>Progress, of a sort

>Thursday through Sunday: Well, the last few days someone turned off the valve and slowed the information to a trickle. I’m not sure why – possibly it’s the day job ramping up again for the next phase of the Neverending Project (I seem to get a lot of these. I think someone ‘likes’ me). At any rate the most I’ve gotten in a few days is that Milord Alvar is quite willing to hold out as long as necessary until I get his name right. And Millie finds this very amusing.

The Evil Prince has yet to show himself, although I have the weird feeling that he’s there, he’s just still buried somewhere in my subconscious. Based on past experience, this probably means I’ll wake up one morning with him kibitzing with some of my other villains – all of whom are certifiably evil psycho bastards (so are most of my heroes – the difference is the heroes tend to fight it rather than revel in it). This does not reassure me at all – and anyone who knows what my villains are like will be cringing at the prospect.

Monday: So after days of silence, I get a major dump courtesy Subconscious Data Delivery – a service about as reliable as a two-bob watch – when I start drifting to sleep. It proceeds to haunt my dreams, and I’m still processing what emerged.

To start with “Seraph” is the royal family name – only it’s actually a corruption of a much older title that related to the ship that crashed on the planet in the first place. I have no idea what that title was, but it applied to the people who had been genetically engineered to have the Engineering gift – the rapport with machinery. There’s a vague sense that the gift was essential to keeping people alive initially, so those who had it became a kind of nobility during the time the accidental colony struggled to survive. It’s translated to a sense that it’s very wrong to have any kind of “useful” ability and not use it in the service of one’s people.

His Royal Horribleness is a little clearer: physically he could be Milord Alvar’s twin. They’re cousins through most of the branches of the family lines back to the common ancestors, although it never got closer than second or third cousin, I think. The royal family has full time geneologists keeping track of who is where in the accepted line of inheritance. It doesn’t help that they all tend to use the same given names – generally honoring particularly notable ancestors. Who, of course, are shared all over the family trees of the extended royal family. The Emperor is His Imperial Majesty Arthur James William Seraph, Twenty-Fifth of the Name, Forty-Second of the Dynasty, Lord of Eldarsund, Defender of the Holy, etc etc (the full list of titles goes on for half a page or thereabouts).

The Evil Prince is only “Royal”, not “Imperial” because he’s not confirmed as the heir, only presumed to be as the closest male line relative.He rejoices in a similar list of titles, most of them courtesy titles attached to being the heir presumptive. The names that matter are William James Albert Seraph. Milord Alvar shares all but one of them – his family name is William Arthur James Seraph. Without all the extraneous titles, he’s generally known as Will Seraph, Lord Alvar – or just Lord Alvar. I think he’s a little older than HRHorrible – no more than a year older.

HRHorrible is straight out of Evil-Bastard-Central – which seems to be where my subconscious lands no matter what I do. Even in my lighter stuff there’s elements of it. Hell, Milord Alvar is just as much a product of Evil-Bastard-Central, only he chooses to control that aspect of his personality where HRHorrible doesn’t.

Millie is the catalyst. She’s the wild card that kicks off the whole sequence, and to some extent part of Milord Alvar’s redemption. Oh, and she’s the cause of the ending of book 1. She’s found one of HRHorrible’s ‘playhouses’ and – naturally – goes in there to free the women (in a permanent and lethal fashion if necessary. Yes, HRHorrible is that perverted. I’m not sure how I’m going to make that work without overdoing the ick or backing off too much from it). Milord Alvar finds out, and goes charging in to “rescue” her – not only does she not need rescuing, she ends up back-to-back with him fighting off MRMorrible’s henchmen. While the whole place is sinking into lava, since the only way Millie could get the slaves out was to disable the damping systems in the complex. Several of the henchmen find out what it’s like to become a carboniferous anomaly in a volcanic deposit.

Of course – as those of you who know how my mind works have probably already figured out – HRHorrible isn’t the main villain. I’m not sure who is, except that it’s someone who’s around in a minor role in book one, apparently something of a non-entity. I’m not sure Milord Alvar and Millie know who he is by the end of book one: only that he exists.

HRHorrible… think cold, arrogant, superior, convinced the rest of the world exists to serve him. Constantly looking for something to “entertain” him – and growing more depraved and decadent with each new amusement he contrives. Nucking futz, but in that kind of cold, rational, self-interested way that’s a hell of a lot more frightening than ranting and raving crazy. The only thing I’m sure about is that the Ultimate Nasty is worse. The Ultimate Nasty is convinced he’s doing the things he does for the Greater Good…

Religion. This is a religious society. I’m not sure they were terribly religious when they crashed on this world, but they sure as hell are now. Something about surviving by the grace of god and the quality of one’s mechanical expertise will do that. The general ethos is along the lines of God helps those who help themselves mixed with if God gave you the gift it’s a sin not to use it for society. Sorta-kinda-Christian based, although not really recognizable as such any more – although the hellfire and brimstone part is very familiar, since they live with it all the time. At some point the idea that they’re there to “redeem” their world crept in, so there’s a lot of social value attached to “improving” the land by siphoning energy off the everpresent volcanic substrata to power all manner of mechanisms, by speeding up the process of turning lava to productive soil (which in turn leads to a voracious demand for more improvable land and an outwards expansion of the Empire), and so forth. Think the words of “Jerusalem” – “And we will build a new Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land”: that’s their notion of Heaven. Greenery, pleasant climate, and real night and day. Most people believe God intends them to build it themselves.

Tuesday: Now I know why HRHorrible gets involved with all of this – it’s Millie. She’s seen too much, but while she was still a street brat it was too much trouble to track her down and eliminate her. Besides, who would ever listen to a street brat? If the information comes via Milord Alvar, it’s much more credible. Also, Alvar has the resources to dig up evidence that can’t be covered up: the pair of them are a risk to HRHorrible’s existence.

Ah. Yes, the little lightbulbs go on while I’m writing this. The ultimate Big Bad is someone in the Academy. He recognizes the threat Millie poses to HRHorrible and passes on the warning. I’m still not entirely sure what he recognizes, since to him one street brat is much the same as any other, but whatever it is Millie has no idea about it. It’s not appearance or her name… so it has to be something she says without realizing what the impact could be. Oh. (Cue little lightbulb again – I just love the way my subconscious works). Alvar wants to know why she’s so skittish with him. She tells him he looks just like the man who killed her mother (trust me, it’s not nearly that simple or clean). Big Bad hears the conversation – and since he knows what HRHorrible does for recreation, and is working his way towards greasy eminence, he naturally warns HRHorrible.

Wednesday: I need to find a new name for book 1. Twilight would be perfect if not for certain sparkly vampires, and this book does not have sparkly vampires. It doesn’t have vampires, period. Shadowlands is also out, courtesy a rather better book that’s also too well known. Since I suck at this kind of thing, any suggestions would be welcome.

Oh, and for those who might be wondering, no I’m not worried that anyone is going to steal my idea. I could hand this set of notes to a dozen people and ask only that the names change, and get a dozen totally different books – with everything from horror to hysterical comedy and all points between.

27 thoughts on “>Progress, of a sort

  1. >Darkside? I am awful with names as well, but there's a cliche one for you to think on :p I like where you are heading with this πŸ™‚ I hate to be the bearer of inconvenient news, but I have to point out that there is a risk of similarity with a trilogy of books by Stephen Hunt, starting with The Court of the Air (the only one I have read so far). The similarity is in the Millie character – the rest of the book sounds quite different, although it does have steampunk roots.Basically, one of the two protagonists of the Court of the Air is a young workhouse girl, who happens (mild spoiler approaching) to have a gift for feeling the hurt of mechanical men and devices, and fixing them without really knowing how, that sort of thing. Sorry to be a curmugeon (is that a word? I think it is), but I had the same problem with the book I am writing at the moment (although it was regarding setting, not character), which threw me for a loop.Personally I don't think it matters too much, since one author can hardly have a monopoly on street brats with unusual talents – thank Jebus – but I felt it was something that ought to be mentioned. I like watching you work out the nuts and bolts of this stuff, its fun – I have notebooks filled with similar musings and ideas for stories of my own; its nice to see other peoples' works take shape from the very beginning πŸ™‚

  2. >Perhaps, since you're concentrating on a nobility of engineers, some mechanicalish terms? Fulcrum, Lever, Balance, Test to Destruction, Elastic Limits, Emergency Pressure Release Valve . . . OK, that last lacks something as a book title. Never mind.Do you want the "recognition of the threat" to be something mundane like that? Perhaps among the permutations of this ESP Engineering is an ability that is a threat to the current power structure? Something that, if trained instead of controlled by the proper un-education and Court handlers could solve enough problems to at least unseat the current ruling family, and at worse bring down the entire aristocracy?The Main Bad Guy recognizes the trait in Millie, and he sees that it is self-trained enough that it probably cannot be suppressed. Alternately, he sees that her mind is too open to out-side-the-box ideas that she is interfering with the rigid channeling of talent that maintains the current power structure. With Lord Alvar showing signs of engineering in forbidden directions. Not quite sure what this could be, as so much depends on your world building.

  3. >I like where this is going. Since it focuses on engineering to an extent and there are problems to be solved, why not have the first novel be titled "Inside the Box" and the second could be "Outside the Box".

  4. >For some reason I thought that the society was about to enter the 'day phase' of the planet's cycle(went back and looked at previous posts and found I was wrong). But perhaps you are looking at the wrong part of the day though. A few titles I thought of are "Darkness Before", "Midnight Sun"(perhaps the second book when the enter the dark proper), "Shepard's Warning" or to steal the name of an Australian classic "The Fringe Dwellers"

  5. >Dusk? Instead of Twilight? It might not work as a one word title but maybe Twilight can be combined with another word to remove the unfortunate sparkly connotations.Or else just figure that in the couple years it takes to reach the bookstore shelves that Twilight can be reclaimed.

  6. >Synova,I fear that the word "Twilight" has been permanently sullied. Nothing that sparkles that much can be clean. ;P

  7. >JonathanThat's because the Millie character is an archetype. I think Misty alone has used the type a thousand times, including but not limited to the Vanyel trilogy. (yeah, yeah, Vanyel is a boy. Archetypes can come up in any form.) So has just about anyone else. Heck, I used it as Emily in Heart of Light.Now I think about it, mutatis mutandi, fellow name of Homer used it in the Odyssey.It's how you dress the archetype that makes a difference.Kate — I like Matapam's suggestion crossed with "dark/twilight/evening/dawn".The Sunset Lever, for ex. Or perhaps Darkness Valve. Or something linguistically subversive like Nightbreak. (opposite of day break. I'm also unatturally fond of "Burn's Night" which in real life appears to be a Jan 25 celebration of Robert (or as the site calls him Robbie) Burns. But I doubt many people in the Us know that.How about Nightbreak, Burn's Night, The Nightfall Lever?

  8. >Jonathan Before you rightly object the characters I mentioned aren't street urchins. No, but they are social outcasts, which is part of the archetype.

  9. >Jonathan,If I futzed about checking to make sure I didn't have any resemblances to anything else, I'd never write anything. ALL writing is derivative – it's all in the delivery. The talented outcast meme is a popular one because the talented outcast is automatically an underdog, and people generally like to see a gutsy underdog win. Since I'm personally kind of allergic to whiny brats, that's two counts for the talented outcast :-)I'm glad you're still finding this interesting. It's an aspect of writing process that I don't think gets much air-time.

  10. >Matapam,Emergency Pressure Release Valve just has bestseller written all over it, yes? We just won't mention that it's written in red paint and spelled 'best seler'.So far the threat appears to be purely political, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to uncover more – or that Millie and Alvar are posing only one threat to the establishment.

  11. >Brendan,I'm hoping not to have to steal any names. Mutate a few, maybe, and file some serial numbers off, but preferably not pinch outright. πŸ™‚

  12. >Sarah,Ooh, I like those suggestions. I'm not sure, but I think "Darkfall" has been used somewhere not that long ago, but something like Nightfall Lever, Eclipse Valve, and so forth could work very well indeed.

  13. >Sarah, Chris K,I suspect Robbie Burns Night is quite popular anywhere there's a sizeable collection of people of Scottish descent. I can't say whether the whiskey is intended to anesthetize the unfortunates toasting the haggis (tha puir wee beastie) or merely for enjoyment, but it's a rather common feature.

  14. >Sarah,I'm not sure it's possible to write any characters who aren't either archetypes or derived from archetypes.

  15. >Hi, Kate. I know what you mean about getting the name right. It's kind of like having a sore tooth — like a kind of unease that persists until you get the Eureka! moment. It's so bad for me that I cannot progress with the story until I am satisfied with the name. Very frustrating.

  16. >Chris,Eureka is an awful name for a character (runs.)Yeah, I completely agree. And sometimes they JUST won't give you their names. I found my female character's name by giving her the wrong one.

  17. >Spinoff of a spinoff?Why not write your own stuff,instead of something that reads like the son of "Dune" and "Manitoba",an old Tony Curtis movie that dealt with the souls of the machines.You need not worry about anyone stealing any of this generic piece.And villains with names like horrible?Walt Disney must be having convulsions in his block of ice.

  18. >Carlos,I think you might have missed the point. I tend to refer to my characters by generics like "Horrible" or nicknames they'd never encounter in the story space. In this case HRHorrible actually has a name: it's just easier to refer to him as that, the same as it's easier to refer to the guy who's his enabler and manipulates him as Big Bad. It's nothing more than a convenient shorthand that indicates the character's role in the story.The piece certainly isn't a spinoff of anything I've seen/read. It reads generica squared right now because I'm still working out the parameters of the world. The whole notion of stealing "ideas" is nonsense. Ideas are a dime a dozen, if that. Now if when I've actually spent six months or so writing and turned it into a fleshed-out, presumably functional book it still reads as generica, then I have a problem. Until then, it's this vague castle (or Edwardian manor) in the sky waiting to be given flesh. If you doubt this, ask any of the authors here about their published works and what they started with.

  19. >Chris M, Sarah,I can't see any of my characters running nekkid through the streets yelling "Eureka!". And naming one Eureka, well… My pun-infested mind would immediately assume that the character had a body odor problem.(I have a character named Salvation Jones – call her 'Sally' at your own risk – so I probably shouldn't tease)

  20. >Carlos, you seem to be under the impression that the idea is the thing? So, in your world, West Side story would never have existed. Or Fiddler On The Roof, which you know, if you squint, could be called a spin off of Pride and Prejudice.Would you be very shocked if I told you that Shakespeare never wrote an original story? All historians know there were various versions of his future plays floating around.Instead of viewing literature as the new new thing with which you're supposed to astound the world — which only leads to plotless stories that take place inside a car and in which nothing happens (since all the rest has been done, in the long history of human story telling) — try viewing literature as a dialogue. You put a novel out and someone answers with "Well, that's fine, but what if this is more likely?" Hence, you can view my Darkship Thieves as my answer to Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain. In a way it is, though it owes nothing to her book. I've done other more concentrated answers. For instance, my initial trilogy on Shakespeare owed an inevitable debt to Midsummer Night's Dream. Curiously another author who had spun from the same cloth is convinced I stole from his work — which I never read (and which bears no relationship to mine.) And I've outright used characters from Dumas. How so? you say Can't I make up my own? Well, easily enough, as I've proven in countless other stories. BUT I wanted to dip into the archetypal resonance of the musketeer myth. What resulted, however, is far more mine than Dumas. This is inevitable, since I am not — alas — Dumas. It is in a way an answer to Dumas "Yes, okay, I hear you, but."It seems to me that you view these as "tv spin offs" which are more the stuff of extending someone else's story. What a writer does when borrowing — usually something more than a hundred years old — is take a few scraps and make a new material. At least a good writer.There was someone who made a list of all the books that can be considered fan-fiction. I wonder if someone can post the link, which I can't find.Beyond that, what Kate is writing is not even THAT. It's her own idea, with her own setting. It’s just the outline, though, the barest skeleton of a story. I'm glad you think it sounds like this or that, but if you boil down West Side Story, you've got Romeo and Juliet. If you boil down Heinlein's Friday to this level, you've got Candide. This doesn't mean the story is the same, just that the skeleton is similar.

  21. >Carlos, I recommend you go back and read Kate's post from last week when she started this "series" of posts. Like several of us who blog here, Kate doesn't always have characters who "cooperate" when it comes to letting us know their names. It's the same with plots. Sometimes, the plot simply comes, one burst at a time. Which, let me tell you, is very uncomfortable for writers who are planners and not "pantsers". It is something I completely understand as I've been hit with a new plot that is coming to me one scene — if I'm lucky, it's a complete scene — at a time and the characters aren't letting me know their names. So, on of them is called Mudlark Damme, which I in turn have turned around to call her Damned Mud. And no, it isn't fantasy.As for this being a spin-off of anything, no. Absolutely, positively no. I understand you can't tell too much from what Kate's posted but, again, if you would go back and check some of Kate's other posts, you'd see that she has a very unique and interesting slant on things and manages to make anything she writes her own.All I can say is I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes. Again, I recommend you go back and read some of Kate's other posts to have a better understanding not only of what she's saying here but in knowing what sort of writer she happens to be.

  22. >Sarah,It's an amazing list, isn't it? Makes it so obvious just how much we're influenced by existing material – and how a different perspective can make it seem fresh and original.

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