I’ve talked about the difficulties of writing a prequel, where I have a few specific facts and events but otherwise no idea how the story is meant to unfold. But writing this story has been (still is, I’ve got some major sections still to go) a journey of discovery.
First, there is the act of fleshing out the main story itself. Delving behind the big sweeping events and making them personal. Getting down to the individual stories. This has, naturally, been the main focus of my efforts, because the glib statements of “X happens, and that led to Y” need to make sense at the micro level of individuals and their motivations and goals, actions and reactions.
This is the normal act of storytelling, except (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) I’m generally bad at following a high-level outline. My stories have always – without exception so far – drifted miles away from where I first envisaged them going. But I can’t afford to do that this time, the outline is fixed, and so far I’ve managed to stay on course. And it’s been (mostly) fun filling in that almost blank canvas.
But added in to that process, I’ve found delight in taking opportunities for foreshadowing. In Wrath of Empire we meet people who show up in the later books, and it’s fun to show a bit more of their background.
Finally, there is the joy of things unexpectedly falling into place, seemingly by accident.
Shayla’s nemesis in Ghosts is the rather brutal commander in chief of Imperial Security. There, Chalwen is obese and unfit, and that’s simply presented as a matter of fact. When we see her, years earlier, in Wrath of Empire, she’s a bodyguard, extremely fit and active. I knew I had a contradiction to reconcile but I didn’t fret too much about how to explain this. I figured it was something that happened in the years in between. Then out of the blue, story events naturally led to the answer and we see the start of Chalwen’s physical decline. I hadn’t set out specifically to solve this problem, the solution simply materialized.