#116: Character Missions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #116, on the subject of Character Missions.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  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.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
  6. #91:  Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54),
  7. #94:  Novel Meetings (which continued with coverage of chapters 55 through 63),
  8. #100:  Novel Settling (which continued with coverage of chapters 64 through 72),
  9. #104:  Novel Learning (which continued with coverage of chapters 73 through 81),
  10. #110:  Character Redirects (which continued with coverage of chapters 82 through 90),
  11. #113:  Character Movements (which continued with coverage of chapters 91 through 99).

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This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.


Chapter 100, Brown 34

I did not know when Derek would ever need the sort of stealth skills he was learning in this chapter, but I thought he ought to learn them so I would have some logical basis for them if I needed them in the future.

I had read an article in Omni sometime in the early ‘80s about underground homes and their many advantages.  There seemed a reasonable probability that there would be more underground structures in the future, and that these would have a better chance of surviving the kinds of disasters that were likely to lead to a post-apocalyptic scenario of this sort.  It also gave me a good setting for the adventure—and of course the building in which they created the school was also largely underground, although it had a complete ground floor on the surface.

Credibly describing how Derek disabled futuristic security systems was a challenge, but I managed to be specific enough about the things about which I could be reasonably certain and vague enough about the rest to make it credible.  The weapons were easier—I only had to say that Dorelle did it, and Derek was not in a position to see what she did.

I think the idea that the Progressivists used this base was something I decided at this point; it gave me additional tension for the story.


Chapter 101, Kondor 76

Joe faces the problem of proving he’s a verser.  To his advantage, they don’t have a better explanation at this point.

The Pernicans were something like this world’s version of Atlantis, or perhaps more like Incans, Aztecs, or Mayans—an ancient lost civilization about which there are always rumors of lost knowledge beyond that of the modern world.  Scientists don’t believe those rumors, but the point is that were someone to offer something beyond what modern science understands and claim that that was the source, they would have little way and less motivation to disprove it.

The planet Fortran is of course named for the early computer language of that name.  My parents and my aunt all worked in it some in the early 70’s, I think.

I managed to invent the job at this point.  I got this, really, from the “contingent scenario” in my world The Perpetual Barbecue, published in Multiverser:  The Second Book of Worlds.  In the primary scenario, the player character has landed in the middle of an infinity loop—a temporal anomaly caused by someone changing history in a way that prevents its own change.  It can be a very fun or very frustrating scenario for many players as they keep reliving the same day and have to determine why.  If they manage it, the next day dawns and they have nothing to do.  However, to involve them in the story I use a mistaken identity trick that brings them to the attention of a government working on a matter transmitter (teleporter) project).  I didn’t want to use the teleporter project, even though I probably would never use it in a future book, but the fact that his gun used something like negative artificial gravity made it perfect for a connection to a physics project, and his need for a place in this universe gave him a good connection for it.


Chapter 102, Hastings 76

My future Bethany used magic rather differently from Lauren, and I sought to explain that in a proclivity for the one over the other.  There is a sound game mechanics basis for such a distinction, if Bethany’s best relevant attribute for magic is significantly higher than that for psionics, and Lauren has it reversed.

I thought the reader might wonder why Lauren takes the road to reach Camelot, so I had Ferenna ask the question and provided what I took to be a quite reasonable answer.  In theory I suppose Lauren could scry the land and find a target, but the trip was part of the process.

Lauren has a bit of nostalgia about her homes, even though she has had to leave them and begin anew several times.  In that again she is like me.


Chapter 103, Brown 35

I could think of a lot of reasons why it was a bad idea to go forward at this point, and I let the characters explore them.  Ultimately, though, I needed them to go forward, so I had Derek come up with a good reason to do so.

Derek’s reasoning to some degree echoes what Qualick and Dorelle, at least, already know:  better to work from the top down to ensure that your egress is not impeded.  That’s how they explored the compound where they found him.  His last reason, though, is silly enough that he recognizes it to be silly, yet it is still a significant reason in his mind.  I am to some degree playing with what might be called adventurer expectations:  we’ve all played the games, and know that the first level of the dungeon is the easiest.


Chapter 104, Kondor 77

The notion that military systems are usually fouled up somewhere comes back in the fourth book, where Joe uses it to his advantage.

The idea that the project had been working on artificial gravity for six years gives a basis for how the agent who first saw the kinetic blaster recognized some of its components:  they hadn’t solved the problems, but they had been working in that direction.

This is an example of a situation in which telling the truth about himself played in his favor:  because he has asserted that he did not exist in this world (apart from the vorgo incident) it makes perfect sense that there will be no records of his existence prior to a week ago.

It’s important when writing, and when running a game, to keep in mind what the characters look like.  It is easy for me to forget that Joe is wearing military fatigues even though I never envision him in anything else.  It is something to which other characters should sometimes respond.

Having Joe’s studies run concurrently with their work on the power supply enabled me to burn up an unstated amount of time, and make it credible that he had gotten fully up to speed on electronics and at that point.


Chapter 105, Brown 36

Derek demonstrates one of those facts of reality:  that which comes from your own time you know without thinking, but it might not be intuitive.  Qualick saw the elevator doors closing, and panicked; Derek stepped in the way and they opened again.

I think I learned the lesson about looking like you know where you’re going when I was in high school, but Derek wasn’t in high school so he had to learn it younger.

This again was a dynamic “they win and he dies” finish.  The extermination of most of the population of the complex had begun and would run its course.  Qualick, Meesha, and Holger were holding their own, and had Dorelle to help them.  Derek was gone.

I had at some point realized that this book was going to be considerably longer than the first, and that I needed to bring it to a conclusion.  Because of my vision for the final world, I needed to extract Derek from his present adventure to launch the next one—but I needed to do so in a way that would not be unsatisfying to the reader.


Chapter 106, Hastings 77

I’ve had the experience where someone was talking to me while I was asleep, and I thought I was conversing with them, but my answers were all in the dream.

I needed to have these fights against the undead precisely because Bethany said in the first book that fighting vampires would be like the old days.  That meant that the two had had these fights in Bethany’s past, and this was my only chance to make that happen.


Chapter 107, Brown 37

One aspect of running a Multiverser game involves telling the player what his character sees, not where he is, and letting him draw his own conclusions.  Derek at present is attempting to determine where he is from what he sees.  One of the challenges for him is that there is a tendency to interpret what you see within the categories of your own experience, and thus he makes guesses and assumptions that fit but are not quite correct.

I was creating this world as I went.  The first person with whom Derek interacts is apparently an alien (or a mutant) but I never follow that line.  In the game version I constructed later, I stuck with humans.

Derek is able to remember that he looks like a child, and use that to his advantage.  He’s just old enough that people wouldn’t treat him as a lost child, and just young enough that they would understand him looking for his mother.

I encountered the surname “Terranova” on a claim form during a brief stint working at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Delaware.  I immediately saw the meaning—“new earth”—and liked it so much that in about 1984 when I was asked to run a band I called it “TerraNova”.  In 1987 there was a television series, Wiseguy, whose lead character was a Vinnie Terranova, that we liked at the time, but I had been using the name previously.  When I was creating a space habitat, the name seemed quite appropriate, so I used it.

I had early established Derek’s preference for inside over outside.  His recent foray in the previous world was unusual, and demonstrated some kind of maturation through which he was willing to undergo a trek outside for a purpose, but he is back to thinking in terms of comfort, and inside is usually the more comfortable choice.


Chapter 108, Kondor 78

I think they still make disposable cameras with strobe flashes, but I’m not sure.  In any case, they made them when I wrote this.

The idea of ray guns replacing bullets completely is probably as insensible as Kondor suggests.  The amount of focused energy required is remarkable.

I’m not sure whether the detailed description Joe gives of the controls is found in the world description.  Some of what is stated is at least extrapolated from the known facts about the gun (including that it has three power levels).

Equating kinetic with gravitic energy does make sense apart from the fact that, as Joe muses, they are both invisible and he does not understand either.  Yet that is a significant point:  they are unlike electricity, which is usually invisible (save when it sparks), or magnetism, also invisible.  It is perhaps to some degree like the wind, which you cannot see despite seeing the effects, because that is an expression of kinetic force but transmitted via matter.

Joe’s touch of paranoia about what kind of world it is and whether by introducing alien weapon technology he is altering it for better or worse, is something I think he had not previously considered, but a significant question in the circumstances.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.

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