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A Gathering of Strangers Log #1 - Character Overload

Whew! It's been a while, hasn't it? Since the release of Seven Seals back in July 2020, I have been hard at work on the third title of the Dark Savior Series, A Gathering of Strangers. As with all long fantasy novels, its development has had many ups and downs; one of the main downsides so far is that I haven't discussed much of it in my blog.

The main reason for my silence is that I feel it's a bit wasteful to be typing up and working on a blog when I could be using that time for the book itself. I've decided, though, that there needs to be some form of online presence for A Gathering of Strangers. And so my compromise is to blog when I feel there are real updates, and keep them short. So then, onto the updates!

At time of writing, I have passed the 100,000 word mark, and am approaching completion of what I would call act two. I've noticed that the sequels to Gold Fever have taken me longer to write, despite Seven Seals being considerably shorter, and this story being on pace for that as well. I think that, while not necessarily easy to come up with a new book free of a series, it does mean you don't have to worry about things like consistency. I feel that in addition to outside influences, this is why my sequels have taken longer to write.

To make matters even more complicated, A Gathering of Strangers brings many characters together from the prior books, while introducing just as many new ones. Although my plan is to write nine books in the Dark Savior Series, I am focusing on them as a series of trilogies. So this novel is almost like a grand finale in its own way, despite only being 1/3rd of the story I want to tell overall.

For this reason, the setting is grandiose, there are more notable characters than the two previous books combined, and the stakes are higher than ever.

Endoshire, where this novel takes place, is the largest city in the Dark Savior Series. I made my own crudely drawn map, as I have in the past, to keep track of where characters are or need to be. But even so, it can be difficult to remember the smaller details when there's so much to it. For instance, Endoshire is a coastal city with docks. Our heroes leave their vessel at Dock 4, but I had mistakenly referred to it as Dock 3 over and over again later on. This even had plot ramifications, because character locations in relation to where the ship was docked were extremely important in some cases.

With the high character count also come various challenges. The first hurdle I stumbled over was believable dialogue. That is to say, "How would these characters we've come to know interact with each other?" In many cases, it was characters speaking to each other for the first time. In other instances, it was characters who hadn't seen each other in a long time. When I first attempted these interactions, I was extremely dissatisfied with the results. Even worse, it stumped me; I'm not kidding when I say that I took a month and a half off from this book for the one chapter where all of the previously known characters meet up at once. Thankfully, the time off gave me plenty of perspective and allowed me to make some crucial additions and edits.

Another challenge with the high character count is making sure that everyone has something to do. A Gathering of Strangers features the team-up of nearly all the protagonists from the previous books, and they are matched up against nearly all of the antagonists of the series who happen to be alive still. We're talking about two dozen characters here, easily, that I need to be attentive towards. A lot of my struggles with this will likely need to be fixed in editing, Even now, there are some characters that didn't get enough focus and need more in my opinion.

The plot of A Gathering of Strangers is simple: Drake Danvers and the Dark Wizard are continuing with their plans to break the seven seals. This time they have set their sights on Endoshire, where the Degenerate seal lies. However, it's not so simple to reach; the seal is located in the sewers underneath the city, and the entire area is a maze. The result is a thrilling battle of strategy between Joel and friends and the forces of darkness, with one trying to obtain a map to their goal, and the other trying to prevent them from finding it.

Overall, I'm happy with how the plot is progressing. Since the story amounts to one big game of chess, there are many twists and turns along the way. From here, I'd like to push through and finish the draft by late February/early March.

My goal is to release two novels this year, but I'll save the details on that for another time. For now, it seems like this blog post went longer than I intended... didn't take me long to break that promise, did it? :D

Let's see if I can be better about updating in the future. Until next time!

- Jim

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