This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #437, on the subject of Characters Relate.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,
- Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel,
- Old Verses New,
- For Better or Verse,
- Spy Verses,
- Garden of Versers,
- Versers Versus Versers, and
- Re Verse All,
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 eighth, In Verse Proportion, 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.
It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways. Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts. This is the second mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 22 through 42. The first was web log post #432: Whole New Worlds, covering chapters 1 through 21.
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 22, Slade 175
Chapter 23, Brown 202
Chapter 24, Kondor 180
Chapter 25, Slade 176
Chapter 26, Brown 203
Chapter 27, Kondor 181
Chapter 28, Slade 177
Chapter 29, Brown 204
Chapter 30, Kondor 182
Chapter 31, Slade 178
Chapter 32, Brown 205
Chapter 33, Kondor 183
Chapter 34, Slade 179
Chapter 35, Brown 206
Chapter 36, Kondor 184
Chapter 37, Slade 180
Chapter 38, Brown 207
Chapter 39, Kondor 185
Chapter 40, Slade 181
Chapter 41, Brown 208
Chapter 42, Kondor 186
This sat for over a week with the label “Brown” on it, and I was struggling with how to fast forward Derek’s story without making it feel like I just jumped over stuff. Ultimately I made a sort of decision about that aspect, but also decided it would feel more like time had passed if I skipped Derek again and came back to Slade.
I have the solution to Slade’s problem, but they don’t have it yet, so it’s going to be delayed.
My solution to the problem in the Brown story included setting up the feeling of weeks by talking about the calendar, and creating the Bridge Simulation Room to make it seem as if his training had advanced beyond book learning.
When I created the 8-day week I spent a lot of time thinking about it–I figured one day for each finger, but then I couldn’t decide whether it would be a five-day week in which no fingers was the day off, or a four-day week. Since I’d made their math system base eight and tied it to their fingers (obviously for them the base eight was built on the number of fingers they had, although for me the number of fingers was decided so that I could give them base eight), I decided to tie their calendar to it. I puzzled over why we have seven-day weeks, and thought it might be an argument for an original divine revelation of a seven-day creation, but ultimately recognized that seven is as close as you can get to a quarter of a lunar month, so there is some logic to it. Since I know nothing about their planet of origin, I don’t need to figure out how their original calendar fit their astronomical conditions. So ultimately I decided on an eight-day week with two days off, which originally would have been a standard weekend but that this would not apply to crewmen on the ship, who would have to work shifts to keep stations manned.
This was more a matter of necessary preliminaries to the chapter in which the dinner is actually held, but it also gave me an opportunity to play with cultural marriage expectations.
I had worked out the solution to the legal problems and knew that they would be building a house for the Slades on the university property, and having the university hold the patents in trust for Bob. The press problem, though, was something that struck me just as I opened the document to begin writing the chapter. I’m not entirely sure how it will ultimately be handled, but we’ll get there eventually.
This was actually the last of the pre-written chapters, that is, parts of the story that I wrote before I started the book, and indeed before I started Re Verse All, but that I also had some pre-written chapters for that while I was deciding which characters would feature in which book. I honestly don’t know where this thread is going to go, or how it can get there, but it seemed an obvious concern for Derek.
I had been anticipating this chapter, and had several times mentally composed the opening section before I had a chance to type it. Still, I had no idea where it was going, and indeed as I finished it I still did not know whether Leah was going to become Joe’s wife, or even if she might become Zeke’s wife. Still, when Leah explained why she chose Joe, it struck me as exactly the sort of rational reason that would appeal to him.
I had been thinking about this chapter for several days, even before I wrote the previous one. I kept trying to figure out how I would present Slade explaining how to build a diaphragm microphone and a simple speaker, which are essentially the same thing with the use reversed, but I didn’t know exactly what would be used to insulate the wire back then, and I wasn’t sure how he would explain wrapping it in a coil, although I decided that they had electrical generators and motors, so they could do coils somehow. Then I was just settling into the opening, “What we are inventing is kind of the next step up from the telegraph,” and I suddenly thought, wait, do they have a telegraph? And if they did, what would they use for a code system? And that then became the place to start.
I was pondering how Derek could teach the indigs, and recognized several problems and no really good solutions, but I decided to get started on that and go from there.
I had been discussing what was going to happen with Joe and Leah with a couple people, one friend by e-mail, and in that the Fiddler on the Roof story had arisen. As I was finally writing the chapter I bumped into a place where it was just what was needed, so I included it. I still don’t know whether Joe and Leah will marry, and I’d better figure it out fast, because three chapters from now they’re going to make that decision.
I wanted to delay the completion of the telegraph, and the idea that the bird language was something like singing very short songs had occurred to me, and I thought I should bring that into the story. That would have been a very short chapter, but I had realized that there should be gas lighting already, but that I hadn’t done anything with gas inventions, so I could introduce those thoughts at this point.
Derek and I are kind of stumbling through how to do this. Maybe he should fail this time; I’m really not sure how to have him succeed without taking a lot longer than I can. However, for the moment we’re going to try.
I expected this chapter to be pretty much Derek gets on the computer and finds the units in storage and has them delivered, but I realized that would be too short, and anyway Vashti has to be fed. Thus I changed gears and wound up stretching enough that I never got to actually finding the things.
Obviously I had been thinking about this for a long time, and discussed it with several people. There was a lot of potential in bringing Leah into Kondor’s life, and it really did make sense, so it happened here.
I also thought it really might offend the Caliph not to be invited to host the wedding. It would make more sense for others to come to him than for him to travel to others, and he certainly should be invited. At the same time, I needed to stretch the story without Leah aging too much, so wedding preparations had at least some potential here.
I was thinking about what to write, but was thinking about Derek’s story, having forgotten that Slade was next. Thus I came to this chapter with a very sketchy notion of how it should go.
I got as far as Slade asking the question of whether there was anyone at the university who studied language, and realized I did not know the answer but had to give one in order to continue. So I took a break. I knocked this question around for a couple weeks, I think, asking a few people their thoughts on it, and ultimately got a couple ideas of how to handle it.
This chapter had been delayed because I was stuck in the middle of the previous Slade chapter, but in the process I was faced with the issue that the direction I was headed would either work too smoothly or be too complicated. Then as I considered how to resolve that, I came up with the direction I decided to take.
This was the third wedding I was creating for my characters–fourth, if you count Sophia and James Beam–and I wasn’t sure how to keep it interesting, but I was going to push forward with it. On the other hand, I did not want it to progress too swiftly, because I needed interesting story for Kondor while Slade and Derek moved forward in their worlds.
The Great Wedding Machine was something that my wife and at least one of her girlfriends talked about when they were planning our wedding. I was hundreds of miles away at college in Massachusetts, so my involvement was pretty much limited to getting fitted for the tux and selecting the best man and ushers, although I worked with my fiancé to write the ceremony.
Life was in the way of writing, and I was pondering this intermittently over several days. I realized that Slade now had several irons in the fire, and I should shift to the house.
I had long had it in mind that Slade was going to create hot water on tap plus hot water heat and a gas stove and oven, but the house was going to have to be built with this in view.
It was also important that the house be large, and part of that was that I was expecting the eventual arrival of other versers, for whom Slade was going to have to have space at least initially.
This had become a significant obstacle. The problem was how Derek was going to get the handheld computers. I didn’t want it to be so simple as he told the computer he wanted them and a robot delivered them, as that would be too much like The Industrial Complex that dominated so much of the previous novel. On the other hand, were I to start him on a trek to go get them I would be caught between a simple uneventful boring trip that didn’t really show the dangers of this world versus a time consuming adventure that would make it difficult to get him accomplishing anything significant in this world before I needed to move him to join Kondor and Slade. So I was kind of stuck trying to make sense of it.
After probably a week of no progress, I typed the first three paragraphs, in which he announced that he found them (I did not decide how or where) but didn’t know how to get them. That seemed to be the next step, but didn’t give me where to go from there.
Then I quite abruptly hit a solution, and finished the chapter setting the next steps ahead. It would be a trek, but limited.
I didn’t want this to be too like what I did for Slade and Shella, so I asked for some ideas. My daughter-in-law Katelyn looked up Persian weddings, and picked up the imagery of an overwhelming decoration of brightly colored fabrics. A writer I know online looked up Zoroastrian weddings, and came up with the bleached white dress, a candle flame which inspired the thing where they light the central candle together (I’m not sure whether I saw this at a wedding once), and the tying, which I remembered they do in Eastern Orthodox weddings (my artist Jim Denaxas got married in an Eastern Orthodox church). The rest I invented on the fly.
In my first draft Kondor’s robe was described as “a chocolate color, which nearly matched his skin,” and so on with the embroidery. One of my wedding advisors said that a brown robe was fine, but that chocolate colored was too cliché, particularly by white writers, so I should find a different word. I expressed the difficulty that it had to be something Kondor could name–I could say it was burnt sienna, but that’s not a color he would know by that name–and it had to look good on him. The advice was that he would look good in fire engine red, so I made it red and figured he wasn’t worried about the specific red so it wouldn’t be mentioned.
I considered the vows for several minutes. I wanted them to be distinct both from those normally used in Christian services and from those I used for Slade and Shella, but to be similar in intent. For these reasons I avoided “until death do you part” and “as long as you both shall live”, but that gave me “for the rest of your life”–and of course the commitment is not for as long as Kondor lives, but for as long as they both live. That made it “lives”, and gave me the opportunity to comment on that.
I also hesitated on exactly what would be promised. In my own wedding the vows were matched, that we promised each other the same things, and although I changed exactly what that was I reflected that in the Slades’ wedding. Here I thought the disparity of gender would be a factor, and so I made his “love and protect” and hers “love and serve”. I also replaced “I do” with “I promise”, again so it would be distinct from our weddings.
I decided to include wedding rings, but to do so in a way that suggested they were not part of the traditions in the Caliphate but were added by Kondor. I also assumed he would have had them made from his own stock of treasure, which means one of his gold diktar and some gems, particularly the emeralds with which he is so well stocked, but some rubies to offset that.
Having had Slade tell the architect he was going to include hot water and hot water heat in his new home, I figured that he was going to have to get the engineering department working on inventing these things. Since he had already described part of it to the architect, I could gloss that part and just put in the additional information needed for them.
I hadn’t really planned it, but it struck me that building the house would enable me to keep the story moving without overburdening the invention process or pushing the inventions out too fast. It gives me something else to cover.
My writing efforts hit several real world delays, complicated by my uncertainty of exactly how to proceed, but in that time my thoughts on Derek shifted. My concept of the trek had included that they were going to find a robot that could be programmed to act as translator and/or find the hand-helds for him, and that they would encounter a carnivore, either a lone hunter or a pack, possibly mutant. I was undecided about the specific function of the robot; I did know that it would have to be reprogrammed to recognize Derek and Vashti as officers. It then occurred to me that my encounter could be with the robot, or with a robot, which was a husbandry module and which identified them as not a “person” by its standards and therefore an animal, and proceeded to capture them.
The precaution of leaving something near the elevator was a thought I’d had at that instant, and decided to treat it that way for Derek as well. I also thought he would think that Vashti should also leave something, even though she doesn’t have much, because she can’t sense his belongings if they get separated.
I thought this was going to move quickly to Joe carrying Leah over the threshold into their bedroom, but I didn’t want to rush things so I wound up working my way through the reception.
This has been the second behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.