Last weekend Alyc and I wound up talking about how — despite the fact that our main characters all have traumatic pasts, will be more traumatized by the events of the story, and live in a city where horrible things happen on a routine basis — this story is anti-grimdark.
I don’t just mean that it doesn’t belong to that subgenre. I mean that its arc goes in exactly the opposite direction. I think of grimdark as being “things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Characters surrender their ideals; those who don’t often die for clinging to them. They lose what is most precious to them. Many of them don’t survive events, and those that do come out scarred, their victories pyrrhic at best. Pragmatism rules the day.
This is the opposite of that. Our characters start off not trusting anybody except themselves and maybe one or two other chosen people; by the end they will have learned to build alliances and be stronger together. Half of them can’t sneeze without telling a lie; they will slowly let go of their deceptions and allow the world to see their true faces. They’re used to putting their own survival above everything else, but over time they will find things they’re willing to risk their lives for.
It isn’t quite the same thing as a redemption story. We agreed that our characters aren’t trying to atone for the harm they’ve done, making restitution and earning forgiveness. They’re just going to become better, happier people: more open, more relaxed, more trusting and more trustworthy. Their trauma, both backstory and in-story, will heal enough for them to not think about it every day.
The path there won’t be all unicorns and sunshine, but the place it winds up will be bright.
Word count: ~41000
Authorial sadism: You would think that “this beloved person is not actually dead” would be be a wonderful thing. But when the near-death was your fault, apologizing for that gets awkward. (Bonus sadism, Tables Turned Edition: Alyc and I are now far enough into the story that we’re having trouble keeping track of all the layers of deception and misdirection. Somewhere our characters are saying, “You brought this on yourselves.”)
LBR quotient: Love, hands down. Because in the end, “this beloved person is not actually dead” is a wonderful thing, even if apologizing is awkward.
PROGRESS-BLOGGING, RETRO VERSION
At the request of Alyc and others, here is what I probably would have posted for the first two chapters if I’d been progress-blogging then. 🙂
Word count: ~8000
Authorial sadism: Making our protagonist drink coffee. And pretend to like it.
LBR quotient: Wall-to-wall rhetoric, more or less; it’s all politics and manipulation up in here.
Word count: ~17000
Authorial sadism: Coming up with what A Certain Jerk did to earn himself some vigilante attention in the following chapter. Also, making one character the very unwilling audience to two others flirting.
LBR quotient: Rhetoric and blood, as the manipulation starts to get weaponized. Nothing like publicly embarrassing your mark into doing what you need them to do . . .