17 Jan 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 12

Kazimier does some recruiting, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 12.

The plot is about to get going again.  The party of adventurers are set.  Kazimier just needed to get his own people in.  Wren is an Outrider, think long range patrol, often alone.  When she was mute, that was an ideal role for her.  She wouldn't have to speak except when a problem cropped up.  If she came riding back at a gallop, Kaleena and her troops would know something was wrong.  If Wren returned at a normal pace, all was well.

In D&D and other fantasy tabletop RPGs, there's a standard party consisting of at least one priest, at least one wizard, at least one melee warrior, at least one ranged warrior, and one rogue.  There can be overlaps; the rogue often becomes the ranged warrior and the priest can usually mix things up almost as well as the melee fighter.  With Wren, the group is just missing the wizard and the rogue.  Good thing Jyslyn is around.

Sure, it seems a little contrived, but Jyslyn's original concept dates from the mid 80s.  In first edition AD&D, with the Unearthed Arcana book, drow elves became a playable race.  Jyslyn predates Drizzt Do'Urden, though this story does not.  I was intrigued by the idea of a drow woman going into the magic-user class, against tradition.  However, with level limits what they were, Jyslyn would be stuck at around 4th or 5th level.  For playability, I created her as a multil-class character, adding thief, since it wasn't capped.  The in-story reason is that she had to sneak around, both at home in order to learn magic and then when she made her escape to the surface world, which is still her background in The Elf's Prisoner.

The other part of the contrivance, though, is that she never used a spell in the fight against the gnolls back in Chapter 2.  Granted, the situation was chaotic and Jyslyn was suffering from a severe sunburn, but she either should have cast a spell of some sort or made a decision to not cast a spell.  Again, the dangers of pantsing a fantasy story.  I hadn't fully formed how magic worked at that point, despite Kazimier having cast a spell to understand Jyslyn.

If I knew that these five characters would be a team, why did it take twelve chapters to get them together?  I wanted the coming together to be organic.  It's one thing to start with the team already together, but that's the author putting them together.  From the reader's perspective, the team should have a reason for being there beyond "for the plot."  Movies like The Seven Samurai and its American remake, The Magnificent Seven, added the gathering of the protagonists as part of a story.  It's not just what the characters do anymore, it's who they are and how well they get along.

One aspect of my writing of late is to bring in potential fetishes and then play them straight.  This happens more in Unruly and the students, but I went the same route in this chapter.  I'm not saying that all the fetishes are mine; what good would it be to appeal to just the author?  The readers deserve to see their own fetishes appear, too.  Thus, Wren washed Jyslyn's long copper-red hair.  That should cover a number of kinks right there.  I'm not saying it's a great method of writing, but it helps me work out scenes.  Can I start with a fetish and make the scene work without playing into the kink.  The same idea resulted in Numbers in By the Numbers.  I don't go to this well all the time, but it works when I need a scene starter.

Friday, the Socratic method in action, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 13.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Blazing Transfer Students Reborn.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.

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