In one of my early drafts, I made a throwaway reference to a mostly destroyed “device” captured from a Jotunn patrol. Vidar had been given the device and was trying to figure out what it was.
At the time, I had no idea what the device did. But, I needed something to show that Vidar was someone who was curious about things, who wanted to know why the world worked the way it did.
So, I made references — the device, instruments he built, etc. I thought they were just mentions, but they were actually tiny pebbles rolling down the mountain of my subconscious.
On my earliest draft, one of my beta readers mentioned those references. He liked them. Which kicked those pebbles into motion.
So, I had a choice. Leave ’em as they were or double-down.
I decided to do the latter. With respect to the “device,” I described it as a black stick of ironwood and metal, with silver inside and a shattered gem on one end. It had been broken and scorched in a fire.
On the next draft he mentioned it again, saying something like: It’s a little thing, but it was driving me nuts that you didn’t provide a clear picture of what that device looked like.
Dammit. He called my bluff.
Truth is, I didn’t have a clue as to what it looked like or what it did. To me, it didn’t matter — it was a MacGuffin. A Maltese Falcon that people wanted and would do “stuff” to get.
But it seemed to matter to my reader. It had made an impression. It was interesting.
Again I had the choice: Leave it or double-down.
I thought, why not double-down again, and figure out the answers to these questions:
- What was the device? What did it do? Check.
- Why did the Jotunn have it? Check.
- Why were the Jotunn using it where they were using it? Check.
- Where else was it used? Check.
- Why did the Jotunn want it back? Check.
- Are there more of them? Check.
- How did the Jotunn get them from the Svartalvar? Mostly check.
- Are those other devices used now, within the timeline of the current story? Hmmm. Ya know, I am having this big problem with Hyrrokin’s story arc…what if I…yeah, that works. That works well.
In a totally unrelated scene written only Odin knows when, I put an Alvar device into Odin’s hands — a wooden wand that I called a shaper. Again, just a plot device, something to explain how he and Frigg got from point A to point B in a cool way that showed some depth to the world and allowed Odin to do something that he couldn’t do with his own abilities.
Then yesterday morning, I’m hacking away at a friggin awful, problematic scene late in Vidar’s plot line.
As I’m writing I have a revelation, which I express through Vidar’s POV. What if Vidar thinks that the “device” he was trying to figure out, the shaper Odin used, and other things that Vidar encountered are all related? (No, I haven’t mentioned those other things ;))
And since I’d already written several scenes showing the “Vidar device” in action, at this point in the book the reader would already know what the device does. And so the reader knows that Vidar’s conclusion is wrong.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s awesome. It’s also serendipity.
I just hope it works like I think it does. And if it does, I have my beta reader to thank.