Every now and then I write something and I really don’t know why I included a particular detail. Sometimes it’s that I think it was interesting or a cool little detail. Sometimes…well, that’s just how it came out. I had a few of these that my beta readers flagged as a “why?” in Forsaken By Shadow. Some of them I thought through, some of them I just left as they were. It’s not always a bad thing to leave some questions in your readers’ minds–particularly if you’re writing a series. Questions unanswered mean, hopefully, readers will pick up your next story to see if you come back to it there. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes a detail or a character who seems wholly insignificant in one place turns out to be key to everything in another.
I had a couple of these pop up from Forsaken By Shadow. The first was a character. Orrin is a galvanic fae that shows up during the final battle in FBS. He’s one of a couple dozen Mirus in the scene, someone who has slightly more than a bit part because of his role in the outcome (keeping mum on that…you’ll have to read it to find out!). But I never planned to use him again. Then it turned out that HE’S actually the hero of Revelation, not the assassin-turned-enforcer that I’d originally envisioned.
There was another detail from that final battle–something a couple of my betas asked about that I didn’t address. At the time I figured, well that’s just the way that works in this world, why should I explain it? Except it turns out that it’s actually NOT how this particular thing works in this world (gee, can I be more vague?). And it’s that difference, that wrongness that, in conjunction with information that Dahlia uncovers in the archives, that is going to turn the belief system of the entire Mirus world on its ear and set the rest of the metaplot that overarches the entire series into motion.
One little, insignificant detail.
I didn’t have this grand stuff in mind. Not consciously anyway. But when things come together like this, it’s proof that the brain keeps working on things, even when you’re not consciously thinking about it. There’s a whole world of half remembered dreams and wisps of thought that lay outside our active, conscious efforts to create a story. And so often it’s the stuff of those dreams and wisps that provides the crucial and the fascinating in fiction. Sometimes I wonder if it’s this that pantsers so love–this sudden flowering of the subconscious. Maybe they feel they have better access through pantsing than plotting. Or maybe because it tends to happen during the writing, it feels somehow BIGGER than when it’s still in outline form.
Given that a lot of what I’ve thought up has meant a pretty significant change in a LOT of what I had planned, I’m glad it’s still in outline form and that I’m not chunking 30k or more. I’ve done it before, but it hurts. Either way I think it’s really cool when the brain suddenly produces the right answer to a puzzling plot problem.