Plot origins, where do they come from? The sparks that are mine come from a multitude of sources. They’re also elusive after the fact, dreams lost after waking if I don’t hold tight to them. That’s especially true of my short stories, but my novels are a little easier to trace, none more so than Exhuming Truths.
The first of my Carrdia novels, Riparia’s Trust in the Forgotten, is the most murky. Its sequels are easy enough to understand. The periphery novels exist to tell related tales that don’t involve Riparia.
The unique exception is the prequel, Exhuming Truths. I know the exact moment its spark of creation flared to life, yet its road to reality happened in slow motion because, quite frankly, I thought the idea of a prequel was ridiculous.
Back in April 2016, as I finished drafting Bk1, Trust in the Forgotten, it wasn’t lost on me that the next step would be one I’d never faced: writing a sequel. I also wasn’t happy with the end of Bk1. As Bk2 developed, I rewrote the ending to Bk1 again and again.
Then, it happened. I tumbled into the idea of having Riparia gain possession of another character’s journal. Each entry would lead her closer to the ancient city of Meldenphire in Bk2.
Sound like a good idea? It was awful.
That’s why my inexperienced self clung to the idea. First problem: why wouldn’t she read the entire journal in one sitting? My inexperienced self ignored the issue. Second problem: why would the journal be more valuable than a map or a living guide? I ignored that, too.
Can you see the cliff ahead?
I discovered while writing a preliminary narrative outline for Bk2 that making up entries as I went along was fraught with problems. How did they fit into the larger backstory, both historical and for the characters involved? Too, a character that would’ve figured into those journal entries was to be in Bk2.
I was on ice and too stubborn to admit I was going to fall.
I was to draft Bk2, A River in Each Hand, in November, 2016. That September I took the time to literally write the journal. Seriously. It’s 9K long. On one hand, it revealed a slew of interesting elements I hadn’t seen coming. On the other hand, it sounded like it was written in a backstory vacuum. I was both ignorant of the events going on around it and not wanting to expand its scope.
Remember that pesky problem about why she wouldn’t just read the entire journal in one sitting? The narrative outline made that impossible to ignore.
So, did I abandon the journal?
Kinda. Sorta. It remained, but was repurposed.
So, that should have been the end of it. After all, the journal’s relevance to Bk2 had become limited to the novel’s end. No need for the entries. Except, I’d already written them. They told one intriguing tale in relative detail and hinted at many others. Too, I’d expanded on some of its threads in the narrative backstory for Bk2.
Anyway, NaNo arrived and my initial draft of Bk2 was a disaster because my lung disease had flared up and I waiting on a referral. In the rewrite, though, one character made the prequel inevitable.
The culprit was Glistenelle, who had a small, but oh so memorable, part in Bk1. I added her to Bk2 as a foil for Riparia because they despised each other. She’s also prominent in the early journal entries.
Like in Bk1, Gliss wasted no time making the most of her role in Bk2. On day one of the rewrite…
Gliss’s sharpest, coldest tone cut to her ears. “You think he loves you.”
“I think nothing of the kind.”
“Oh, but don’t you. After all, he escorted you across the north so Argus could take you to Barnavava. You think that means he’s in love with you when he isn’t. Unrequited love, how tragic. How sad.”
So, Gliss is jealous of Riparia. Right? That’s what I thought. That was supposed to be the case, but moments later she dropped another bombshell…
Huh? Changes to Bk1 were appearing before my eyes, but Gliss wasn’t close to finished, and it was still day one of the rewrite.
After a murder and a confrontation with hired killers, Riparia’s newly hired personal guard arrives, their leader Deggart Tarn, the Eye of Justice. In seconds, Glistenelle further complicated my already messy love dynamics.
Yes, I was ready to strangle the woman (along with half the other people in the following scene). Of course, writer me was seeing possibilities. Gliss, before she was through, singlehandedly created the reason for the prequel…
This doesn’t even touch on the tension between Gliss and one of the other members of the guard, Gash. In a room full of tension, a speechless Riparia is caught in the middle and no one wants to explain. She learns some, but there’s so much going on in A River in Each Hand that there wasn’t the time to delve into all of it.
Too, the journal’s writer was embroiled in this mess, along with the dead woman. In fact, there’s so much that it isn’t all sorted out (mostly) until Bk3, So Others Might Remember.
Okay, Gliss wanted a novel? She was going to get one, though I still thought of it as a self-indulgent side project. After all, how does one go about writing a prequel without the ending being a foregone conclusion?
I managed it.
The how, I’m afraid, is a spoiler. What I can say is that Glistenelle’s character arc is pretty dramatic. Too, there are a lot of surprises, romances that rend the heart, and moments in A River in Each Hand that take on new meanings.