This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #319, on the subject of Quiet Worlds.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, 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 have posted the sixth, Versers Versus Versers, 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.
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.
Readers might also take a look at web log post #318: Toward a Seventh Multiverser Novel, which invites reader input regarding which characters ought to be continued immediately and which can be put on hold for later.
This is the first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 11. 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 1, Hastings 173
Chapter 2, Beam 42
Chapter 3, Takano 1
Chapter 4, Slade 155
Chapter 5, Kondor 155
Chapter 6, Brown 179
Chapter 7, Beam 43
Chapter 8, Hastings 174
Chapter 9, Slade 156
Chapter 10, Takano 2
Chapter 11, Kondor 156
I started writing the sixth novel as we were still editing the fifth. I had set up a conflict between Beam’s team and the rest of the versers within the context of a war between the Caliph of the Twin River Valley and whoever it is to his east who was, in my mind, secretly supporting the bandit raids quelled by Slade and company.
There was a problem concerning where to begin this task. A good book begins with something to grab the reader’s attention, usually an action scene of some sort. However, most of my viewpoint characters–Joe Kondor, Lauren Hastings, Bob Slade, and Derek Brown–were gathered in a safe haven at the end of the previous book, and although the suggestion had been advanced that they would be involved in some serious conflict, there was much to do before that would happen.
That left the new character from the fifth book, James Beam. However, these were being published in serialized form online, and consistently with each chapter the “viewpoint character” whose story is being told had changed. Beam was the character, by force of story, whose chapter finished the fifth book, and I couldn’t see him opening the sixth because that would be the first time we had the same viewpoint character for two consecutive chapters. It also felt to me as if any action scene for him would have at that point felt contrived.
Another alternative was to introduce a sixth viewpoint character on a separate adventure in another world. This would make the book a bit heavy, particularly as I was already expecting that Derek would be killed fairly early in the story and move with his new wife Vashti to a different story. On the other hand, part of the point of introducing Beam was to start Kyler writing a parallel set of books, and I thought he should have at least three characters to do this, and launching the second now would make sense. Still, I didn’t want to open the book with a new character; every book after the first began with a known character, and in the third and fourth with the character who had sat out the previous book. No character sat out the fifth book, but it made sense to introduce the sixth with a known character in an action scene.
My solution was to set up an intense sparring session between Lauren, Derek, and the princesses, although it was just a sketch of an idea at that point, and I wasn’t even entirely certain of two questions. One was whether this was perceived from Lauren’s or Derek’s perspective (Lauren was preferred), the other whether it was Lauren and Derek against the girls or Lauren against Derek and the girls. The former had problems, notably that Sch’hery would not be present and that Lauren was an incredible fighter; the latter that Derek was also a good fighter. The answer turned out to be that Derek is the referee.
I discussed this chapter at length with Kyler before writing it, and when it was done he was very pleased with it. Beam is still, in my mind, his character, and I still hope he will run with it once this book is complete.
I had reached the end of the book, with just a few chapters in my head that had to make it to paper, when I realized that I really did need this other character.
When I began doing the insertions, I had a dozen Takano chapters and seventy-four chapters of the main story, so I recognized that I should be inserting one of these roughly every sixth chapter. I also did not want it to be the last chapter of the book, and I didn’t want to do the insertions mechanically, so I gave some thought to where to put each chapter. Ultimately I decided that this was a good place to introduce the new character, as the opening of the book was a bit slow and it would introduce something different.
This character was probably the most difficult to set up to this point. I had wanted a genuine modern Japanese teenaged girl, but could not really find the resources to do that, so I went with an American girl of Japanese extraction. I consulted two friend/acquaintances, both of whom were helpful. The one, Shun Takano, I had met in seventh or eighth grade, a fellow classmate and immigrant from Japan. He suggested Tomiko/Tommy as the girl’s given name, with Tomio as the masculine cognate for her grandfather, and we both thought that the best choice; he also gave permission when I asked for me to use his surname, as I thought the alliteration of the name had a good sound and it was a genuine but not overly common Japanese name. The other advisor was Thomas J. Mead, friend and peer of my sons who is a martial arts master immersed in Japanese culture, although I don’t know that he’s ever been to Japan. He helped me with things like the dates and other bits. My thanks go to both of them; Tommy would not have been possible without their aid.
One of the tough parts of writing a series of books is bringing in new readers who don’t know what has already happened. Thus while during this chapter Slade ostensibly tells a story the long-time readers already know, the function of the chapter is to give a basic introduction to the main characters.
It actually took me three, maybe four, sittings to draft this short paragraph, because I kept hitting places where I was unsure what to say next or how to resolve it.
This was originally chapter 3 before the Takano chapters were inserted.
I’m still attempting to introduce all the main characters, and it struck me that Kondor’s struggle over supernaturalism would be a significant factor in this world, and he has been trying to ignore it.
This was originally chapter 4 before the Takano chapters were inserted.
I sat on this chapter for several days without deciding on a heading. It was obvious that Derek was the one character I had not engaged in the story yet (although he was part of the first chapter, that was Lauren’s viewpoint). However, serious consideration was being given to launching another new character in another world (which had not yet been decided when I reached this point).
It was complicated. A significant part of the impetus for launching the James Beam character was that I had long hoped Kyler would pick up the pen and write Multiverser stories independent of my own. It was thought that a character would be launched in one of my books who would be his character, and then would split into a separate set of stories with other characters. One thing that went “wrong” with that was that Garden of Versers was a great introduction of the character which brought him to a place where he would be an adversary for the other versers in this book, so we committed to continuing his story within that context. That at least opened the opportunity to create one more character for Kyler to use when he spun off his own story arc–but Kyler was reluctant to attempt such an undertaking, and did not think he could do it despite my observation that he was probably the most creative member of the family (myself not excluded). Although a new character would help break the story, now that all five viewpoint characters were confined to the same world, it might also burden the book now that we had so many viewpoint characters. If Kyler was not going to split Beam and the new character into another book, I was going to be overburdened with viewpoint characters and probably going to find myself putting characters “on the bench” a lot more frequently to keep the books from becoming too heavy with multiple plots.
It was further complicated by the fact that I would want the character to be different. I was thinking a girl, probably teens or maybe twenties, because Lauren was the only female viewpoint character I had–but I had Shella traveling with Slade, and had just added Vashti to Derek, so I had some female character development to do there; and Beam was accompanied by Sophia, and although her character is extremely flat there was also Dawn, and I knew that we had already set up Miralla as a future independent verser (although Kyler and I seemed uncertain whether she would become a viewpoint character or enter the world as more of a non-player-character verser). Kyler also had a wonderful world that revolved around a young girl named Lilith that I was sure would eventually come into play probably in the Beam stories, and the Beam character sketch included the expectation that he was going to wind up married to a second wife, so there were already female characters in play and more anticipated–they just weren’t viewpoint characters.
In the end I decided that the decision could be delayed. I had woven Beam into Garden of Versers after the book was a good quarter or so written, and if we decided to create another character after all, I could shift all the chapters here to make room for her, as we ultimately did.
The early chapters present the challenge of bringing new readers up to speed without boring previous readers with too much repeat information. Derek got married at the end of the previous book, and this chapter hopefully gives us the feeling of his honeymoon and the changes in his life from being married, while communicating some of that to the reader.
This was chapter 5 before the Takano chapters were integrated.
My problem with the Beam story at this point was I knew where it was headed in the intermediate term, but I needed the short-term story. I was feeling my way with this.
I decided that I needed to contrast the poorer Amirate against the more prosperous Caliphate to the east, without belaboring it.
This was chapter 6 before the Takano chapters were integrated.
It was at this point that my mind started recognizing the challenges ahead. I needed to create preliminary story, something interesting on both stages, and on the Caliphate stage something that would draw all my characters into itself. This would delay a first minor confrontation between the two groups, which would have to come before the midpoint of the book, maybe a third of the way into it. In that encounter I expected to verse out Derek and Vashti, and begin them in another world at this point completely unclear to me; I had the scenes related to that verse-out clearly mapped in my mind, in which Dawn tracks the tiny distant Morach doing recon and manages to put a bullet in him, and he tumbles toward the ground, trying to guide himself as close as possible to the rest of the party, and decides to transform into Derek before crashing so he won’t verse out as a sprite or gargoyle. After that there would be the major confrontation, possibly in two parts (I recently read that a good tension builder in a story requires that the hero fail twice and then succeed), and I’ll take everyone out of the world.
It occurs to me that somewhere in there a battle between Slade and Dawn might be exciting. I’ll also have to consider whether Lauren faces Dicalus, and who takes out Beam. Kyler suggested a meeting, some sort of neutral ground conference, with a preliminary bit of sparring, but he thought that would follow after Derek was shot, and I thought it would have to be before that.
I decided that Lauren hadn’t yet assessed the world, and I needed to get that written here.
This was chapter 7 before the Takano chapters were integrated.
I was caught between the need to establish the setting and characters for any readers who began with this book, the need to keep it interesting and moving for readers who came from previous books, and the need to build toward a story that was still coalescing in my mind. Talking about talking about the old stories helped accomplish some of that.
This was chapter 8 before the Takano chapters were integrated.
I didn’t know where this story was going, but I did figure that a sylvan forest would have overtones of Narnia, and I would play on those for the present and see where it took me.
I thought it would be best to separate the Slade and Kondor chapters, so the story would seem more like it was moving.
Zeke’s interest in magic was bound to bring him to Lauren eventually. The interaction about him being a Methodist had actually been written while I was writing the previous novel, and stuck in the notes until I got here. It fit in the greater context of whether magic is real.
This was chapter 9 before the Takano chapters were integrated.
This has been the first behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind the writings posts for it.