As I’ve mentioned, War of Nytefall: Savagery works differently than previous volumes. It has more of a quest feel to the story, which isn’t something that plays to Clyde’s strengths. If he can’t hunt it down and fight it then he comes off as a little lost and confused. Then again, that’s kind of the point here. Probably helps that I felt the same way while writing this book.
With Clyde needing to become stronger for the first time in years, he has to battle some alien emotions. The idea that he’s weaker than someone and that he has to be cautious or afraid throws him off. It leads more to impatience and frustration at his own failings instead of despair. That does push him forward, but not in as smooth a way as my other characters. Sometimes it felt like I was dragging a filthy dog to a bath and it was battling me every step of the way. Clyde desperately wanted to battle his way to the end, but that wouldn’t be much of a story. Mestra doesn’t work that way either since it’s supposed to design itself around strengthening its visitors. So, how do you make a Dawn Fang like Clyde stronger?
Well, that’s a tough one to answer without giving the whole thing away. It revolves around an internal issue that has appeared due to this past and overall personality. This isn’t told to him outright either, so there’s a lot of guessing and wrong moves. In fact, a big part of this book is to show that Clyde isn’t infallible. He’s stumbled a bunch in previous adventures, but not to the extent that he’s going to here. Hopefully, this brings out a more human side of him that people tend to ignore. They see the fangs and terrifying strength, so they forget that he has feelings. This means that this story is going to be a personal turning point for him.
I think when trying for an internal lesson to be taught instead of a physical one, you run into a lot of doubt. It’s difficult to know how well it comes across. Did I have Clyde put up too much resistance? Did I make the lesson clear to the audience? Does he even use this knowledge once he’s out of the training? Unlike a new skill, learning something about yourself isn’t something that you can easily demonstrate. Not without it feeling unnatural like openly declaring this difference. It requires a change of personality, but not too big that you lose the character. The only people who can say you truly got it right are those who read the entire book. That makes it a very shallow opinion pool at the start, especially before you publish. Doubts and worry won’t go away that easily from this path either since you can’t entirely trust your own instincts. At least, I don’t think you can 100% because you know what you’re aiming for. If it’s a little off the mark, who would notice?
One trick that I added to this training is giving him a partner. This gives me a mouthpiece to criticize his decisions and suggest possibilities. Of course, you have to read the book to see who gets to join him in Mestra. This character helped me out a lot even though they were in an awkward position. Being the companion, I couldn’t let them do much, if any, of the heavy lifting. Clyde needs to face the challenges and put in the work to learn his lesson since it definitely isn’t to let others fight his battles. So, I guess I switched out one complication for another since I had to let this person run up to the line and then stop before taking over. They could only go further if it made sense for Clyde to ask for them to do so. This isn’t so much obedient, but closer to being backup that you have to politely summon.
Overall, I did have fun writing this since it was new and posed some challenges for myself and Clyde. Has anybody else written a story where an internal lesson had to be learned? How did you do it and did it succeed?