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!
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.