We’ve all heard the saying, ‘show, don’t tell’. It’s a piece of writing advice that’s been thrown around so much that it’s become a common catchphrase. No article or video about writing advice is complete without including “show, don’t tell”. Go to any book, filter for 1-star reviews, and there’s a high likelihood at least one of those reviews will contain some sort of critique along the lines of “there’s too much telling” or “all tell and no showing”. (Yes, I’m guilty of making this complaint too.)
I kind of hate this piece of writing advice because as a writer, it’s not very useful. Blindly following the rule of “show, don’t tell” results in pointless prose and bloated books.
Instead, I prefer to think of it as a choice you should consciously make for every event in the story:
Dramatize or summarize?
That is the question!
I went to an excellent writing workshop at NIDA once, which was about writing for the screen and stage. One of the most useful exercises I remember was a discussion of story versus plot. In the context of that discussion, ‘story’ meant ‘a bare, chronological succession of events’ and ‘plot’ meant ‘how the story is presented by the writer’. Or, more specifically, ‘events as ordered and connected in a drama; smaller than story; subject to authorial will’.
One exercise to explore this point was to picked somebody famous and think about how we would construct a plot around the story of their life. What should the plot be about? Their rise to fame? Their fall from grace? Their legacy?
How you answer that question changes the scope of your plot. Something like Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton (musical, 2 hours and 30 minutes excluding intermission) requires different decisions on what to dramatize and what to narrate versus Breaking Bad (television series, 62 episodes, total run time of 61.3 hours, each episode sitting between 47-53 minutes without ads) versus Whiplash (feature film, 106 minutes) versus Nghi Vo’s When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (novella, 126 pages) versus Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi (standalone novel, 272 pages, mostly first person epistolary) versus Janny Wurts’s The Curse of the Mistwraith (first in 11-book series novel, 233k words).
Which brings me back to Petition: so far, it’s Rahelu’s story about Petitioning the Houses. We open on Petition Day and we’ve followed her POV closely, event by event, as she goes through the Petitioning process.
At the end of Chapters 10 and 11, Rahelu has three spheres. The expectation is: three spheres, invitations from three Houses, therefore surely three scenes showing the three audiences.
So why did I end up skipping over House Isca to focus on Houses Issolm and Ideth instead?
Well, I had a problem: I didn’t know what I would write in a scene between Rahelu and Elder Nhirom (who, honestly, along with Elder Anathwan didn’t exist as a character.)
That’s not exactly news; I never know exactly what I’m going to write before I write it. I can outline all I want but the moment I open up a blank document in side-by-side view next to my painstaking outline of all the beats I’m supposed to hit, my discovery writing brain laughs and laughs and laughs and then just writes whatever the hell it wants to instead. (It wasn’t like I knew how the Issolm or Ideth audiences would turn out either.)
No, the problem was I did not know what the conflict would be in the Isca audience. And conflict—at least, when it comes to the style that is preferred in genre fiction today—conflict is the engine that drives the story.
No conflict? No scene.
No compelling conflict? Super lame scene.
The thing with House Isca is, everything you know up to this point you’ve learned based on Dharyas’s example—and you’ve probably surmised that Rahelu would not be well-suited to House Isca. Which means, you can also probably guess at how that audience is going to go. Unless I plan to subvert those expectations—or make the way the events unfold extremely entertaining—dramatizing (a.k.a. showing) the scene on page doesn’t do anything to serve the plot.
Don’t get me wrong; I could have written an Isca audience scene set in Nhirom’s workshop—but I would have had to introduce some other form of conflict because “Rahelu is clueless” is not a conflict; it’s a descriptor. 1500 words about Rahelu walking into Elder Nhirom’s workshop and having no clue what to do with her wire sphere is not interesting. You’d just be reading pages and pages of description about what Elder Nhirom’s workshop looks like (not that Rahelu would even have the vocabulary to describe what she’s seeing)…and for what purpose? It doesn’t contribute anything to the plot.
To turn that descriptor into conflict, I would need Rahelu to do something to the status quo. Maybe she disrespects the Elder and causes trouble for Tsenjhe. Maybe thugs break into his workshop during the audience and she saves his life. Maybe she decides to cheat and he catches her. Whatever it is, the characters need to end the scene in a different place to where they started otherwise there’s no advancement of plot/character/setting—just a lot of pointless words you could have skipped without missing anything.
Far better to summarize the Isca audience in ~250 words instead.
That frees up word count to compare and contrast House Issolm and House Ideth in how Elder Anathwan and Atriarch Mere Ideth’s approaches vary in their approach which builds on what you’ve already seen before.
I’m not entirely happy with those two scenes; I mean, let’s call them what they are: thinly-disguised world building exposition dumps about the Houses. But I hope that you found them somewhat organic and interesting to read without feeling like I’ve shoved a bunch of words I’ve copied and pasted straight from my world building wiki.
One of the decisions I’d made from the very beginning was that Petition was going to be single POV. I didn’t want to fall into the typical epic fantasy author trap of POV bloat that would land me in revision hell; I wanted to write a clean draft of a tightly-focused narrative.
(By the way, I’m sitting here writing this annotation after completing a first read through of the rough draft for Supplicant—which has…issues. Turns out that the choice of a single POV doesn’t necessarily help; it was the strict tournament plot structure and Rahelu’s singular goal that kept everything focused.)
As usual, I did not have a very detailed outline going into this chapter:
But what I had was a secret pet peeve.
Interviews are dumb
The main plot is fantasy job interviews and we’ve already done the job application and the group interview. The next stage in real life is usually individual interviews but let’s be real: an interview is a poor method of trying to figure out whether someone is going to be a good hire or not.
How is a super awkward 15-minute conversation in a sterile meeting room where you’re cherrypicking from a list of HR pre-approved questions (and trust me, you do not want to be going off-script as an interviewer; not only does that introduce even more bias into the process, it also makes everything that comes afterwards even harder) and the interviewee is doing their best imitation of a politician on campaign to spin their pre-rehearsed lines into a satisfactory answer going to tell you anything about how they will actually do on the job?
It relies on a whole bunch of shorthand approximations to infer ability and competence from a performance that has no relevance to what the actual job is.
Unless the job involves being interviewed, I guess.
Anyway, the process is stupid. The best way to figure out if someone can do something is…to get them to do the thing.
Hence the take home assignment.
(Confession: I had no idea what the spheres do when I wrote this scene. The nice thing about writing from Rahelu’s POV is that she has no idea either…and it doesn’t matter. For this book anyway.)
Yes, yes, it means you don’t control the environment in which those assignments are completed and therefore you can’t be assured that it’s the candidate doing the actual work instead of somebody else.
To which the Houses would say: who cares? The work got done. Also, the magic system literally allows us to check whether you’re lying about it being your work and/or check how you went about completing the assignment.
How Seeking works
My beta readers did wonder why it took so long to get an explanation with Seeking which ties in with this comment:
The other thing that annoyed me a bit concerned the world-building – the author introduced various terms describing powers/resonances by naming them without explaining their effect. But then, again, it’s easy to get the hang of it quickly, so maybe I’m just nitpicking a bit.
Reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series made me hypersensitive to exposition. It’s like entering the Matrix: once you’re aware of it, you can’t unsee it. Exposition is everywhere.
I did not want to get the criticism that Brandon Sanderson gets for his Szeth prologue in The Way of Kings (i.e. it reads like a video game tutorial for Windrunner powers).
There’s no reason for Rahelu to stop and think about how Seeking (or how any of the other resonance disciplines) work as she’s going about her daily business.
One trope I dislike in the fantasy genre is the whole “born with special powers” thing. That’s why I made magic is an intrinsic part of the world. Everybody in this world has resonance ability as a sixth sense and you can learn to do more with it if you choose to. Some people might be more naturally talented—just like how some people are born more athletic or artistic or whatever—but that’s all.
Rahelu stopping to explain how Projection works as she’s running up the hill to stop the Isonn baliff from roughing up her mother or how Seeking works as she’s trying to run away from Nheras and her cousins isn’t authentic to the character—it’d stick out as much as a character stopping to think about how they make their body walk. In these two instances, Rahelu is a graduated mage using her powers in magically straightforward situations: her concern isn’t how her powers work but whether she can protect her mother and whether she can escape with her Petition. Explaining the magic here would bog down the pacing and detract from the emotional intensity of the scene.
But when Rahelu struggles to complete her take home assignment, it does make sense for her to think about how resonance works. She’s attempting Augury, a discipline that she has no natural aptitude for, trying to follow Dharyas’s advice. It’s natural for her to think about how she does what she does as she’s doing it.
In short, I made a stylistic choice to not explain the magic system because it isn’t necessary. Between the names of the various resonance disciplines and the descriptive details on what happens when the characters use them, there’s enough on the page for a reader to infer how the magic works.
My beta readers also had questions about this character and the overtness of the Augury. In particular, they felt it was tonally jarring and a departure from the rest of the story.
Why include sexual violence? Why include sexual exploitation? Why have sexual content at all? (Which we’ll talk more about in the annotations for Chapter 22.)
It’s a controversial decision. Many readers actively avoid books with sexual violence. Many more have taken the stance that there is already enough sexual violence both in fiction and in real life that we don’t need more of it. Especially when sexual violence in the fantasy genre (and let’s face it, in general) is often used gratuitously and is not sensitively depicted.
Readers (and authors) on the other side of the argument have offered many rebuttals. I won’t go into those here because they’re not really relevant to my decision.
In my experience, sexual violence isn’t really about the sexual aspect of the violence; it is about control. And in this setting—when the magic inherent in this world literally allows one person to override another person’s emotions, as Nheras demonstrates in Chapter 8—the uncomfortable question can’t be avoided, especially in a new adult/adult novel.
(Let’s temporarily shelve discussion of the other question of how Petition is sometimes categorized as YA for another time.)
To draw an arbitrary line felt disingenuous in a story that explores what people are willing to do for the sake of power.
Power, fundamentally, is about control.
There are some things about our world that I can easily imagine to be absent in a secondary world. Gender roles, for example, is one. I’ve spent my whole life proving that my gender doesn’t make me any less capable just because I’m not male. And I’ve been very fortunate to be born at a time and in a set of circumstances where I’ve never had reason to doubt this to be true.
The threat of sexual violence, however, is something that I—and every other person born female—live with. From the moment you’re old enough to be told “you’re a girl”, you’re also taught very specific things that aren’t taught to boys.
How to sit.
How to dress.
How to act.
All of these things are taught to young girls as preventative measures in an effort to protect them from the possibility of sexual violence. And you internalize these things so much that you can’t see the world except through those lens. And you modify your behavior accordingly.
Perhaps another author could imagine a world where sexual violence doesn’t even enter into the equation because it isn’t a possibility in their setting.
I, unfortunately, can’t.
Chapter 10 is interesting to analyze in terms of its construction. On the surface, it seems like a pretty boring scene. It’s just Rahelu, Lhorne, and Dharyas chilling out over lunch in a tavern with the rest of the Ideth applicants.
Not much plot happens. That’s deliberate. In Jim Butcher’s scene-and-sequel terms (though I don’t think he was the originator of this particular framework) this chapter functions as a sequel. The scene—being the challenges—was in Chapters 6 through 10.
(I did not, however, follow Butcher’s suggested structure. I don’t actively refer to any particular plotting framework when I’m writing new prose. While I like using the try/fail cycle to figure out what should happen next, it doesn’t drive how I write the scene.)
We begin with three open loops that drive the scene:
Who won the last challenge?
What is Rahelu going to do with Lhorne’s pendant?
Will Rahelu let Lhorne buy her lunch?
You can think of these questions as open Inquiry, Event, and Character threads respectively under Mary Robinette Kowal’s MICE quotient framework. Throughout the scene, we make progress towards answering each of those questions:
Lhorne carries the bulk of the conversation during the post-mortem, though Cseryl and Dharyas and Rahelu make their own contributions. We fill in the leftover gaps with some introspection.
Rahelu tries to return Lhorne’s pendant.
Lhorne tries to get Rahelu to eat, despite her initial refusal.
You could also analyze this scene in terms of conflict. Despite this being a slower scene, there’s actually quite a bit of conflict present between:
Cseryl and Lhorne (over his past decisions)
Lhorne and Rahelu (over his attempt to buy her lunch)
Lhorne and Rahelu again (over the loan of his pendant)
Rahelu and Dharyas (over Dharyas’s ambitions and vague plans)
Rahelu and herself (over whether she will give in to her hunger and eat the food in front of her)
Rahelu and herself again (over whether she should stay for lunch or rush back to Market Square to help her mother as she promised)
Alternatively, you could divvy up this chapter into several arcs:
Lunch which begins with Lhorne ordering food for everyone and ends when Rahelu scavenges the leftovers disposed of in the alleyway.
The post-mortem which begins with Cseryl taking Lhorne to task for trusting Elaram and ends when Cseryl and the other Ideth applicants leave.
The speculation around the audiences and the spheres which begins with Rahelu trying to return Lhorne’s pendant and ends when she agrees to borrow it for a little longer.
The discussion around which invitations to accept which begins with a question from Lhorne and ends with Rahelu’s rant at Dharyas.
But how do you figure out when to end a scene? Well, there’s several ways. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the frameworks that I’m familiar with:
In Save the Cat‘s terms, it’s when an emotional change has happened.
In Mary Robinette Kowal’s terms, it’s when you close off each MICE thread.
In Jim Butcher’s terms for a sequel, it’s when the character has made their choice.
All of this makes it sound like I’m a genius who plans out how all of these threads interweave together to build to a satisfactory ending of a scene, knowing the whole time where things are going before I write a single word.
The thing is, I don’t.
Sometimes I have vague ideas—“maybe there’ll be a moment where X happens”—but that’s it. I generally have no idea where a scene is going until I write it.
What I do is stick to the golden rules of improv: I start with a character in a situation, I utilize the “yes, and” rule to keep the scene going, and I build on what’s already been established.
This is the extent of my outline for this chapter. While I had some plot and exposition goals, I’m mostly heavily focused on how the characters are feeling:
I’m a discovery writer rather than an outliner or planner—character and setting work each other out as I go. I almost always start with a voice, in particular—what one specific character is doing or thinking or in the case of Uprooted and Spinning Silver, actually telling me in first person. It starts with a sentence and goes on from there, and what they’re seeing or feeling or in the middle of doing tells me something about the world, and that in turn builds the character, and so on. I think action is the best way to reveal character; what a character chooses to do in a given situation tells both me and the reader a lot about them, and the more I write, the more I get an inner sense of the character and what they WOULD do in a wider variety of situations, what it is they care about.
I don’t generally get writer’s block. What normally happens to me is I see too many different ways a story could go and I am paralyzed because I have to choose just one to write. (And then I write the novel length version and have my cake and eat it too!)
—Naomi Novik on how she plans characters and writes, via r/books
It is exactly how I write!
Like Novik, I write a line in a specific character’s voice in a specific POV and I go from there:
How will the other character/s respond?
How does the POV character interpret that response?
How will they/the other character/s respond to that response?
And so on and so forth until I get to the end of the scene. Which, for me, is when there is nothing else interesting that the character has to add. Usually this is when we’ve arrived at some sort of emotional resolution. For example:
In Chapter 2, it’s when Nheras has destroyed Rahelu’s Petition. The emotional arc here is from hopeful to gutted, but not defeated. The next emotional arc begins immediately afterwards, in Chapter 3, when she has to convince Xyuth to help her.
In Chapter 8, it’s when Rahelu and her teammates succeed in stealing the tokens. The emotional arc here is from dread to heady victory. I did not write out the chase sequence between the end of Chapter 8 and the beginning of Chapter 9 because there was no emotional arc there for Rahelu.
In this chapter, Rahelu digging through the trash for food scraps is an authentic character moment that serves as the obvious punchline for the end of the scene. Prolonging it further doesn’t do anything for her character or for the narrative.
Overall, the rough draft of this chapter came out pretty clean. (This is normal for me; XXX placeholders and some line level issues aside, I generally write very clean drafts.)
I only changed two things in revision:
I expanded the scene by giving Dharyas a character moment and deepening her pre-existing relationship with Lhorne. The entire exchange about her plans to open an independent mage shop did not exist in the first draft.
I also rearranged the flow of the scene by moving the speculation of what they were supposed to do with the spheres. Originally, it happened upfront but that raised the question of what Rahelu was doing hanging around instead of going to help her mother. Moving it to later in the chapter and linking it to her suspicions that House-born have insider knowledge smoothed out this inconsistency in her character.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how this chapter turned out!
Chapter 9 is the third-longest chapter in the entire book at around 6,700 words. (The longest chapter, if you’re curious, is Chapter 22 which has the action climax of the book. The second-longest is Chapter 21 which is the emotional build-up.)
I remember being incredibly nervous while writing the first draft because this is the first, big action sequence.
Unlike Fonda Lee, I am not a black belt. I do not have any combat experience. (A semester of dabbling in tae kwon do and archery and one trial class on kendo from a Groupon don’t count.) I enjoy a good action movie but they’re not really my thing. I generally prefer strategy and role-playing games over first-person shooters.
So I was very, very nervous about writing a free-for-all mock battle with a hundred characters running around. This is what I had in my outline:
(If you had trouble keeping track of all the banners and who had what, you’re not alone; I did too.)
Surprisingly, I more or less managed to stick to this outline.
Except for one, tiny thing.
For some reason, my discovery writing brain decided to write this:
She looked down and found Lhorne, lying on the sandstone just as she had left him, but he was looking straight back at her, with his clear green eyes.
I do not read romance. At all. Romance—as strictly defined by genre conventions—does not appeal to me. I hate how it magnifies the importance of one aspect of life disproportionately over everything else. I hate the K-drama-esque plots. And I detest the mandated “happily ever after” ending. Pitching me a book with “oh, it’s got a great romance in it” is the surest way to make it fall straight to the bottom of my TBR.
To be clear, I do not hate stories with romance. If a romance subplot shows up in a book I’m reading, I’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoy anything else in the book, provided it is well written. I just prefer the main storyline to be something else so it’s both extremely weird and hilarious that I ended up with a romantic subplot in my book.
Writers talk about their characters getting away from them all the time. You could argue that what happened here is an example of that. But from a writing craft perspective, I don’t believe that’s a useful way to think about it.
As the author, ultimately I’m the one in charge of the narrative. I create the characters in the narrative to serve the needs of narrative. To claim anything else is to disclaim my responsibility for the narrative.
I put that line in there because it “felt right”.
Why did it feel right?
There were many reasons—most of which I couldn’t have articulated as I was writing it.
First, because it’s an authentic thing for Lhorne to do in that moment and it’s an authentic reaction for Rahelu to have to him. It deepens both characters and their relationship.
Second, because it suits the emotional arc and the pacing of this scene, which has four mini-arcs: 1) Lhorne taking command and Rahelu acknowledging it; 2) Rahelu discovering the hidden Isonn banner and falling for the trap; 3) Rahelu, outnumbered against Isonn, and Lhorne ordering her rescue; and 4) Rahelu, taking revenge for Elaram’s betrayal. The first three have been heavy on dialogue and action with escalating stakes. This beat between Rahelu and Lhorne marks the turning point to the final part of the scene. Elaram’s just betrayed the team; we need a moment to breathe and process what happened.
Finally, because it hints at more conflict to come. Rahelu has undergone five years of grueling work and study. She was willing to risk her personal safety and push the boundaries of her moral code just to submit her Petition. What else might she be willing to sacrifice in order to join a House?
The main problem I had created for myself with the first challenge is that while scavenger hunts can be fun to do, they are not fun to read. I’d also set myself up to have twenty tokens in play—thank goodness I came to my senses during revisions and whittled them down to ten.
I had a couple of options:
Tell, don’t show: I could summarize part (or all) of the token search and skip to the next interesting part of the plot. Something like: “The first five tokens were easy to find” or “One span of non-stop running all over the city later secured their team all ten tokens”.
Introduce conflict: Ideally in the form of some obstacle/s that Rahelu, Lhorne, and Dharyas have to overcome in order to get the tokens. This could be a plot-based or character-based. In my opinion, plot-based conflict is the easiest to come up with ideas for but harder to make interesting—you have to be very inventive or clever to keep things from feeling repetitive—whereas character-based conflict is harder to get right but also more compelling.
Use the tokens as background detail to convey progress towards the overall goal: But that’s how we end up with 2,000 words that go like “They went to location A and found token 1, then they went to location B and found token 2…” and nobody wants to read that. I would need something else to take place as the focus otherwise it would just be boring description of Rahelu and her teammates wandering around the city.
In the end, I tried to do all of the above.
Conflict is the propulsion behind any plot; without it, all you have is an ordered sequence of events. So my number one priority is always to make sure there is some sort of conflict running through every scene. What’s awesome is when you can combine multiple conflicts.
Since I had already set up the final four tokens in one location, I knew that was going to be a single sub-objective and the big confrontation to end the narrative arc dealing with the first challenge begun in Chapter 6. This was relatively easy to make into a multi-layered conflict: we know Nheras and her cousins are applicants and Rahelu just spent three chapters clawing her way back into the Petitioning process after her defeat at Nheras’s hands; a more equal confrontation is in order. Both plot- and character-based conflicts converge when Rahelu tries to steal four tokens from right under Nheras’s nose—and succeeds. This is what makes the end of this sequence especially satisfying.
As I did not have six, distinct ideas with escalating stakes/tension, I simplified by grouping the early tokens together. Chapter 8 opens after a time skip on Rahelu and her team finding the last of those early tokens, then goes straight into a character-based conflict. This is what it looked like in the original draft (when they had just found sixteen out of the twenty tokens without any difficulty):
From there, we cut straight to the confrontation with Nheras and her team over the last four tokens. It worked…fine. At least, that’s how I interpreted this feedback from my beta readers:
But ‘fine’”‘ was not what I was going for. I didn’t want to see anything but green on that chart; I wanted ‘awesome’. I wasn’t sure that I could get there, but if I aim for ‘awesome’ and fall short, theoretically I should land somewhere between ‘good’ and ‘great’, right?
So I went back over the chapter and had a look at what I could do better. The first thing that struck me was the opening. There were 391 words of description that covered how everybody was dressed and an unnecessarily detailed blow-by-blow narration of them retrieving the hidden token—boring!—before we got this:
Buried in the middle of that section is a time skip—one that my beta readers rightly pointed out was a missed opportunity. Everything happens too easily for Rahelu and her team. We have no idea what the other teams are doing. This whole Petitioning business, which we’ve spent seven chapters hyping up to be a Big Deal, seems to be a walk in the park as far as this challenge goes.
One Clever Trick and the protagonist gets everything handed to her on a plate? I don’t think so! That’s certainly not consistent with the tone and story expectations I set up back in Chapter 1.
The first part of my solution was to cut down the opening and rework the first character-based conflict. I made it more internal to Rahelu and moved a bit of worldbuilding about the city here to foreshadow something that happens later in Chapter 12. It also builds on some of the introspection that happened earlier in the previous two chapters.
The second part was to follow the rule of three: I replaced the time skip by introducing a medium-stakes conflict in-between Rahelu’s angsting about her decision to listen to Lhorne and Dharyas and the higher-stakes action sequence with Nheras at the end of the arc.
The question was, what should this conflict be?
The answer in hindsight was pretty obvious: Elaram.
Elaram gets a decent amount of page time in the book but, for one reason or another, she doesn’t pull as much focus as the other characters later on. She’s also a very different character to the other House-born we’ve met: she doesn’t have the same ‘Mean Girls’ energy as Nheras, but she also doesn’t give off the same ‘Nice People’ vibes to Rahelu as Lhorne and Dharyas.
She’s also a lot of fun to write. I had every intention of keeping the expanded scene brief but, well—
(Three thousand, two hundred and fifty words later…)
Elaram is a lot of fun to write.
(This is how I set out writing a 75,000-word novel and end up with a 126,000-word draft.)
I did worry about whether Lhorne and Dharyas turning up right at the end feels a bit left field. In the end, I decided that it was okay: I’d set up the expectation that they were to meet up at the fishpond, Rahelu was wondering why they were delayed, and it was reasonable to explain their absence by having them go off to steal another token from Ghardon, Elaram’s brother. How, exactly, that all went down is just as much of a mystery to me as it is to Rahelu. I have no idea. I probably won’t know unless I write it and I don’t know if I ever will.
The last revision I made to this chapter was in the final scene. Again, it a scene that already worked because everybody is here to see Nheras get beat—Dharyas clubbing her on the head was actually the closing line in the chapter originally—but something felt lacking. I only realized quite late in the process that I had missed a pay-off.
In Chapter 7, Lhorne goes on and on about how important the order of operations is and how bad it would be if they messed it up. Then I did this:
All that obsessing over the order of operations to wind up with “Done” and a clean escape?
Nope. Not in my book!
“Oops” coupled with “We need to run” is, obviously, far better.
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
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.
A lot of this book was written by accident and this chapter is the perfect example of discovery writing in action. It has two scenes: an opening scene where Rahelu’s mother is helping her prepare for the challenges and a closing scene at the Guild when the challenges begin.
Rahelu and her mother
In the original draft, Chapter 5 didn’t exist, so this scene came straight right after Tsenjhe and Keshwar accept Rahelu’s Petition. It’s the exact same thing we saw in Chapter 1: Rahelu getting ready for the day, her father leaving early to the sea, and her mother berating her the whole time.
It’s a short, quiet character moment where not all that much happens. Strictly speaking, I probably could have cut it during revisions. I don’t know that you would notice its absence on a first read: we already have a strong sense of the dynamic between Rahelu and her parents from the previous chapters.
So why show it again?
Well, the narrative purpose of this scene is to serve as a contrast to the opening: while nothing has changed on one level, everything has changed on another. It’s the beginning of a shift in Rahelu’s relationship with her mother: their roles have been reversed but neither of them acknowledge it in the moment—in fact, they’re both doing their best to pretend otherwise. Without this moment, the final interaction between these two characters doesn’t quite land as well emotionally.
(It sounds like I was so deliberate in my intentions when you put it that way, but at the time of writing, I honestly didn’t give it much thought beyond “huh, we just got to the end of a pretty intense sequence so let’s take a breather, what would feel the most natural here?”)
The challenges begin
One of the upshots of writing a tournament arc is that the narrative structure is done for you. The tone and types of events vary depending on the story’s context—J.K. Rowling’s Goblet of Fire is a rousing inter-school sports competition; Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games is politically motivated oppression dressed up in the spectacle and dazzle of reality TV juxtaposed against the horror of death matches between children; Will Wight’s Uncrowned and Wintersteel is a showcase of military power by world factions through the vehicle of fantasy Olympics.
All I had to do was translate a real-world interview process into one that made sense in a high fantasy setting and I didn’t even have to change all that much: the challenges are basically full day group interviews.
Lhorne, though, was unexpected.
He wasn’t in the list of characters I had planned before I started writing. Not very surprising, considering that Keshwar hadn’t been in that list either. He simply grew out of that one line of description I wrote, about Rahelu having to peer around the head of the tall guy standing in front of her to look at what someone else was doing, and the realization that there was no way she could find a team on her own.
We’ve just spent several chapters inside Rahelu’s head, where she’s working alone to achieve her goals, building up a clear (but shallow) picture of what House-born are like in the process. To get more of the same wouldn’t be very interesting, so having Lhorne find all these little ways to dispel Rahelu’s preconceived notions was an easy way of doing that while keeping her off-balance.
There was one, significant change I made in revision. Originally, the chapter ended when she accepts that Keshwar had organized a team mate for her. In revision, I extended the scene further to do two things: first, to give you a better sense of Lhorne as a character, and second, to set up another tone promise for Rahelu’s arc.
Again, I don’t think you would miss this additional exchange on a first read. But I’m fairly certain that if I didn’t put it in, the ending would feel shakier.
One of the most unintuitive things I have discovered about myself as a writer is that I am, apparently, incapable of sticking to an outline.
I just can’t do it, despite my tendency to being structured and methodical in my approach to most things in life. I’ll make comprehensive lists of things that should happen in the plot and map out my turning points, then I’ll open up a blank document and my brain will go, “Awww, how adorable, but actually no, we’re writing about this instead.”
At the same time, it’s hard for me to start from absolutely nothing. I need some sort of framework, however loose, to be able to put down new prose. Otherwise, I end up sitting there, staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page, second-guessing every word that comes to mind.
So, what I’ve found works really well for me, is Brandon Sanderson’s approach:
I plan my worlds in great detail before I start writing, in most cases, and I plan my plots in moderate detail. I plot backward, I start with what I want to have happen for a plot cycle…and then I list a bunch of bullet points underneath.
My characters, I figure out who they are when the book starts, but I do not outline them in great detail…which means I have to have a flowing outline where, once I’ve started writing my way into the character I will then have to rebuild the outline periodically to match the person they’re becoming, which sometimes rips apart that outline quite a bit.
When I have the big, overarching pieces of my world and my characters’ motivations established, and a clear situation, it becomes much easier to write. Instead of sitting in front of my computer, wondering ‘how do I write a good book?’ (a question to which there is no right answer), I can ask myself a set of concrete questions:
What’s the situation?
How does my viewpoint character feel about that situation?
How do the other character/s in the scene feel about that situation?
Given their motivations, what would my viewpoint character do?
I find this method a lot easier than to work to because I can make myself empathize with them. But it does mean that when I write, I generally have to write scenes in sequential order, otherwise I have trouble with consistency in my characters.
It also means that I often end up outlining, then re-outlining as I go. I tend to over-outline too, which means I often severely underestimate how much plot and character development I can cover. (Exhibit A: this book, which was supposed to be 75,000 words long. Yeah.)
Chapter 5 is a weird chapter. It’s one of the few scenes in Petition that were written out of order during the first draft.
(There are other scenes that were written out of order by virtue of being scenes I inserted to address alpha and beta reader feedback, but those don’t really count in the same way.)
Originally, Chapters 3 and 4 were just one long chapter. The extent of my outline for it was this—the tracked changes show you what I adjusted after every writing session. This screenshot is from the point right after I had finished writing the first draft of the scene with Xyuth but before I got all the way through her Evocation up at Stormbane’s rest:
Hilariously, Keshwar isn’t in the outline at all at this stage. Pretty much everybody other than Rahelu, her parents, Onneja, and Tsenjhe didn’t really exist in the outline. They all just…kind of happened during the writing process.
Here’s the revised outline (again) after I started writing the scene inside the Guild courtyard. Note the ridiculous amount of question marks and how the details bear no resemblance to what I actually ended up writing:
And halfway through the scene, I figure out that I’ve made things way too complicated, so I start simplifying:
Scene 2.3 was still 2,695 words long by the time I was done with the significantly simplified version, and the chapter overall was at 7,226 words. I got to the end of the scene and felt like the next logical progression from a character and relationship perspective was a scene with Tsenjhe and her parents at home, which would have all of Rahelu’s worlds colliding.
Conceptually, it was a scene that should work.
At the same time, I did not actually want to write Keshwar and Tsenjhe paying a visit to Rahelu’s parents.
So I skipped it and went on to write the next chapter, which opens on the day of challenges.
Later, after I decided to restructure the book, I came back and wrote the scene with Keshwar and Tsenjhe escorting Rahelu home.
It’s a very introspection-heavy scene, which makes me worry. Introspection is hard to do well; writing too little of it means you often don’t get a sense of the POV character but writing too much can feel like pointless bloat.
Worse, it’s a scene where there is no obvious conflict and Rahelu has no overt purpose she’s pursuing. She’s pretty much just a passive observer, freaking out in her head the whole time.
So no surprises here: my alpha and beta readers were kind of confused as to why this scene was here at all. My gut feeling is that the change of pace is necessary. We’re at the end of a big, action-heavy opening arc; we need some sort of denouement to the resolution that yes, she’s in, her Petition has been accepted.
In the end, I left the scene in but tweaked a few lines right at the very end. I wanted to hint at a sense of a calm before the storm, that the stakes—high as Rahelu thought they already were—are being raised, and some hints at bigger things happening in the background that Rahelu isn’t aware of. (And won’t be in a position to be aware of for a long time.)
Does it work?
I think it does. The last line in the scene is a nice little callback to the tone promise in the prologue, and the additional details that Rahelu observes in her final interaction with Keshwar foreshadow something that happens at the midpoint of the book.
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out; I think having this scene here makes for a much stronger transition than an abrupt cut from the end of Chapter 4 to the beginning of Chapter 6.
In contrast to the previous chapter, this next chapter was one of the easiest chapters to write. Very little changed from the original draft to the published version.
When I say very little changed, I don’t mean that in terms of actual count of words added, deleted, and moved around. I’m more referring to the significance of the revisions.
Since there were no significant revisions for this chapter, it is probably a good place to discuss how I do revisions generally, and what happens between typing “THE END” on the first draft to hitting “PUBLISH”. That’s because you can get a clearer picture of the extent of revisions that happen when there are no structural issues present.
(Structural issues, like those in Chapter 3, generally require extensive rewrites so I basically treat them as writing new prose.)
Typically, I divide revisions into two categories: major and minor revisions.
Anything that changes the overall shape of the story qualifies as a major revision. Adding, deleting, or moving scenes around are major revisions. Anything that impacts the overall tone, plot, and character promises of the story—like rewriting a scene from a different perspective, or from the same perspective but with a different emotional tone or arc—is also an example of a major revision. Big stuff that often, but not always, affects more than one scene or one chapter.
Minor revisions are similar in nature, but instead of working at the arc/chapter/scene level, I’m working with paragraphs, sentences, and individual words. That is, the scope of the revisions are contained within a single scene.
When I write new prose, I generally write every scene in a given storyline in sequence. I think (though I’m not 100% certain since I don’t feel qualified to attempt something as difficult as this) that if I were to utilize a narrative structure where there are flashback sequences, I would probably treat each timeline as a distinct storyline and write each of them in sequence. There’s an upfront time cost for me to get into the right headspace for the plot and the characters involved, so it’s easier for me to stick to one storyline at a time. Bouncing around different POVs in the same storyline doesn’t matter as much.
But when I’m writing any given scene, even though I try to write the scene from beginning to end, I do jump around within the scene. I’ll write bits of sentences that I like the sound/feel of, but it won’t quite fit in with the natural flow of the prose that has gone before, so I’ll stick all of these orphaned phrases at the bottom of the document while I do my best to forge on, until I find the right place in the flow to slot them in.
Whatever doesn’t make it into the scene gets moved into the prose graveyard. RIP. If you’re curious, I ended up with 17,179 words in the prose graveyard by the time I was finished with major revisions on Petition, and an entire deleted prologue that was 5,856 words long.
Alpha and beta feedback and revisions
This is the most important stage of revisions for me. I don’t currently use a developmental editor for two reasons: first, because it wouldn’t be commercially viable at the moment; and secondly, because I’m fairly confident in my ability to spot structural issues in narratives, based on my writing experience.
Even so, I do not publish anything until it has gone through both alpha and beta readers. I rely on them heavily to gauge whether or not scenes are landing emotionally the way I intend them to, whether I have alignment between my promises and my pay-offs, the pacing of how my plot/characters progress, and whether things make sense from a continuity and world-building perspective.
My rule of thumb for whether or not I act on alpha/beta reader feedback goes something like this:
Only 1 reader pointed it out = I’ll action it if I agree with it
2-3 readers remark on the same thing (could be agreement or disagreement) = I need to investigate the issue and give it serious thought. 7 or 8 times out of 10 though, the feedback is either correct or points to a deeper issue and I’ll address it
More than 3 readers have an issue = this is a critical flaw I need to fix
Early readers were divided on the first scene. Some found Rahelu’s introspection slow; some enjoyed the change in pace and the description of the scenery; some had a problem with Rahelu’s run-in with her mother, citing their dislike of using miscommunication as a source of that conflict/tension.
Feedback on the second scene, however, was unanimous: the best chapter so far. Everybody liked the dynamic between Keshwar and Tsenjhe, and their interactions with Rahelu. Phew! No changes needed here.
The issue with pacing in the first scene was minor, and something that I knew could be addressed during line edits, which I’ll discuss below. The bigger issue to consider at this stage was whether or not I wanted to keep the nature of the conflict between Rahelu and her mother.
The Tiger/Asian Mom is a well-known and well-caricatured stereotype these days, to the point where it’s often just used for cheap humor. But that stereotype is rooted in truth, and that painful truth is, miscommunication and misunderstanding is a huge part of many immigrant parent/child relationships in my experience.
It is one of those things that sounds incredible silly to a third party observer when summarized, but when you live that experience, it is the kind of thing that tears you up from the inside and breaks you down, no matter how old you are.
For better or for worse, this kind of family dynamic is representative of the immigrant story I was trying to tell, so I felt it was important that Rahelu’s relationship with her mother reflected this consistently. Thus, I decided to leave the first scene as written.
When I write new prose, I do everything I can to focus on getting the plot and character arc down on the page right, and to avoid getting caught up on stuff that I know I’m going to fix later.
That means putting an ‘XXX’ placeholder in whenever any of the following things happen:
I can’t think of the right word or phrase I want to use in that specific part of the prose: this could be for the way it sounds, what it means, an how the word or phrase visually looks on the page, or even just that rhythmically an additional word or phrase that I can’t think of would be more pleasing to the ear, etc.
I haven’t named a character or location or an in-world term. There were a lot of ‘XXX’s at one point for all the swearing, when I was debating if I should use invented fantasy swears. Believe it or not, Keshwar was the reason that I decided to go with real world curse words—mainly because one of his lines in the next chapter just doesn’t sound right without them.
I need to quantify something (amount of time, timeline, distance, number of objects/people, money) and I haven’t decided exactly how many is feasible or reasonable in the scenario. Yes, I have a spreadsheet that calculates the loan amortization schedules for Rahelu’s family’s fishing sloop and her Guild debt, as well as list of every good or service that appears on the page and is paid for by a character, and a weekly budget listing income and expenses for Rahelu’s family.
I need a technical detail that I haven’t researched. If you’re curious, a lot of this had to do with fishing and the commercial sale of live seafood when refrigeration isn’t commonly available.
I need a sensory detail that isn’t plot critical. Honestly, a lot of this is clothes and food.
I need a specific resonance detail. Since colors and textures have significance here, I need to make sure I’m using them in a consistent way. This is my version of Sanderson’s revision pass to add spren into the Stormlight Archive books.
I’ve tried writing without placeholders before and it utterly destroys my efficiency. Here’s an accurate summary from Ursula Vernon:
All told, there were 1,443 ‘XXX’ placeholders that needed to be eliminated for Petition:
It took me a month to get rid of them all.
Here are all the different kinds of line level edits I do, to make the prose as polished as I can:
Continuity: these mainly related to the way the sequence with Xyuth in the Tattered Quill unfolded after structural revisions, as well as eliminating references to a recent interaction with Onneja. That was a scene that originally took place in between Rahelu and her mother arriving at the market and Rahelu lining up to hand in her Petition at the Guild. We’ll talk more about it when we get to Chapter 13.
Character details: Rahelu’s habitual resonance ward is something that comes up throughout the book that is thematically important to her and how the book ends. I’d made sure to mention it a few times throughout but I still did have some beta readers who were a little confused by it at the end, so I took the opportunity to reinforce it here.
Emotional distance: I have a natural tendency to write in a distant third personal limited perspective. I suspect it’s because I focus so much on pinning down specific, observable things when I draft scenes. When I’m across the viewpoint character’s frame of mind and in a flow state, it’s easier for me to write prose that’s more emotive/evocative, but this is rare. Generally, I have to work hard to reduce the distance in my perspectives.
Flow: this has to do with the narrative arc of the prose and the rhythm of how it reads:
I try to nest arcs within arcs within arcs, so that each word forms an arc in a sentence, sentences form an arc in a paragraph, paragraphs form an arc in a scene, and scenes form an arc in the chapter, and the chapters form an arc in the book.
Often, this involves me doing things like: moving sentences around until I’m happy with the order in which ideas are presented; sitting there changing my mind ten times about where I want to put line breaks; debating whether I want to have a long, half-page sentence with twenty clauses in it or whether it should be split up and if I split it up, how I want to punctuate it.
Sometimes, this involves me making a slight change at the end of the chapter by adding a hook. I have a natural tendency to end chapters right at the point of emotional impact. This generally works in later chapters because by then you’re invested enough in the characters and the story to keep reading to the end. Not so great in the early chapters because it doesn’t compel a page turn, thus allowing a clean exit point to stop reading.
Pacing: I tend to overwrite narration and description on my first drafts, since I need it to get into the viewpoint character’s head and to envision the space they are in. Most of the time when a scene drags, I can fix it by cutting back on the narration.
Word choice and phrasing: this is where I try to make a character’s voice more distinct. Examples include: deleting (excessive) filler words, replacing adverbs and adjectives with stronger verbs and more specific nouns, eliminating anachronistic or overused words or phrases, eliminating the repetitious use of words and phrases in close proximity, etc.
Extensive line edits tend to involve me addressing comments that past me left on the manuscript while I was writing the first draft. (Those mostly consist of things like: “this line sucks”, “UGH this is SUPER LAME”, “maybe this? or that? IDK”, and “fix this later”.) Sometimes, my alpha and beta readers will have left line level comments as well—this doesn’t happen often, because it’s not their focus, but they will mark things up if it sticks out to them. If so, this is when I look at those comments.
The rest of the line edits I tend to do in conjunction with copyedits—see below.
Once line edits are done, I export my manuscript from Google Docs and put it into Vellum for typesetting and book formatting. By this stage, any further changes that need to be made generally involves punctuation and are not extensive.
(There is an argument to be made that I should keep my manuscript in Google Docs until the very last moment. But doing that means a big time crunch when it comes to getting cover art finalized and the book uploaded for publication, which is why I stop working in Google Docs after line edits.)
Next, I do a complete read through of the manuscript and scope my line edits. This involves logging every single thing that bugs me at the sentence level in a spreadsheet, including anything that I’m unsure of:
This is the hardest part of the revision process for me. I can’t afford a copyeditor yet, so I am reliant on tools like Hemingway and Grammarly. I don’t always take all of the suggestions, but I do investigate all of the issues that are flagged.
A lot of the changes at this stage have to do with hyphens, commas, and US English. I made a conscious decision to write in US English even though I am Australian, simply because the majority of my readers are based in the US, and those who aren’t are used to reading in all forms of English.
Still, I had to draw the line on some things. Example: I don’t care if “leaped” is common than “leapt” in American English; I prefer the sound of “leapt” and it’s not wrong, so I’m keeping it.
This is the most tedious and agonizing stage. It involves me sitting with the printer files and reading the entire book backwards.
As in, I start on the last word of the last page and read the whole thing backwards, word by word. It does my head in like nothing else.
But it absolutely works, because I pick up errors that have been there since the first draft and have gone unnoticed the whole time because everybody was autocorrecting it as they read it.
(Apparently two other effective tricks are to read it aloud and change the font to Comic Sans. I may try that for Book 2, since there was still an error that slipped through despite my best efforts. And if you spot something that might be an error, you can report it here.)
Once proofreading is done, I upload the print-ready PDF files and the EPUB files. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days for me to get a proof file.
Checking the proof file is usually a quick process of doing a page flip to make sure nothing is weirdly formatted or cut-off.
If I see any errors, I correct them in Vellum, re-upload then recheck the proofs.
Once I’m happy with the proofs, I approve the files for publication.
If there was one chapter that summed up my experience of writing Petition, it was this chapter, which has the dubious honor of being the most revised chapter in the entire book.
For the most part, I write very clean first drafts. That doesn’t mean they don’t require editing—they do!—but I generally have a good feel for whether or not something is ‘working’ after I write it. Thankfully, this is most of my scenes, most of the time, but every now and then, I will be stuck with a scene that I know sucks and that I have no idea how to fix.
Such was the case with Xyuth and the Tattered Quill.
The extent of my planning for the entire chapter was “Rahelu tries to salvage her Petition by sticking the torn pieces together” and since we’re in fantasy-land, the logical place for her to go was to a scrivener.
It is perfectly readable and narratively, it hits the same beats: Rahelu tries to convince Xyuth to help her; he refuses; she won’t take ‘no’ for an answer; he acquiesces; she leaves with writing supplies and a weird rock.
Yet it doesn’t quite work. It’s an odd, not entirely convincing interaction where the characters’ respective motivations aren’t clear—with two pages of egregious Magical Macguffin discussion in the mix to boot, which my beta readers absolutely hated.
I sympathized—I hated it too.
So why did I write two pages about a stupid magic rock in the first place?
Real answer: I got stuck while discovery writing the scene. Rahelu had no money and needed writing supplies; Xyuth is unsettled by her (for reasons that aren’t clear from the scene) but unwilling to help her. I needed something, anything, to break the stalemate so I just started having Xyuth throw out random things that he might plausibly have in his shop to get rid of Rahelu, and a mysterious rock turned out to be the most convenient thing that worked.
What does it do?
Well, that would be telling, because at the time that I wrote it into the story, I had absolutely no idea. I parked it to one side and kept writing the rest of the book.
(Of course, I’ve now worked out what it does…and you should find out in Book 2.)
It wasn’t until after I’d finished the whole draft—and was able to look back at the entire shape of the book—that I got a few inklings of possible directions for revisions.
The biggest structural issue with my first draft was that the two halves of the book felt like two different stories, hence the new prologue. By the time we’re at the Tattered Quill, we’re almost 8,000 words into the story—long enough that the details of the prologue have begun to fade. I needed something else to shake the narrative out of what otherwise feels like the ordinary (even if it’s a once-a-year, big deal kind of ordinary for Rahelu).
Having Xyuth engaged in dodgy dealings in his backroom with a strange mage solved a few of these problems, at the cost of clarity:
I’m pretty certain that most first-time readers will be super confused about what is going on with the Augury, though hopefully by this point in the book, I’ve delivered enough pay-offs that they’ll trust me to deliver on this one too and decide to keep reading.
I’m also reasonably certain that there aren’t enough context clues for a reader to figure out who the unknown mage is on a first read-through. I hope, though, that anybody doing a re-read will be able to guess at their identity.
The final, interesting thing I can share is that I didn’t intend Augury to play such a big part in this book.
One of the things I’ve learned from reading Brandon Sanderson is that it’s nice to keep the early books focused on exploring the core bits of the magic system and utilizing the basics in creative ways, so you can save some bigger reveals for later books. (This is done particularly well in the Mistborn books.)
I do worry that I might have introduced too much Augury, too early. It is important for future books so showing how it works in principle here is probably necessary.
I’ll just have to come up with some really cool stuff in later books! (No pressure…)