And so the adventure began!
Today, it begins again.
On December 7th, 2018, I first published Chapter 1 of Goda’s Slave.
Today is July 18th, 2023, and I am starting on a massive edit of the first draft. I’m finally re-reading everything I’ve published so far (roughly 80% of the story, which I nearly finished four years ago). I will try to read it with fresh eyes, the way an unfamiliar reader might (as best I can, anyway).
Since I’ve had people ask for it, I decided to write some commentary about my process and where these characters came from while I do this edit. This may be in the form of notes about why I made certain decisions about the characters, notes about changes I made during the edit, or notes that I wrote while planning the first draft years ago.
It might help me clear some of my own thinking up, too. It might help me feel a little less alone as I re-open this box and dig through things I might have forgotten I even wrote.
Thanks for reading, as always. Here we dive in.
Commentary for Chapter 1 of Goda’s Slave
Note: Commentary may contain spoilers for any part of Goda’s Slave, including plot twists. You’ll probably want to read the story first.
Kanna’s feet are bleeding because her “roots” have been torn away. She has been uprooted from the only life she knows. She has no grounding place at all, no seat for her power, no place to stand.
This was the first image that I wanted to evoke. Someone who has lost their footing and its terrified of the unknown, but who is still fighting, still resisting, still giving everything she has, though her efforts mean little because she is ungrounded and stumbling in loose sand. Kanna has no solid ground, so she is especially vulnerable to lightning and to the shock of the cuff.
The only solid thing in the landscape is Goda, who is also her greatest threat, a looming shadow of death. In this scene, Goda is in some ways the classic Grim Reaper figure. She doesn’t chase; she simply follows with quiet expectation because she knows that the harvest is inevitable and that Kanna will do her job for her.
Actually, everything that happens in this chapter is Kanna’s own doing. Even though Kanna takes the role of “the slave” at this point, she is in fact the primary actor in this chapter (and in most of the novel), while Goda stands by as a witness.
It is Kanna who runs from Goda and unwittingly electrocutes herself. It is Kanna who resists her trip up the crag and hurts herself several times while Goda watches. And it is ultimately Kanna, near the end of the chapter, who is deciding whether Goda will live or die, not the other way around.
Without agency, Kanna just wouldn’t be the same character. Her willfulness is what makes her who she is and what makes her fun to write (even when she does dumb things out of her stubbornness).
In Kanna, I wanted to try writing a highly submissive character who, at the same time, is not passive, and in fact is a major active force in weaving her own story. I also wanted to write a “master” who did not have primarily selfish or ego-aggrandizing motivations, someone who would not view Kanna’s submissiveness as a weakness to be exploited, but rather as a potential strength.
In this way, Goda’s Slave is about Kanna much more than it is about Goda. Specifically, it is about Kanna’s relationship to herself, especially as her sense of self begins to unravel. Goda’s role in this chapter (and in the story in general) is that of a witness: She quietly watches from above as Kanna struggles, and she grants her the freedom and dignity to have her own painful experience, within certain bounds. Outside those bounds, she silently protects her without her knowing (at first), then sets her loose again.
In other words, Goda serves as a container. Within that container, Kanna can safely be her explosive and tempestuous self.
(Why? We find out Goda’s motivation later, but at this point it’s kept deliberately nebulous. From Kanna’s perspective, Goda is little more than a dumb, unmovable rock, someone who is obsessed with getting a job done. From Goda’s perspective…the story is a little more complicated, as she realizes Kanna’s intense power long before Kanna does.)
And so this chapter sets the tone for their dynamic. They are discovering the hard edges first: Conflict, animosity, huge cultural differences, polarized and seemingly opposing energies–and yet the seed of a potential partnership exists within all this.
At the end of this chapter, Goda intentionally lets go of Kanna’s rope. Whether she does it to tempt fate, or whether she is confident that Kanna does not have the courage to escape after all, I leave for the reader to decide.
At any rate, the first atom of trust has materialized between them, along with the first sign of Goda’s respect for Kanna.