Filed under Writing Journal on August 14, 2012
Tagged: Janner Kohl, Mig's Rebellion, revisions
After finishing one chapter of Shattered Amulet and starting another, I decided to take a break from the adventures of Logan Shadowhand and write the Janner Kohl story that has been floating in my head for the past year or so. I finished off the outline, which helped to crystallize the entire plot in my head for the first time (there were a couple points along the way that I hadn’t figured out), and wrote over 3,000 words in a week. There were some great scenes and dialogue sequences that I felt really fleshed out the character of Mig Daro, who served as little more than a sidekick to Janner in “Relvan’s Rescue” (still available on Amazon as part of Pulp Empire’s Pirates & Swashbucklers anthology).
However, by the end of the week, I no longer felt I was writing a Janner Kohl story. You see, there are certain elements and themes that make a story a Janner Kohl story. First is the prevalence of magic in the world. Magic, which includes monsters and mythical beasts, is a thing of legends, a relic from the past. It pops up in every Janner Kohl story, but not until the end, and usually in a way meant to surprise both the characters and the reader.
That was not the case with this first draft of “Mig’s Rebellion.” I was barely halfway through the story when Janner and his fellow mercenaries found themselves fighting the undead, and if I had kept going, he would have been fighting them for the rest of the story. That was not what a Janner Kohl story was about.
Another element that makes a story a Janner Kohl story is that it is told from his point of view. Now, “Mig’s Rebellion” presented me with a challenge because I wanted Mig to be a central figure in the story, to explore who he was and his relationship to Janner early in their career, but I had to present events from Janner’s perspective. What ended up happening was that as I wrote more and more of the story, I painted Janner into the role of observer rather than participant. Even though the story was still being told from Janner’s point of view, it was no longer a Janner Kohl story because of the simple fact that it wasn’t really about him any more, and that is arguably the most important element that makes up a Janner Kohl story: it features Janner Kohl.
Faced with these facts, I spent the weekend thinking over my options. The story was unacceptable in its current form, but there were parts of it I didn’t want to discard because I liked how they turned out, how they characterized Mig. In the end, though, most of it had to go. I kept the opening paragraph, a couple other paragraphs from the opening scene that still fit with the new direction, and a line of dialogue from a later confrontation between Mig and the Captain that will be transplanted into a new scene midway through the story.
It was a painful decision to throw away all those words I had written, but I sat down Monday morning, rewrote my outline, and added 500 words to the new opening scene. Now Janner is right in the middle of the action from the start, and he’ll be there until the end of the story. And, the plot is tighter and closer to my original intentions than the previous version.
I’m interested in hearing from you about times you’ve had to throw away a big chunk of words for the sake of a better story. How did you reach that decision, and how bad did it hurt? Let me know in the comments.