Chapter 15 and 16 – The Calm Before the Firestorm

Today, chapter 16 of Zhyx was finished. The manuscript currently stands at 173,473 words with a mere four chapters to proofread and alter before draft 3 of the novel is completed. It was only back in mid March that this draft was started, and it sure has flown by.

Chapters 15 and 16 were an important part of the narrative. They present a much needed break from the action that took up a whopping three chapters and 78 pages. As fun as it would be to continue the action non stop until those final pages, we all know how exhausting that can get.

(coughs) Michael Bay (coughs)

No. These scenes are slower, featuring greater dialogue, some exposition revealing a little more about our characters, and put a focus on dealing with Zhyx’s very heavy injuries. After all, Zhyx has just gone head to head with another dragon and didn’t exactly come out on top. He will need some tuning up before he is ready for a re-match.

To me, such breaks in the action are important to not only give the audience a breath, but also show the more quiet and emotional side of a story. Such moments work very well in many action stories, such as the Indiana Jones and Die Hard films. Often, they are more memorable sequences than the action set pieces, which shouldn’t be surprising as it is these quiet moments that give the action scenes what they need most.

Weight.

Without them, there would be no time to know character, no time to hear their stories, and no time to forge emotional connections. So when everything starts kerploding, we have no real reason to care. It is my hope that these two chapters will do just that. Zhyx grows a lot in these 50 pages, and comes to know the band who travels alongside him more closely than he would have hoped. But it was inevitable for him not to learn more about his companions, and more importantly, for them to learn more about him.

But now it is time for the action to pick back up. The final battle is on the way, during which something very interesting is going to take place.

What exactly? Well, in order to explain, lets take a look at the opening scene of the film The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. 

One of the things that struck me about this scene was the sheer amount of fire that engulfed Lake-town. I suppose it makes sense. Smaug is a very nasty hombre so he would have no moral objections to indiscriminately obliterating everything in his path. It is a very visually stunning and beautiful scene that captured wonderfully what pissing off a dragon entails.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.01.35 PM

There is just one problem with this scene. A certain scientific inaccuracy. Now, I know that this is the fantasy genre where anything is possible, but it seems basic laws of physics still apply. Simple laws like fire is hot, fire feeds off of oxygen, and very big and very hot fires need a lot of oxygen.

Therein lies the problem of this scene. There is no firestorm.

What is a firestorm? Apart from the DC Superhero, a firestorm is a very interesting phenomenon that occurs when a large fire gets out of control.

Basically what happens is when the fire gets larger, it requires more air to keep itself going, so it ravenously sucks in every ounce of air it can. The result are gusts of ground level winds reaching up to and beyond 100 miles an hour, all traveling towards the updraft at the center of the fire generated storm. As long as the fire has fuel to feed it, it can sustain these winds for very long periods of time.

The below pictured graph displays how a firestorm operates. Obviously you have your fire in mark 1. The rising heat creates an updraft, marked number 2. The updraft draws in air from the ground shown at mark number 3. Last is the formation of a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, or pyroCB cloud. This is a type of cloud that is exclusively formed from such phenomenon as fires and volcanic eruptions. Such clouds do not form in all firestorms, but they are a very common occurrence.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.02.59 PM

A good dramatic description of a firestorm can be seen in the Academy Award winning anti-nuclear documentary The War Game. The sequence begins at the 18 minute and 20 second mark, and continues for roughly 1 minute and 30 seconds. Despite limited resources, this scene shows the sheer terror of being caught in a firestorm pretty admirably, with people tumbling end over end when they are not being pelted with flying debris. It was this video that first got me interested in the phenomenon.

Now, I am sorry Peter Jackson, but with the amount of fires that Smaug was setting in Lake-town, there should have been so much wind that no one would have been able to stand. I am not one to insult Peter Jackson as a filmmaker and an artist. He re-popularized the fantasy genre, giving it its biggest series of big screen blockbusters that re-energized interest in Tolkien’s masterpiece, and brought a slew of new fans into the fantasy genre. Most people can agree that he was the right man for the job when it came to bringing Tolkien’s classic works to the big screen. So kudos to him.

To me personally, this seemed like a real missed opportunity for the film. Imagine if Bard the Bowman and little Bian had to really fight their way to the top of that tower, with those inward rushing winds nearly tearing the Bowman’s son right out of his arms. The loud wind would be howling around them as they stood atop the tower, as if to enhance the threats of the oncoming Smaug. It would have seemed like the end of the world.

Now, a large portion of the finale of this story takes place in a medieval city that is slightly larger than Lake-town. In this city, two dragons, one (sort of) good and one evil, fight each other to the death. During the course of this death-match, an awful lot of fire will be exchanged. An awful lot of things will burn. Those things that burn will need an awful lot of oxygen of they wish to keep burning.

While striving for scientific accuracy in a fight between two mystical creatures may not seem high on the priority list, just hear me out.

The storm will obviously not be a major threat to the hero of the story, nor will it be a threat to the villain. To everyone else on the other hand, namely those who are slightly more vertically challenged than the hero…

Dragon 19

…things might get pretty hairy.

What drew me to this idea was not really the science behind it, as fascinating as that science is. It provides a great opportunity to make this fight scene more dynamic. Our hero, though he refuses to admit it at this point, is there to protect the innocent. With the entire city getting inhaled towards its center, he will have a lot of saving to do during his rounds of switching between ass-kicker and ass-kickee.

The phenomenon also provides an important scene for the character of Blondie in chapter 16, who tells the others just what it is like to be in the middle of a firestorm.

The final fight that will mark the bitter end between the not quite noble Zhyx and the nefarious Heavy is about to occur. It promises to be an event.

That is the news on the writing front. On the drawing front, the illustration for chapter 2 is nearing completion. The header for this article is a preview of that illustration, which is only down to coloring. My artist and I will be having our meeting tomorrow, during which time we will attempt to finish it.

Thanks for your time and support, and I will keep these updates coming over the next few weeks.

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2 thoughts on “Chapter 15 and 16 – The Calm Before the Firestorm

  1. It’s always interesting to have chapters like the ones you mentioned, where the action slows down a bit in lieu of character growth and interaction. I’m looking forward to hearing about how Zhyx faces off against Heavy. Until next time, then!
    -Daniel/The Oddity Writer

    Liked by 1 person

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