When Characters Go Bad: Vodnik Chapter Thirty-One

We’re winding down to the end of these chapter commentaries. Just a few more to go, and they should all be pretty spoilerific, so stay away from them if you haven’t read the book. Two tidbits for you today, both Ohnica-centric.

First up, she didn’t appear in the climax at all in the first few drafts of the book. She popped up here and there earlier to talk to Tomas, but at the end, he was on his own. How then, did he manage to defeat Ajax? Well, in the first draft of the book, he discovered (in the climax–in this very scene) that he could shoot fireballs from his burned arm.

I’m not making this up, even though it pains me to admit it.

You just can’t do that with a superpower. Have it not really foreshadowed well at all, reveal it in the big finale, and use it to have the main character defeat one of the big obstacles? No no no no no.  It would be like if Superman suddenly discovered he could turn back time, and solved a major plot point by . . . oh wait. Anyway. I did it, which means that at some point in time, it seemed like a good idea to me. (Something I’ve had to admit time and time again when I look at previous drafts of novels.)

And looking at how the scene turned out, I’m very pleased with the changes I made. Why have Tomas develop a superpower when there’s a character with that power already present in the book? Duh. Which leads me to my second point:


She was not always evil. Right up until the final draft, she was ambiguous. Maybe good. Maybe evil. Definitely hard to understand. (Sort of the point of most of these supernatural Slovak fairytale creatures). But I had to take a stand one way or another. What had happened to Tomas when he was a kid? I wanted that question answered. And the answer is that Ohnica tried to char him to death, and the Vodnik saved him. (Saved him mainly because he wanted to drown him later, it’s true. Does that still count as a good deed? “I only saved his life because I wanted to murder him myself.” I’ll leave that one up to you/.)

So Ohnica’s bad. Although even as I write that, I feel like I need to qualify it. She’s not bad. Not evil. She’s a fire vila. She loves fire. Loves destruction. Loves burning things to the ground. And thanks to Tomas, she’s now loose on the city of Trencin. If I ever get to write a sequel to this book, you can be darned sure she’s going to play a role in it somewhere. The history between her and Tomas’s family goes back too far for her not to.

Hopefully I get to tell you about it someday.

In the meantime, that’s all I’ve got for this week. Thanks for reading, folks!

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