This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #100, on the subject of Novel Settling.
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:
#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),
#78: Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
#82: Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
#86: Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
#89: Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
#91: Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54),
#94: Novel Meetings (which continued with coverage of chapters 55 through 63).
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 64, Kondor 63
I have no idea why I went with Krannitz the Stupefying. I think I wanted to suggest something about this world being different, such that a name that sounds pretty silly to most people might be a successful performer in this other world.
Kondor’s problem really is that something supernatural did happen, and he is well practiced in explaining away the supernatural, but when Krannitz does it this time he creates an explanation that does not fit the facts known to Kondor.
The idea of having the story embellished seemed to fit with everything, and particularly with Kondor’s annoyance at the difference between the truth as he knew it and the history that was recorded about him.
Chapter 65, Hastings 65
The idea of Derek moving between horror movie settings had more sprung from my desire to stretch into the genre and try to do something frightening; the logic behind it, the connection to who he was, came after that, although to a degree it sprang from those events. I had already characterized Derek as someone who knew all the horror movies, so I started to think about why he had watched them (something I’ve never wanted to do).
Chapter 66, Brown 22
Right at the beginning of their relationship, Derek, still really a boy, struggles with what to call Lauren, even in his thoughts. She is probably about as old as his parents, in appearance, and of course much older in years according to her stories. So he thinks of her as “Mrs. Hastings” and then corrects himself because she insists he call her “Lauren”.
Derek is eventually to be the great computer hacker; to get him there, I needed to give him opportunities to practice and let it appear that he was doing so. Thus the continued efforts here.
I was trying to create a rather alien mindset for Spire. It was not the most alien mind I’d ever done, perhaps, but it had to be conveyed easily. The poor linguistic skills, the seeming lack of awareness of time, were juxtaposed against her intuitive grasp of forgotten technologies.
The food packets were inspired by trail foods, particularly the Gorp at Philmont and Gumper’s four-man meal packs, from my Boy Scout days.
The idea of putting the system on maintenance status was the only thing I could think to do that would make sense to the reader. I know some electronics, but nothing about security systems, really, so I was making it up as I went along.
Starson calls Lauren “the lady”. I remember playing in a Gamma World game once and saying that even though our characters were all teenagers, it was really unthinkable that we had reached that age at all in so dangerous a world, let alone without having learned what was safe to eat. I would not expect very many people in this world to reach thirty, and those who manage it would probably be recognized and treated with a certain amount of respect.
I realized that whatever this compound once was, Derek would eventually know, so I had to decide. The satellite tracking facility idea was mostly devised as something that would have all that sophisticated gear but be in the main inoperable for anything significant.
Chapter 67, Kondor 64
At this point, I had decided that the man who left early was my culprit; it wasn’t until it was all falling into place too easily that I decided to shift that.
That shifting would in turn inspire a game version of this part of the story. The first part, the quest to recover the Vorgo told in the first book, had already been released for game play, but only in electronic form. The events to this point sounded like they’d be a lot of fun to play, and a mystery would be fun to write. The problem I faced was making it such that those who read the book wouldn’t know the solution. The answer to that problem was to provide multiple suspects and tweak the facts slightly for each, so that any of them could be suspect but only one could have actually done it in any particular instance. As I say, that idea that more than one person might have been guilty was inspired by the switch I made when writing this version.
I was also going to follow the thread of Kondor studying to be a magician under Krannitz’ tutelage; shifting the villain derailed that entire direction, and instead forced me to look elsewhere, and get him involved in advanced physics, which seems a better choice for him anyway.
The events in the hotel room were to give the feel of time passing as well as provide Kondor with an alibi; I also wanted to have his thoughts come to the fore, particularly about the magic lessons, which he might yet pursue in a future world.
I thought quite a bit about whether the police would knock on the door or the concierge call upstairs to let him know they were there; I decided that the police would insist that no call be placed.
This was the first time I had to think about what Joe wore to bed, and since he sleeps alone I thought boxer shorts would probably work, at least in the privacy of his hotel room.
Chapter 68, Hastings 66
This chapter started precisely because I didn’t know what Lauren was going to do here. I knew that Derek was going to come to understand the verse from what she taught him, and that he was going to pick up his computer skills and get in shape and learn to fight; I didn’t really have anything planned for her except to support him, make it seem like her presence here mattered, and move her on to meet Bethany. Thus this chapter was in part my own effort to determine what she should do, as she sought such guidance for herself.
There is a bit here on the uncertainty of guidance from circumstance. Lauren recognizes that she could have followed either of two paths, both of which would have led to her being here with Starson’s group and Derek. Her purpose for being here might be connected to any one of those things. In my mind, it was connected to Derek; but it didn’t have to be, and there was nothing to say Lauren had to reach that same conclusion.
When I first wrote that she could teach, I of course meant Derek, and maybe Starson’s group; but it was the beginning of the idea of the school. I didn’t have that idea yet, but I was headed that direction.
The evangelistic angle was problematic. I realized that I couldn’t duck it–Lauren would have to think of that. At the same time, I didn’t want her chapters or Derek’s to become so blatantly Christian that it would turn off those who disagreed with her. At this point I didn’t know how I would handle that, but I would have to move that direction.
Chapter 69, Brown 23
I had modeled parts of this on several role playing games; in one of them, people had cards (and in another, bracelets) which were color coded for what kind of access they provided. That had bothered me; there was too much access. I wanted to keep the flavor of the electronic access, but not have the universal access suggested by those approaches. Thus I devised the identity card notion from crossing what I knew of modern cash/credit cards and information systems.
The skill plus attribute system Multiverser uses for skill success is enhanced in regard to combat with an extra attribute bonus, a “strike value” that averages more basic scores to increase the chance of hitting a target. (There is also a “target value” that is subtracted from the chance to hit, representing the target’s ability to deflect and dodge.) As a result, it is possible for someone to have a natural ability with ranged weapons that increases their chance to hit a target even with an unfamiliar one. Derek has been developing his hand/eye coordination through video game play, and that’s one of the attributes that contribute to strike value.
Lauren’s improved shooting ability is from using her other weapons. Shooting branches off trees outside the compound fence showed both the accuracy of the weapon and her own skill.
Neither of the games on which this scenario is based (Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, the latter probably based significantly on the former) had power cell chargers, at least that I ever encountered, but it was evident that something like that must exist or the weapons made no sense. The portable one was in some sense less likely, but only because in a compound like this wall units would be the obvious choice, and travel supplies would not have been in demand. Yet there might be one lying around, and that was what Lauren hoped.
It was necessary for them to practice extensively with the new weapons so that their level of skill with these in the future would be credible.
These weapons are more potent than those used by Bob and Joe (and these are photonic, while those are kinetic/gravitic). They hit harder. Bob’s weapon gets more shots, but not as deadly; Joe’s weapon gets as many shots on its high power setting, which is not as potent as this.
One of the lessons Lauren learned in the parakeet world was that it might be valuable to teach what she knows to other versers. She is very much in teaching mode in this world, and Derek is her primary pupil; but she lets him decide what he wants to learn, while making what she offers to teach sound somewhat attractive. Thus having shown him how to use the rifle and coached him a bit to improve his ability, she now offers to teach him how to fight in close combat.
Chapter 70, Kondor 65
Knowing that there were going to be police questions, I had written the previous section of Kondor’s story to include several contacts with the hotel staff, so that there would be little if any question of him having left the room. I knew he would be a suspect, and I wanted to reduce that credibly as soon as possible so he could get on with solving it.
The library was a sudden inspiration; I was trying to think of a way that Kondor could get the clues he needed to track down the culprit, and that seemed the best way at that moment.
Chapter 71, Hastings 67
This was particularly difficult for me, because I am specifically not a specimen of physical fitness and have never been particularly interested in becoming one. I studied some tumbling at the Y as a boy, but most of what I know about gymnastics and martial arts comes from observation. Working out how Lauren would train Derek in these skills was a bit of a challenge.
Lauren finds her purpose in this world in teaching pretty much everything to people who have lost all knowledge of their own world. She focuses on coming to it from a Christian base, but she covers quite a bit ultimately.
Chapter 72, Brown 24
Limiting Derek’s ability to identify his own location freed me from having to be too specific about it.
Derek has the kid’s immediate negative reaction to the idea of school. Because it is mandatory, we see it as undesirable; because everyone goes, we don’t see any individual advantage. It isn’t until we’re older that we realize the benefits of school.
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.