Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Ah yes, the topic I've long been avoiding. What the hell happens in this story? Let's put some thought into this, shall we?

I've been alternating between two schools of thought on this point. On the one hand, the original idea was that the lie, and the catastrophe, would be immediately relevant to the story. That the catastrophe would be coming, or have come. The characters would be acting to overcome the catastrophe following the wisdom laid out in the holy book immortalizing the lie, and realizing over time that said wisdom is a bunch of bunk, leaving them without a map.

Then at a certain point, I decided that seemed unwieldy and would require me to explain all about the lie and the catastrophe, which was territory I didn't necessarily want to get into. I thought that the story could follow L. as she does her own investigations, her own thinking, independent of the catastrophe. Looking back on it now, that seems lazy, frankly. That's what the damn world is about, so why shouldn't it be what the story is about?

So, if that is the plot, what happens?

We can keep the war in the backstory. H. and C. are mercenaries in the service of the Duke trying to reunite the country of which the City is a part. L. is a servant of the Goddess, whose church is based in the City, who becomes involved with the mercenaries as the religion dips its toes into politics on the city's behalf.

It just occurred to me, though, that I'm approaching this the wrong way. I'm approaching this in a role-playing way, if you would. Come up with some character concepts then build a story around them. No, this novel is a story. Let's get the bones of that worked out and see which characters we need, hmm?

Ok ok ok. So. L. is the center, so she stays. A young woman. She's virtuous, intelligent, poised, outspoken, and brutally honest with herself, at least when it comes to ideas.  She's a part of a church - a nun, really. She's considered a woman of promise, a young up-and-comer, looked up to by her peers and treasured by her superiors - but also envied by rivals and frightening to authority figures who don't appreciate her point of view. Her life is mapped out: steady advancement, debate and scholarship, devotion and good works. It's not a quiet life by any means, it's a busy and accomplished one, but there is a plan.

But everything is thrown into confusion. Those plans are disrupted, and the life she could lead falls under threat - from the catastrophe's return. Now, the catastrophe shouldn't return, because as I've described, that leads to such chaos that a considered hero's journey becomes nearly impossible - there genuinely would be no opportunity, let alone time, for a measured debate over the merits of arguments for and against the lie. Rather, there's a clear reason to expect the return of the catastrophe. Let us say, a flair up of catastrophic activity.

A mini-catastrophe occurs. Mysterious deaths, unexplained phenomenon, etc. Wizards are able to confirm that what occurred was the result of spiritual activity. There's always been a "prophecy movement" in the church, and all of those people come forward and say, "See, the end really is nigh." And the thing is, L. is like, "Oh, come on, you're full of it, you were just as surprised as we were," but not everybody has the same reaction. And that's what sets the wheels turning for L. Given that a lot of people can be convinced that these madmen and -women really know what's going on, maybe a lot of people could be convinced of a lot of things.

But of course, that's not the end of the story. L. is asked to take part in a substantial way in an effort to prevent / prepare for the catastrophe, but as she tries to actualize the text, and the interpretations, of the writing about the next catastrophe, holes appear.

More to follow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

And another dude

I've always had in mind this triumvirate, so let's get them all out now.

C. is my "leading man." L. is my real protagonist, but C. is the beard, the red herring. L.'s heroism is about honesty and thinking and careful scholarship, hardly sexy. C. has all the classic hero's attributes. C. is young, handsome, dashing, skilful, physical. C. is, furthermore, generous and openhearted, pious and respectful. He's literally a good guy, very much by choice and design. He wants to be "the hero" - in fact, I think "the Hero" in the Lie is his personal totem, the model to which he aspires.

He's an upper-class gentleman, not from the City but from the country to which it belongs and quite aligned with it in his views. The Goddess and her Hero are foremost in his devotions, but he's religiously naive. Not for him abstract discussions of the Goddess' intent or the Hero's nature, let alone spirited discussion of inconsistencies in the Lie. He's a believer in a simple, trusting way that isn't really all that in the spirit of the Goddess - which really should be a big red flag to L. that something is wrong, off, when someone can have this kind of unconsidered, reflexive devotion to a deity who is supposedly all about knowledge and truth.

Like H., he's a fighter. Unlike H., he's not a soldier first, but a duelist. He loves chivalry, the idea of honor among killers, the idea of two fighters facing off. He's very good with light swords. On the battlefield he's a great fighter, but it's not really his element. He's definitely stronger and more able than H., but H would probably beat him in a fight in earnest, because C. would fight clean.

He holds L. in awe, because she's devoted to the Goddess. Probably to the point of not seeing her faults. That comes naturally to him, however; he's a kind person and he doesn't see anyone's faults, or if he does he doesn't take them seriously.

Let's meet some other damn person

H. is loosely based off of an H. I know in real life. I picture him as a rival, perhaps even an villain, but one with a not completely unsympathetic point of view.

In contrast to L., H. is a man (definitely a man) of the world. H. is cynical, ambitious, wealthy, and selfish. He's not amoral, but he's not one for causes or crusades. Anything he does he intends as an avenue towards something he wants. He's very good at what he does, however - which is a mix of business and soldiering. H. is a mercenary, or more properly a condotierri, a gentleman adventurer. He makes his life not so much by using the sword as holding the sword, by being paid "to fight or not fight," as Varric might have it.

His vice is really sloth, as that might seem to imply, not greed; put another way, he's ambitious but not driven. He is slovenly in some sense. He eats too much, drinks too much, he's slightly fat and out-of-shape for a soldier (though strong and a good fighter). His hygiene is less than perfect, he's sexually crude, sexist, and a great lover of prostitutes, slave women and less-straightforwardly "kept" women. Matrimony is a distasteful idea to him.

Despite his penchant for pleasure and soft-living, he's not above a little excitement and adventure, provided he doesn't sacrifice too much or enter into too much danger.

He's no duelist; he prefers to have others do his fighting, but when he must arm himself he's purely professional about it. He prefers heavy fighting and a heavy sword, and a solid pike if he can get his hand on it. He has no sense of honor or chivalry beyond what's convenient.

He's not from the City and considers their urbane, orderly ways somewhat quaint (perhaps ironically). He's from a much more rural, impoverished land of an extensive fighting aristocracy protecting a desperately poor peasantry, which he regards as a much more honest arrangement than the subtle political and economic distinctions of the city's classes.

He holds the goddess and her cult in high respect, but mostly as a) a goddess who can do something for him and b) a church that has (in his eyes) conned itself into a great deal of earthly power. It's not that he disbelieves the lie - far from it. He's just the sort of person who knows in the pit of his stomach that "it" will never happen in his lifetime, so he doesn't really concern himself with matters of life and death.

I like the idea that spiritually he literally worships a symbol of his family's standing - perhaps ancestor worship, a fairly rarified form tied to his culture and class?

One of his defining attributes is an amazing sense of self-assurance. He really thinks that he's the best, and that he's on some level invincible.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


L is my protagonist. I just realized that.

The story is about truth. Specifically, it's about error. It's about learning to question because you realize that you aren't perfect and you aren't right. What's important in the strictest sense isn't daring deeds or a strong arm, but honesty and a determination to find out what's real and what's right, and that's what L is all about. The story calls out for a spiritual rather than a physical hero, and L fits the bill.