Welcome to the first issue of The Plotstains Perspective. What makes a good first chapter? What defines a good relationship between editor and author? What’s the deal with the Wolfpack? These are a few of the things I’d like to discuss in this issue, where we will talk about Shadows Rise: Heart of the Forest 2.01.
Before I start, I should explain a little about what’s going on. If you haven’t already, check out this page where I go into detail about what The Plotstains Perspective will be. And if you haven’t read Shadows Rise 2.01, please do that to avoid any spoilers. If you haven’t read any of Shadows Rise yet, check out our table of contents and come back when you’ve caught up.
A little about myself. I’m Blackbird’s authorial soulmate and editor for Shadows Rise. We’ve been working on The Shadows Series for years before publishing anything. Now, I’d like to give my perspective and thoughts on the story thus far and peak behind the curtain to learn what things are like from the editor’s perspective. The Plotstains Perspective aims to provide a launchpad for discussion between fans and the creators.
I’d like to remind everyone that I don’t know all the plot points of unreleased chapters. I know a rough outline, but the outline is extremely rough. So my predictions are pure speculation.
Now that all this is out of the way, onto my perspective.
The Plotstains Perspective: HotF 2.01
I was boiling over in excitement about the release of the second arc of Shadows Rise. The Wolfpack, Valcrest’s fearsome group of assassins found deep in the heart of Valcrest’s great forest, has a special place in my heart. Everything Valcrest started with in this forest camp back in 2010 when it was all a simple roleplaying game between some strangers on the internet. We hadn’t had a chance to read much about them beyond what the characters from Arc 1 had to say. To me, there is a strange homeliness in this little encampment. I’ve had characters (back in the roleplay days) live their lives among these old trees and build relationships with the people inhabiting the camp. A group of ruthless killers, they are, but among them are the souls of some of my beloved characters as well as some of Blackbird’s. I’ve grown to love a lot of them.
“Homely,” however, isn’t exactly the word that I’d use to describe what we got to see in this chapter. And I love it! What we see is a ruthless execution of what the Alpha (their leader) views as a traitor. These may be a group that is dear to my heart, but at the end of the day, they’re killers. They’ve hurt Sebastian and Kyle and all their newfound friends in some way or another. We get to see that the Wolves’ killings don’t stop outside of their tight-knit group. They have no hesitation to kill their own. These assassins have me scared. To what length are they willing to go to accomplish their goals? How far will they go to stop Gabrielle and her gang of hunters?
I know that this arc has a heavier focus on the Wolves than the last one did. It makes me nervous for the first real clash between these two groups. Will the Wolves retaliate quickly or wait for their moment? I’m beaming with anticipation. Based on what we’ve gotten to see and hear so far, there’s no doubt that the Wolves are dangerous. It’ll only be a matter of time, I’m sure.
What might intrigue some readers is that this wasn’t the original first chapter for this arc. Blackbird was working on a far longer chapter with many more yet-to-be-introduced characters. While it was a good chapter, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed when reading it (sorry Blackbird). We haven’t scrapped the unreleased chapter, but it wasn’t what I was imagining from what had been built up for an entire arc before. We get to see the Wolves, but don’t get to see their teeth. The original first chapter would have shown us nothing of the dangers the Wolves present.
But what makes them scary? Why are they so difficult to track by Gabrielle and the hunters? If we don’t see their teeth, we won’t trust that they are scary. There’s a big difference between being told a scary story and seeing the story for yourself. Arc 1 told us the Wolves were scary. The first chapter of Arc 2 needed to tell us why they’re feared. I think this chapter does a far better job at showing us this and Blackbird agreed.
Thankfully the chapter you read last week was written already because it was only two days before the release of this chapter that I told Blackbird how I thought she should switch her original chapter out for this one. When I told her this, I was expecting a fight. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d suggested something radical like this and every other time, we’d gone through major discussions of exactly why it should or shouldn’t change. As an editor, I look out for the reader. Sometimes the author, despite their best interests, is too invested in the story to see why the reader might not see things the same way that she does. This is how I presented the information to Blackbird. I told her that things needed to change to create the best narrative for the reader. It took no more than five minutes to convince her. Comparatively, we once discussed the shape of a specific shield for two hours before coming to a decision.
Blackbird and I agree that the ease of this chapter switch is chopped up to a great deal of trust between the two of us. We’ve had an advantage of writing with each other for 10 years. It takes a lot of the edge off most divisive conversations. I can express my opinions openly and Blackbird can do the same. But even from the beginning, we’ve managed to trust each other. In less than a month of knowing each other, we were trusting the other with things that some authors would never trust another to do. What does this come down to? I’m not entirely sure I have the answer to that.
I think what it really comes down to is the knowledge that the other has the best intentions in mind. We don’t want to make the other upset. We just want to create the best story possible. If I tell Blackbird that I think something sucks or that she uses certain words as crutches, she doesn’t get offended. She knows that I just want to make her work great.
As an author myself, I know how easy it is to attach yourself to the work, or the characters, or the chapters that you pour your heart and soul into. The editor or publisher knows what they’re talking about. You have to put your faith in them, but the editor also needs to be open to discussion. Often, even if the editor is wrong about their presumptions, it reveals problems with your text. If the editor can’t make sense of it, how will the reader? You don’t need to take their suggestion literally, but you should always ask why the suggestion was made in the first place. There’s always an underlying reason for it.
I’m lucky to have Blackbird as an author to work with. She’s very open to suggestions. I don’t know how many other people I could have worked with who would openly accept such a major change just a few days before release.
For anyone curious, the shield is round . . . .
That was the first issue of The Plotstains Perspective. What do you think? Does the Wolfpack scare you? Do you think they’ll retaliate or will the let their frustrations stew? Was I right to ask Blackbird to change the chapter (You will see the chapter that I told her to switch on the 16th so even if you don’t have an answer now, you will soon)? What does it take to earn the respect of your editor? Please let me know in the comments. This is an open discussion between the editor and fans. I’ll be sure to reply to any comments that come my way and I’m sure Blackbird will be willing to do the same.
If you have any suggestions on the format of this blog, please let me know. This is very much a test and I’m open to hear how I can improve it in the future
From one fan to another,
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