No Plot Survives
contact with the characters.
That is one of the conclusions I reached from writing two novels. When I started writing Harald, I already had a complete outline, created in the process of telling the story to my daughter while putting her to bed. I had discovered in the past that she remembered my stories better than I did, which could lead to problems, as in "But Daddy, that magical device they got in the story you told me three months ago will get them out of this situation with no trouble at all." So this time, every evening after I finished telling her a chunk of the story, I went to my computer and outlined it.
Spoiler Alert for Harald
Despite which, someone who was only a minor character in the original version turned into a major character in the written version. Anne was originally the King's mistress who Harald used to feed his view of what was going on to the social set around the King, in order to put pressure on him. He did it by telling the story of how a lady of the Order had saved his life at considerable risk to her own in his first battle—and only revealing at the end that the lady was Leonora, now the lady commander of the Order, who the king had treacherously taken prisoner as part of his plan to take control of the Order.
By the time the book was written, Anne had become the noblewoman the King was courting and a major influence in the plot.
It may have occurred to some readers that the King was pretty stupid to fall into Harald's trap and end up his prisoner. The reason was not only that Harald was a much better general than the King. What I never explained but tried to hint at was that, at that point, the King did not much care whether he won or lost, lived or died. As he saw it, he was responsible, through treachery, for the death of a woman who had played a large part in defending his kingdom from its enemies for the past twenty years. The woman he was in love with had made it obvious that she thought he had behaved outrageously and was refusing to marry him. He was hoping that somehow, if he could capture Harald without killing him, he could put things back together, but it did not look likely.
Some of which was supposed to be signaled, for sufficiently perceptive readers, by:
The King sent a boy running for his captain. With luck, this time, …
And either way, at least it would be over.
Which is why, when he is captured, the King's emotional state is nearer relief than despair. He no longer has to make any decisions.
What is supposed to finally signal what was going on between the King and Anne is a scene a little later, after the King has recognized his error and made his peace with Harald and Leonora, fortunately not dead after all. He encounters Anne:
Anne spoke, surprise in her voice: "You are at peace with Harald?""With Harald and with the Lady Commander. In their debt. You were right; I was wrong."She spoke gravely. "Then if your question has not changed, my answer has."It was some time before they again noticed the two Ladies.
Later still, in her escape from the Imperial army, Anne demonstrates a very Harald-like level of ingenuity.
All of which explains why I think of her as my stealth heroine.
Salamander was not outlined in advance, and the changes from my original plan were much more drastic. As originally conceived, there were three major characters, who I thought of as the good good mage (Durilil), the good bad mage (Coelus), and the bad bad mage (Maridon). The good bad mage invented the cascade for good reasons, not seeing its potential for misuse. The bad bad mage encouraged him, with the intention of taking control of it. The good good mage opposed both of them. The final scene, after the bad bad mage had been killed, was supposed to be a confrontation between the good bad mage, with the power of the Cascade, and the good good mage, with the power of the Salamander. The Salamander gave unlimited power but of a narrow sort; the good bad mage did not realize what he was facing and so kept trying to force his way through the magic of the opposing mage, and when he had completely exhausted his very large but not unlimited power the good good mage took over, reduced him back to a youth, eliminated his memory of everything since he had been young, and adopted him as his apprentice.
Which was an interesting idea, if a bit melodramatic, but not even close to how the plot actually turned out.
Spoiler Alert for Salamander
By the time I was done, the good good mage had been converted to a secondary character and his place as protagonist taken by his daughter, whose existence had been only a possibility when I started. The good bad mage had seen the error of his ways part way through the book and allied with the daughter, the bad bad mage had gotten burned up, and the remaining conflicts were with people of whose existence I had been entirely ignorant when I started.
Somewhere along the way, not one but two very different love stories managed to sneak in. One was between two highly intelligent intellectuals with limited social skills, one of whom manages to not notice that he is in love for a surprisingly long time, and the other between two sophisticated and socially adept aristocrats, fencing with each other all the way to their eventual engagement.