(We’re in for another round of Variant Bonus Features! I’m blogging about three chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until Feedback is released, October 2nd. These blogs will be FULL OF SPOILERS, but they’ll only spoil Variant—they won’t ruin any of your fun in reading Feedback.) THESE BONUS FEATURES ARE WRITTEN ASSUMING YOU’VE READ THE ENTIRE BOOK, NOT JUST THE CHAPTERS MENTIONED. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
–I love this chapter where Benson completely freaks out. It was inspired, in no small part, by “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, a movie that totally scared me to death as a kid. It’s also has a bit of “The Truman Show” in it, where Truman has the sudden fear that everything and everyone around him has been a lie for his whole life. Benson questions everyone here, listing everyone he knows and finding all the reasons why they were fake. I also like that instead of immediately jumping to the books antagonists (like Oakland and Skiver), Benson quickly begins to question his friends: Mason, his roommate; Curtis and Carrie, his gang leaders. It shows he’s more afraid of the deception–the entire situation–than simply imagining the androids as monsters.
–The fact that Benson is lying in the dirt staring at a paintball used to have major significance. But I’ll talk about that in a later chapter.
–One of my favorite characters is Curtis, and I love that he threatens Isaiah right here, right in front of Isaiah’s goons. This is all a moment of weakness for Isaiah, and he knows it. It’s really the first time that we see Isaiah not in control of himself–he actually takes orders from Curtis. This is, again, just another reason why Isaiah was so fun to write. He’s complicated.
–In early drafts, Benson was hurt much worse, including requiring a cast on his arm. It ended up getting in the way too much, though: all of the fighting and struggling that takes place later in the book just didn’t work for a guy with his arm in a sling. So, he ended up with braces on his wrists instead.
You’d think that I’d have learned my lesson, but I sure as heck didn’t. Injured characters later in the book hampered me much more. But we’ll get to that.
–This chapter was where I had to sit down and do some major, MAJOR world building. I mentioned in a previous post that I have names and pictures for every single character. This was where that became necessary. People had died, others had been sent to detention, and still others were switching their allegiance. This required me to finally name every character and map their status. I did it originally on a bulletin board. Below is a picture of that board (the picture is intentionally too small for you to read the names, because I don’t want to spoil Feedback.)
–I love the scene with Becky, but I’ve already mentioned she’s my favorite character. She has a goal (checking on Benson) and she needs a way to get around all the gangs’ treaties and tension. So, she does what she does best: she’s an administrator, through and through. She makes up a fake survey and pretends she’s following orders.
–A little look behind the writer’s curtain: all of Benson’s thinking in this chapter is to reinforce a big question: are we being trained, or are we being tested? This is the question that I’d set up from the very beginning, and everyone, in every gang, gives their opinion at some point. Benson thinks about it constantly. But it’s a writing technique to set up the twist: I’m creating a false dichotomy, that the BIG SECRET has to be THING A or THING B. But in reality, as we come to find out in the end, the truth is THING C.
–Another thing I did, when I mapped out the status of every kid, is I made a chart showing how long each and every kid had been in the school, just so I wouldn’t get mixed up (since Benson starts asking around about that). An excerpt of that chart is here to the right (I did this one in Excel, rather than on a bulletin board. The different colors denote the different gangs.) (Incidentally, I’ve started transitioning all of this scattershot character encyclopedia stuff into Scrivener. I like that program mucho.)
–Why does the school bribe Benson (and Rosa, later) for their silence? Because it’s cheaper than the alternative. The bribe seemed to work just fine on Rosa: she kept quiet and didn’t continue to fight back. And she used the points: at the end we see her with all sorts of jewelry, but you’ll also notice in paintball that she has the best guns and camouflage. Simply killing a student, or hauling them to detention, would incite more unrest when things were already on the tipping point. Plus there would be the replacement cost of trying to find a new student out in the world who fit Maxfield’s strict criteria. So, they tried bribing Benson. If that didn’t work, then they’d take harsher measures.
The Full List of Bonus Features: