Most edits were cosmetic. However, in response to reader-questions during the Shuyin-confrontation, I've revamped the Via Purifico chapter to make Lenne's cameo somewhat more clear (while still leaving an intentional ambiguity) as well as, "what happened to Maroda?" Hopefully that part of the story is now easier to follow, without losing the subtlety that cumuluscastle likes in some of my writing.
I'm still waffling over the use of Otherworld lyrics during the Shuyin fight. It was an experiment. I'm curious how many readers liked vs. were distracted by it.
I renamed the "Unraveling" chapter (viewing Yuna's sphere) to "Love Her and Despair". So many other plot-threads have developed that the meaning of the story's original title has been obscured. In that chapter, when Auron faces love and despair while viewing Yuna's sphere, the deepest kernel of the story pops out.
I love reader feedback -- it's amazing how much y'all have helped me refine and solve plot issues, even though the basic story and chapter outline have remained almost unchanged since chapter 14! mandyiam gets the prize for killing off a character I hadn't planned on killing: addition by subtraction. owlmoose, muggy_mountain and trekqueen are the Backstory Consultants. cumuluscastle is critic extraordinaire and post-production beta reader, since I'm too danged stubborn to have one.
I am still struggling to reconcile two sets of reader tastes: those who like subtlety versus those who want things spelled out more explicitly; and the readers who prefer 1200-1400 word chapters versus those who prefer 2000-4000. I keep waffling!
So, anyway. With apologies for the self-plug, let me wave the "Readers! Come and get it!" flag for a few of you who were clever enough to hold off until I'd polished the last few chapters.
I've just combed through my notes and scrapbook files to review all the ideas, snippets and projections I've made over the last two years while planning ahead.
I'm probably the only one interested in some of this, but fwiw:
Things That Have Dropped Out of the Story
* Isaaru and his guardians were IN Kilika when it was attacked, and got swept off the dock. It got too complicated, so I boxed them up in the ship.
* Operation Mi'ihen II was originally more successful. Isaaru & co brought the statue to Mi'ihen's Grotto, but Lulu walled it in with ice so it couldn't be used. However, this (a) meant the fayth was intact, and (b) I had no way to show what happened at Djose Temple, which was out of their line of sight. Also,
* (c) I decided to have Sin's attacks on the temples match their elements. A tiny retcon has changed the attack on Kilika to be a fireball striking the temple instead of a thunderbolt.
* Originally, Gippal showed up at Djose, ferried Isaaru & co to the Al Bhed, and/or took a message to Bevelle reporting that Nooj was dangerous. Gippal was a messenger throughout the story, working a lot more closely with Baralai.
* In the earliest version (discussed with TQ), Wakka and Rikku slammed their door in Auron's face and refused to have anything to do with the story.
* The Al Bhed story chunk underwent a lot of shifts. For a while, Rikku and Wakka were living at Home with the rest of the Al Bhed. They captured Isaaru & Co and threw them in prison with Nooj, waiting for Cid to return and pass judgment. He returned, got possessed, and was about to shoot them when Sin attacked. They escaped in the chaos. The rescue in the Chamber of the Fayth was originally to rescue little Yuna, who had taken refuge there with the Fayth.
* Originally, I planned to have Isaaru riding Cid's airship, and to use its weapons as in the original game to fight Sin during the final showdown. Once Owlmoose convinced me to go with plan B -- Shuyin, the Crimson Squad, and Vegnagun -- Cid's airship had to go.
* There were brief early flirtations with Baralai staging a coup, possibly an assassination attempt of Isaaru. Gippal, Baralai and Paine were all against Nooj.
* Isaaru was wiser, more perfect, more grounded throughout the tale, with no Anima and fewer griefs to deal with.
* Nooj volunteered as guardian while he, Maroda, and Auron were in the elevator on Gippal's airship. Auron told him that getting killed isn't all it's cracked up to be. Alas, this blew Auron's cover too much.
* Originally, Auron admitted to Isaaru that he was Lulu's lover after Isaaru admitted he'd sent Mika.
* Isaaru did NOT tell Auron about Anima.
* Things that came into the story by accident as I was writing it: The Memorial Gardens, Elma sticking around, Pacce getting left behind at Djose, Gippal's airship and flyer, Shinra, Baralai being obsessed with Vegnagun, Maroda's fate.
Things that were there from the beginning
* Besaid: "What are you doing here?" "Waiting for a ship."
* Auron stopping Lulu's attack on Kilika and the whole dream sequence with her in the water.
* Sin making a pilgrimage to parallel Isaaru's, both of them retracing Yuna's footsteps
* A repeat of Operation Mi'ihen
* Recurring dream sequences between Auron and Lulu
* Big showdown / Sin attack at Bevelle
* The Four Maesters of Yevon and their division of military, civil administration, temples & teachings, and Grand Maester (Baralai was there even before I decided to use the full Shuyin-Nooj-Vegnagun plot)
* Auron going to Wakka and Rikku for help
* Wakka punching Auron in the nose
* Airship in final showdown
* Lulu's role in the last battle, which, heck, is the first thing I ever wrote of this story.
* Auron's relationship with the Ronso, which will feature a bit more later
I've alluded to it before, but Tolkien infuses my work the way Homer adds a patina to most Greek and Roman literature. It's usually not an overt parallel, but there are tropes, movements, and echoes.
Only the first two of these were done on purpose; the rest are just Tolkien-echoes seeping into my writing by accident:
*"We have come to the place where hope and despair are akin"
* Isaaru has Faramir's nobility: there is a certain humility, courtliness, and weakness in him. Maroda has a touch of Boromir's stubbornness.
* Baralai's paranoia hints at book-Denethor, who is not as insane as the film's version, but pragmatically dedicated to his city's defense at the expense of the rest of the world; Baralai keeps his secrets, viewing himself as the champion of a secret battle to save Bevelle; he doesn't trust Isaaru and his "fool's hope" to do a good job of it.
* Isaaru, gradually losing his aeons, loses his spiritual strength; both that and Auron's battle not to become unsent parallel Frodo's struggle against the Ring tearing his spirit apart
* In canon, Arwen is a watchful presence from afar, sending Aragorn banner and Elfstone at a key moment to help him win Minas Tirith to his side. Lulu provides little deus ex machina nudges in the same way, also picking up the slack for Galadriel.
Tolkien's reliance on geography to drive his quest-story showed me a way to structure an epic. He often begins a new chunk with a description of setting, even if that setting isn't reused much: so for example I zoom in on the Al Bhed Home the way he zoomed in on Helm's Deep.
(In fact, a lot of place-episodes in my story serve a similar dramatic function to LOTR geography: Besaid-Kilika = The Shire; Luca = The Prancing Pony & Rivendell; Mi'ihen Highroad-Djose = the slog from the Misty Mountains to the breaking of the Fellowship; Wakka & Rikku's house = Edoras; Home = Helm's Deep; Bevelle = Minas Tirith; Guadosalam/Thunder Plains = Dead Marshes/Dagorlad outside the Black Gates; Gagazet = Ithilien; Zanarkand = Mordor)
Tolkien also showed me that you can get away with a ginormous cast of secondary characters, if you stagger their introduction into the tale.
However, even more than in content, my method for writing this story was a conscious attempt to put into practice what I saw in The History of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's notes and rough drafts as edited and published by his son. Every few chapters, I write out "The Story Foreseen From [X]" in which I project and revise the story outline. I've got a chronology outline, and of course a map. I keep working two steps forward, one step back, as I'm doing tonight to sift through my notes.
Babylon 5 Influence
Babylon 5 has influenced my sense of pacing, especially in action sequences, as well as in interwoven dialog when I've got 4-8 characters involved. I also paint scenes in terms of zooms and strategic cuts, often starting with the camera fixed on one character and zooming out, or following an airship, character, energy bolt, or some other key detail into a scene and then filling in the stage around it/him/her.
Another parallel is Lulu's way of keeping Yu Yevon out of her mind. In Babylon 5, Londo drinks himself to a stupor to block his "keeper". Lulu uses another form of "distraction," which is the reason the Cult of Sin became so popular among sailors.
One final parallel that I should've footnoted (and now have): in Her Favorite Color as Death chapter (Operation Mi'ihen Redux), there is a deliberate nod to The Long Night episode of Babylon 5:
Sheridan: Ericsson, if this information comes too easily, they won't believe it. We need them to believe it's real! Real enough to fight for, real enough to...
You're not a married man, are you, Ericsson?
Ericsson: No. No, sir, I'm not.
Sheridan Well. There's that, at least.
Ericsson: What about the other four ships?
Sheridan: They won't have anything of value. You'll provide cover, allowing them to escape. Your ship has the only copy of this file. Ericsson, billions of lives are counting on this. If there were any other way...
Ericsson: Understood. We'll put up a good fight.
My shameless verbal echo and similar military tactic are here:
Lucil pushed herself up on Elma's shoulder, squinting out to sea with narrowed eyes. "Not good. Captain Luzzu—"
"We'll hold Sin off as long as we can, General," he said. "Get the fayth to safety. Djose will put up a good fight."
Lucil's face froze for a beat. "Lord Mi'ihen guard you and yours, Captain," she said, matching his salute.