Mid-Mortem: Bytown

MCMFriday, May 7, 2021

Quick recap for those joining the story a bit late in the game: in March 2020, I started writing a series called Bytown, which was made up of 9 episodes of 13 chapters each, releasing on a MWF schedule. And then a weekly schedule. And then a monthly schedule.

And then I stopped releasing it on schedule at all, mostly due to my needing to learn to live with a malfunctioning gallbladder. Then, once I was starting to feel more myself, something semi-expected happened: through an intermediary, a publisher showed interest in turning Bytown into a series of books. That process took a long time and ultimately went nowhere, but it gave me some distance from the story...

And that distance allowed me to see how to fix the ending.

Now, the ending I had planned is still in there, and I still like it a whole lot — but stories are about momentum, and the momentum of the last episode was very halting. Maggie (the protagonist) took two steps forward, then three steps back, over and over again. The torment helped make you need her to emerge victorious at the end, but it made the journey a bit excruciating in ways I probably didn't want to do.

So last week I started reworking the last episode, restructuring things so the end would be just as full of torment and suffering, but in a more reasonable build-up. And the trick to pulling that off is something I talk about often: making the peaks peakier by having the valleys valley-er.


Yeah, I know. What do I mean by all that?

Without getting into any spoilers, let's look at it like this: we want Maggie to emerge victorious at the end, right? That should be the highest high of the entire series, when she defeats her enemy once and for all. For that to land properly, she needs to lose everything directly before she wins. Now, she's been through a lot already, so there are very few things for me to take away from her. I mean, without it seeming unreasonably cruel.

But there's more than one way to hurt someone. We've already physically hurt these characters, and morally compromised them all over the place. But the one thing they haven't lost is each other. Their cohesion has — even when they're separated — kept them strong.

And that, I realized is what Maggie needs to lose before the end. She needs to lose her family — her whole extended family — the very thing she has been fighting to protect. Without them as a crutch, she will have to confront her nemesis one-on-one with no more excuses left to hide behind.

That solution meant shifting things around. At first, a little...then a lot. Now E9 is looking very different than before, and I think I may actually get it done before the end of the month...which will be a good thing, because I have to start my next project on June 1.

So yes. If, in the future, you wonder why Bytown shook out the way it did — today was the day I decided how much Maggie was going to suffer.

You can thank me later.

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