Friday, February 09, 2007

Reconstructing the Way Down #1

Every Friday, hopefully, I'll be adding another chapter to the Way Down, but for February I think I'm going to devote a few hundred words each week to talking about the new designs for it. I really wish I could do art. Seriously. I may take to doctoring photographs I pull off the net to demonstrate things.

So...the Way Down.

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about what really drew me to writing the Way Down stories in the first place. I really DO like the setting, the occult underground played off against a gothic sort of city, heavy in the counter-culture elements. Post-modern magic, but with some really wacky twists to it. Not just Unknown Armies style symbolic tension, but some actual weird ideas about magic and magical abilities.

The Way Down's concept of special abilities ties in closely with those I expressed in the short lived 7r4d3m4rk stories. Its about having the Edge, that ephemeral quality that somehow makes you better than everyone else. Differently, but better. You're a step above the rest. Not just in having a special power, or powers, but in almost all other aspects. You're just that extra bit cooler, that extra bit smarter, that extra bit better than the rest.

Now, for Trademark, that Edge was all about cyberpunk revolutionaries and corporate super-soldiers being phenomenally cool and having Matrix-style gunbattles and using technology with names that sound like something out of a Jack Kirby comic.

Not so with the Way Down. I really want to emphasize that while almost all the characters within the occult underground have powers, most of them only have A power. One power, one Edge. Some of the more powerful ones might have more than one Edge, or an Edge that covers a very wide area (mind that the Edge in text will always be referred to with a small "e"...this isn't a White Wolf game, where all powers have recognizable names).

Actual spellcasters and sorcerers in the Way Down setting will be VERY rare, and while some characters know a few spells, or a lot of spells within a very narrow area, the actual people who can fling around honest to go Dr. Strange/Dr. Fate-style magic will be very few...and very feared. I've decided that Judas Janet knows a few various spells and tricks, most of them culled from her archaeology days before she melted the Holy Grail down into thirty silver studs and had them embedded in her face. Mimir, however, will NOT have much in the way of magic...The Golden took most of his power away from him, and now what he's left with is immortality and some carnival gypsy tricks.

Magical POWERS, the Edge, however will be very common in the occult underground. EVERYONE will be defined by some schtick or another, however minor. For the purposes of the Edge, I count having a magic item or the like as a magical power. Some characters, like Glaistig will have both (Glaistig has some inhuman physical abilities thanks to her strange origins, as well as the weapon that is the idea of a weapon, and thus can be any weapon at her will).

To digress from magic for a moment, I want to talk a little about the structure I'm working with for the stories now.

I decided that while the "campfire legends"-style of the Way Down stories was cool and all, I really craved to write some dialogue. And I kept finding myself hamstrung while writing about having the characters talk without actually writing what they were saying. It was great for some flash fiction, but it really got on my nerves after a while.

With that in mind, I've actually started doing the new Way Down stuff in the 1st person, in the style of stuff like The Dresden Files, the novels of the Nightside, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, and the like. Not that I'm comparing myself to those writers, I am nowhere near as cool as Butcher, Green, or Hamilton, but I DO like the way that they use the 1st person in their stories.

The problem, however, was figuring out how to fit the 1st person into the Way Down. Mimir would be the obvious choice, but remember that he can't actually leave the bar, and while I COULD shape things around that, I really wanted to used the POV character to explore Necropolis and the rest of the Scar. Judas Janet was the next choice...but I really just can't click with her internal monologue. I tried, and it came out a bit too much like a mix of Anita Blake and Deena Pilgrim. I have trouble writing POV characters who are women, which is odd becuase I don't have any trouble PLAYING them in games, and playing them well enough that my female gaming friends don't clout me over the head. But I dunno. I may be selling myself short, or just backing off before I even try (which I admit...I do do some times). But anyway.

So I decided to just buckle down and, honestly, write the kind of story that was both fun, easier, and the kind of thing I really wanted to write from the start. With a few edits, I came up with the POV character of the Way Down:

Adelaide Fetch. The Poltergeist P.I. The boggart Bogart. The gremling Gumshoe.

Yeah. I had fun with him. I'll chat more about HIM next week.



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