Containment Collapse Afterword: Expectations Versus Reality

Warning: This post may contain spoilers for Containment Collapse and beyond!

This afterword is about the expectations I had when writing Containment Collapse, the reality that came to be, and what lies ahead. I’ve decided to post this on the anniversary of The Madness of Light’s release as the stories that went into the writing of both are similar and it feels apt to do so. Read the afterword for TMOL here.

Expectations Versus Reality

Let’s talk about expectations.

Expectations are when you go into something with an idea of how things will transpire. You expect reality to conform to a certain way—because of or despite your will regarding it. Sometimes expectations do match reality, but sometimes, many times, they do not.

Containment Collapse is about expectations and reality diverging—about them being subverted. The expectations of the characters’ throughout their quests and my own regarding the process of writing it. The characters’ expectations and their gradual subverting are detailed throughout the book. I will not detail them—but I will detail my own expectations.

My expectation, when I started writing this book, was that Containment Collapse would not be that unique from the other books. As in, neither more difficult nor more perplexing than the others. I truly did not expect Containment Collapse to be my most difficult book yet.

But it was.

In reality, this book became a monster that I waged war against for over a year. It makes sense why: this is the most complicated book of mine to date due to the structure and character/plot interactions. There were sections that were a mess of pacing with all the plots and point of views happening in tandem. There were parts that were written then nearly all rewritten.

The rewriting came from the subversion of expectations regarding what this book would actually contain within it. There were a few critical things, choices, events, changed during the development of CC that I expected going in to be givens. Immutable concepts of the plot—all immutable only in my expectation.

When it came to actually seeing if expectation matched reality, I discovered that these plot points did not fit into the reality of the world. The characters as they were in this book did not allow for such things. So the characters stayed true to themselves rather than what the plot, the ‘ideal’ of it, would have expected of them.

To name a few instances of this: Malcolm Zfnoc and Cyclone brokering an alliance instead of fighting each other, only two Primordial Essences vaguely clashing instead of all four waging war against each other, and Dien becoming disenfranchised with the Guardian-incarnate instead of passionately protecting them directly.

The alternatives that did not come to pass sound very epic, but in truth, don’t make as much sense considering who the characters are. And who the characters are truly dictates the plot. If that’s against expectation, so be it—that’s what has to happen.

Despite that, there’s always an end I’m seeking—a tangible outcome or fact that has to happen. I’ll push things into place so reactions will conform to that.

The sought after end this time was of Beep taking the shot and everyone fading away. That was how it was going to end and the details shifted in how that end was achieved—but that was how it ended.

It ended.

This set of four books has ended.

I could take a moment to ruminate on that and all that came before it.

I could, but as Chatzu’kuan says at the start of her ending monologue:

This is not where it all ends.

This is an ending for sure, though. It’s definitely a departure from the way things were.

There’s a new way forward from here. That way may not conform to the expectations of myself or any of the characters. What happened in the past is not an indication of what will happen in the future. I am pushing onward on the way that ought to be rather than what was foretold of it.

As I am reaching the end of this major arc that I had prophesied out as a child, it is important that I realize that. That although I may have imagined it going one way, that the foretold end was of a certain shape, that does not mean I have to adhere one hundred percent to it. Things have shifted continually from the expectation I had when I started this. Beyond all that, I have changed.

What that means for the end of the tale of the Guardian-incarnate, the Amulet of Ra, and Malcolm Zfnoc, though…

I am not going to even try to say if I think things will further diverge from my original intent or not. It is pointless for me to expect anything at this point, but I cannot help myself. I have my expectations—whether they’ll be true or not…that’s beyond this now.

And for this now—this is where it ends.