Part 3: Unspoken
POV character: Michael
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Through back story we find out about the Captain’s first fiance, a noble woman he was due to marry years ago but whom he publicly shamed in order to call off the wedding. We learn about how perfect everyone said his bride-to-be was and how terrified Michael was of the prospect of marrying her. For he has eyes only for Susan, the enigmatic woman who’s identity he has spent his entire life keeping secret. He sees how the proposal is driving her away from him and he is determined to call the wedding off at any cost in order to salvage their relationship. Even if it means ruining his reputation and leaving a bunch of scheming enemies in his wake, for Susan he will do anything.
Hey would you look at that! My second chapter in less than a week. That must mean my writer’s block is gone, right?
Well… not exactly. Don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely thrilled to be posting this right now but the sad truth is it’s a chapter I wrote a very long time ago. In fact, these Michael chapters were pretty much the first things I wrote for this book way back when it was about 10 times more complicated than it is now and had a cast of thousands. These chapters were designed from the beginning to serve as mile stones in the story that would bookend each section of the story while welcoming in the next.
The chapters were designed to do two things:
- to give the reader new information on back story they otherwise wouldn’t get to see, and
- set the tone for the part ahead.
You might think it’s pretentious, but I’ve always liked it when books are broken down into several parts like this. To my mind it gives the reader a natural stopping point in the story. It’s a chance for the reader to cleanse their palate so to speak. To put the book down and reflect on what they’ve read in a way that a simple chapter break can never manage.
The idea was that this book would be written in several parts (originally planned to be five back when I didn’t realise just how long this thing was going to be) with each part serving as a prologue for the next section written from the point of view of Michael, the ship’s lame duck of a captain.
These chapters would be special too. While most of the chapters in this book are written from the closed first-person perspective (meaning they are written from inside a character’s head with each moment recounted to the reader in a blow-by-blow fashion), these prologue chapters have a wider scope in mind. The action here is less linear and more free form. It’s actually a style I really enjoy writing in and it’s one I’m definitely going to use more of in the future.
So, in the first part we had the back-story of how the Earth was lost and the Arkships were launched. We found out about Michael’s family and how this society has devolved into a feudal one over the years. We also got a glimpse of the mysterious Susan who wouldn’t appear again for some time. It was a teaser chapter designed to set the scene. I’ve always liked it.
In the second part, we got the back-story of the bunks. Although the reader had already got the chance to see the bunks and meet the unspoken who lived in them during the first part, it wasn’t until here that the reason for their existence is explained. I show how close the Captain is to Father Estavan and how suspicious he is of his Second, High Commander Hathaway. I talk about the food crisis and how, although the Captain knows it is happening, he is powerless to do anything about it.
Now it’s the third part and in some ways it’s the most crucial part of all because it’s here that we get the back-story of Michael himself. We find out what he’s been doing as Captain all these years since taking command. We find out about his history with marriage and the perilous lengths he has gone to over the years to keep his beloved Susan safe from harm.
It’s only after getting all this information that a discerning reader should be able to work out everything that’s happening in this book. Why is Nathan Hathaway staging an elaborate coup designed to overthrow the Captain and instigate a riot among the unspoken? Why is the Captain finally allowing himself to get married after all these years of saying no? Why is it the disgraced Father Estavan that Michael has gone to to organise the whole betrothal? What, really, is the deal with Susan? And so on. All these questions (and more) are answered in this chapter.