I begin to wonder if I should have picked up the story at a slightly later point, after the inital interrogation. I’m not enjoying writing this scene as much as I did first time round, and I don’t know whether that’s because it’s not as good, because I’m out of practice, or just because I have written it before and it’s not fresh material.
But I’m writing from the point I’m writing from so I’ll keep going. I haven’t yet dipped into the old version since I resumed writing this month and I don’t want to do that if I can help it, even if a lot of what I’m writing at the moment has a degree of duplication to it.
But perhaps I’m overthinking things. I want a finished manuscript out of this story, sooner rather than later. I stopped before because I wasn’t happy with it, and in some respects that was the right decision, but it took me months to start writing again and I don’t want that to happen again. My guiding principle, this time round, is “how can I make things harder for my characters?” My problem is often making things go too easily. I need to throw more spanners in the works. I need to throw them in when things are already bad, and when things are looking up.
Which begs the question: what about the ending? The whole reason the Governor’s regime exists, the reason it has support and the reason it uses slave labour, is to quickly create defences to allow the people to the island to keep returning ships from the Narricol empire away – to keep themselves out of the empire’s control. That’s what Laik thinks it’s for, that’s what everyone working within the system thinks it’s for. But I had not intended to bring them back. I wanted to keep them as a threat looming over the people, something they’re not entirely certain is ever going to happen and certainly not when, but not something that actually happens during the story. Partly that was because I wanted to hold that threat to use in a potential sequel, but that wasn’t really the main reason.
The main reason is that there are threats that hang over us constantly, in the modern world, threats that our governments tell us about and the media panics over and reports in alarmist rhetoric, and I wanted to duplicate that atmosphere in the story – a threat which the people of the island are told is real and immediate, which they can never really be certain about – after all, Narricol might decide the island isn’t worth it, they might be busy with a war everyone knew was coming, they might be afraid of the plague that wiped out half the settlement in the first place – afraid that it survived and will spread again if they ever set foot on the island again. The people of the island don’t know if the Empire will return to claim the island, and if they do when it will be. They’ve been persuaded by the Governor that the Empire is an immediate and certain threat, but the more time that passes, the less certain it feels. So what I want from the story is that uncertainty – do we sacrifice our principles and other people’s freedom temporarily to fight off a greater evil? Or do we live the way we feel is right, and potentially leave ourselves vulnerable?
I think I’ve just persuaded myself what to do. I’m leaving the Empire out of this story. It has enough that can go wrong for Fiarra and her friends and allies on the island that I don’t need to sacrifice one of my themes to add more peril.
But that’s all long-term thinking. Back to the short term. In the short term, I will ask myself, every day, “what can go wrong for Fiarra today?” I won’t always use the answers in the story – after all, an unending downward spiral wouldn’t be any fun, we need some highs as well as lows – but I will always ask it.
Today, then, what could go wrong for Fiarra? She’s already in prison, and I want her to ask Laik why it is the commander hasn’t questioned the mine director over what happened at the mine. That will put Laik on the back foot. So what could go wrong is if Laik gets in a bit of a strop over this revelation of her failure, and doesn’t give Fiarra the food she promised in exchange for co-operation. Fiarra goes hungry. It’s not really a big thing to go wrong, especially since being hungry isn’t new to Fiarra, but since she’s already in prison and has concussion I think it’s enough for the time being.
Listening to Twin Atlantic’s Serious Underground Dance Vibes again today.
Starting at 20:55.
Finishing 21:40, with 725 words. I got to the end of what I was aiming for – with Fiarra calling Laik out about the version of events she was going by, followed by Laik ending the questioning session quite abruptly. And I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out. Tomorrow I’ll move things forward a few days – with no visits from Laik and enough food to keep Fiarra going.