This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #463, on the subject of Characters Unsettled.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first eight Multiverser novels,
- Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel,
- Old Verses New,
- For Better or Verse,
- Spy Verses,
- Garden of Versers,
- Versers Versus Versers,
- Re Verse All, and
- In Verse Proportion,
in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book). Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages. Now as I am posting the ninth, Con Verse Lea, I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights. This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed. You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them. Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.
This is the second post for this novel, covering chapters 18 through 34. The first, covering chapters 1 through 17, appeared as web log post #460: Versers Reorganize.
There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.
History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 18, Beam 126
Chapter 19, Takano 64
Chapter 20, Beam 127
Chapter 21, Hastings 238
Chapter 22, Beam 128
Chapter 23, Takano 65
Chapter 24, Beam 129
Chapter 25, Hastings 239
Chapter 26, Beam 130
Chapter 27, Takano 66
Chapter 28, Beam 131
Chapter 29, Hastings 240
Chapter 30, Beam 132
Chapter 31, Takano 67
Chapter 32, Beam 133
Chapter 33, Hastings 241
Chapter 34, Beam 134
I was figuring out a lot of detail for this world. I had run it at least thrice before, but never with a group and only once with an adult character and usually in the “alpha” setting (medieval). At this point I did not know where Beam was going to stay or what he would do. Returning to Ashleigh’s home was the best option.
The original of this chapter contained this text:
“Did you make your own sword?”
“My sword was made by the blacksmith we visited earlier.”
“I didn’t see any swords in his shop.”
“Of course not. The soldiers would arrest him if they knew he made swords for anyone other than them. When someone needs a sword, they save up the rice for it and then visit the smith to ask him to make it. In a day or two they pick it up.”
On a re-read it struck me that the ninja-to was a feature in the medieval version of this world, but absent from the modern one, and so since it hadn’t been mentioned I deleted the reference.
I had spent some time trying to figure out what the scouting teams would see and what they would report. I realized that I needed them all to return quickly, and one excellent way to do that would be to terrify them with some machine. Ploughs were the first and simplest choice.
I was very much delayed on this, partly because I was working on other projects including that web log series about the credibility of the Exodus account, but partly because I was inching forward. I had had a mental breakthrough on Lauren and Tommy’s story, but was still trying to work out how Beam and Ashleigh manage to get moving forward. The idea that she would go on a mission without telling him seemed the right first step.
I was also working through the right level of technology for peasant homes in this world, and decided on cold running water and plumbed outhouses.
I wanted to bring back the third team, but I didn’t want it to seem either as if the three teams all came back at once, or on the other hand that one of them was out longer than was reasonable. Thus I wound up with this chapter about Lauren and Tommy waiting.
I had expected to describe what Boronir’s team found in more detail, but thought that it was time to transition back to Beam and that I should delay it for the next chapter. It also gave me a sort of cliffhanger, which I liked.
I had spent quite a long time thinking about what this third scouting team would have found and how Lauren would proceed from here. There was going to be a place to camp, and I considered having Boronir describe it, but the more I considered it the less sense it made. Ultimately I decided that the brave former tennan would have to be stopped by something he didn’t understand how to pass, and that Lauren could find the campground by magic. I also worked out how the technologically-oriented deity of that world could answer her prayer, but that’s for the next chapter.
I was still unsure how Beam was going to become integrated into this world. I didn’t see him apprenticing to an herbalist, which several players have done, but his style was not terribly consistent with the ninja program. He was going to need a place to live, food, and something to do, none of which seemed obvious at this point.
I had expected to have Boronir describe the fence, but decided that this wouldn’t be terribly interesting and I needed to get the people on the road, so I rushed through that and went as directly to Lauren’s spell as I could.
The idea of the direction coming as a map on Tommy’s cell phone had occurred to me a few nights before as I was driving and mentally trying to unravel how to move all the stories forward. I remembered that Lauren had that direction spell, and that it had worked before in this world, but I needed a technological way for the magic to work. Tommy had both a laptop and a cell phone, but cell phone map programs made more sense, being designed to work as GPS systems.
I have also mentally worked out the destination, but I’m still working on how to present the journey.
I struck on the idea of attacking villas pretty much incidentally. I had envisioned most of the nobles living in cities, with peasant servants, but realized that attacking homes in the cities would mean needing a place to hide. I’m beginning to form a plan.
I had intended this to take them to the gate, but I realized that I needed to stop for lunch, and when I did I realized I needed water, and the best way to do that was by tapping an irrigation pipe. However, as I invented how those pipes worked, I realized that Lauren and Tommy weren’t going to be able to open it by physical means. I decided that opening a valve magically would be a release lock or hold spell, within the bias, and that calling for water could use Moses as an example, so I built all of that. However, it took long enough that my chapter ended there.
Again I expected to move further forward in this chapter, which was going to be about making the map, but I first had to figure out the camping arrangements which took more ink than I anticipated. Still, I wasn’t really sure how to write the mapmaking section, so I’m not complaining.
Getting this organized was the trick. I needed Lauren to kill the turkeys, but I also needed her to examine the gate and talk about setting camp on this side of it. I had been thinking about Tommy’s concern about dangerous animals for a while, and needed to get that in here as well. Thus piecing it together in a sensible sequence was the challenge, and I cut off the story before becoming too involved in everything else.
The map had been on my mind for a while, a necessary step to Beam starting his actions. I also decided that they should sleep in the woods, because he was not going to be comfortable celebrating his honeymoon in his bride’s mother’s common room.
I had expected to come to this sooner, and had anticipated the difficulty of conveying everything Lauren had to teach these people and the challenges of working without the best tools.
Life stalled this chapter at least a week, and although I knew the essential story elements, I wasn’t sure how to compose them. The plot has a few chapters to it, but the execution still promises to be challenging.
Starting this chapter, I only knew that it began with entering the woods, and that I couldn’t have them reach the campsite until the next chapter because I needed the hike to seem long. The dialogue arose to give a sense of the passage of time, but it raised important issues.
I wondered about what they would be able to find for food, particularly as Lauren is the only one who has any experience hunting. I pondered if there were any crops that might be grown in patches in the woods, and wondered about cranberry bogs, but a quick check determined these were not harvested until late fall. I also considered other berries, which often grow in wild patches, but for a hundred people this would require rather large fields of them. I thought of my solution, which should come in the next chapter.
I had spent quite a while trying to decide how Beam could take over a villa. The moving in did not seem to be a problem; it was avoiding being evicted. What I decided was that he had to make the commanders reluctant to attack. I thus knew before Beam took over the villa that he would be leaving it early in the morning and demolishing it when the soldiers arrived to retake it.
I long pondered how to make the shooting work. I tried to imagine how the buck would fail to notice or react to the arrival of a crowd of people, or how Lauren could manage to be carrying her bow and pulling her cart. That pressed me to finding a reason for Lauren to scout ahead, and Tommy’s fear of predators gave me something.
I had looked up the amount of meat on a buck, and whether a bow hunter could bring one down with one shot, just to be certain I wasn’t being unreasonable. It turns out forty percent of the weight of a one hundred fifty pound buck (large) is edible meat. It also occurred to me that deer is kosher (cleaves the hoof and chews the cud) so it would probably be fairly safe.
The water spout was one of the first features I’d envisioned for the campsite. It occurs to me that I’ve got a couple more, and I’m going to have to consider why Lauren has not yet seen them, but she hasn’t explored far yet.
I wanted Lauren to say, or think, “Hi, honey, I’m home”, and even returned to the chapter looking for how to fit it into what I’d written, but it wouldn’t work with what I had.
Beam’s expectation is that after what he did to the soldiers who came to retake the first villa, the military will be a bit less rash in their response this time. In game he would need a good general effects roll for that, but I’m giving it to him here, partly because I think it likely despite the attitudes of the soldier nobility.
What I don’t have is a next step for him.
This has been the second behind-the-writings look at Con Verse Lea. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts and another novel.