(Re)Writing God of the Hive III

The third excerpt for The God of the Hive is here, with more to follow on March 27 (and the book itself April 27.) For those curious about the creative process, each is followed by a post showing scans of the first draft and brief remarks about the rewrite process. I take care to avoid major spoilers, but if you wish to preserve the absolute purity of the eventual reading experience, I suggest you stop now and just stick to the excerpts themselves, and return to the (Re)Writing posts after you’ve read the book in May. (Click on the images below to enlarge.)

The Language of Bees concluded with the three most dreaded words in fiction: To be continued.  The book was not in fact unfinished, although the villain did live on—as villains have lived from book to book through generations of detective stories: Moriarty was not the only villain to be “continued.”

We must remember, however, that our villains are the heroes of their own stories.  We did not actually see much of Reverend Thomas Brothers in The Language of Bees, but rather caught brief glimpses of his internal life while focusing on the effects he had on others.  In The God of the Hive, we need to hear his voice.

It begins with the change in the nameless man’s actions: In the first draft, his first question concerns the identify of his assistant; in the final draft, his concern is all for his great task, the overriding concern of his life.

The first draft is adequate to set the scene: injured man, in hiding, helped by those for whom he has little liking or respect.  But the scene is at a remove from Brothers himself, in a way the final version is not. (Click on the pages below to enlarge.)

Here, we smell the air inside the claustrophobic little hut, and follow Brothers’ thoughts as they clear from confused jumble to grim determination.  Equally necessary, we get a sense of his overriding preoccupation: the Great Work that has led him to this remote place, made him sacrifice much, and driven him to murder.  He is what was then called a monomaniac, what we might now call a sociopath, but to his own mind, his acts and decisions make all the sense in the world.  For a book composed of multiple viewpoints to succeed, the reader must be aware of some degree of sympathy with the designated villain: He or she can reject the sympathy, but it has to be available on the page.

To himself, Thomas Brothers is right, powerful, and fully justified in his actions.  He is also very much alive, and clearly has no intention of fading away.

Moreover, he has a Friend.


  1. Megan on March 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Thomas Brothers makes my skin get up and crawl around my body. I really, really want him dead by the end of GotH…I’m not particularly picky as to how, though painful would be nice.

    I’ve always believed visceral reactions to characters are a sign of good writing; this is definitely one of the stronger reactions I’ve had in awhile.

    I love these insights into your re-write process, and the little glimpses of GotH we get through it. Anxiously awaiting April 27th…

  2. Pat Floyd on March 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I’m with you Megan. Rejecting sympathy for Brothers is no problem for me.

  3. Strawberry Curls on March 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Doesn’t Brothers just make you want to go…boooooo…hisssss?


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