Through Storm and Night is Electra turning the page in the spiral so Jensen doesn’t have to look at the symbol anymore. It’s such a small gesture, but it speaks volumes about her character (in my opinion).
[SPOILER! Most of what’s known about Coop is coming from second hand sources now. There are massive gaps in Jensen and Electra’s knowledge of him. They have just enough to start making a couple connections]
Jensen is starting to see there’s some sort of bigger picture. Now he wants answers. This was extremely difficult to write. For me, one of the most difficult and challenging parts of writing is remembering that the reader doesn’t have all the information I have. My brother often had to point this out while editing (“Lauren, your readers aren’t mind readers. This isn’t going to make any sense. At all.”)
[SPOILER! One of my goals for Through Storm and Night was to have Jensen and Electra pair up and go off in search of answers. These two combining their resources and skills, they make a formidable team]
Page 238 – 242
[SPOILER! I was on the fence about whether the 2nd Man would be told about the death that occurred in chapter eleven. I decided he would because again, the guardians treat their prisoners humanely. It would make sense that they would tell the 2nd Man what happened]
The 2nd Man is kind of learning how to take a share of responsibility for his actions. He used to just not give a fuck and his first reaction is to blame the doctor for what happened. I really wanted this character to be in the process of evolving and learning how to be empathetic. There are a lot of demons in the 2nd Man’s past and there are things he has done that he can’t make up for. He’s self-aware enough to recognize this.
Sly and the 2nd Man are acquaintances who go way back. There’s a mutual respect between them, which is very unusual for Sly. Not many have earned her respect, and the men who have, she can count on one hand.
It’s important to note that Sly can read the 2nd Man. She knows how to question him and has the best chance of figuring out the meaning behind his answers. Sly’s really good at detecting lies and inconsistencies.
The 2nd Man is in love with a guardian, but he doesn’t think much of the High Council (or many of the guardians). After all that has happened, this sentiment isn’t going to change in the near future.
The 2nd Man and Jet really dislike each other, which is yet another reason why it’s good that Sly’s there.
“Boys, boys. [ . . . ] We can drop our pants and compare sizes later” . This is one of my favorite Sly lines. She has no interest in playing mommy or watching these two try to out-macho each other. There are important matters to discuss.
I wanted to tackle some fairly weighty topics, but really didn’t know how. I didn’t want to be heavy-handed or preachy. I got the idea of things there had never been guardians for (a lot of intolerance and hardships).
The Big Bad using fear and hatred to hide was an idea that offered some really interesting possibilities, which I continue to explore.
The 2nd Man is a very unreliable narrator. He’s a character who will gloss over certain things and fabricate others. His story will sometimes conflict with the doctor’s (which is told in book three, From the Ashes. The doctor is also a somewhat unreliable narrator).
As I mentioned before, the 2nd Man is not a good guy (never has been). Grenich employed him as a “cleaner,” which is basically a nice term for assassin. He’s very cavalier about life and death, as most assassins are. The 2nd Man is really just starting to learn what it means to regret.
The 2nd Man gives them a few fairly important connections. This chapter was mostly about giving readers necessary information about the Grenich Corporation and who the experiments were. I may have put a few too many reveals in this one chapter. I should have spread them out a bit more (though that also would have been extremely difficult. Hmm).
The 2nd Man’s story about where he has been all these years is meant to be extremely flimsy. He’s too worn out to think of a good cover story and even if he could, Jet would still be able to find holes in it. He just gives this one. They’re not going to get another out of him.
When I was writing the 2nd Man, there were two things I tried to keep in mind about this character: 1) his mind is extremely sharp and 2) at this point in the story, he’s very, very tired. He has been fighting for so long (granted, not as long as the doctor and some of his other allies, but a while). It has left him completely exhausted.
One of the important points I tried to make in this novel was how powerful language is. We often take for granted how important our language is and don’t think about how it has evolved over time. Some words and definitions have changed. The guardians and shape shifters have made this small mistake, which led them to believe a fairly powerful enemy was dead. This mistake set into motion the main conflict of the series.
[SPOILER! The identity of the Big Bad is finally revealed: Set, formerly known as Chaos. I was really excited about the idea of villainous guardians, those who had been corrupted by power. The chance to bring Set into the series proved to be too tempting to pass up. When he was a guardian, Set was known as Chaos. Roan read about him earlier on page 113. Set was the name he took when he became a necromancer, a race he created. Necromancers worship, control, and derive power from death. Set is no longer a guardian. He is a full necromancer, the most powerful one there is]
The central conflict of this series can be boiled down to the fight between those who worship power and revel in death against those who celebrate life and individuality. God, I hope that doesn’t sound trite or overly simplistic. I have this very clear idea of the clashing philosophies in my mind but whenever I try to flat out explain it, I sound like I’m up on a goddamn soapbox.
The 2nd Man has a number of reasons for why he does what he does. He’s fighting against Grenich because if the Big Bad is victorious, shape shifters will be wiped out as will the guardians (he will fight to his dying breath to make sure that doesn’t happen). This is a fight for survival. The 2nd Man is a very complicated individual (very much an antihero).
[SPOILER! Grenich is an empire Set has built over the centuries. There is no singular location or target the shape shifters can strike. It’s revealed in book four, Haunted by the Keres, where Set hides: his own dimension that only he can reach]
[SPOILER! Ace, Orion Deverell’s hidden daughter, was originally written as a son. I decided changing her gender fit better with my strong heroines theme. Ace is a very masculine woman who wears more masculine clothes, as readers find out when she’s introduced in From the Ashes]
Jet is very cold to the 2nd Man. He’s just done at this point. I wanted him to really drive the point home about the consequences of the 2nd Man’s stubbornness. Death and pain follows the 2nd Man wherever he goes.
I ended the chapter with a rare display of emotion from the 2nd Man, who tends to be rather indifferent and emotionless. He kicks the chair into the glass wall. Having reached his limits, the 2nd Man reacts the only way he knows how: with violence.
So ends commentary for chapter thirteen.
Two chapters to go!
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Until next time . . .