I love to read aloud. I get it from my mother. And her mother before her. And probably my father’s side of the family, too, now that I think about it.

This is — actually — why I write. It gives me something I really want something to read aloud. And I can do a pretty good job with because I know the characters.


The most recent chapter of The Sword and the Crystal that I read aloud was bad. It was beyond merely “throw it away” bad and into “burn it in the forge, then dissolve the ashes with blue vitriol, and then scatter what’s left from a high promontory so it blows out over the Northern Ocean to be lost forever” bad.

There’s a meta-problem here. The Hero’s Journey outline requires a return to the world. The Mage and the Red Knight are — currently — sort of happy where they are. And that’s the meta-problem. Why would they return?

Ooops on my part.

The story needs to have a problem that forces the hero back into the world. What’s at stake?

There are several potential origins for the problem, none of which are currently part of the outline. Rewrites are required.

  • A problem in Westmarch surfaces. This doesn’t seem sensible, since that Earl’s not an idiot. He hasn’t been corrupted. Yet.

  • A problem in Hillshire which drives them out. I’m leaning in this direction because the Earl of Hillshire is a greedy snot and a trouble-maker. He’s not corrupt, but he’s corruptible.

  • There’s a problem in Southlands. There is, but that’s Book III, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And that’s the origin of Hillshire’s problem, which pushes me toward Hillshire being an ass.

  • There’s a problem in the Outlands. Or, properly, another problem in the Outlands. That seems like too much reliance on peripheral characters. Book I, The Forge, took place in the Outlands: been there, done that.

I’ve got three and a half chapters after the stinker that also require some rework.

The question of what’s at stake? is huge. The mage has new discoveries that — it seems — must be kept secret even from other mages. The possibility of a leak is a very real concern. The Red Knight, however, can still serve justice because there’s so much that needs to be set right. The only way to pry the Red Knight out of Hillshire is to have a larger problem somewhere else.

Time for a walk. Maybe an espresso.