Interestingly enough, this is a chapter that didn’t change almost at all from the first draft to the last. Tomas was always going to save someone’s life from Zubata/Morena. He was always going to ignite her wrath, and he was always going to be scared stiff of the consequences.
So what to talk about in this chapter’s commentary?
One thing that *did* change was the addition of the chapter bumps–the little excerpts from Death in the Modern Day (DitMD) that start each chapter. These were a relatively late change to the novel. A lot of the material existed in the early drafts, but it was given in-text. I’d break the action to have Tomas read a long section of DitMD. My editor noted that was a clunky way to get that done, and I came up with putting them all in as they are now to see if that solved the problem.
I feel like it did a great job. Of course, I had to go back and write some new bumps, and not all of them have a whole lot to do with what’s in the chapter in question, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy this writing technique, since it allows me to offer extra insight into the world from a point of view other than my main character. I’ve used the same approach in Cavern of Babel (my alpaca fantasy novel) to give a bunch of fun alpaca facts, and I’ve put it to use in my currently-being-shopped-around novel, Tarnhelm–each chapter begins with a quote from a noir movie that has something to do with the contents of the chapter.
I think one of the reasons I like chapter bumps so much is because they’re a way to add extra material in, but not intrude on the reader. If the reader wants to skim them, she can. Or she can delve into them and enjoy them. My friend Brandon Sanderson uses them very well in his Mistborn series, and that’s one of the things that made me like them so much–seeing what they’re capable of.
On another note, I want to get a little meta. It’s about my own book, so I suppose this is sort of self-congratulatory in a way, but oh well. It’s my blog, and I can write what I want. Here’s the deal: Morena has a handy little book that has listed all the times and places where a person’s going to die. She knows the causes. This is a fundamental argument in favor of Fate as far as the Slovak side of mythology is concerned. Adam was scheduled to die at that time and place. Nothing he did could have changed it.
And yet, Tomas managed to do that, which throws the whole system into the air. If random acts by people can change Fate, how in the world can Fate function? Yes, you’ve got Morena around to iron out the little details, but you could certainly argue that doesn’t hold much water. Any fluctuation in a big system like All of Humanity would create ripples that would create waves that would mess everything up.
So the question of the day is, “Did Morena set Tomas up?” Was this all just a big ruse to get Tomas to kill the vodnik? Is Vodnik ultimately arguing for fate or free will? How? If I were reading this book as someone other than the author, I think it would be kind of fun to go through and look to see what evidence there is in the text for each side of that issue.
Then again, I’m a writer/librarian/English MA holder. I like strange things.