Vodnik Commentaries: Chapter Four

A short little chapter this time–and almost all of it is new, compared to the first draft. First off, let me just warn you that there are some SPOILERS in this commentary, so don’t read this unless you’ve finished the book. Got it? Okay.

So there are two big reasons this section earned itself an chapter, and they both come down to characters. The first one is pretty obvious: Vitazoslav. In the original version, the vodnik doesn’t show up until Tomas goes down the well. He’s alluded to, of course. Lesana shows up and warns Tomas about him. He’s told to watch out for him by Ohnica. But the vodnik doesn’t make an actual appearance until page 188 (in the current book). For a main character–one which the book is named after–that’s just way too late. And it didn’t make sense, either. Why in the world would the vodnik just sit back and never try to contact Tomas? So I added this scene with him in Vitazoslav disguise here in Chapter Four.

To a Slovak, this scene would be rather less spoilerific. As soon as I describe Vito as dripping water, a Slovak would totally know he’s the vodnik. It would be akin to me mentioning offhandedly that there was a guy who had no reflection in a vampire book. My wife was worried enough about it when she read the revision that she questioned whether it was a good idea revealing so soon who the vodnik was. I told her not to worry. Was I right? I’ve had a couple of people guess early on, but a lot of others had no clue. And in the end, I don’t mind if the audience guesses/finds out before Tomas. The trick is making sure that Tomas doesn’t appear stupid for not getting it earlier.

That’s a fine line to walk. When you have a mystery, how and when do you reveal it? How many clues do you put in? When? What do you leave out? Put in too many, and your audience all gets it too soon, and they might get irritated that your main character doesn’t get it earlier. Put in too few, and your audience can get angry that it was too hard to guess. Too obscure. You want just enough to string the audience along–keep them guessing at all times–but still make the reveal clear enough that they feel like they should have gotten it all along.

So far I’ve heard few people complain that it takes Tomas too long to figure out who the Vodnik is. I think for the most part it worked quite well. What did you think?

The other main difference is that I gave Adam a bigger part, so that when I killed him halfway through the book, his death would have a bigger impact on Tomas and the audience. I know. I’m a total jerk. The thing was, in the first draft, Adam’s a friend of Lubos, but he’s no one really identifiable. So he dies, and it’s sort of like, “Meh.” I didn’t like that response. So I had Tomas totally relate to the guy. Had him be awesome.

And then I still killed him.

Being an author is having to make the tough calls sometimes. Sorry Adam. It wasn’t personal. It was business.

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