An interesting theme that appeared out of nowhere in War of Nytefall: Lost is the concept of promises and keeping them. While I wrote the first draft, I began to notice how often characters declared that they were promised something. Part of this stemmed from me not having a clear idea of what certain heroes and villains wanted. Those came about as I progressed and it seemed to always come down to a favor/promise being aggressively called in.
Since these promises became so integral to the central plot, I can’t go into specifics. There was a trick with these and that was having some of the characters who weren’t holding their side of the deals not be malicious. It was more that they either forgot or didn’t realize they made the promise in the first place. On the other side of the scenarios were those who refused to bend on what they wanted even if it was against the wishes of the person they made a deal with. This turned everything into a chaotic mess, which fed the overall tone of the book. I didn’t want things to be totally off the wall, but I required things to fall into a mess before it resolved. Broken promises ended up being a great source of conflict and confusion.
Many questions came about because of this focus:
- Is there ever a good reason to break a promise?
- What about people who make promises just to make people happy?
- Do you keep to a promise if it turns dark?
- What if two people make two conflicting promises about their future?
I’d love to say I figured out some answers to these questions, but I came to realize that it differs from person to person. Not only the characters, but the author. In some situations, I see a promise as worth breaking because it could hurt people. Others might see it as needing to be fulfilled since it isn’t a sure thing that it will result in damage. Part of this stems from knowing the full extent of the promise too. Some change throughout the story because one side wants to alter the parameters, which comes off as unfair and manipulative. There’s one promise that simply falls apart because those involved have gradually gone in different directions. It would be unfair to someone if they had to sacrifice to go through with the promise.
What do you think about promises between characters? Do you think they should always be upheld?