One of the tricks I learned early was to give the reader what they wanted in a way that would make them regret wanting it. Go ahead and invest in that love triangle, guys, but when the rivals face off, it’s actually not gonna go well for either of them. Yes, this guy will get the skill and reputation with women he always wanted, but that will only lead him to an entirely new set of problems. The audience was cheering for Byron here. They wouldn’t be for much longer.

Apart from the cheers, a few readers griped about how we played this fight for a bit of comedy. I have no reservations at all about that. For one thing, humor lowers your (the audience’s) defenses and leaves you less ready for what’s going to happen next. For another, sending such a seemingly invincible foe scampering away so abruptly is a comical reversal, and it’d confuse the tone if we didn’t lean into that. I think the gripers might’ve believed we were shortcutting our way through the climax of the chapter, but that climax is actually still to come.