One thing I notice is that I take a long time to get to the inciting event of a book. In this case, twelve chapters of building up the characters and personalities all so I can start the crux of the story with a simple meeting in a bar.
A lot of advice says that I should be getting to the bulk of the plot earlier but I really want to establish characters. There are parts of his plot in the first chapter, the disdain from the rest of his clan and their view of his cowardice, but not the “OMG, we are going to die” bits.
I'm not sure if that is the inciting event or not. It is the arc for the entire story though, the man who ran away from combat in the beginning is the one who will be running into a battle despite everything he wanted.
That said, I think this book is paced pretty well. There are not a lot of “side plots” as it were and the story stays focused on a single path, Rutejìmo's. He doesn't have a lot of distractions either, this story didn't fit well with the wandering tale that some writers excel at.
There was another thing in this chapter that drew my attention.
He always wondered if his slowness at running and his unwillingness to take a life were somehow connected with his services to the dead.
The answer is “yes.” Internally, I use the HERO System (6th ed.) to manage the characters in my stories. This gives me a framework for how they evolve over time (experience per chapter) but also balancing out their skills to each other. It isn't exact and I fudge a lot, but the rough progression helps me frame that aspect of the world.
Rutejìmo's powers have been pretty much set in Sand and Blood with little improvement during Sand and Ash. Some of that was building up his attributes and skills but a lot of it was banking toward the powers he's beginning to manifest in this book.
Of course, this is shown in the above quote. It is limiting his services to the dead because he was saving up for a number of high-cost powers, contacts and networking, and social influence. Despite being “weak,” he is actually well known throughout the western region.
He also has always had a very high
ED which are all passive attributes that have little physical indicator of their values. By this book, he had quite a number of defensive combat levels (as we'll find out) in addition to his powerful abilities that finally kicked in.
Some day, I might see about licensing HERO or something and writing a source book for these characters, which is one reason I haven't posted any specific details. Not to mention, they are filled with spoilers even in the first chapter.
Sand and Bone 12: The Offer
At the end of the day, Rutejìmo is wandering around a too-large city looking for Nifùni who never returned to the inn. Not having a way of contacting him, the rest of the clan had spread out to check out the taverns and stores. Naturally, none of them would consider that Nifùni would have found a night to himself; Rutejìmo's history showed the danger of disappearing in the middle of the night.
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