I honestly didn’t put a lot of thought into deciding what the challenges were: I simply wanted something that was action-heavy, that would showcase the magic system, and that would require teamwork.
“Scavenger hunt” fit, so I went with it.
By now, we’ve seen most of the magic system at play in basic ways already:
- How resonance exists as a natural phenomenon in response to emotions
- How resonance can be stored in crystal for later retrieval
- All of the resonance disciplines: Seeking, Evocation, Projection, Obfuscation (once, briefly in passing), Augury, and Fortunement
- Resonance wards
I’ve introduced all of these elements without explanation for two reasons.
First, I hate infodumps as a reader. After reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen (where exposition does not, as a rule, exist for anything), I became hyper-sensitized to noticing exposition when it occurs—and most of the time, it makes me feel patronized, like I couldn’t be trusted to make sense of the fictional world from context.
Second, and related to why I hate infodumps, is they tend to feel unnatural most of the time and therefore bog down pacing. There’s no reason why Rahelu would stop to think about how resonance works while she’s trying to submit her Petition: it’s a natural part of her world.
In this chapter though, I felt like a little exposition would be okay, since Rahelu, Lhorne, and Dharyas are explicitly discussing how the Houses expect them to solve the challenge. So we get a little explanation of Concordance, then a very long spiel on Obfuscation from Lhorne. Hopefully, it sits naturally in the narrative here.
Things I changed during revision
This was not one of the heavily-revised chapters, though there are still several things worth noting.
Revision #1: Simplifying the token scavenger hunt
I got a lot of feedback on my original draft that the rules around the challenges were pretty confusing. (Which was fair, considering that I was confused myself and making it up along as I went.)
One of the things I tried to do was simplify the token challenge. I changed the number of tokens from 20 to 10 once I realized that there was no reason to have so many. Which then generated this moment of panic from one of my alpha readers on their second pass through the manuscript:
“I just found this incredibly important note for you, so important that I wrote it on my phone at like 1am two nights ago and had no recollection of it”
(For whatever reason, I saw “tokrnd” and my mind went to Bitcoin and I was extremely confused.)
It took a while for us to work out that the concern was whether there would be a continuity issue now that the number of tokens no longer matched the number of Supplicants the Houses were taking.
Lesson learned: when making up arbitrary numbers, try not to overlap them!
Revision #2: Lhorne and Dharyas’s relationship
Originally, the scene went straight from Dharyas announcing herself, to Rahelu backing down, to Lhorne protesting.
Dharyas, as with Lhorne, was an unplanned character. Technically her first appearance is in Chapter 6 (she’s the waving hand). I put that in mainly because there’s always that one person in a group and had no intention of making that person part of the main cast.
One of the flaws in my first draft is while you have a good sense of how the different characters relate to Rahelu, you don’t really get a sense of how they relate to each other—which is an artifact of discovery writing them.
So in revisions, I went back to add a quick exchange between the two House-born. Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to the plot, but it does give us a brief sense of what House-born life is like and—more importantly—it serves to establish Lhorne and Dharyas’s relationship.