Foreword: future chapter status can now be found in the chapter list. Helps show where progress is and what's coming down the pipeline.
I love writing complicated characters, those who come with a ton of baggage but also a mixture of conflicting interests and life goals. I love writing unusual relationships, especially those that include an extreme power-imbalance. I’ve read about so many master-slave relationships that changed world history (literally ‘from the bottom’ stories) that I wanted to write one of my own, hence you have the protagonist pair of Eve.
There are just a few problems that come along with this.
One of the reasons I kept revisiting the exposition since Eve‘s inception was that I feel like I’m stuck in a conundrum between two entry points into the story (and just to be clear, this post is not to say I’m about to change it again):
Option (a), the original chapter 1 start. It begins with a very short prologue regarding Alexei/Luna before diving straight into the main story. Konstantin showing off his fake personality in chapter 1, then suddenly switching to a real one as he meets Aleksandr and discuss plans.
Option (b), the new prologue start, has the same scene with Alexei. It then transitions to Konstantin and Luna’s first meeting — her being enslaved during the war, and him buying her and giving her a new lease on life.
In any normal story, I’d go with option (b) in a heartbeat. It lays down some expectations for the two main characters from the very start. It highlights why they have a ‘special relationship’, and why Luna’s role is not just a normal servant. Furthermore, it helps define some of the core aspects of each character: Konstantin is clearly hiding something as the facts around him don’t really add up. What is known is that he’s a charitable person (possibly because he’s a wastrel), and Luna can never forget what he gave her.
However, the issue here is — Eve doesn’t exactly begin ‘normal’. I can’t think of many English non-abolitionist stories that starts off with a protagonist being sold as… not just a slave, but a sex slave. (I have watched Russian and Turkish drama of this sort though).
So the question keeps popping back into my head again and again, despite the fact that I feel pretty sure which one of the prologues work better from a pure literary perspective. But alas, there’s no accounting for taste. I’m always concerned that the opening of Luna in a slave market might throw people off, discomfort them in a manner where they don’t even want to touch the rest of the story.
It’s a topic that I’ve talked to my beta-readers about. While there’s a consensus that the current, option (b) prologue works much better at providing interesting development early on, there’s also an acknowledgment that none of my beta-readers really have ‘normal’ tastes. Perhaps that’s to be expected — my previous work Daybreak had a very unusual start as well. However, Eve‘s start is played straight and not as a joke; comedy does have a strong capacity to overwrite unpleasant feelings.
(…though in hindsight, Pascal in Daybreak is a total sketchball at the start XD)
One of the comments I received from the beta-readers was that in Eve, the slavery aspect is played straight. In a sense, it must be played straight as well, otherwise this story will quickly feel like it’s nibbling at the boundaries of fetish erotica. I myself have certainly found light novels unbearable before when they took slavery as a tool of sex appeal. Furthermore, one of the lessons I’ve learned from my previous work Daybreak was that in this field, one must tread carefully; the power differential between the main characters is too strong, and playing something off as ‘cute’ may easily give the wrong impression and completely sink a character in the readers’ views.
So in that case, why did I want to do this? Well, two major reasons:
(1) As mentioned, I’ve always loved stories where someone who started their adulthood as a slave rose to take a role in history’s pivotal moments. From Pargalı Ibrahim and Hurrem Sultan under Suleiman the Magnificent, to Muqali under Genghis Khan or Gannibal under Peter the Great, our world is abundant with examples of those who rose from a lowly slave until they were one of the most powerful leaders in a dominant empire, all because they were capable individuals who shared a unique bond of trust with their master. This is one of those traits some of the greatest leaders in history share in common — the social status of an individual does not matter; what they care about is potential, skill, and merit.
(2) I’ve always loved writing about gender differences, and Luna’s character development is meant to reflect one of the key issues in gender divisions. Girls are too often taught very little (if at all) about how to defend themselves and be truly independent. Spunk is fine in a civilized society, but when disaster and wars reduce the world to barbarism, then that’s all just meaningless talk. Even many of the girls I know in real life who talk admiringly about “strong female protagonists” scream when they see a bug and has to get someone else to get rid of it for them. I can’t stop rolling my eyes when I see this.
In hindsight, I might have been able to avoid some problems if Konstantin himself isn’t also a bit of a sex-craving skirt-chaser. But the key aspect of his character is that his personality lay somewhere between the fact and fiction, between the truth of his past and the layers of deception he has woven since. Playing into a lustful nature to seem like a decadent wastrel is a cover that simply works too well with him.
With the facts behind Luna’s slave mark revealed in Chapter 9, I also wanted to highlight a basic psychological issue that most people have– that because of inherent human feelings of insecurity, we often want to take control of everything near us, including (and especially) individuals. Romanticism in the modern age often calls for a ‘balanced relationship’. Personally, I’ve always thought that misses the real issue:
Imbalanced relationships can work just fine. It’s a lack of trust between partners leading to control freak tendencies that is the true problem.Author's Comment
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5 thoughts on “Dev Diary: the exposition insecurity I keep having”
Hi. Thanks for coming back, and I’m glad you’re enjoying things thus far =)
It seems really interesting that the first part of prologue A is giving me some really mixed feedback– a lot of my beta-readers *really* like it so I’ve never even considered it as “slow”…
Out of curiosity, do you remember why you didn’t like Flowers? (although I did redo that work several times also due to dissatisfaction…)
It wasn’t because I didn’t like flowers, I just had other things keeping me busy. I started college at that time and embarassingly I simply forgot to check back.
I have to agree that the first part of prologue A is kinda slow. Maybe if it wasn’t for Daybreak I might have dropped it.
Maybe you could start it with Luna arriving at the slave market (transported there), than the first customer comes, than she falls asleep, dreams about the hospital scene and wakes up to Konstantin arriving.
I know it would be more work to rewrite but it would make apparent that not the EVE part dominates.
All in all I really enjoyed everything I read. I got hooked on your writing back when there was only a few chapters of Daybreak. Since then I reread that a few times. After I read The Flowers in Boreal Twilight I dropped your writing, and now I came back to find 9 chapters of your new work. I finished it all in a heartbeat.
I have to add that you don’t have to stress over those who want you to finish Daybreak. You just have to listen to those who appreciate your curtent work.
Long story short I am SOOO glad you are back and I hope you enjoy writing this as much as I enjoy reading it. Thank you and good work.
The story as it is written right now gives some hints that there is more to Konstantin that what he shows, and the meeting with Alexei resolves this mystery.
Also it is quite in the beginning so there is no long wait for the truth to surface, so i don’t think there is a need to bait the reader with “juicy” visible-fake / true-hidden persona transformation.
So except Prologue A i wouldn’t change it.
Prologue A first half is .. maybe quite boring to read?
If i may suggest a little Different approach to it – divide the first part of Chapter A so that Luna part sandwiches between it.
1. Alexei Dies
2. Luna First scene
3. Luna Falls asleep
4. Prologue A beginning , before Alexei dies…
In short – I have no idea XD
Thanks for sharing your thoughts ^^. I’ve never even actually considered redoing the very start (the Alexei/EVE scene) because of how pivotal it was and the fact my beta-readers all liked the scene a lot. That scene was basically written as a short-story so taking it apart doesn’t really work…