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LOST IN TIME 2: A crowded Gutters


You can download the episode here:

Many Meetings

When Wolf, Owen and Shiva met for the first time, I was so excited to have them finally interact. After many drafts their “convergence” almost feels rushed now, but it was always my intention to have them meet by chance, to reflect how many important relationships in life start by complete coincidence.

However, I was so eager to put them in scenes with each other I wrote an entire chapter of their journey from BraeFowl territory to the Resistance hall. Unfortunately, as my sister so eloquently put: “this is boring”.

If the plot isn’t being advanced the reader isn’t going to care, you can’t assume they are as invested as you, you need to give them something to latch onto. So thousands of words of wandering the wasteland ended up in the recycling bin, while I weaved the essential missing parts into the conversation at the Resistance hall.

Three's company, four's a crowd

After this meeting, things spiralled out of control in an altogether different way. A pet peeve of mine is stories set inside busy environments such as an office or police station, but only a couple of people are ever referred to by name, usually the friend of the main character and occasionally the boss, when in reality the principle characters would know and interact with everyone there. So my first draft was littered with randomly named characters.

This became especially bad with the Resistance. I quickly learned why this story telling trope exists: by naming a character you are telling the audience they are important, and if you keep doing this your reader is going to get confused and mix up who is who.

Ghost characters

Ghost was somebody I had very strong ideas about but because of this overabundance of random characters I struggled to fit her into the story. In fact, she originally didn’t appear until Chapter 4, where she just sort of arrives to help Tamara babysit Owen. This dull introduction made her completely indistinct from any of the other Resistance characters, so when I asked my sister what she thought of Ghost, she replied “who?”

To fix this I placed her where she belonged: in the heart of the action, and I did this without adding a single word. Instead, like the savage she is, she stole the stories of many one-off characters: the widow of Idris, the person who confronts Shiva before the young Ford boy is executed, the leader in charge of Wolf during Emerald’s kidnapping, ect.

I treated other characters in a similar fashion: Tamara, Keith, Roach, Cindy, Polymer and even Harlin all soaked up characterisations and tiny moments from different story spectres to cut the cast of the Resistance by half, and in turn the survivors became more rounded and memorable characters.

Avoiding the trap

To then avoid succumbing to the trap I originally wanted to avoid, I created loopholes like making Wolf, who doesn’t know anybody, the main viewpoint for the kidnapping. Then I emphasised that Shiva is focussed on Cindy, her closest friend, and Polymer, her greatest source of worry, rather than the other individuals accompanying her at the silver crown. As a fun little easter egg, if you read episode 3, the 8th PoV chapter actually features the names of these cut Resistance characters.

This was a fundamental turning point for me as I was forced to actually change my style of writing and learn to convey scale through implication rather than complication. It is a lesson I'm still working on. For anyone who has finished a first draft of their own novel, I highly recommend looking out for characters you can combine together, as the more words you dedicate to an individual the more likely they are to be memorable to your reader.


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