Monday, March 4, 2013
The Sealord's Successor, Part One
The Sealord's Successor has gone live over at Black Gate Magazine.
This was the second story that featured Gloren and Yr Neh. It was my first story using the same protagonists from another tale, and I wanted it to have a different feel to it. I brought in the services of Aven Penworthy, the young chronicler that Gloren meets in The Daughter's Dowry. Even while writing that short story, I was setting up the stage for more adventures, and intended roughly half of them to be told from Aven's point of view. This was my first attempt at this.
Having the narrator not be the focus of the action was something that I admired a lot about Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. It always seemed to me that the character observing the action has so much impact on the tale, and I wanted Aven to be as rosey-tinted as observer as possible. That's why Gloren is usually presented as perfectly unflappable, here, as opposed to the stories he tells in his own voice, in which he is often debunking Aven's work.
I also brought in the running written record, in which Aven writes events soon after they happen, but before the next section occurs. This is the narrative effect I enjoyed most in Bram Stoker's Dracula. I loved the way we, the reader, would finish a section, and, a few pages later, the characters themselves would be reading and discussing the very same written document.
And, given that this is set up like a mystery, I like letting the characters comb the pages of this very tale, searching Aven's writing for hints and clues. The clues are all there, in the story, for those who know what to look for. I had a hard time actually getting the scheme to work, and the actual crime to take place almost on-camera, as it were, and to give Aven strong reasons to note the clues, even if he didn't recognize them for what they were.
Writing mysteries is something that I've never tried before this, but the challenge of weaving a plot around a crime in a way that is clear enough to be understandable and limited to a few suspects, and opaque enough to not be completely obvious is a lot of fun. I can see why so many people enjoy writing this sort of thing.
Obviously, mystery writers are constrained by what can happen in the real world, and I think that having fantastic elements in the comission of the crime itself would cheapen the whole thing. So the crime is done clean, the way it could happen in our world. No shortcuts. Otherwise, what's the point?
Part One was, until a few years ago, the entirety of the Sealord story, and I only considered expanding it at the advise of my editor, John O'Niel. But his main criticism, that the story wasn't fully resolved at the rather cliffhanger-ish ending, was one I'd heard before, and so I decided to heed his words and write what happened next. And that was why there is also a Part Two. Now that Part Two exists, I have to agree: it's better now.