You thought I wasn’t serious? That Caves would still continue? Well you thought wrong! (Sorry to disappoint.)
433 days. A hundred parts. Over forty thousand words! It’s been one hell of an experience, and a great one at that! But now I’ve finally done it. I’ve written a novel.
…Or rather, the rough draft of one. As it stands right now, there is still too much wrong with Caves to release it as an actual book. Do I even want to do that? Still not sure. It would be cool, but then I’d also need to do a lot of editing.
Anyway, “too much wrong”. Let me go over a couple real quick. With these things changed, improved, removed or added, Caves could be even better than it already is!
Starting close to our current point in time, the ending. I have a feeling the ending (Mitchell choosing not to go back, so he can kick Warren out and become the Bastion’s new leader (and make the caves a better place)) is rather unsatisfying. Why? Throughout the entire story, Warren has only really been portrayed as a bad guy two or three times. Why suddenly make the end of the story revolve around him? Sure, Mitchell’s concerns were justified, but then why had nobody brought those up before? And what do we even know about the guy anyway?
In the rewrite, Warren will definitely need to play a slightly larger role in the story. We had only seen him roaming outside his office once, and a “just the brain” kind of villain isn’t easily portrayed, especially when most his actions are hidden from view. (Besides, the whole “let the protagonist assume command to make things better” thing feels kind of naive.)
Just like Warren’s role was heavily underdeveloped (in hindsight), there’s a lot of other, smaller plot elements that never really got their time to shine. Usually due to bad planning and/or writing on my part, sometimes even completely forgetting about them.
In the beginning of the story, when Andrea’s escorting Mitchell to Whelhaven, they are stalked by a spider-like monster. Andrea shoos it away by throwing one of her darts at its face. Let’s start with the monster. This species never made any other appearances, which I did originally plan for. The only other monsters we’ve seen were the dog-like critters and, of course, the wyverns (which could’ve done with a bit more love as well). Surely there must be more than that to the fauna of the caves? And you’d assume them to be much more common, otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense for Whelhaven to have a huge wall around it, with gates and everything.
And of course, Andrea’s darts. After that one scene, she never really got much combat-related screen-time and so her darts didn’t make any more appearances either. Kind of a shame, since it was a cool weapon type I could’ve done quite a bit with.
Did anyone catch on that Roy has (had) feelings for Mitchell? No? That’s what I thought. This unrequited love was always ment to be canon, it just never got a lot of attention in my writing. I intended on making it subtle, but failed by making it too much so. And then suddenly Mitchell and Andrea are going steady, leaving poor Roy with “just a bro” instead of some good ol’ “bromance+”.
While on the topic of the musketeers, as I’ve come to call the group of swordsmen, let’s talk Marius. Oh man, this fucking guy. He represents everything that can go wrong when I’m forced to write things on the go. He fits rather nicely into the “messed up mysterious dude” archetype, which is pretty terrible, but no catastrophe. He has a morbid sense of fun, deriving pleasure from slaughtering a bunch of critters. He may have some anger management issues, being slightly mentally unstable and all, but who isn’t? But that thing where he left Whelhaven to fight the wyverns? It was thrown in with purpose, but that was quickly lost, resulting in a piece of plot that doesn’t really go anywhere. Sure it shows there’s more to him than just brutal bloodshed, but does it add anything to the story as a whole? It just feels too random an event. (Then again, doesn’t that contribute to the world feeling alive?)
Oh, and another thing that was laid on way too subtly and never really went anywhere because of that? Mitchell’s corruption towards madness. Believe it or not, but getting blasted with the amount of gemergy his face did, it ain’t healthy. Not just physically, but dealing with such an overload takes its toll mentally as well. Here and there we can see Mitchell bursting out in anger, somehow driving himself past his usual limits. Killing the unnamed gunman was part of this. He was starting to become unable to deal with strong emotions, more frequently giving in to the (usually more primal) urges they instilled.
But it wasn’t really clear this was caused by the gemite in his wounds. The changes in behavior could easily be filed under “character development” as well. Shame.
Speaking of gemergy, Mitchell’s powers were only explored very subtly. The only things he ever really used were charging his weapons (sword, fists) with it for extra oomph, or burning shit up by getting it in contact with something else. Oh, and of course the thing where he becomes physically stronger by it. Which, in hindsight, is pretty lame.
And of course there’s the whole thing with my writing style being wildly inconsistent, especially when comparing the first and last parts. But that’s only natural. As I said, it was written over the span of 433 days.
There’s also a couple fun little things that never got (explicitly) mentioned, which may be fun to know.
Large chunks of the caves are lit by brightstones. (Lightstones? Sunstones? Don’t think I’ve been consistent.) Of course the area Whelhaven is built in is no exception, but what about day and night? It was mentioned multiple times that Whelhaven does have a day-night cycle, but an explanation on how was never given. (Or hinted at once, I think?) They actually have a mechanism in place that pulls a thick sheet over the town, to block out the light from above. Kind of like a home-made solar eclipse?
When Mitchell and the wyvern travelled to the real surface, there was a point at which gravity seemed to flip. Though kind of obscure, this is hinting at the hollow earth theory, which states that the earth is hollow instead of having a solid core. Not the most believable thing ever, but it makes for fun fantasy writing! The part where the wyvern flies in the middle of the inner and outer “floors”, and so their gravitational pulls nullify each other. (This is in no way physically correct, but suspension of disbelief?) The “surface” Mitchell had burnt his face for viewing would be the hollow core of the earth.
But let’s not forget what was hands-down my best piece of writing ever. This line, from p72:
Mitchell snapped from his dazed state and awkwardly followed suit. Once he was in his boxers, the shameless soldier visibly saluting and all, Andrea grabbed his hand. ‘Come on, dive in!’
Yeah, I think I handled that pretty damn well.
All in all though, I’m pretty satisfied with Caves as a project. I’ve managed to write a more or less coherent story, made up as I went, and actually finished it. Will I continue working on it to eventually turn it into a physical book worth getting? Maybe. Will I stop writing for now? Hell no! I’ve got a little experimental thing planned, so that ought to be interesting. And of course, short stories will probably become a thing again.
Sheesh, this is one of my longest posts yet. If only all Caves parts got this much love from me!