Tag Archives: Writing

#39: Character Futures

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #39, on the subject of Character Futures.

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 numerous similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42),
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48)., and
  9. #37:  Character Diversity (chapters 49 through 56).

This picks up from there.  Our three characters are each in various ways preparing for something in the future in these chapters.

img0039Sherwood

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 55, Slade 18

I had begun seriously toying with the idea that Slade might marry Shella, but at this point I was also seriously planning the end of my book, and Shella did not fit where I was headed.  Still, it seemed natural to draw them closer together.

The notion of Torrence becoming Lord of Slade Manor had developed gradually, and was well-formed when I had the letter sent at the end of the previous chapter.  Shella’s place was still nebulous.

I wanted to bring across the idea that having control over your own destiny is a very modern concept, that even for the sons of noblemen in the past everyone fell into his assigned place in the world and did what his parents left him to do.  Torelle can’t see it any other way.

As Slade begins talking to Torrence, he wants to say that Torelle ought to have mentioned this earlier but is too stubborn in his conception of life to have done so, but he doesn’t want to offend Torelle in the process, so he looks for a reason why it falls to him, now, to do so.


Chapter 56, Hastings 20

I needed a lunar eclipse, because the concepts of the werewolf I was using included that they were nearly invulnerable under that condition.  In play, if I recall correctly, Ed simply rolled the dice and announced that there was such an eclipse coming up on a particular date.  I could have done something similar, but I wanted a bit more of a connection to reality—besides, I had played this in about 1993 and was writing in 1997, so just as he had put me a few years in my future I put Lauren a few years in hers, and had her already past the date of the eclipse from the game.  So I checked an almanac.  There was an eclipse coming on October 17th, which in story terms was very short, as I had been tracking dates and trying to keep consistent with the seasons in the climate and could not easily shift everything (not impossible for Lauren to wear a parka in September, but not at all reasonable in August).  It happened that the eclipse would not be total in Philadelphia, but I figured that to be a very small change, and noticed that it would be quite a few years before there would be another eclipse at all, and I could not stretch Lauren’s story that far.  I also felt that the rush gave it a sense of realism, because when you are trying to align actions with astronomical events you sometimes find yourself under pressure.

In play, some of the ideas put forward in the book by Father James came from the player behind his character, Tim Pangburn’s Father Holer, including the banquet, radio jammers, and the tampering with fire boxes and false alarms.  I had conceived of the Mission On the Move (it was the State Street Mission in game, I think, but I liked St. George better, and was not at all certain how much Ed had plagiarized), but I didn’t use it until the third raid, the destruction of a theatre called The Presemium.  I had already decided that Lauren’s story had run long enough, and I was going to eliminate everything I did after that point, in part because some of it was very much off the central story and involved another player character, and in part because I had still been in that world when Ed stopped running the game, and I thought the confrontation with Horta would be a good way to end it.

I also conceived the notion of blessing water in the pumper trucks, but that, too, was done at the Presemium raid; I liked the idea too much to abandon it, so I brought it into the story here.

I was toying with the notion that Horta might be an antediluvian (pre-flood) vampire at this point, and put the notion forward with Annuda.  Werewolves are not so long lived, perhaps comparable to humans, and their history is all oral tradition, so it wasn’t etched in stone just because she said it might be so.  Since Lauren killed Horta, and I was planning to take her to earlier points in the history of this world, I realized while writing the next book that I was going to need someone more powerful than Horta who was going to have to be the villain in the final encounter in the third book.  Thus the destruction of Horta led to the conclusion that Tubrok, not Horta, was the antediluvian.


Chapter 57, Kondor 19

When I run Sherwood as a game, Richard does not return unless the player finds a way to return him; the novel more closely follows the history, in which the merchants ransom their king.  John really did not have the money—Richard and their father had heavily taxed the land to pay for their wars, leaving little in the royal coffers.  It is also the case that upon his safe return, Richard reneged on the deal he had made with France to remove the impediment to his leadership of the Crusade, and crossed the channel to do battle over the ownership of Normandy, Brittany, and D’Anjou.

The connection between the Prince John who ruled as surrogate for Richard and the King John who was forced to sign the Magna Carta is not generally made.  I had never made it until I researched the history for this world, and even now I cannot put a year on it beyond that it was near the end of the first decade of the twelve hundreds.  I figured Kondor wouldn’t know, either.


Chapter 58, Slade 19

Quite frankly, I had no idea that Slade would eventually marry Shella.  It was one of those things, that I thought they were attracted to each other but that he would always consider it impossible and she would never push the issue, and so he would verse out and leave her behind.  So I was playing with their mutual attraction while keeping the boundaries clear.

The communications spell was one of those things I thought might be useful at some point in the future, but was done more to give the impression that Slade was learning magic, at least a bit.

I also found myself building a friendship between Slade and Filp.  It, too, was expected to end when Slade left, but I found that much of it lingered with Slade as he visited other worlds.

When I began Slade’s dungeon crawl I thought he would probably be killed somewhere early in the game; I had not anticipated making him a lord and keeping him there for decades.  I realized that I had painted myself into a corner, as there weren’t too many ways to remove him that would be consistent with his character, but I also saw some advantage in having the story go this way, so I wasn’t too worried.


Chapter 59, Hastings 21

My editor was not a religious man, and he found Lauren’s affront at the competing religion to be irrational.  I had to do some extensive rewriting here to make it clear why the religion Gavin espoused was dangerous.

Throwing a “spanner in the works” is probably a distinctly British version of that concept; I had always heard it as a “monkey wrench”.  The latter is a vernacular name for a pipe wrench, which I assume the former also is; I got it from a Doctor Who episode long ago and liked the word at least for that expression.

“We Shall Overcome” has long struck me as a peculiar song.  I learned it at church camp, and it comes across as one of those contemporary Christian songs of the early sixties, like Kumbaya or They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, but it lacks any specifically Christian thematic elements.  Thus I thought it would work for a religion that was imitating Christian ritual.

Lauren’s speech and actions are calculated to incorporate as much supernaturalism as possible into what should come across as very natural and ordinary, as if magic and vampires were things everyone encountered on a daily basis.  It was part of the psychological attack on their faithlessness.


Chapter 60, Kondor 20

Kondor’s uncertainty concerning what to do next reflected my own.  I was not eager to attempt to create a tour of early thirteenth century England, and I really had done most of what I could do with Kondor as founder of modern medicine.  I was also faced with the problem of how to remove him from the present world, since if arrested he would logically face a trial, a rather drawn out and not terribly interesting part of the story.  So I looked for a shortcut, and managed to find one.

Sir Guy’s accent is different, of course, because he is high-born Norman, whereas all the commoners and recruits of the shire reeve are Saxon.

I have often wondered whether to return Kondor to a future version of the world he formed here.  I do that with players in this world, particularly if they kill or otherwise depose Prince John and so prevent the signing of Magna Carta.  Joe took no interest in politics here, ultimately (despite his initial interest), so he did not change that—but he did change their medical science drastically.  I chose to bring him back to a future version of his next world, though, and if I ever do it with this world it will be far enough removed from the present to give it distance.

I have always been fond of the opening of Quest for the Vorgo, in which the verser arrives on the table on the dais during the ceremony to summon a supernatural deliverer.  No one has ever been able to answer whether the magic brought him there, or whether it was something else.


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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#37: Character Diversity

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #37, on the subject of Character Diversity.

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 five similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24),
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30),
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36),
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles (chapters 37 through 42), and
  8. #35:  Quiet on the Novel Front (chapters 43 through 48).

This picks up from there.  Our three characters are defining themselves very differently from each other, and in some ways differently from the way they began.

img0037cabin

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 49, Slade 16

At this point, Shella is the girl Slade can’t possibly marry.  I knew they were going to be close, that I was going to play with this flirtation, but also that he would verse out and be gone leaving her behind.

Torrence is the better fighter, because he has been training all his life to become a knight, where Slade has been approaching it with considerably less devotion despite his religious views.  Slade doesn’t really grasp what it is to be dedicated to anything in particular.

I decided that Slade was going to have to explain who he was and what was going to happen to him to Torrence at some point, because Torrence would eventually face the problem that Slade was gone and there was no body to show to prove his death.

The death of Omigger was at that point tossed into the mix in part so I would have something different to do with Slade’s story, in part because I wanted the sense of the years rolling past, and in part because I had decided that Slade was going to have to pick up a bit more magic at this point.  I figured that Omigger was now out of the story; it was never my intention or expectation that any of these characters would be seen again (other than, of course, Slade), but it turned out that I had come to like them too much and had to bring some of them back later.

Filp is not literally Torrence’ uncle; he’s a distant cousin.  Slade, though, uses such words in the inaccurate way most Americans do, basing them more on relative ages than actual biological relationships.


Chapter 50, Hastings 18

In-game, when Ed introduced me to my self, he was a nationally syndicated religious broadcaster—picking up on the five years I had been in Christian radio and suggesting that I became one of the program creators.  I didn’t want to make the other Lauren an on-air Bible teacher or evangelist, so I shifted it slightly.  I also made her single.  Ed had not dealt at all with the fact that I was married before I was in radio, but I had not had that much contact with my other self.  Also, in game I discovered that I was on the radio, and holding meetings in town, so I went to find myself; here I thought a chance meeting a better approach, as I could not think of a reason for Lauren to seek her other self otherwise.

I prefer not to drink coffee without something on my stomach, and am fond of corn muffins, so that’s what Lauren ordered.

The places in Lauren’s bio are all real.  They are not connected to me in the ways I describe for Lauren.


Chapter 51, Kondor 17

I did not yet know where I was going with the Kondor story, but decided that this was not yet the end of his time in Sherwood, and that the soldier was seeking medical treatment for a child.  That worked well, opening new directions for me.

I think Jim Denaxas gave me the Kondor name, and I  always knew it was the name of a bird, but I only mentioned it here.

I saw potential complications with the soldier, the one being that Kondor had no housing for family members of his patient, the other being that he would be a threat to the freedom of some of those who visited the clinic.  I used both.


Chapter 52, Slade 17

I gave Slade the books to push him in the direction of wizardry, but he really did not want to go that way so he never learned much.  Still, it introduced the other option.

I have Slade improving on his combat skills, now more nearly equal to Torrence.  I need him to become a hero soon, and I need his skill to be credible.

I had decided most of what was in the letter when I wrote of it, although I’m not sure whether I had already thought through the part about Shella.


Chapter 53, Hastings 19

Creating alternate life paths is an interesting aspect of play when you introduce divergent selves.  Here, though, Lauren has to introduce her duplicate to the nature of the world, mostly to set up the encounter with Bob the Ghoul.

I think, if memory serves, I had Lauren Meyers rush out of the first meeting so I could split the discussion into two parts, and think a bit about how I wanted to handle the second.


Chapter 54, Kondor 18

Even in our time people won’t finish taking their antibiotics once they feel better.  The result is the creation of superbugs, virulent bacteria that are resistant to the medicines, and frequently relapsing into illness that is more difficult to cure the second time.  For Kondor, the problem is multiplied by the lack of understanding of the time.

At times the speech of the Nottingham people seems stilted.  It was intended to, and I achieved it in part by avoiding all contractions.  Thus when Tuck says, “You are right, of course.  But I really do not like it.”  It sounds archaic because we would say “You’re right” and “don’t like it”.  So I think it had its desired effect.


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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#34: Happy Old Year

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #34, on the subject of Happy Old Year.

At this time of year, readers are bombarded with “year in review” pieces, part of the media’s need to have news even when there is no news, to make news out of nonsense and trivia–the reason Time Magazine first created its “Man of the Year” issue (the first was Adolph Hitler).  When I was at The Examiner, I began doing something of the same thing, creating indices of articles from the year for readers who missed something or who vaguely remember something.  Quite a bit has been published this year, and it might help to have a bit of a review of it all, as some of you might have missed some of it.  We have articles in quite a few categories.

The web log is of course self-sorting, and you can find articles in its various categories by following the category links, or in subjects by following tag links; still, it will be worth touching on those pieces here, and there are also quite a few “static pages”, that is, regular web pages added to the site, that you might have missed.

At the beginning of the year we were still writing for The Examiner; all of that has been republished here, much of it which was originally done in serialized format consolidated into larger articles.  My reasons for that are explained here on the blog in #8:  Open Letter to the Editors of The Examiner, if you missed them.  It is still hoped that the Patreon campaign will pick up the slack and pay the bills needed to support continuing the efforts here at M. J. Young Net.

img0034MJYNet

Let’s start with the law and politics pieces.  This is a good place to start, because when at the beginning of the year we moved everything from The Examiner, we included a final New Jersey Political Buzz Index Early 2015, with articles on Coalition Government, Broadcasting, Marriage Law Articles, Judiciary, Internet Law, Congress, Discrimination, Election Law, Search and Seizure, Presidential, Health Care, and Insurrection, most subjects covering several articles consolidated with other articles, along with links to earlier indices.  There was also a new main law/politics index page, appropriately Articles on Law and Politics, covering the old and the new, and we added a static page to that, continuing a series on tax we had begun previously, What’s Wrong with the Flat Tax?.

We’ve also had a number of law and politics posts on this blog, including

We also covered New Jersey’s 2015 off-year election with a couple posts, #12:  The 2015 Election, and #15:  The 2015 Election Results.

There were a few web log posts that were on Bible/theology subjects, particularly last week’s #32:  Celebrating Christmas, about why we celebrate, and why this particular day; plus some that were both political and theological, including #3:  Reality versus Experience, #23:  Armageddon and Presidential Politics, and #24:  Religious Liberty and Gay Rights:  A Definitive Problem.

Then there was the time travel material.  This also included some that were originally published at The Examiner and moved here, sometimes consolidated into single pieces.  We started the year with a serialized (and now consolidated) analysis of Predestination, followed by one of Project Almanac.  We also gave a nod to (Some of) The Best Time Travel Comedies and (Some of) The Best Time Travel Thrillers, before moving here.

Once here, we began our temporal insights with a couple of web log posts, the first #6:  Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey, and then #17:  Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey, both thanks to the generosity of readers who provided for us to see these films.  We eventually managed to add a new analysis to the web site, Terminator Genisys, one of the longest and most complicated analyses we have yet done–but we were not done.  Remembering that our original analysis of the first two films in the franchise made some suggestions concerning a future direction for the series, and having commented on the problems with continuing it after the latest installment, we wrote #28:  A Terminator Vision, giving some ideas for a next film.  Then in response to a reply to the analysis, we added #31:  A Genisys Multiverse, explaining why we don’t think a multiverse-type solution resolves the problems of the film.

The site was expanded on another long-neglected front, the Stories from the Verse section:  the directors of Valdron Inc gave me permission to serialize Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel; as of today, the first forty-seven of one hundred twenty-six chapters (they’re mostly short chapters) have been published; there is an index which conveniently lists all the chapters from the first to the most recent published in the left column and from the most recent to the first in the right, so that you can begin at the beginning if you have not read it at all, or find where you left off going backwards if you’ve read most of it.  The chapters also link to each other for convenient page turning.

I don’t know whether it makes it more interesting or takes away some of the magic, but I also began running a set of “behind the writings” blog posts to accompany the novel.  These are my recollections of the process that brought the pages to life–where I got some of the ideas, my interactions with the editor and other pre-publication readers,, changes that were made, and how it all came to be.  There are now seven of them in print–

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone,

  2. #20:  Becoming Novel,
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters,
  4. #25:  Novel Changes,
  5. #27:  A Novel Continuation,
  6. #30:  Novel Directions,
  7. #33:  Novel Struggles,

–and I expect to publish another tomorrow for the next six chapters.

Looking at the few posts that have not yet fit in one of these categories, whether logic or trivia or something else, one, #29:  Saving the Elite, was really advice for writing a certain kind of story.  Our first post in the blog, #1:  Probabilities and Solitaire, was a bit of a lesson in probabilities in card games, and #26:  The Cream in My Coffee applied physics to how you lighten and sweeten your hot beverages.

So that’s what we’ve been doing this year, or at least, that’s the part that sticks above the water.  We’ve answered questions by e-mail, posted to Facebook (and PInterest and Twitter and LinkedIn and MySpace and Google+ and IMDB and GoodReads and who knows where else), kept the Bible study going, worked on the novels, and tried to keep the home fires burning at the same time.  That’s all important, but somewhat ephemeral–it passes with time faster than that which is published.  Here’s hoping that you’ve benefited in some way from something I wrote this year, and that you’ll continue encouraging me in the year ahead.

Happy old year.

Happy new year.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#33: Novel Struggles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #33, on the subject of Novel Struggles.

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 five similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24)
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30), and
  6. #30:  Novel Directions (chapters 31 through 36).

This picks up from there.  Half of these chapters are set in Philadelphia, covering Lauren Hastings’ stories.

img0033Philly

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 37, Hastings 13

I avoided identifying which verses Lauren was memorizing, partly because I knew that combat was going to have me repeating them and I did not want to overwhelm the readers with them, and partly because if I did not identify them here I could pick which ones I wanted to use when I needed them.

I particularly liked the idea of using a “Payday” candy bar wrapper to mark the target spot under the safe.  It’s a white wrapper with bright orange lettering, but would otherwise appear a bit of trash, and the name was just too appropriate to ignore.

The glance at the fire escape is Lauren’s mistake.  She could have and should have pushed that safe without looking at it, and her glance cost her the shot because he saw her look and so had time to dodge partially.

Jake is using his “offensive driving” techniques, a name I chose for it although the actions were used by the other players before I joined them.  I think they called it “combat driving”.

I’m not sure whether the Super Soakers were my idea, but I had given them the holy water.  Since none of the players were either High Church or theologically educated, they did not realize that the priest could create as much holy water as he wished pretty much at will, simply by filling a container with water and blessing it.  That gave them ample holy water for their guns, and they didn’t have to purchase it.

Lauren starts using her “holy magic” here, by quoting scripture in faith.

I remember suggesting to the player who ran the priest on whom Father James was based that he should get the words to the requiem mass, because it had quite a few passages in it that would be potent as weapons against the undead.  I don’t know that he ever did, as after a couple sessions we wound up playing the same game separately.

The disintegrator rod didn’t really work quite as it appears in the story; it was easier to use.  I needed a reason why Lauren would not have made more use of it, and it made sense that it required more effort than the other devices, so I went with that.  I also needed to avoid making it a one-shot kill weapon (although that is what it was) so there wouldn’t be a lot of questions about why she bothered with the other weapons in the future.  In game, the rods had a repeat factor of one use every two minutes, and this logically expressed itself by making it harder to perform psionics for a minute after using it.

Gavin had blindsided me in the game.  The player who played the priest character later commented that it had never occurred to him that they would have had a link, despite the fact that he knew vampires in that world could.  I was unaware of that, but that was certainly appropriate since I was not native to that world.  Thus my efforts to prevent Gavin from knowing what I did to Jackson were futile—he always knew what was happening with Jackson.


Chapter 38, Kondor 13

Kondor is teaching himself to track.  I had some lessons in this, but never did it, so I was struggling with my memories to make it realistic; but I knew about blazing trails and following the blazes, and about using landmarks and existing trails, so I wasn’t too concerned with getting it wrong.

Arthur C. Clarke is famed for his law that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but the fact is that any sufficiently advanced anything is indistinguishable from any sufficiently advanced anything else—that is, if you can’t figure out how they did it, one theory is as good as another.

The old fire pit was a place I never really explained to myself.  At first I was thinking of it as a recent location, that the men had packed and moved to another; but then, the extent of work that constituted their hidden village was too much for this to have been an earlier incarnation, and enough that moving would not have been done more than a couple times a year.  So I took this to be a once-used campsite, and never really explained it.


Chapter 39, Hastings 14

I delayed Slade’s chapter partly because I was not sure, still, what he would do next, and partly because I wanted the feeling of elapsed time for him.

The disintegrator was the obvious weapon, and I needed to eliminate it quickly to get the fight I wanted, so I had her miss the target.  In game I would simply have said that the skill failed, and maybe decided whether it missed Gavin or simply did not fire, but here it made more sense for it to fire.

One weakness of magic is that it takes time.  I have to imagine Lauren spitting words out very fast to account for why Gavin does not hit her sooner.

My editor thought Lauren was too cruel in the way she killed Gavin.  It was the way I had done it in-game, and on one level it was partly because he was such a tough adversary that I had to shoot him multiple times to finish him.  It is more difficult in a story for the reader to imagine someone being shot several times at point blank range and not die immediately, but easier to accept that shots which hit appendages are less likely to be fatal, so I focused on that aspect.


Chapter 40, Slade 13

I needed Filp’s marriage to be different from Torelle’s, and since it did not seem likely that he would have been out meeting the daughters of other nobles (who still probably did not like or trust him) having him elevate the one girl with the good sense to treat him well when no one did to become lady of the castle was the best option I could find.

When I wrote of Torelle’s wedding, I was putting a lot of my understanding of medieval marriages into it—particularly the aspect that you are to love the one you marry, making a conscious choice to do so.  I’ve made that point in modern situations, that love is a choice, and if you are married you should choose to love your spouse, and my wife finds that terribly unromantic and hates that about me.  The brief description of Filp and Wen’s very different marriage surprised her, as if she thought I did not understand that kind of relationship as also love.


Chapter 41, Hastings 15

The prayer for open eyes to find home from the sky was something I did, and the result was quite similar, but in retrospect it must have been a botch:  Multiverser magic works based on expectations, so the user should not be surprised by the outcome.

Bethany posed several problems for me.  First, in the original game she was a guy, a young wizard who was really very strange in a lot of ways.  Second, he insisted that I was Merlin, and at some point gave me Merlin’s pointed hat, insisting that I had given it to him—but Lauren could not be Merlin.  I decided that Bethany’s former student should be a girl, and should mistake her for someone else.  At this point I knew that Lauren was going to travel to Camelot and become Merlin’s student, and that she was going to take a student later, but now I had to start creating the details.

I seem to recall in game the young wizard was too excited not to identify me, but then apologetic about it.  I don’t remember whether I used the quotation to pull his confession from him.

Trying to fill the gaps on who Lauren would be, I grabbed a copy of the roleplaying game Pendragon, I think 4th edition, which had been lent to me to attempt to review.  I was looking for somewhere I could place her, and stumbled on the city Wandborough, apparently something that was around during the time of Camelot.  I then did a web search and discovered that the city was still there, so I was fairly confident that it had been there continuously through the intervening centuries.  “Wandborough” seemed a particularly appropriate name for a city that hosted a wizardess, so I was immediately happy with it.  But then, “Lauren” struck me as a modern name.  I don’t know whether that is true, and I never actually checked its pedigree, but I decided it was probably a shortened form of “Laurel Lynn” or “Laurelyn”, and that it would work for an ancient name to have that shape.  She thus became Laurelyn of Wandborough, and since the map showed Wandborough in western England somewhat north of Camelot, I added “Mystic of the Western Woods”.  It seemed a good name altogether.

I was now playing time games, and I knew that I had to make good on what Lauren told Bethany in the past when she got to that point.  Complicating it, that’s in the second book.

I was still not certain how to handle telepathy, and in this case I did not mark it at all, which is as much a mistake as using quotes.

The bag that I was given by my apprentice contained the coin and the heads from four dolls.  I never figured out what they did, and did not understand what they did even after Ed told me.  I needed that coin for the direction I expected to take the story, but I also needed there to be several other objects in the bag.  Thus at this moment I knew what the bag did and that it contained the coin and several other objects, but I also knew I was going to have to figure out what they were pretty quickly.

The paper towel was an obvious precaution, a way for Lauren to manipulate the objects without touching them.

One of the game tricks I learned from watching Ed was the notion “I can do something with that.”  The objects were all relatively ordinary objects which could be given magic properties of some sort, and could really be anything at all but might be fun to work with.  I had no idea what any of them were or did at this point.  In fact, although the acorn becomes a very significant object that ties the three-book arc together when it is revealed in the third book, I had no expectation that it would be special and no idea what it was until the first book was in print and I was writing the second.  The questions Lauren asked trying to unravel what they were were very much the same questions I was asking trying to give them function.

The discourse on magic is one of my first efforts to get Lauren thinking in this direction.  If she is to be a wizardess and Merlin’s student, she is going to have to accept the concept of magic as a neutral power that she can use without violating her faith.  I had covered some of that in the Faith and Gaming series, but obviously she had never read any of that.

Of the last five chapters, three have been Hastings.  Things were happening fast in her story, and moving slowly in the others, and I thought this would support that.


Chapter 42, Kondor 14

It seemed to me obvious that this was Robin Hood; I thought it would seem obvious to Kondor, too.  Who else would it be?

Kondor sees this as a civil rights issue, tinged with the racial oppression of the Normans over the Saxons, although he never says so outright.  It is inherent in his comment about fighting for the rights of the poor.

That “freedom and justice are everybody’s war” becomes something of a theme in Kondor’s philosophy.

This is the end of the twelfth century, and the time in which both magic and science are in their infancy as ways of manipulating reality.  Both were feared by the church, but the use of natural medicines was readily accepted.

I vaguely recall my editor objecting that a disease had to be either bacterial or viral, but he overlooked other possibilities, the big one being parasitic, but of course there are others including allergic, genetic, and organ failure.  I did not revise the text.

This was the beginning of the notion that Kondor would establish himself as a medical doctor in Nottingham.  I had not really thought of going that direction, even at this point, but it came naturally from the situation.  It is probably an example of one of those situations of which authors speak, in which their characters insisted on taking the story in an unanticipated direction.

It would not at all be difficult for Kondor to find his camp—his equipment was there, so he could follow the scriff sense, but I did not mention that, and was more interested in suggesting that he was becoming more familiar with forest life.


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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#30: Novel Directions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #30, on the subject of Novel Directions.

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 five similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen),
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24), and
  5. #27:  Novel Continuation (chapters 25 through 30).

This picks up from there.  In these chapters, all three characters pick up some new idea or direction, a sort of turning point in their worlds.

img0030Leaves

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 31, Hastings 11

Making raingear from trashbags is an old Boy Scout trick.

Jackson was the first vampire my character fought, and it went very like the story here.

In the original text, Lauren leapt more quickly to the suggestion that it was The Book of Journeys; my editor thought it foolish to suggest that there would be only one old dangerous book in the world, although that was how it went in play. I expanded it, allowing the possibility that she was mistaken–but of course she was not.

I added the Internet research to Raiden’s work. His story in the original always concerned me–if the vampires knew that the pages were in the library, they would already have come for them (university libraries are not holy ground), but there was no way they could have known he had found them if he did not reach beyond the library.


Chapter 32, Kondor 11

I spent some time trying to figure out how Kondor could find the Merry Men again; the task was not simple.

Although much of what I wrote about the Merry Men was from memories of stories, I did take some time to study a map of the area, to get a clear image of where the forest and the road were relative to the city.


Chapter 33, Slade 11

From the moment Slade faced the three adventurers at the entrance to the Dungeon of Coriander (before it got its name changed to Corlander), I knew that I wanted him to learn a lot of fighting but also a bit of magic and a bit of thieving. The fighting part was simple, as fighters always taught potential fighters then; the magic part was not too difficult, as Omigger took something of a fatherly fondness for Slade and would gladly share his knowledge. Thieves, though, are not so forthcoming, and so it took some work to devise a reasonable scenario through which Filp would start teaching him. This was my solution.

As I started the part about breaking into the castle, I was working on the assumption that they were breaking into someone else’s castle. I did not think to make it Filp’s castle (which makes more sense on a lot of levels) until I’d written them into the place where they were caught.

I have always been fond of the “construction delays” joke.

Hiding the rope and grapple with the catapult equipment was an abrupt inspiration, a sort of “Huckle-Buckle-Beanstalk” hidden in plain site solution to what you do with that much rope while trying to sneak around a castle without revealing that you’re there.

The tricks and problems come mostly from years of running AD&D games, but also from trying not to awaken family late at night as a teen.

The guard’s line is the same as the line used by Will Scarlet in Sherwood, and intentionally so. I liked the line, but I thought the effect of repeating it was also interesting.


Chapter 34, Hastings 12

There were two traditions related to vampires entering places. One holds that they cannot enter holy ground at all; another holds that they cannot enter any private building without the invitation of the owner. On reflection I suspect the latter was an attempt to secularize the former, to explain why vampires could not enter churches without giving the church itself any special power. Somehow, though, it seemed that in World of Darkness (at least as Ed ran it) vampires could enter any place that was not holy ground, but could not enter holy ground without invitation from someone with an inherent right to give the invitation, such as a priest or pastor. This confused my editor, who I think did not grasp that the home of the priest is actually part of the church property. I attempted to clarify that here.

I also made a point of dealing with the differences in faith as real differences, that Raiden could not casually accept Father James’ invitation without violating his own faith, and Father James could not risk opening the gate to someone who could not pass his test.


Chapter 35, Kondor 12

Kondor’s concern for the frail lives of those who are not versers becomes a liability at this point, as he won’t shoot those who are attacking him. I don’t think I realized at the time, though, that this would begin pointing him in the direction of being the local physician. I was still working from the assumption that he was going to learn to use bows and swords and staves and tracking and stalking skills from the locals. He was my chance to have a character taught the bow by Robin Hood and the staff by Little John, and I still thought I was headed that direction.

I had woods behind our house when I was a boy, and spent a fair amount of time camping with the Scouts as well as learning a very little bit from my great uncles Felix and Peter, who were hunters. I understood something about feeling a trail under your feet, and looking for faint game trails, that small animals could pass under the brambles, and my descriptions of Kondor’s actions as he fled into the woods are based on trying to figure out the best way to move in such an environ.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must be an American expression; my Australian editor did not recognize it.

I kept running into the problem that Kondor needed to find the Merry Men, but they were notorious particularly because of how difficult it was to find them. Kondor was going to have to teach himself how to do this.


Chapter 36, Slade 12

I figured out how to resolve the problem Slade and Filp faced right here as I started writing it: it is not as the reader has supposed. But then, I had reasonably set up this outcome with the talk of testing their readiness, so I didn’t feel bad about springing it.

Slade wonders what he is going to do the next summer, but I was wondering the same thing.


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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#29: Saving the Elite

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #29, on the subject of Saving the Elite.

It is a story as old as Noah, and in many cases his “Ark” (a Hebrew word for “box”) gives its name to the story:  a catastrophe looms, and a select few will be chosen to board the spaceship, or enter the bomb shelter, or hide in the caves, or go into suspended animation, so that after everyone else has been killed these can emerge and repopulate the world.  It’s a compelling story.  However, there’s frequently a problem with the way it is told.

img0029Ark

I was reminded of the storyline watching an episode of Leverage from an early season.  In order to discredit a ruthless reporter who had destroyed a client’s reputation with a biased scathing sensationalist story, the team is selling her a scare story in which the government is secretly building bunkers to house the elite while the rest of the nation dies from a self-replicating poison that has infected the water.  All the common people of the world are to be kept ignorant until they begin dying, and the rich and powerful will be saved.

Therein lies the problem.

I once heard a respected university professor explain that he knew nothing at all about fixing a car, and had no talent at household repairs, but that he had long been aware of these things and had taken an intelligent approach to them:  he prepared himself for a career that would pay him well enough that he could afford to hire other people for those problems.  That ultimately is the key problem with a system that preserves the elite:  from time immemorial, leaders and scholars and magnates have all been, to at least some degree, dependent people.  They cannot do the essentials for themselves, no matter how good they are at what they do.

Certainly in our complicated time everyone is a dependent person.  None of us are good enough at enough of the essentials that we never have to rely on the work of someone else, whether it’s to provide our tools or our food or our clothes or our shelter.  We also need the elite–we need people who know how to organize the rest of us for maximum efficiency.  However, that is what the elite do.  Among them there are many architects but few construction workers, many clothing designers but few weavers and seamstresses, many food industrialists but not many farmers.  What we wind up is too many chiefs and not enough indians (I apologize if anyone thinks that old expression is a racial slur), too many admirals and not enough midshipmen, too many generals and not enough privates, too many managers and not enough workers.  And the elite are not particularly good at becoming the workers.

That’s not to say that the ark should be filled with commoners and the elite should be left to drown.  The elite are not without skills.  The Russian Revolution attempted to eradicate all the people who were leaders, thinking that leaders were an unnecessary drain on the resources.  They wound up raising a new generation of leaders who lacked the efficiency and effectiveness of their predecessors because they had never been taught how to do what needed to be done.  Destroying all the leaders, all the wealthy, all the powerful, is a bad idea precisely because they have the training–the talent; the knowledge and the skills–to lead the rest of us.  We do need to preserve some of the elite.  However, destroying everyone other than the elite is even worse, because the talent to organize is useless without effective workers to organize.  The good life is created by the joint efforts of all.

Noah’s ark had to contain a pair of every land animal, so that when the floods receded every land animal would have survived.  Our space ark, or bomb shelter, or bunker, or whatever we have in which we preserve that portion of humanity that will survive the disaster, must have a cross-section of humanity, a mix particularly of skills, of persons who can lead and who can do the work.  The elite are not unnecessary; we cannot thrive without them–but without the rest of us they cannot survive.

So if you’re creating such a story, keep that in mind.  A shelter that saves only the elite dooms even them.  We are all dependent on each other in ways we usually fail to recognize.  That’s what such a story ought to teach us.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#27: A Novel Continuation

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:

  1. #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters),
  2. #20:  Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve),
  3. #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen), and
  4. #25:  Novel Changes (chapters 19 through 24).

This picks up from there.

img0027Trees

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 25, Hastings 9

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.


Chapter 26, Kondor 9

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.


Chapter 27, Slade 9

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.


Chapter 28, Hastings 10

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”.


Chapter 29, Kondor 10

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.


Chapter 30, Slade 10

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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#25: Novel Changes

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #25, on the subject of Novel Changes.

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 three 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), and #22:  Getting Into Characters (for chapters thirteen through eighteen).  This picks up from there.

img0025Forest

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 19, Kondor 7

I knew when I reached this point that I had kept Kondor in this world long enough.  In some ways it’s a dull world, a routine in which you develop skills and have occasional interruptions but overall just keep doing the same thing from day to day.  It never really creates a story, only character development.  So I had decided it was time to move him elsewhere.  My editor was surprised, though.  He reacted, asking whether that was the whole story.  On the other hand, it seemed important, too, to put the reader in mind of the fact that the characters would die and having died would continue in another universe, and this was a good time for that.

I wanted Kondor to take some high-tech equipment with him, specifically a medical kit and a kinetic blaster.  He wouldn’t have had the latter as a medic, but he had trained on it as a security guard in the first trip, so it would be natural for him to take it if his own gun jammed, and not unreasonable for the jam to happen.  Once the blaster was in his hand, it would not be at all surprising that he took it with him to the next world.

At this point Kondor first considers the view (attributed to Richard Lutz) that his own life, being immortal, is worth less than the mortal lives of others around him, and that particularly for those whom he counts as friends he should sacrifice himself to save them.  I put Walters here because they had begun building a friendship earlier in the story, and it would be the person for whom Kondor would most likely make this decision.

My editor thought Kondor was quite arrogant in his attitude that he didn’t care whether Walters believed in an afterlife, because since he himself was certain there was no such thing Walters’ death would be the end for Walters.  I made only minor changes.  I think that attitude is arrogant myself, but people do hold it.

My recollection is a bit weak, but I don’t think I knew where Kondor was when I started talking about the forest.  I just knew that I had Slade occupied with castles and wizards, and Lauren in an urban war against undead, and Kondor coming out of a space world, and I needed something different from all of those, so a forest seemed the place to be.


Chapter 20, Hastings 7

I wanted Lauren to have the parka because I was not certain where I would be sending her at this point, and I did not want cold to be a problem.  Besides, I like parkas, and wore one for years; and a parka would cover a cowl, so she could wear the armor under it unseen.

C. J. Henderson and I used to debate on convention panels whether it was worthwhile to keep what in the trade is called a “writing journal”, that is, a notebook in which you write something (every day is recommended) just to keep writing.  He says you should never write anything you can’t sell, and no one is going to buy those notebooks; I say that there is value in having them, and writing them, as long as you remember to look back at them.  The line about “automobiles giving their body parts that others might continue” came from one of my journals, thoughts on a junkyard I had observed from a train, if memory serves.

I did the exploding car trick in play; at the time neither I nor Ed realized that there would not be gasoline in the tanks of cars in junkyards.  By the time I wrote this I’d discovered that detail, so I had to add the notion of Lauren using her clairsentient skills to locate a car that would suffice.

I don’t know whether gasoline really would ignite if heated in a flameless environment, or whether it would merely boil.  I do know that it is highly volatile, and if it did ignite it would go very fast and create a lot of pressure in a tank quickly.

I have no idea how the ghoul—his name was Bob in Ed’s game, but I changed it to Arnie—found my character, but this was how it went in-game.

Given that Lauren was flying and therefore not secured to anything, and that the plastic steel armor she wore would resist being penetrated, it made sense that the impact would transfer the force of the bullet into the motion of her body, and that if it were off-center (as is more likely) it would spin the body around.  Anyway, that’s the way it went in game, and that’s the way I thought it would go here.

I have no idea whether the smoke was poisonous.  My character avoided it because asthma was an issue for me (a weakness I neglected to give her), but it made sense for her to avoid it given that she did not know what it was.


Chapter 21, Slade 7

In the previous Slade chapter I had Torelle run the basic organizational orders to set up a working household, primarily so that Slade would take note and be able to do something of the same when he reached his own castle.  I wasn’t interested at that point in trying to talk about what would happen if you didn’t know how to run a castle, and since most of it runs itself if properly delegated, I just needed Slade to be able to set up the basic operation and then let it run itself.

Oddly, Slade immediately establishes a kitchen staff, despite the fact that he does not have guests for quite a few years.  However, eventually he does.  I had not yet thought that far ahead.

I stepped into a problem with Slade, in that he thought in terms of unaging immortality.  He would have concluded immortality from the fact that he had twice died and come back to life, but the concept of not aging does not necessarily follow from that (as Swift showed in Gulliver’s Travels, in the less well known section about those who never died but kept getting older indefinitely).  It still bothers me; but then, Slade might have extrapolated it simply from the notion that if he were immortal he must be unaging, since old age would otherwise kill him eventually.  Besides, the immortals of Highlander either did not age or aged very slowly after their first death, and that would have been the best analogy he could find to his own condition.

The tiered society of a feudal world is rarely considered, and since Slade has no family and knows only the Corlander nobles at this point, it was unlikely that he would have friends unless he found a way to make them.  I had not explored the notion of the people under his protection, but they would have been peasants, and uncomfortable with a nobleman, and despite what he later does for Filp he probably can’t so easily do that for himself.

Deciding the distances between the castles was a bit of a problem.  It was already established that Torelle’s was across the valley from another that belonged to Count Tork, and you wouldn’t have castles crowded against each other, as they would each be defending a defined territory.  Also, Slade, Filp, and Ommiger got castles that did not previously belong to someone else, so they had to be in territories that were near the borders, while Torelle’s had belonged to the family seven generations earlier and so was if not in the middle at least surrounded by others as the kingdom expanded.  I thought three days travel by horseback would be between twenty-five and fifty miles, and that would be at least reasonable without being boring.

As a footnote, I counted the nights because the nights were when he was more uncomfortable, and I wanted to convey that.

The phone number gag is not the first out-of-time reference in the book, but the suggestion is made that Slade had made others during his time with them.  The chimney and the roller coaster, the Boy Scouts, maybe a few others were already there, but they set a flavor that this statement implies had continued in his conversation otherwise.

Torelle ought to have dispatched a courier to Slade sooner, so Slade could prepare for the wedding; but the fighter is pushing to put everything in order and establish himself, so he wouldn’t delay the wedding simply to invite the guests.

Torelle’s attitude about love for his bride fits with the world of arranged marriages in which he lives:  love is something you choose to do toward the person selected for you to marry.  He finds Slade’s notion that you marry the one you love strange because he was taught that you love the one you marry.

I never give the bride a name.  She is identified as a later child of a higher ranking noble, which cements Torelle’s claim to his title and forms an important alliance for him.  That matters to him, along with the fact that she is young and healthy enough to bear children.  She would be too young by modern standards, but the right age by medieval ones.

It is also part of Torelle’s character that he is rather shallow and does not grasp the concept of relationships.  To him, relationships are matters of status and authority—he has the relationship with his soldiers that they are under his command, and with his wife that she bears his children, and with his companions that they validate his title and position.  The notion of spending time with friends is foreign to him; his life is about doing what he must to be whom he perceives himself to be.

It was also important that Slade see what Torelle did as lord, holding court and managing the land, so he could add that to what he was doing at home.


Chapter 22, Hastings 8

It had been with me for a while that this was not going to be the comic book series for which it was originally intended.  That had had several impacts on the writing already, including that I paid less attention to the lengths of chapters and that I did not worry so much about cliffhangers.  At this point, for the first time I skipped a story, moving Kondor behind the other two.  I was not entirely certain how I was going to proceed with his story, and figured that it was enough of a cliffhanger that he awoke in a forest to hold the reader a bit longer.

I don’t remember what Ed had called the book the vampires wanted, but it sounded to me like it might have been borrowed from some published source.  I created the name Book of Journeys to avoid that, thinking that it might be taken to describe paths one could take.

Gavin’s backstory is Ed’s work.  Jackson he had sketched considerably less fully for me.  The age I picked worked well later, when I was able to place him in Bethany’s time, but at this point I wanted him to be old enough to be powerful but not so old as some of the others.

There was in the game an encounter with a vampire called Lucien, who was apparently more powerful than Horta, but who left the city with nothing more than a polite visit to announce his departure.  There were also two other strongholds (besides the Succubus Club that I turned into The Pit), one a coffee shop with jazz poetry readings, the other a live theater.  I had not yet realized I would not be including any of that.

I do not now remember what name the werewolf cabby used, but it was something even less like a name.  I went with Raoul Wolfe to capture the growl but make it seem like a real name.  My editor thought that a werewolf named “Wolfe” was a poor choice, so I backwrote that it was not his name but the name he used for the cab license.

I think that I learned the name of Bob the Ghoul out of character, that is, as player information; injecting Arnie’s name into this conversation gave me the ability to convey it to the reader and to Lauren without difficulty.

The White Wolf vampire game often devolves to a game of politicking, and perhaps that was why I moved in the direction of internal power struggles as their weakness.  Setting the vams against each other would prevent them from joining against attackers, or at least hinder their ability to do so.


Chapter 23, Slade 8

I’m not sure it was intentional, but I set up Torelle’s wife as the nameless nonentity who existed to decorate her lord’s home and mother his children.  I had not yet conceived the romantic plotlines for Filp and Slade, but these were going to emerge in contrast to the “norm” of the world, which Torelle’s family was establishing.

This was consistent with the personality I was envisioning in Torelle, who was entirely self-absorbed.  It occurs to me that it was very similar to a cavalier I played in a game once, a good person who did not really see the world beyond himself.  There were some justifications for this, given the difficulties of communication even from the next fief; but it was also Torelle’s nature to be focused on himself.

Slade’s assessment that Omigger would not care about what Torelle had accomplished was also correct, because Omigger was also absorbed in his own world, although in a different way than Torelle.  That is, Torelle thought that everyone ought to be interested in Torelle and what Torelle was doing; Omigger thought that everyone ought to be interested in the same kinds of things that interested Omigger, that were not about Omigger but were still narrowly connected to his own world.

Some of Omigger’s self-absorption is seen in his comments about using magic to learn about his friends; it’s not important enough to him to go to the trouble.

Omigger’s home is motte-and-bailey styled, a style I studied for the creation of the Vorgo world which comes up later.

Originally I had contrasted Omigger’s study against a “bookstore or library”, but while Americans tend to use the word “library” to refer to something institutional, a public library or a school or university library, other English speakers, including my Australian editor, would call the room where Omigger kept his books a “library”, and so the reference confused him.  I lost something, I think, because when I say “library” I have more images of school libraries than anything else, but when I say “public library” I lose those in favor of something different; but hopefully it clarified the meaning for non-American readers.

The kind of arcane magic suggested by fantasy games, at least, tends to suggest something very technical, difficult to learn and involving careful techniques and correct understanding.  This is not surprising when we realize that this type of magic was really invented at the same time science was invented, both as means of controlling the world around us, and only the latter actually worked.  Omigger does that kind of magic, so the books he reads are more like technical journals than like religious texts.

I’m starting to draw Slade into being the reluctant magician.  He’s very blue-collar in his thinking, and magic is too much like higher education for him.  He’s only looking at it at this point because Omigger assumes everyone would want to know this stuff if they could learn it, and so he hasn’t really been offered anything else to do.

The comments about the value of the book (paperweight, doorstop, insomnia cure) were culled from comments made by my own Professor Immendorf at Luther College concerning a commentary volume on the prophets we had to acquire for one of his classes.  I added tinder to the list, because it’s a joke made about traveling between universes that paper money becomes firestarter when you leave the world in which it was issued.


Chapter 24, Kondor 8

I had spent a lot of effort developing the Sherwood Forest setting for The First Book of Worlds, and it made a solid contrast against everything else currently in play in the book.  I thought at the time that I was going to have Kondor learn the ambush skills and medieval weapons, coming out something like a medieval special forces soldier.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see how to make multiple ambush scenarios interesting, and Kondor’s character pushed me in a different direction.

The technical data on guns and ammo matters in play, and players will know not only how much power is left on their weapons but how much damage that is likely to do.  Trying to work that into a character’s perspective was more of a challenge.

The earliest English with which I am familiar is that of Wycliff, still over a century in the future; but it is comprehensible, barely, to an intelligent modern ear if you take your time with it.  It might have been stretching things to suggest that Kondor and the merry men could understand each other with effort, but I wanted to include the language difficulty without belaboring it.


Interest in these “behind the writings” picked up a bit, so I’m still thinking they’re worth producing.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#22: Getting Into Characters

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #22, on the subject of Getting Into Characters.

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 two similar previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts, the first entitled #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone (which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters) and Becoming Novel (covering chapters seven through twelve); this picks up from there.

img0022knight

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that first post, which I will not repeat here.


Chapter 13, Kondor 5

The tales I heard of Richard Lutz, my primary model for Kondor, said that he had been an army medic, and I wanted to follow that and expand on it by giving him high-tech medical training.  I did not know where it would take me, but I did know that this was something neither Slade nor Lauren would pursue, and that by giving them different skills I would both create different story options for their futures and give them reason to need each other if I brought them together.

It was around this point that I realized I was going to have to work to bring them together, and I began thinking about how the story was going to end.  Before now they had been seen as three separate characters in separate story arcs that might involve each other at some point, but now I realized that as a novel it had to work toward a “gather”, a time when they would work together.  I also started thinking in terms of what they would do and how they would do it, so that I could introduce them to skills they would need to learn now and use then.

My black friend had a younger sister named Zakiya.  I wanted Kondor to think about his family, for reasons similar to why Lauren was doing so, and I needed names for some of the family members because he would think of them that way.  I wanted them to be credible, to some degree ethnic but not overly so.  Zakiya was a name I had heard before, and didn’t seem like it was one of those made-up-recently names, and I’d heard Whitney as a man’s name before it was a girl’s name, and Ty as popular in the generation before mine, and of course Mary is fairly universal in the English-speaking world.  They were used as labels to give some concept of family.

I also realized that I couldn’t keep Kondor on this repetitive routine for long enough for him to learn everything he would need to know in medicine, so I needed to give him a high-tech sourcebook.  “Hexadecimal” is a high-tech word, and it’s actually rather probable that other societies would develop computer code in that form (although it would be different code), so I created databooks.  I’ll note that I-Pads did not yet exist.

There is a casual mention of exercise and weapons practice, because I wanted a foundation for the suggestion that he was getting better at these things.


Chapter 14, Hastings 5

Jackson following Lauren and Lauren escaping by levitating to the roof in a blind alley came from my game.  When I think back, I can remember being very nervous about what was going to happen and whether I was going to be able to escape.

The pyrogenesis sequence is also based on what my character did in-game.

The throwaway where she calls herself by her maiden name was a flash of inspiration.  I knew that mothers often called their children by first-and-last name when chiding, and that mothers of married daughters sometimes reverted to the maiden names in such situations, and that saying “I’m married now” was a way of responding that “I’m all grown up.”  But we do sometimes hear our parents’ voices chiding us when we do something for which they chided us in the past, and that seemed a good moment to do that, and bring some feeling of Lauren as a person into the mix.

There is a “skill improvement” system in Multiverser which says if you want to get better at something you either practice it over a period of months or you find a way to do something new with it–a “new use” that shows you’ve learned something by doing something different with it.  In-game I wanted to get good at this fast, and so I tried to think of creative ways to do different things with it.  I wanted those who knew the game, too, to recognize that Lauren was improving her ability by expanding what she had done.

The battle with the beast is another event from play.  I never knew what the beast was, although I guessed in retrospect that it was a kind of werewolf that was more vicious than those I would later meet.

Raiden was mostly Ed’s invention–a librarian who found pages from an ancient book and fled for his life.  I added the Internet connection to his research, which both updated the story (we played in the early nineties) and explained how his discovery became known.

Raiden’s perception that she was wearing armor was supposed to show that he understood combat and was highly observant.

Gavin’s church is modeled largely on Dianetics, and particularly the idea that you join to make money.

One of my pre-publication readers commented that he really hated Lauren because everything always worked for her, up until the moment she flash-froze the kitchen.  After that he warmed to her.


Chapter 15, Slade 5

I felt as if I were in familiar territory with the wishes, having run a great number of Dungeons & Dragons™ games in which characters were offered wishes.  To some degree, Slade benefits from my experience in this.

The idea of being able to delay the wishes long enough to give them thought probably owes something to Darby O’Gil and the Little People, where he uses the first wish to get a guarantee on the other two.  If you are offered wishes by a being that has a life of its own, it probably is not interested in waiting for you to make them.

One of the traps into which wishers often fall is trying to combine several wishes into one.  If you cannot make the wish without including a conjunction, you probably have made more than one wish.  On the other hand, what Slade did was to find a way to wish in a single wish for everything that was done for someone else who needed three wishes to get it all, simply by wishing for all of what he got.

I knew when Slade wished for the alliance that at some point in the future I would use it as a plot device to launch another adventure; I did not know either that it would involve any of the other characters, or when or what it would be.


Chapter 16, Kondor 6

Kondor’s attitude about pirates was going to be my ticket to removing him from this world, so a pirate encounter at this point gave me the “shotgun over the mantel” I was going to need.

One point that often distinguishes different types of players is whether they manage to carry food and water.  Kondor is the prepared type who does; the other two always think they ought to have thought of that.  But it also meant that I needed to mention restocking his supplies from time to time, and New Haven, an agricultural world in a future tech society, seemed the right place for it.

The natives of Emerald were a problem for me when I created the world originally.  In the version that was an early gunpowder sailing vessel, it made sense for them to be human cannibals and did not make sense for them to be semi-sentient monsters, because the world could easily contain uncivilized tribes that could not be reached by civilization.  In the space version, though, the idea of humans or creatures as intelligent as humans being uncivilized cannibals would not work easily, as players would insist on finding ways to bring civilization to them, and it was likely that the governments and corporate interests would want to do this.  Thus I had to find a way to sell a pre-intelligent creature that used simple tools and weapons and attacked ships, that could not easily be civilized.


Chapter 17, Hastings 6

The “form and balance” training I used for Lauren was Ed’s idea for my game, but he did it on park equipment.  I thought it better to do on the gunnels of a rowboat, partly because my scouting days had made me intimately familiar with the vagaries of balancing a boat while standing, and partly because tossing her in the water would be both safer and more colorful.  I used the park equipment later.

It is probably difficult, at least in one generation, to present a fictional martial arts training program without conjuring comparisons to The Karate Kid.  I do not know whether I succeeded, but the form-and-balance training seemed to me to be rather different from the strength and response training of the movie.

In the geek world, oriental martial arts weapons are popular, but the names are so heavily anglicized that it is sometimes difficult to recognize the same words spoken by native speakers.  I have heard someone pronounce the name “kau sin ke” in what might be an original language pronunciation, but I doubt I could now duplicate it.

My editor was bothered by the open-ended nature of “You will know what you owe me when the time comes.”  I can see that.  Of course, I knew that Raiden knew about the vampires, and was training people to fight them, but he wasn’t going to speak of them to someone who did not know.

The discussion of the difficulties of having a regular eating schedule attached to a forty-eight hour wake/sleep cycle was longer in the original draft, and the editor did not like it.  I agreed and shortened it, but it was the kind of thing Lauren would have thought about more.  I’m not sure I have a solution for it, but I’m no longer young enough that I could do a schedule like that.


Chapter 18, Slade 6

The second sentence of this chapter was added after my editor questioned why Slade would bother to keep the empty bottle.  I myself am something of a pack rat, saving mementos which clutter my world, so it made perfect sense to me that having released a djinni from a bottle someone would want to keep the bottle, but apparently some people need that explained.

My Australian editor had never heard of Six Flags, which runs amusement parks in many areas of the United States; but it did not seem important to me.  I could have said the Clementon Park roller coasters and people would have gotten the concept without knowing that there is such a park.

The specific reactions of the four companions to the roller-coaster-like trip at high speed to the surface were carefully considered.  For Slade, of course, it was familiar, a combination between amusement park ride and hot rod racing.  Torelle was relatively young, healthy, and fit, and practiced in courage, so it would have made him feel a bit queasy but not so much as Omigger, who is the older bookworm who would almost certainly have lost his stomach contents on such a trip.  As to Filp, he is usually frightened of anything that seems dangerous, and just as when he faced the efriit so now again he is curled up in a ball on the floor.

Filp is thus torn between his covetous desire to see his own wealth and his fear of traveling by means of djinni transport, and agrees to postpone the next part of the journey for a short time.

The alliteration of Torelle-tower, Omigger-enclave, and Filp-fortune was intentional, but not pre-considered.  That is, the words were chosen to fit names which had been established; the characters were not named for those words.


There has been less interest in these “behind the writings” pages than there was originally, but for the moment I’m still thinking they’re worth producing, so we’ll see how things go with this one.  Feedback is always welcome, of course.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#20: Becoming Novel

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #20, on the subject of The Novel Moves Forward.

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 was also a previous mark Joseph “young” web log post entitled #18:  A Novel Comic Milestone, which provided this kind of insight into the first six chapters; this picks up from there.

img0020Verser

There is some essential background to the book as a whole in that previous post, which I will not repeat here other than to say that these were the first chapters I wrote directly for use as a novel, not as the script of a comic book.


Chapter 7, Kondor 3

This was the first chapter I wrote directly for use as a novel, not as the script of a comic book.

Having just come off a Slade chapter, I let Kondor make an out-of-place cultural reference to his medical coverage.  The characters were still coalescing in my mind, and this seemed an appropriate comment under the circumstances.

It is one of the questions Multiverser raises sometimes for its players:  how much can you change and still be human, and does that matter?  I wanted to start exploring it here, but I didn’t want to go too far with it.  An eye is a small thing, and it would be helpful in future adventures, but I wanted Kondor to think about the long-term consequences of replacing your body parts with machine parts.

Kondor’s reference concerning what he would see is of course recalling Geordi LaForge of Star Trek:  The Next Generation, whose views of the world are sometimes given to us as distorted multicolored visions.  Kondor’s artificial vision isn’t like that at all, but he could not at this point know what to expect and he would have been familiar with that character, and possibly some others.  Geordi is not a cyborg, of course; it’s a mix of concerns from different directions.

I realized even as I wrote the description of the vision control panel that it was going to be difficult to convey the image I had of five half-centimeter diameter wheels with roughened edges jutting perpendicular from his forearm that he would adjust with the fingertips of his opposite hand.  I’d seen them on fine tuners on a lot of equipment, but the VCR was the last I’d seen so I went with that.

I was beginning to develop Kondor’s “reverse prejudice” of favoring blacks over whites.  I began to see that there was a character development angle in this that I was going to have to address eventually, and so I should keep it in place.

Again we have the “worlds away” phrase this time coupled with “in another life”, both figurative phrases that Kondor means quite literally but knows he can say without much danger of anyone taking him literally.

I had always intended for Kondor to stay with the ship, because the world as I created it really doesn’t go much deeper than the dock areas; but I needed to find a way to induce him to do so, so I had him visit the city.


Chapter 8, Hastings 3

There are, I think, two kinds of cliffhangers–those which an author creates because he knows what he wants his character to do, and those which he creates because he does not know.  This was the former type:  I wanted to introduce the idea that Lauren had this telekinetic skill, and having her use it to save Bill was the simplest way to do so.  In a sense it makes Bill’s rescue an incidental–which really it is, something Lauren had to do to show the reader she could.

That is, Chekov’s gun over the mantel rule tells us two things.  One is what he intends, that if you introduce a detail people are likely to notice, you must use it later in the story.  The other, though, is that if you are going to use something later in the story, you must introduce it early when it is not so important.

In that sense, it would have been better for Lauren to use her telekinesis for something simple, like retrieving her coffee mug.  However, this cliffhanger was supposed to be the end of a comic book episode, and so to some degree the serious danger Bill faces is an incidental of plot, driving the story forward, and not a major plot point.  Bill never plays any significant role after this; I pretty much forgot him.

I should mention that Bill is many people, but that his name comes from one of my players whom we lovingly called The Friendly Giant, and the soft-spoken personality we barely see is also his.

The movie reference is Star Wars V:  The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda suggests that telekinetically lifting a space ship is not harder than telekinetically lifting a pebble.

This is the first time Lauren attempts to make it appear that she has done something difficult but ordinary when she has done something paranormal.

My editor complained that it was foolish to say that Lauren was tired after work, but I could not figure out another way to transition to the fact that she was not going to go to bed because of her forty-eight hour schedule.

I should mention that that editor, Steve Darlington (whom I met online through his position as editor of Places to Go, People to Be), contributed greatly to this work.  He sent easily over a thousand comments which I addressed in the rewrite, most of which I have by now lost and forgotten.  That I mostly remember those points on which there was tension or disagreement is quite reasonable, since they were the ones that I did not simply fix but actually thought about, but it reflects unfairly poorly on him, as most of what he said was spot on and addressed directly.

The description of focusing faith through objects fits a lot of approaches to the idea without being overly committed to any one of them.  It fits the Multiverser concept of supernatural magic working by expectation, but also other views of the matter.

I sometimes joke about “offensive driving” as the counter to “defensive driving”, and I found a place for the joke here, but did not expect laughter.

The idea of using the words of scripture as the focus of faith was something my character developed in-game.  I used Koine Greek from the Greek New Testament, but I saw several pitfalls to doing so with Lauren.  It would be difficult to deal with the fonts.  I would have to translate every time for readers to understand what the words meant.  I would be limited to the New Testament unless I acquired a copy of the Septuagint and explained how Lauren got one.  So I stayed with English for her.

The statement “Lord I believe.  Help my unbelief” is the first time Lauren uses scripture in the way she is thinking of using it–a certain irony, since she does what she wants to have the faith to do.


Chapter 9, Slade 3

When I started this chapter, I envisioned a long dungeon crawl with many fights with monsters in the dark.  As it developed, I realized that this did not make all that interesting a story–or at least, I lacked the skills to make it so–and I needed to truncate it and get to the goal.

Torelle starts showing a keen intellect, something from which Slade will learn even though he does not yet realize it.

The idea that Slade does not recognize, going this direction, what he originally saw from the other is one that I learned in Scouts, periodically to look behind you on the trail so that if you return this way you will know the look of the land in the opposite direction.  Since Slade did not do that, he does not know the look of the tunnels going the opposite way.

I had mentioned the chimney in passing on Slade’s exit, and realized they would have to pass through it on the return, but also that I would have to explain why they had to pass through it.  That’s when I invented the collapsed corridor.

I never explained how Omigger knew the time.  I later did the same with Shella (in For Better or Verse, which if I live so long and support comes I expect will eventually appear on this site), and have always left it that it’s something wizards can do.


Chapter 10, Kondor 4

I faced an odd problem in describing a futuristic city:  I knew that most predictions of what the world would be like in the future were wrong, partly because they could not predict the right technological advances, but partly because they could not predict the aesthetics of their descendants.  Thus I had to give the feeling that this was a futuristic world without decaying to the tropes of the genre.  Here I was saved by the fact that this was one of the first stories I was not writing for a comic, so I could describe much of it in the negative, telling the reader what it was not like.

There are half a dozen ports of all on “this side of the loop” before returning to the home port in Sardic, but I had managed to duck describing them all by having Kondor confined to medical for the duration.  It was probably an unreasonably long confinement, but it would not have felt so to the reader who was not counting the days and the ports.  On the other hand, Kondor needed to make what felt like an informed decision to stay with the ship, and I needed to expand both his military and his medical training to reach some of the vision for this character.  A stop in Sardic and the obtaining of the medical texts there would move me in that direction.

I’m reaching back further.  The name “Sardic” in the novel comes from the fact that for several years it had been the name used for the home port of the Mary Piper in the game world, published in 1997.  That name in turn came from the name “Sardis”, which besides being an ancient city in Turkey was a small town in Mississippi where my father’s family lived, home of Starflight Luggage, if I have my story straight.

It was at this point that I decided Kondor would be teetotal–not exactly so, but as a general principle.  In this he is more like me, and for one of the reasons I give, that I don’t like anything to mess with my ability to think.  Thus he stays away from alcoholic beverages, starting here, the first time it mattered.

Kondor’s commitment to telling the truth because it was usually easier also began here.

I found the notion of explaining to the aliens that you were abducted by aliens humorous.


Chapter 11, Hastings 4

I had recently read that women have a preference for purple clothes, but men are more attracted to women wearing red.  I decided that this might be something Lauren would know, and so put her in red robes.  I always liked red with dark blue best, but red with gold was a close second, and gold trim on a red robe sounded like a good wizardly choice.

I’ve wanted to see The Pit built ever since I designed it in my mind.  The idea of a maze under a floor with translucent Plexiglas in places and red light below, enhanced by red spotlights in a random on/off pattern reflecting off white walls to create a feeling of fire (dimmer amber and blue lights might be needed to make the effect realistic, but I didn’t think of that then), mixed with the grill smell of flame grilled meats that some steak places capture along with a high dark ceiling to give the feeling of being at the bottom of an oubliette or similar chasm just has a fascinating atmosphere in my mind, and I have long wondered whether it would work in application.

The Goth movement was still around when I wrote.  People really did wear pale foundation and dark lipstick and eyeliner.  A Goth club would be a perfect place for undead to hide, and at the same time an unwary Goth might easily be fooled into believing that the undead were others of his ideology.

Lauren’s preference in wine is mine.  I never found any alcoholic beverage whose taste I could tolerate until friends served a Martini & Rossi Asti Spumanti at a New Year’s party.  I was pleasantly surprised, although I have since been less impressed by it.  It is what I buy when I must choose a wine for a celebratory toast.

The line about wine being good for the stomach is of course remembered from I Timothy, and would be something Bible student Lauren would recall.

The idea of an ancient book that Gavin and other vampires wanted was from Ed’s game.  I don’t recall the name of the book, but thought Book of Journeys had a good ring to it.  Most of the pieces of that story thread came from our interactions in play, although I added some details.  I don’t know that it ever mattered to me whether it was actually written by Cain, son of Adam and Eve, or by someone who attributed it to him; it only mattered that it was his name on it and the vampires believed it was his.  On the other hand, I believe it is part of the World of Darkness vampire mythology that Cain was the first vampire.

Having Jackson follow Lauren was again part of the cliffhanger technique to keep people reading.


Chapter 12, Slade 4

I wanted to put Slade into combat, to begin making him a warrior.  I also wanted him to use a bit of magic, the magic of his battle cry that calls on the gods.  At the same time, I needed to get the djinni released, and I figured the entire fight was about maneuvering Slade to the place where he could do that.

Having the match flare seemed a nice touch, given that he was battling a creature of elemental fire.

It was a weak point in my mind that Slade chose these particular bottles.  My reasoning was that this was the direction Omigger appeared to be going from the guidance of his spell, and when he went this way the efriit tried to stop him, so there was some reason to think this was where the djinni bottle was.  On the other hand, I didn’t like to make Slade that sharp that he would draw a conclusion I was not certain would be obvious to the reader, so I wasn’t really comfortable with this.  I did have him pull several bottles before finding the right one, as I figured he didn’t know how to tell what bottle it was.

It’s a simple probabilities trick that every time Slade pulls a stopper his odds of getting the right one rises.  Given twenty bottles, the chance that the first one is right is only one in twenty, 5%; but the chance that the second is right is one in nineteen, about 5 1/4%, and by the time he’s gotten to the sixth bottle he’s looking at one in fifteen, 6 2/3%.  Seen in the broader view, though, if he starts with twenty bottles and opens six, not including the fact that he opens them in sequence, there’s a 30% chance that the right bottle is one of those.  So I figured that was a good enough chance that a generally lucky guy could hit it when needed.


There was interest in the first “behind the writings” page, and if it appears again for this one I’ll produce another after a few more pages of the novel have been published to the web site.  (The problem of coming up with unique images for each such post, so that PInterest will accept the new page as a new image, will continue to get more challenging, but so far I’ve managed.)  Feedback is always welcome, of course.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]