This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #191, on the subject of Versers Travel.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents). If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New. 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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages. Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights. This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued. 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.
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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.
These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:
- #157: Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
- #164: Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
- #170: Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
- #174: Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
- #180: Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
- #183: Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
- #186: Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77).
This picks up from there, with chapters 78 through 88.
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.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 78, Brown 78
Chapter 79, Hastings 119
Chapter 80, Slade 75
Chapter 81, Brown 79
Chapter 82, Hastings 120
Chapter 83, Slade 76
Chapter 84, Brown 80
Chapter 85, Hastings 121
Chapter 86, Slade 77
Chapter 87, Brown 81
Chapter 88, Hastings 122
I’d decided on retrieving the equipment. Recognizing that it had been so long, I had to think of the condition of the things he retrieved. What mattered was the poison; but the other things had to be operational for future use as well.
Having the quills be in elf territory was an abrupt inspiration. I hadn’t even decided what would become of that, whether they would be friendly or even helpful, or antagonistic. I did know that Derek would have reason to be afraid of them, and that was a good place to start.
As I was writing this, I kept wondering why I had sent Lauren this direction. Most of it was just trying to get her to Cowtown along the route I’d prescribed, but I wasn’t sure what else.
The teacher weekend in Atlantic City is a real annual event. It had meant a four-day weekend when I was in grade school, and the same for my sons, and I heard mention of it again within the last couple years from someone who was preparing to be a teacher.
I had decided some time before that the murdered princess was daughter of King Morgan; I wanted to stall the trial, and introducing a son enabled me to bring out the relationship and hint at the importance of the now-gone book. I needed a change of subject, and I needed it fast, and thought that fencing would be just the sort of thing Slade would suggest; and remembering the idea that princes, particularly of the highest sort, seldom have the opportunity to face an opponent who doesn’t yield, I decided Ruard would look for this.
The name Ruard was an example of one of those stuck for a name techniques I’ve learned, this one from E. R. Jones: mangle a word into something useful. My Blockbuster® Rewards card was on my desk as I scanned for something from which I could make a name, and it reminded me of the Stuarts of England and the Stewards of Lord of the Rings. I was trying to get something that sounded like Steward but started with R, and knew that I had to change the spelling drastically to escape being seen as Reward. Thus Ruard came about.
My thoughts on the duel at this point were that Ruard would be an extremely capable swordsman, but that Slade would best him, narrowly. Ruard thinks Slade a very young nobleman, and will be impressed with the skill of someone so young; Slade of course combines the vigor of a youthful body with the experience of years, a potent combination.
The “very wise comedian” who said that “everything in life is timing and delivery” is actually my brother Roy; I do not know if he got it from someone else, and although I have gotten many quips from him he would not actually claim to be a comedian (although some of his professors and perhaps some of his co-workers might).
Oddly, I thought about this on and off for several days with little progress. I talked about it with a couple of people, none of whom gave me anything useful. Then I remembered that Derek couldn’t hover, and so couldn’t stay still; and before I put that to paper, I realized that the elves would not speak the language of men, at least to each other. This gave me the starting point. Much of the rest came together as I wrote. I needed a reason he didn’t escape; the weight of the darts gave me that. As I was trying to figure out how he could watch them all, I remembered his clairvoyant back protection. The telepathy suddenly commended itself as the easy way to get past the language barrier. As to what the elves knew of sprites, I was faced with the complication that most readers will assume elves to be at least incredibly long lived if not immortal. For them to have forgotten that sprites ever existed would seem unlikely. I tried to compensate for this by assuming a young group of elves, and suggesting that whatever stories they knew seemed to them as fairy tales.
I’d been toying with the idea that the elves would teach Derek how to make the sleep drug. At this moment, I had little other idea. There was a thought of him contacting a human college and trying to use their equipment, but any way I approached that it “snapped my disbelief suspenders”, so I abandoned it. Getting the formula from the elves would move the story forward quite nicely.
I found my reason for sending Lauren this direction in showing her a woman who might have been her. The rest was part of setting the stage of this world, and exploring who Lauren was here.
Cowtown is a real farmers market and rodeo just outside Woodstown, New Jersey; it has been extrapolated into the future, but has been where it is for a very long time already.
The ideas for this chapter came from each other in sequence, really. It started with the idea that Slade would be late for lunch if he spent the morning with Shella. This suggested that the prince would also be late, detained by other things. Then, if the prince was detained, Slade would be waiting for him in the courtyard. Here he might have the chance to fight someone else, and Rapheus was certainly available. I pondered whether Ruard was as good as suggested, and decided that he was, so after Slade quickly outfought the skilled Rapheus, I needed a much longer battle for Ruard. In this, I realized that a man who expects to win and won’t allow himself to lose will probably raise the stakes to try to overpower his opponent–the rules start to become fuzzy when the stakes get high. This led to my desire to have Slade fake the loss.
While I was writing it, I started considering how Slade was going to get out of this world. I decided that the King would be back for dinner. I toyed with and discarded the notion that Ruard would come for a rematch after the trial. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that if King Morgan knew, conclusively, that Acquivar killed his daughter, he would act on the matter. It occurred to me now that this meant war, and Slade would certainly lend his sword to such a battle. I would have to figure out how to make it work, as we would have to have a clear victory and a death, and not repeat previous battle scenes; but I would get there eventually.
I pondered for several days what to do about the elves. I didn’t feel like I could leave them without more said, but I didn’t really have more to say and they weren’t the focus of the story. I gave serious consideration to leaping Derek home and then flashing back to moments with the elves, but I knew readers would want to know more about the elves.
The break really came when I suddenly asked where the elves lived, that is, if Derek went home with them, what sort of home would that be? Tolkien’s elves lived some in tunnels (at least, that’s where I think the dwarfs were imprisoned in The Hobbit), some in wonderful houses (Elrond’s Last Homely House), and some in flets (the tree platforms of Lothlorien). I didn’t want to copy anything; but I wanted some reason why they lived in woods. I also was faced with the fact that they had never moved into the woods of the sprites, a mere few days’ journey, which I had not explained. The idea of a special species of tree that provided a hollow interior large enough for an elf home solved much of this. The tree name, Seiorna, came primarily from Sequoia, as I thought people might better believe such a huge tree if it had a similar name to one they knew. The elves didn’t carve the interiors, but encouraged the growth to go in particular ways, so that the internal bracing structures of the trees would serve as steps and floors. It also occurred to me that elves would select such trees to be their homes when they were young, and after hundreds of years would be able to move in to them; this would also mean they did not move to other homes during their lifetimes.
The name Thalaoniri was a very abrupt invention. I thought he should have a name, and kicked about for something, thinking of Talon and Thalon at about the same instant, and thinking that Talon would have to be modified into something less like a word. I started to type Thalon, but while typing changed it to Thalaon, and kept going to add the iri on the end so that it would have the same multi-syllabic feel of the other name I’d created.
I decided to push forward through the dinner because I wanted to move Derek’s story closer to the end so he could move to the next world, establish the size change ability he was going to acquire, and connect with Lauren. I knew that Slade still had a war to fight. I also knew at this point that this book was going to have fewer worlds than any so far–each of them would be in two, with perhaps one of them seeing the first world for their next book, none of which had yet been chosen. The discussions at dinner were mostly to satisfy the reader that I had some idea about the world of the elves without developing it too far.
It was during this week that I read Eric Ashley’s first Multiverser work. He tears through worlds as if they didn’t matter. I wanted to be sure that everything I included in the book seemed to matter to the people involved, even if most of it was peripheral to the story.
I’d had the idea about Bethany using a lawn ornament for a staff sometime last year, when I saw one in Wal-Mart that appealed to me.
The idea that Bethany would shop at Cowtown because of the ability to barter there made good sense.
I thought quite a bit about where Bethany’s home would be and what it would be like. At one point I imagined a transparent plastic tarp in the woods, so that sun could get in but rain couldn’t. I considered several places in the central and western U.S. to put her, and gave a passing thought to Africa. In the end, I decided to return her to her roots. I needed an explanation for why that was still not enclosed, and found it in the environmental movement.
The legal procedure questions were partly for my benefit, so I could set up in my own mind what was going to happen the next day and make it seem reasonable that Slade knew how to act in a foreign court. These led quite unexpectedly into the material about loyalty, which itself would set up my expected direction. I’m thinking that the discovery of the book in which Acquivar reveals his treachery is going to lead to war, and that Slade will go with them. I’ve already thought of the words, “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve finished what I came to do–and this is the best offer I’m likely to get for what to do next, so count me in.” He’ll die in that battle, probably in confrontation with Acquivar, but almost certainly due to someone else’s treachery (not Acquivar’s skill). Still, I’m not yet certain how to make the three character threads come together. Part of me wants Derek to go first; in fact, part of me still wants to squeeze in another world for Derek, to establish the middle form and the shape changing, before he gets to the vampire world, and still have him get to Lauren first. But I think she has to start fighting vampires in earnest before anyone else arrives.
I’d thought of having Shella ask him what all that was about, but dropped it partly for story flow and partly because I thought it would give away too much at which I was thus far only hinting.
The encounter with the human was tossed in so that it wouldn’t feel like he walked home overnight.
It seemed obvious that Derek was going to have to talk about where he went, but that the reader already knew all this. The difference between the eager interest of his little brother and the concerns of his parents seemed both quite likely and good story in which to review the events.
It was actually when I got here and was doing breakfast that I got the idea for the changing rooms. I determined to back-write it into their arrival at the cave the night before.
The room is a copy of one at Gordon College. The previous owner of the property had been building a baronial mansion on the grounds before he sold the property to the college, and I had a couple of classes in the dining room before it was converted to office space (a tragedy, I thought, as it was a beautiful room).
The paradox discussion is kept simple. I do a lot of time travel writing, and thought that someone who had read any of that would be wondering about those things. The solution here was simple, but one that would work in most games.
The discussion of how Bethany is about the creative touches actually tells much about Lauren I had not recognized. Again, it is probably because she’s more like me. I would like to do more with Bethany; alas, my wife hates her, as she’s so much the silly schoolgirl (Bethany, not my wife).
This has been the eighth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse. Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.