Here we are: Back not by popular demand but because nobody has tried to stop me, the Gallery of What Could Have Been.
Same rules as the first time: It’s a list of things about the characters, plot and people that I changed this season so you can all get an idea of some interesting other possibilities that the story might have had.
So here we go: No particular number, and in no particular order:
1 – Vanda and Wilom’s Interactions. I had. So much. Trouble with these two. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both and they’re amazing to write. But for a long time in my writing career, I’ve had trouble getting characters to get into conflict with each other. And Vanda and Wilom do need some conflict in this story – partially to keep up tension, and partially to avoid Wilom coming across as too passive, and to make sure Vanda actually has a whole character arc. They are also very different characters, and it didn’t feel natural and organic for them to be agreeing all the time (no matter how good friends they are), and I had to add in some hints of frustration here and there to make the whole thing feel more natural and realistic.
2 – Cathlin. Hoo boy, Cathlin. She wasn’t much of a point of conflict in the original, either, but it felt really awkward to have her just sort of invite Wilom in. I’d originally meant that to feel strange, because it’s early foreshadowing for the Ferryman’s Knowledge – the idea was that it shouldn’t have happened, but Wilom has this weird aura about him that made it happen. But of course, the Ferryman’s Knowledge gets introduced far too late in the story – I’d lost the beta readers on Cathlin before I got around to explaining what was going on, so I ended up scrapping that and going with the slight feeling of obligation from the bandits. I hope it still feels a little unnatural – just enough so that later, when the Ferryman’s Knowledge is revealed, it reads differently the second time around.
But this meant changing Cathlin’s character also. She’s always been a tough character – she’s a business-owner single mum, so she was always going to be a bit of a force of personality. But it wasn’t until later drafts that she was anti-refugee. This happened for a few reasons: First, I needed Wilom to have a little more at stake, and the idea of losing his legitimacy in the town needed to be a bit more real. Sure, Vanda could always help him out, but with Cathlin a bit more hard-line, it makes it feel less like a setback and more like an active rejection of Wilom, which is a different beast altogether.
It also puts a face on the ‘average townsperson’ – there are so many characters in this story who outright reject the propaganda that I needed a balancing force: someone, or a few someones, who believed it. Cathlin isn’t 100% behind things, but she offers a different perspective, so that the story doesn’t come across as entirely one-sided. I feel like the story really needed that, otherwise it’d come across as a very simplistic take on a very complex topic.
3 – Peggy. Peggy got upgraded like whoa in this plot – she also got very condensed. Originally, she was a one-off character – she showed up, she got placed, nothing else happened. During one of the edits, I realised I needed more plot in the middle to carry some weight, because there wasn’t really anything happening between Wilom leaving the river and the Big Endgame. It was all setup and preparation. So she became a bit more important – that was when she became more of an agitator. But when I changed the story to a serial, I suddenly needed a whole lot more plot. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but when I changed to a serial, the story suddenly went from nearly 100,000 words to over 180,000. That’s almost an entire novel’s worth of extra content that I had to find. So Peggy got a bigger role, sort of became a foil for Vanda and Wilom, and eventually became a driving force of the second season.
4 – Wilom’s Past. Originally Wilom just sort of moved on and forgot. But I felt like that was kind of doing a disservice. In the first season, I added in a lot of regret for Wilom that he’d sort of let things slip with friends and family, so I wanted to carry that to the second season and really close off that section of his life – make it feel like he really had to move on because there was no way to go back. And that’s how the Gloves scene was born.
5 – The number of people they place. Originally, there were a lot more people, but I ended up cutting them way down. The story really moved away from that narrative of finding places for people, what with adding the conflict with Peggy and changing up the structure so dramatically, so it was just feeling like a whirlwind of names who didn’t mean anything. I cut them down to a few key players.
And that’s about it. Honestly I shuffled around a lot more than I changed this section, and a lot of things I can’t talk about because they’re going to end up being spoilers for the next season. Hope that was enlightening, or at least interesting.