This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #27, on the subject of A Novel Continuation.
This is about the creation of my book Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel, now being posted to the web site in serialized form. This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, so you might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them. That link will take you to the table of contents for the book; links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here. There were also four similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:
- #18: A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
- #20: Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
- #22: Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen), and
- #25: Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24).
This picks up from there.
There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 25, Hastings 9
Chapter 26, Kondor 9
Chapter 27, Slade 9
Chapter 28, Hastings 10
Chapter 29, Kondor 10
Chapter 30, Slade 10
I do not recall whether Annuda was my name for the pack mother of the werewolves or Ed’s, but I conveyed the same flavor of who she was that he had conveyed to me. The use of the telepathy as a way to read character was a new one, but I wanted to establish both what this character was like internally and that Lauren was becoming more comfortable using her skills.
Among animals, showing your teeth is a sign of aggression; this is why cats tend not to like people who smile at them, but prefer people who scowl. I’m not sure why we do it, but it seemed to me that a people who were part wolf would consider such an act aggressive.
What I knew of Lilith came mostly from the fact that George MacDonald had written a book featuring such a story, which I had seen in the possession of fellow students years ago and gotten some brief information about from a few sources. It is my impression that she is part of the mythology of the World of Darkness games, but I was mostly filling in details on this here.
The comment about Lilith being considered history in this world, myth or fantasy in ours, had two intentions. One was to underscore that fiction in one world might be fact in another; the other was to raise the possibility that what the reader considered fantasy or fiction might be truth.
I had done a lot of historical research in writing the Sherwood Forest world for The First Book of Worlds, and thought I might use it for this. I didn’t, though—only a passing recognition of it late in the adventure. As the initial encounter played out, it seemed that Kondor was not likely to recognize who these people were, or connect them with reality, so I let it play that way.
The one who appears is Will Scarlet; I wanted to keep Robin and Little John out of the initial encounter.
I don’t know whether they make ultrapasturized milk in those foil packs they use for some juices, but it seemed plausible enough at the time.
I realized that I needed Slade to become a brilliant swordsman, so I made a point of mentioning time spent practicing.
There are probably two inspirations behind the toothpicks. The second involves my brother Roy. When he was in perhaps eighth grade a fad went through his class of buying toothpicks and cinnamon oil, soaking the toothpicks in the oil, and sucking on them in school. He learned the secret and went to buy some of the oil, but the local pharmacists, fearing that the rush on cinnamon oil among kids was somehow connected to drug use, had pulled it from the shelves, so he bought clove oil instead. He had no idea what cloves were or how they tasted, but was not entirely dissatisfied with the result. As far as I know, he never acquired cinnamon oil.
The first, though, was a bragging rights sort of thing in Boy Scouts, where we would sharpen our hatchets sufficiently that we could split a log repeatedly down to slivers perhaps a sixteenth of an inch in diameter, which sufficed as toothpicks. It was that image that gave me the woodcutter providing these.
I was trying to figure out how to give Slade some magic without making him a serious wizard or magician’s apprentice, and to have him dabbling with a primer on the subject seemed as good a start as I was likely to find. That he always regards his spells as “tricks” is important to his attitude about the studies.
I delayed this chapter and the trip to Filp in part because I was not certain what I was going to do with it. Obviously I started to figure it out fairly quickly, since I began it at the end of the chapter, but I was at this point winging it.
My editor was confused by the reference to the three year old being a “terror on wheels”, given that he was not on wheels. I did not change it, though, because I think the expression is used in America (or was when I was a kid) to speak of any kind of race-like running around.
Slade realized that he should learn their names at about the same time I realized they should have names, so I invented them at this point. Torrence obviously was derived from his father’s name. The other two I grabbed out of the air, really. The fact that Shella was a darling baby was the beginning of a romantic sideline I did not expect would go anywhere, and at the time I thought of it more as the way that babies are so adorable than anything else.
I was again playing with the complication that Slade seems to know more about his situation than I can justify. Any verser who has been instructed knows he can’t have children, but Slade has not had exposure to other versers, and at this point his assumption that he is not aging is based primarily on the fact that he died twice and still seems to be the same age. It concerned me that I might be giving more in this than I should—although Highlander-type immortals could not have children once they were immortal, that’s a point not strongly emphasized in those stories and Slade did not come across as a big fantasy fan.
The reference to having a girl he wanted is dropped, because I did not want to answer the question of what kind of life Slade had led before he was a verser. I tend to think of my characters as either virgins or married, and I did not want to state otherwise with certainty.
Originally the last line read “never enjoyed a cup of cappuccino more”, and my editor balked, asking how he got cappuccino here. I revised it to “even a cup of cappuccino”, hoping that this would convey the point, that it was not cappuccino, but Slade enjoyed it as if it were some expensive product.
The notion that Lauren is a fraud touches on something I have often explored in game ideas, that wizardry is as much a matter of projecting an image as it is of performing magic. Somewhere I had published a piece on a fighter invading a wizard’s castle and the difference between what happened to him and what he thought happened to him. Originally in this chapter I made reference to the movie Willow and the way he used the disappearing pig trick to trick the witch into believing he had done some powerful wizardry, but the editor objected to including that reference, so I replaced it with the discussion of stage magicians even though I liked the Willow reference better.
I probably should have started using a different way to distinguish telepathic communication from speech, but I had not yet given it enough thought.
Writing the passage about Lauren contacting Gavin telepathically was tricky. I had to explain first that she could not contact just anyone, but could contact him because reading a mind gave you the same sense as communicating with it. Then I had to make it seem to Gavin as if this contact meant Lauren knew where he was, while at the same time not confusing the reader into thinking she actually did.
The Bible study time was important because I was going to have Lauren use those verses in combat, and it needed to be credible that she knew them.
I had already worked out how Raal got places, but had not yet revealed it in the story. Thus he could get to Lauren’s quickly because of his ability, but she would not know that it was not merely because he was nearby.
The clairvoyance is different, because it is targeted at a location known to the user; thus it would be plausible for Lauren to check Gavin’s table to see if he was there, because she is not targeting Gavin wherever he is but Gavin’s table which she has visited in the club. It then enables her to pretend she found him.
The resistance to the clairvoyance is the first hint that The Pit has magical protections around it; Lauren manages to overcome those in this instance, but she will face them again.
Lauren thinks of her question about The Book of Journeys on her way to Gavin’s table from the car; I similarly thought of the question between writing the part about her needing to ask or tell him something and writing the part where she does. It was a weak question, but that was fine, because it captures the feeling that she’s grabbing for something to ask, which she was.
Horta is introduced, and he immediately reveals skills of a wizard. I don’t say how Lauren knows he is trying to read her, and she has no particular skill to detect such a thing, but I wrote it off to the way he stared, and then the idea that he was projecting thoughts into her head to attempt to get her to think about things he wanted to know.
Although I already knew that Lauren’s future would take her into at least two times in the past in this world, it had not yet occurred to me that either Horta or Jackson would be part of those; nor had I yet conceived Tubrok, who would be their master. Had I done so, I probably would have included references to Merlin and Bethany and Wandborough, which would have worked better in the long term; but since I was being vague here and Lauren was trying not to think about what he projected, it was fine that she did not remember the things that were entirely meaningless to her at that point.
There is something of a power struggle between Gavin and Horta, reflected in the fact that Horta specifically identifies himself as the “senior partner” while Gavin reduces it to a “partner” “running the club”.
The notion of versers living in all the fiction ever told was introduced into early games (before I was involved) by Sean Daniels, whom I met once. It might have been inspired by The Never-Ending Story, but I do not know that, and I took it from him.
My editor and I struggled a bit over the metaphors related to illusion versus reality. Originally I had written something about being run over by a bus, which he thought was entirely out of place in the medieval setting, so I changed it by removing the bus.
This was primarily a way for Slade to get Filp to teach him those thieving skills I thought he was going to need in the future. I had not yet worked out how they would matter, but in the same way that Lauren was turning into my fighter/wizard/priest, Filp was going to turn into my fighter/thief/wizard. I was not sure how I was going to do it, but it began with the idea of Filp teaching Slade a few things.
Interest in these “behind the writings” continues, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing. Feedback is always welcome, of course. Your Patreon support is also needed to maintain this.
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