Back in December I took part in a fun Twitter game which required posting a graphic saying “1 Like = 1 WIP Fact”, and as you can guess, as the likes for the tweet appeared, its author was supposed to post facts about their work-in-progress. I had fun, and got 13 likes, a result I was quite happy with: it gave me enough space to shares some interesting bits of my fantasy novel “By the Pact”, but at the same time it didn’t require me to reveal any plot twists or character secrets.
And today, looking back at it, I thought it would be nice to consolidate all those facts into one post. Since I’m not limited by one tweet anymore, I also elaborated a bit on them. I hope you’ll enjoy.
1) By the Pact was supposed to be a dark & grim fantasy but when I started it it quickly turned out a cheerful adventure-like mood feels more suitable. Mostly because of the main characters who—instead of being brooding and ragged—enjoyed making sarcastic remarks and making light of many situations.
2) The two main characters, Kamira and Veelk, are best friends, but they’re never romantically involved with one another. I didn’t want any kind of slow-boiling romance, because it just didn’t fit the characters. Especially with Veelk being caring, but not really a romantic person: his idea of a pleasant evening is a visit in a brothel. Kamira, on the other hand, is somewhat married to her magic: she doesn’t despise men, but they’re definitely not a priority on her list.
3) I wanted a confident female main character but not in that annoying “I can do it ALL by myself” kind of way that to me doesn’t really come across as confidence. Kamira’s not afraid to ask for help, and even though she wields powerful magic, she also has no problem in delegating Veelk to all the physical work. As she says when Veelk teases her about her lack of martial prowess, “I don’t need to exercise, I have you.”
4) I wanted some duality in my magic system, but didn’t want to go the typical light/dark magic route. So in my setting, people can use magic either by making a pact with a demon or taking it from the demon world which was considered more difficult and less effective way until certain events four centuries ago.
5) What I love about the book is the intrigue: multiple factions have different goals, and within them their members often want something else and plot against one another. Coming up with all the schemes was definitely fun, and offered a lot of plot solutions, tying all the stories and characters together. I have quite a cast in the novel (and many of them have scenes from their point of view to show various aspects of the intrigue), but it would be hard to remove any of them without having to rebuild the whole novel.
6) Demons are not Christianity-like demons. They’re beings from another world and they call themselves “yalari” (a word that serves both as singular and plural). The word “demon” is a derogatory expression used by humans, though due to yalari’s machinations, some people worship them as gods unaware of the creatures’ real nature.
7) Arcanists are the ones who have pacts with demons. The first time arcanists invited a powerful demon to the human world something went wrong, and it ended with a cataclysm destroying half the continent. The events of the past are shrouded in mystery (all the witnesses died that day), but high mages claim the summoned demon was trying to destroy the world, and they stopped him.
8) I did a lot of worldbuilding for the story, though most of it won’t be visible in the book as it’s irrelevant to current events and the plot. Some of the things, though, become more important in book 2, so they’ll get a mention.
9) I love writing the scenes with demons. They’re not inherently evil, but they plot a lot and aren’t beyond betrayal for personal gain. At the surface, their personalities don’t differ much, but at a closer look the differences pop out: some are more cunning, some are more bloodthirsty, others suffer from inferiority complexes or pride.
10) Veelk is a skilled tribal warrior, but I didn’t want him to be the silent-and-strong Conan-type guy, so he’s very vocal about things and loves teasing Kamira. The exchanges between them were fun to write and often came naturally. I sincerely hope the readers will enjoy reading them as much as I did when I wrote them.
11) There’s no real “evil antagonist” in the story. Most characters believe that what they’re doing is “good” for other people or the world. Kamira herself could be considered “evil” and an antagonist as—forced by circumstances (or bad luck, if you prefer)—she’s working on releasing a powerful demon from his prison. She’s also against the high mages who in general are perceived as the “good ones”.
12) The first draft was about 135k words. 4 revisions later, it’s below 120k, but I could easy add 20k words more of the lore relevant to the story. At some point, I considered adding 70k words more, adding details to the plots and descriptions, and splitting the book in half, though I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the story’s structure I had. In terms of tension and climax/resolution it would work, but at the same time I felt book one wouldn’t reveal enough of the main plot and intrigue, so I decided against it.
13) High magic is considered “better” than arcane because it doesn’t require a pact with a demon. But arcanist say high mages are stealing magic from the demon world, and therefore it’s a morally dubious practice.
And, as a secret bonus, one fact that wasn’t mentioned on Twitter:
The first version of the book had a semi-conclusive ending, with somewhat of a resolution of the main plot, though it was also hinting at all the plots to be continued in the book 2 that is a direct continuation of book 1 (rather than “a self-contained novel with some over-arcing plots”). But one of my beta-readers pointed out the “ending” didn’t really work, especially in the light of book two, and suggested removing the last three chapters (or rather, moving them to book 2, since these events will still happen): which means now “By the Pact” is ending with a very nasty cliffhanger. As much as I don’t like the idea of being mean to my future readers, I have to admit, it works very well. And, after all, book 2 is already planned, so writing it shouldn’t take too long.
So, this is it. I hope you enjoyed reading facts about “By the Pact”: at this stage, it’s hardly a WIP, with the final language/grammar touches to the manuscript. But it also means I should be starting book 2 soon!
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I can hardly wait to read it all! Hell, I’d buy a hardback copy too!
You deserve a signed copy for being my beta-reader. 😉
I really enjoyed reading the above – what a good idea! The world and characters sound really intriguing – certainly right up my street, though that’s not really a huge surprise given what I already know about you. The demons/yalari in particular have caught my attention – this species have their own codes of behaviour that fall outside the understanding of humans, it seems to me. I am certainly attracted by the humour, which I always appreciate as it often leaks out in times of huge stress and drama. I look forward to reading it!
Thank you, Sarah. Feel free to share some facts about one of your WIPs on your blog: I’d be curious to read about what you’re working on.
And I’m glad you feel intrigued, because I feel (even though it’s bold of me to think so) that you indeed might enjoy that novel. I liked writing yalari, because in a way they’re both similar and different from humans. They have similar emotions (as Veranesh admits, they suffer from the same pride humans do), but the way they think and process events, is different: more calculating and often cruel.
Oh, I’m definitely looking forward to reading your writing in due course – you like too many of my kind of books so I’m guessing you will also write the kind of stuff I’ll enjoy. And I already know you are a strong, able writer…
Thank you for your kind words, Sarah. I hope I won’t disappoint.
Oh – I know that feeling:). I’m sure it will be great!
Hey, when a cliffhanger works, it works 😀
But, but, they’re so cruel to the readers! 😉
Aww, poor readers 😀
This sounds like a really interesting story, Joanna. Especially with what you shared about the main characters, the different types of demons, and how the magic system is connected to those demons. I also liked your #11. I recently read yet another book with a stereotypical “evil antagonist”… and I realize how tired I am of that trope. It’s good when writers remember that there can be multiple antagonists in a story, and that every character can be in conflict with one another for realistic reasons.
Thank you, Sara. I love my main characters: they’re so much fun to write because of how they relate. And I like playing around with magic systems, trying to add something new to the “same old, same old” spells.
I guess whoever reads the novel, will identify the archmage Yoreus as the main antagonist, but he’s not the “pure evil” one – just a calculating, selfish man, who doesn’t seek to destroy the world or anything like that. And there are also demons to contend with him for the title ;), a refugee queen obsessed with her addiction… Even the man that could be Kamira’s love interest – if his own obsession and past didn’t make him drift away from her. 🙂