I Should Have Killed the Shepherd

I Should Have Killed the Shepherd

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In the novelette I’m currently working on, “Last of the Sorcerer Kings”, there’s a scene where one of the two POV characters comes across the results of the killer he’s chasing entertaining himself. In the raw outline, I just listed it as “The Shepherd Scene”.

The idea was for the hero to further his resolve to catch the bastard who can do stuff like this to other people.

When I got there, I realized I’d already hardened his resolve based on hints dropped about events before the story began. I also saw it as a way for the other POV character to impress the hero and develop her as a more complete person.

So the shepherd lived, at least until the heroes arrived, and the murderer left him and his wolfhound both with wounds designed to stretch their deaths out over days or make them too weak to defend themselves against wolves. And to further increase the shepherd’ suffering, the killer did cruel things to his flock, making the sheep easy prey for the local wolves.

But here’s the thing. My original outline had the story hitting about 15,000 words, getting long for a novelette. Letting the shepherd live probably doubled the length of the discovery scene and added two more scenes to the story that weren’t in the original outline. I’m now just finished the 7th scene of 18, where I should be done the 5th of 16, and I’m worried the pacing is way off.

It works, I think, but now I’m pretty sure to break into short novella territory, and I think I’ll be able to see 20k from where I finish. Not a bad thing on its own, but disrupts the plan a little bit. Plus, even though my word count is tracking well, it’s going to throw my overall pace for this project off by a couple of days.

I should have killed the shepherd. I might still change my mind.

And yet, if it serves the story and the characters better, and doesn’t blow the pacing, why shouldn’t the shepherd live?

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