30 Mar 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 26 - Commentary

Brenna discovered why no one calls in the police in an urban fantasy, in The Soul Blade Chapter 26.

Why nine?  Why does Tricia need nine deaths and not thirteen or seven or a nice round ten?  I already had three on-screen deaths and implied that Tricia had been busy before.  By placing the total she needs at nine, which is three squared, I didn't need to figure out that many more murders.  Yes, that means there's one more coming, and I figured out who, roughly, the lucky character would be and started setting it up.  I'm sure that the character has a neon sign now, with the words "Dead Meat Walking" flashing, but I won't name this person just yet.

The conversation between Brenna and McCoy probably rehashes details.  Brenna did get some more information about what's going on, though, including the number of related deaths.  McCoy got a lot more screen time in the story than I expected when I first introduced him.  If I had known he'd become a supporting character, I might have put more thought into his name.  McCoy isn't counting the murder in Sacramento; her death is outside the killer's usual haunt and is being treated as a copycat.  Just as Tricia, and only Tricia, planned.

Joni isn't that much help, which a few comments to the commentary have noted.  I should have figured out the rules that affect Joni before I started, and worked out what she knows.  The base idea is that Joni's there to train Brenna, but that has loopholes big enough for the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man to walk through.  Joni is also trying to make up for lost time; she spent more time with Grace preparing the younger Halliday girl to receive the Soul Blade.  They've managed to make up somewhat, though, especially compared to an earlier version of them:
"Were you as terminally shy as me? Did you ever get rejected after throwing yourself at someone? Did you?"

"I had my own problems."

"I'm not you! I won't ever be you! Can't you understand that?"

"I know you're not me, Brenna."

"Then why can't you let me be me? Why can't you accept me as I am?"

"Bren, I always loved you. I was always proud of you, no matter what you did. I just didn't know how to talk to you. You were more like your Aunt Lucy* than either your father or myself."

"That's why you spent all your time with Grace? You could have tried."

"I didn't want to drive you away, Brenna. I made a lot of mistakes with you when you were young. Your stutter, for one. I shouldn't have pushed you about that. You stopped talking to me, and I don't blame you."

"I took extra language courses just to get rid of the stutter, and you never noticed. I drew to express myself, and you were never around for the school art shows."

"I noticed, Bren. I never wanted to miss those shows. The Soul Blade has a price, though. I never wanted the Blade either, but I couldn't ignore the threats around. My mother did the same thing."
Brenna in the above is sixteen, not the mid-twenties she is in The Soul Blade.  One of the two women would have tried to mend bridges in the ten years or so between the incarnations.  Again, the problem with updating a character for a new story - there's history that keeps cropping up even when it's not relevant.

This wraps up half a year of commentary on The Soul Blade.  There is still more story to come.

Friday, Brenna in the right place and the right time, in The Soul Blade Chapter 27.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Nancy Drew.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a short break as I prepare for the next analysis.

* Aunt Lucy became Aunt Dawn in the years in between.


  1. Yeah, the Brenna/McCoy conversation is... weird. Brenna gets new details, sure, but McCoy gets nothing out of it. Nothing that he couldn't have also had over the phone. Except a chance to see Brenna's art, and some pie. (Padding the word count there?) He doesn't even take the ritual printouts with him. What was his motivation? The subsequent scene with Grace is equally baffling... distilling out certain pieces gives:
    Brenna: "Has Detective Kirk called you yet?"
    Grace: "Have I met him?"
    "McCoy's partner."
    "Why would he call me?"
    "Don't ask me."

    But... but why would you ask if he called if you don't know why he would call and what do tomboys have to do with it?? Then after a bit more recapping, Grace says she can get Brenna's prescription from the purse only to have said purse thrown back at her, and I don't really see how that (or the scene) adds anything new to their relationship.

    Joni does need some rules... like why she couldn't have seen Tricia, described here as "too fast". Is Joni tied only to Brenna? And there's the fact that Joni's Soul Blade was different (as remarked in the conversation to Matt), having only one setting versus two - so what does the training entail if the weapon's not the same? Comparing the earlier scene you put in shows progress, though characters can split apart again even after mending bridges, with the right trigger incident. I wonder if there's a way to know what aspects to keep.

    It kind of kills me that Joni, the ONE person who this whole time (in my opinion) has been saying "DO something, investigate, stop drinking with friends!" has done a 180 to "Take the night off". This seems to happen EVERY time Brenna finds a new link - she wants to charge off and do something, to prevent further problems, and someone (Grace, Missy, McCoy, now Joni) says "Nope." ("But if I had a chance to..." "Nope." "If we looked more into the..." "Nope.") At least the diversion this time was her clothing rather than Matt.

    I wonder - is it less a need to extend things out as far as word count or specific timelines go... and more a concern that Tricia's ruthless enough to simply take Brenna out of the equation, effectively stalling the plot for good? Because we only ever have Brenna's POV. So we can't have characters mount a rescue for Brenna, because we've never seen their POV before. Just musing.

    1. Word count padding and minor desperation to keep the writing going. I think McCoy just wanted out of the office and to talk to one of his suspects. The reasoning behind the Brenna/Grace exchange was Brenna making fun of Grace's tomboy heritage. "I don't know what Kirk sees in you, fluffy tomboy." Grace's rummaging was off-stage and, yeah, doesn't really add anything at this point.

      Joni does need rules. She is tied to Brenna, and, of the entire cast, only Brenna sees her. Part of me was trying to work out if Joni and Bert were starting to talk to each other, taking up her copious free time. That's not to say that if another sensitive who could see ghosts can't see her. Joni should be visible to them, too. The training is less on creating the Blade and more on the responsibilities, needs, and duties, though Brenna has those down by this point.

      I think part of the problem was that I was getting mired in the details. Tricia was moving the plot far more than Brenna was, but I felt the need to keep Brenna's story going at the same time as Tricia's. The result is Brenna's portion stalling out while waiting for Tricia's next move. Tricia is that ruthless, yes, though she has been given a reason not to off Brenna just yet. I have found that I much prefer writing with multiple POVs, just so I can split the group when needed and have something going on that keeps things moving.