I’m putting chapter seven into its own section here just because of how incredibly long it is, considering this is when Humphrey tells his story of what happened to him during the seventeen years he was gone.
My original plan was to have Steven find a naturally occurring lean-to when the group settles down with Gerald, but then I realized how incredibly unlikely that would be, so I went back to A Hero’s Past and had Viggo’s tent break in the storm, so then he would be forced to make a lean-to and that could be the one they use in The Final War.
I spent a lot of time dreading this chapter at first because I had very little ideas about what exactly happened to Humphrey while he was gone. Thankfully, through patience, I was eventually inspired by enough things to put the tale together. The final version that’s in the story is actually a short story I had to write for my creative writing class in school, and although it was rushed (50 pages written essentially from scratch in four days) I’m very proud and happy with how it turned out and it’s one of my favorite chapters in all of my stories because it introduces some of my favorite original characters, more on them later. However, to make sure it could stand on its own for my project, I had to add some extra exposition that wouldn’t be necessary when it was put in The Final War, but that was easy to remove afterwards.
I wanted to tell Humphrey’s story from a third person point of view because it would allow me to build the new characters more and just have more fun with them overall, while with Viggo’s backstory, we already knew it all and it was just being told from his perspective, which is why I did it with just him talking about it in a first-person point of view.
Starting off, I knew I had to explain how Humphrey got away from Robert, while still having been unconscious. While it’s never said in this chapter, Viggo points out that Robert had gotten scared and dropped Humphrey’s body when he heard the wolves howling in grief, thinking they were all coming after him.
I wanted to give Viggo a sibling who would act as his polar opposite. Someone who was kind and caring, not harsh and aggressive like him, which is how Leyla came to be. I added the part about her being a park ranger to further solidify her spot as Viggo’s polar opposite. Instead of hunting wolves, she cared for and protected them. It also helped make her finding Humphrey more believable since she would naturally be in the forest. She obviously would’ve brought him to an animal hospital to get him bandaged up before taking him to her home.
Making sure she could keep bringing him to her house was a bit of a problem as I had to keep coming up with reasons why the people at the hospital would let her, such as him being too weak to be a threat, or them being too full to care for him themselves.
I wanted to make this a bit darker than the rest of the story to emphasize how much Humphrey went through, which is why I focused more on how badly he was injured, his inability to walk, the pain that it caused him, as well as his recovery at the end.
By the time I wrote it, I had a basic idea of what was going to happen, but none of the specific details, which is why I decided to do it for my short story. I knew Humphrey would wake up in Leyla’s house, but I never thought about all the little stuff that would’ve happened as well. I mainly used the timeline I created as a guide to help tell what was going to happen next and how long to make the time gaps. For the smaller details, I just thought about what would naturally happen. Humphrey would obviously panic when he first saw Leyla and, being someone who cares about wolves, she would’ve tried to get him to calm down.
Humphrey beginning to hemorrhage was, again, something I added to make it darker. I wanted to give him some complications and, especially after freaking out the way he did, hemorrhaging seemed like a pretty good idea. Deciding on where the animal hospital was going to be was a bit tricky too. By this time, I had already created a map of Jasper and there were no other towns in the park. I decided to put another one just outside the western border after I noticed that Leyla’s house was in the Western Region, and it was the closest place to put the town.
I knew that if I wanted to develop Leyla’s character with Humphrey as the main protagonist of this, then I knew that, like Viggo, she needed to be able to understand him. Luckily, that wasn’t hard to explain since she was a park ranger and probably spent tons of time watching wolves.
Humphrey having to go to the bathroom was never something I had planned for, but when I looked at the timeline and realized he wasn’t due to be able to stand on his own for a couple days, I knew it was a question someone reading it would ask, so I decided to include it. It also coincidentally served as a bit of a callback to the first movie when Humphrey had to jump out of the camper to go to the bathroom.
I roughly gauged the time of Humphrey’s recovery based on experience with my own dog being spayed. Of course, Humphrey’s injuries were more severe in both instances, so I increased the time it took for him to recover based on that as well.
My decision to put him in a zoo came from when I was at the zoo with my family one day and we saw the wolf enclosure. I started thinking about what it would be like if Humphrey was in a zoo. What would he do, how would he react? And then I figured, “why not? I’ve got seventeen years to kill” and so I put him a zoo. I knew he’d want to get out, so, in my typical way of making things darker, decided to have him injure himself. I didn’t want to have him ram into something with his head because then he’d probably get brain damage, so I had him ram into something with his side, which would dislocate his shoulder instead.
I also wanted to have another wolf in there for him to slowly become friends with, only so I could tragically use Viggo to rip them apart. Again, dark. I had always planned on having Humphrey and Viggo meet for the first time during the seventeen-year time gap and once I decided to put Humphrey in a zoo, I knew it was the perfect way for them to meet face-to-face for the first time without Humphrey being in any danger, since Viggo could, and does, easily overpower him.
I’m not sure who I was making out to be the jerk in the beginning, Humphrey or Joe. In a way, they could both be seen as one since Humphrey wants nothing to do with him since he’s always seeming so negative. And yet, because we’re seeing this from Humphrey’s perspective, Joe could also be seen as a bit of a jerk since he’s being so brutally honest about how Humphrey should just give up and how there’s no way out.
I knew Humphrey would feel betrayed by Leyla and I knew she would want to check on him, so I was able to get them to meet in the middle of the day. Which of course led to some drama as Humphrey would ask her why she put him there and she wouldn’t be able to answer since there were other people around. I still wanted them to have a one-on-one together, so I had Leyla get there early before anyone else the next day.
My little nod to COVID-19 came about because, of course, the timeline in which all this takes place crossed through 2020 and I had always wanted to make my stories as realistic as possible, hence my need to explain things that weren’t very realistic. So, I figured since Humphrey was in a zoo, I could have some kind of reference to it, since life would’ve changed for him.
And of course, my capitalization of “Mysterious Man” was referring to the Mysterious Man from A Hero’s Past. I always planned for this man to be Viggo, but since no one was supposed to know who he was at the time that I released A Hero’s Past, I always called him The Mysterious Man, and I hoped that someone would pick up on that term when reading through The Final War. I only ever gave one name to one character so that I never used the same name for two different characters, and you would always know who was being talked about, and that went for this too.
I gave Viggo three different names to go by to increase that sense of mystery in the readers. The Mysterious Man, The Wolfslayer, and Viggo Thanatos were all the same person, and I did my best to make it seem like they were three separate people without also contradicting the fact that they were the same person, until the time came to reveal it. If I was talking about rumors of The Wolfslayer, I would check the timeline to make sure Viggo wasn’t busy doing something else at that time. But to also sell the deception to both the readers and characters, I would sometimes have Robert act as The Wolfslayer in Viggo’s feet while he was actively attacking the heroes to throw everyone off.
Humphrey and Joe’s initial escape from the enclosure was a trial-and-error process. I had them get through the first door, but then realized they still had that second door to get through. I knew they needed someone to open the door for them, and I knew that wouldn’t happen unless another person came through, which is why I had them fight. That made the people inside the small building call for backup, which would get the door open. Contrary to popular belief, the author doesn’t have absolute control over the story they write because of realism. It would be a big coincidence for someone to just happen to walk into the room while Humphrey and Joe were trying to escape.
Even great writers like J.R.R. Tolkien don’t give themselves full control over what happens in their stories, as is the case with the Entwives. I don’t really have full control over my stories since there are things that would obviously happen in these scenarios and sometimes it’s a matter of going back and changing stuff so that these things that were always going to happen can happen.
The idea for Viper came from a fan who suggested the idea of having a snake in the story to me. I really liked the idea but wasn’t going to include it at first since a snake felt out of place. But once I put Humphrey in a zoo, I realized I could have the snake get out during his escape. Since then, she’s become my favorite original character by far, which motivated me to include her in The Final War and not just Humphrey’s flashbacks because I wanted to see so much more of her. I ended up seeing her with the eyes of a fan rather than the author, which is why I did what I could to include her more, since I wanted to see so much more of her. She ended up getting a much bigger part than I had planned and I’m glad that happened. I also like how her reason for constantly sticking around Humphrey was because she felt like she owed him a sort of life debt.
One of many things I was excited about when I released this chapter was when I described Viggo when he attacked Humphrey and Joe. He was still referred to as “the Mysterious Man” but I gave the exact same description as I did for Viggo in the first chapter in Rise of the Hunter and I knew people would catch on, especially since Oscar gave a similar description of the man that destroyed his pack in The Next Generation.
I wanted to bring Humphrey and Leyla back together because I had already written for Humphrey to go and get her help during the climax of The Final War, plus they had good chemistry together. It would also be a good way to get some exposition on Viggo. The taunting Viggo does is something I love about his character because that’s one of the key things to have in a villain your audience loves to hate, which are one of my favorite kinds of villains. When they have the hero cornered, and the hero has no choice but to play the villain’s game and the villain knows it, so they just rub that fact in.
When I changed Viggo’s name, I never really liked Thanatos, but its meaning fit perfectly with who he was, so I kept it. To ease my mind about it, I made it a name he gave himself. That way, I could give him any old last name and it would be fine.
Having Humphrey get captured by Viggo’s men was another result of writing the script first. In chapter three, he led the group to Viggo’s base which meant he must’ve been there before. So, I had to have him get captured so that he would know where Viggo’s base was. It also gave me the opportunity to have a really dark moment, which I always love.
Humphrey’s crippling at the hands of Viggo was something I had been planning for a while. I really wanted to show and make it clear how dangerous he was fairly early on in The Final War. Of course, by this point, I’d done that a lot, but having Viggo nearly kill Humphrey with ease would cement him as a very big threat for the rest of the story. I started by giving Humphrey a slight chance but then gave him as many injuries as possible without killing him.