Taking Asylum

Notes from the Void is a monthly piece where I go into some behind-the-scenes details of Obscura Rhapsody, talk about goats, go on tangents or perhaps all of the above. Warning: it may contain spoilers up through the latest chapter.

Chapter 11 was nerve-wracking to write.

Not because I didn’t believe in it (I totally did), nor was it because I struggled getting through it (after the previous 2 years, it was a cakewalk to write). It’s just such a damn departure from the previous chapters in the series.

Obscura Rhapsody is still relatively young, despite existing in some form for the past 14 years. But after the initial experiments in tone, style and even setting, the finally story coalesced into a living entity. Book One, Exiles, was essentially establishing the backstory and most of the main cast. Book Two, Moonlight Scherzo, built on that by placing our heroes in a bit of a murder mystery, and overall expanding the mythos with the introduction of Xerxes, Almudaline, and hints of the Crimson Tribe – not to mention the shapeshifting lycanthropes “from a different now”. Without giving too much away, there’s a lot hidden in plain sight in Book Two, and that was not originally by design. Sometimes the story wrestles with you and things come out, no matter how hard you try to put it away.

But Asylum? Totally different ballgame. I’m not really good at marketing but I’ve tried to explain Obscura Rhapsody as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a psychological character drama with some twists”, but even that doesn’t do a good job of explaining it. The story took inspiration from other sources such as The Matrix, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and Cerebus. A rather odd collection, huh?

But even with that, the very intentional tonal shift in Asylum meant leaving the reader lost for a few weeks as to the whereabouts of our heroes, and even now we’ve finally just seen Khloe, barely. It meant giving a lot of time to major new characters such as Gerard, Maeza and Jaeger Ess Tungsten (yes, the latter is a parody of exactly who you think he is). It has meant pulling back on the martial arts action that has dominated the series thus far, and allowing the story to breathe at a different pace.

That felt risky af.

But I have to admit, it was fun switching up the tone. Changing to a more gothic, 19th century vibe, all gray and foggy and mood. Writing Tungsten, initially a one-off joke character turned into an absolute joy, and suddenly he was there, unearthed from the archeological site that is Obscura Rhapsody, with purpose and far more intertwined in the future of the story than I had realized.

That sort of serendipity is what cemented my decision in taking a chance with Chapter 11 was the right call, and I hope after reading it you agree.

As I write this, Chapter 11.4 is set to go live in a couple of days (the day before this post goes live, in fact). Chapter 12 is written and edited, and Chapter 13 is half-written and fully planned out. I’ve been trying to keep 6-8 weeks ahead of schedule, and I’m happy with the pace I’ve been maintaining. Taking the series weekly has felt natural and allowed a pace that I’m comfortable with while still trying to maintain a monthly average of over 4,000 words.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Tungsten is clamoring for something and I need to go shut him up.

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