Thursday, December 6, 2012

Breaking Free From Fate

       “This,” said Kalkan’s companion, “is called a damos. Only a few remain from the time of their fashioning in ancient Imaskar. It produces a poison of uncommon virulence. Which is just a side effect. The residue that collects within the disk’s cavity is the condensation of the future, distilled by the mind of an entity or principle even I don’t fully comprehend. To taste of it is to see hours or days forward. To drink it is to hear the far future described to you by the Voice of Tomorrow—but taking that much is lethal poison to mortal and god alike. Nothing can survive it.” 
       Kalkan tapped the disk. It opened like a dilating eye, revealing a cavity filled with oily fluid. He dipped a claw into the reservoir, barely wetting it, then licked off the clinging beads. It tasted like blood.  

The two paragraphs above are taken from the prolog of my novel Sword of the Gods. As an exercise suggested by John Ward, I'd like to analyze the selection so you can see inside my head and learn why I wrote what I wrote.

The selection obviously helps establish a character named Kalkan. However, these paragraphs don't so much introduce Kalkan as they present a theme (and story thread) that will echo through the rest the novel.

But before I describe that theme, I want to point out the main reason I wrote what I did was because . . . well, because it sounded cool and badass to me. I wanted to write something that would engage both myself and the reader with the idea of a relic from a lost civilization with the power to foretell the future—but only if the soothsayer pays for that knowledge with his or her life.

Next, I wanted to show that Kalkan has the capacity to either sacrifice his life to hear the Voice of Tomorrow's message, or the capacity to overcome the certain death that Kalkan's companion said would kill mortal and God alike. Either way, it establishes Kalkan as someone special.

All right then. Back to the theme I promised: Death, Rebirth, and Cutting Fate's Threads

By happy coincidence, this same scene introducing Kalkan sets up the suggestion that surviving death in some way may become important. By happy coincidence, I mean that I included the future-seeing relic damos (which actually first appeared in another of my novels) on a bit of a whim. However, its function, as accurately described by Kalkan's companion, perfectly sets the stage for the the cycle of death and rebirth that is important to the wider story arc.

Kalkan and another character named Demascus are both caught up by fate to one extent or another. Escaping their fate, or trying to, is something that drives Demascus, while Kalkan is determined to see that the future is as foretold. The story revolves around Demascus discovering that in a series of past lives, he's served as fate's hit man. The question eventually becomes whether he'll continue in that role, or try to escape it, even as Kalkan's foreknowledge threatens an even more terrible, and undeniable destiny for Demascus.

As a final point, I'll note that the simplest analysis is this: if you're going to introduce a relic (or alien mechanism, or gun, or something else you spend any significant text on) at the beginning of the story, that item should be critical later in the story.

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