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Muse Voices
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Working on Paul's World

How to (Legally and Ethically) Steal Ideas by Holly Lisle

Below is a long, rambling post, half me talking to myself and half me talking to the world at large.


Okay, let's just get everything out in the open.

1. I still want to write a story about Paul.
2. Paul goes back a lot farther in my mental history than just SPH and the Wizarding World.
3. Aerden is getting jealous of all this attention I'm paying to Paul. Something might come of that, but he hasn't hit me with it yet.

I was reading the above article by Holly Lisle on the advice of Andi, a friend of mine. I had been moaning and groaning to her about the difficulty of creating a new setting to write about Paul in, and she pointed me to Holly's article and said I was doing it the hard way.

So I read the article.

And it made me remember that the roots of Paul go way, way back to this interactive fiction story I used to write in, called "Heaven's Republic." And the setting of that reminded me of how much I really enjoyed some aspects of The Handmaid's Tale. I used to insert my characters into the Handmaid's Tale universe and make up mental stories about their adventures.

I'm trying to distill out what exactly it was about HR and HT that appealed to me so. Both stories involved oppression by a theocratic state that imposed restrictions upon the ways people dressed and behaved.

HR inserted a cool element to it, however--telepathy and related paranormal gifts. These were considered to be the work of the Devil and a mark of witchcraft--unless, of course, you happened to be part of the religious/federal hierarchy, in which case you used your paranormal abilities to control the populace and weed out 'witches.'

I also participated in another RPG, "The Crescent," which had a similar theme, though it took place on a fantasy world, and I used a clone of Aerden for that game.

So, back to theocratic governments. I hate witch hunts, paranoia, conspiracies, and stories about all three of those things, so I don't want my story to include those.

What, then, is going to provide the conflict? What will the antagonist be like?

The big baddies in HR and SPH were Elder Thomas and Voldemort/the DeathEaters. I always wanted to do more with Elder Thomas in HR, but I was frustrated by the fact that he was not my character, so I couldn't dictate his actions or get into his mind much. He was another player's character, and he had his own agenda. So I never did much with him in that story.

I'd like my villain to have elements of him in it to balance the things which annoy me about Voldemort.

See, Voldemort annoys the hell out of me because he's a sociopath. He's so completely evil that you just have to kill him like a rabid dog, because that's what he is. Voldemort has no soul, nothing he loves. He doesn't even believe anyone is truly human, except himself; he regards his DeathEaters as tools.

My favorite villain of all time is Dyan Ardais from the Darkover novels--because he was capable of self-restraint. At the end of Heritage of Hastur, I was rooting for Dyan Ardais because he did something in that book that I had never seen a villain do before--take responsibility for his own actions. Even though he gave himself over to evil later, in at least that one book, he was brilliant.

I don't think I'll be satisfied with a villain who is anything less than that. On the other hand, what makes it so imperative for Voldemort to die or be destroyed in the Potter novels is his being a sociopath. If he could be reasoned with, people wouldn't have to go to such extreme lengths or make such great sacrifices to stop him.

Extreme lengths and great sacrifices are what go with risk, and risk is what makes great novels.

On the other hand, the reason Dyan can accept respnsibility for his actions in Heritage is that his conflict with Danilo Syrtis is not the central conflict in the book; it's a subplot. The real enemy is what the Aldarans are doing. The Sharra matrix cannot be comprosised with, any more than Voldemort can.

Hm. If I could create a villain who had a sense of honor but was uncompromising, I might be able to work with that.

so, going on...

For my novel Vendetta,, I created a planet called Ekati, whose government is theocratic but openly run by telepaths. I created this for a futuristic role-playing game.

My idea was that I wanted people who were old-fashioned, compared to the normal society of the setting, but who were a force to be reckoned with because they still had powers.

Basically, I wanted to write characters who weren't enamored of cybernetic physical implants, because the other characters in the RP were. I was not writing in the RP to express my kinks; I wanted to use the RP as a vehicle for figuring out how Ekati worked.

Figuring out how Ekati works has taken time long past the demise of that RP. :)

So there's something going on in my head that likes the combination of Paul Graves with some kind of oppressive situation that he feels trapped by and has to fight against. For me to really like it, the oppressive situation, whether it be theocracy or purebloodedness in the Wizarding World, has to force a low tech level--or at least a seemingly low tech level.

I also like to have the Cool Thing--either magic or telepathy. In SPH, I cheated and finagled a way to have both.

God, I was so bad in SPH. It's a wonder they didn't throw me out of that game for writing like a prima donna. I should have known better.

Hm. Even though I know the theocracy is not the main interest factor for me; oppression is--I do still like religion, and I want to show how beautiful religion can be in my story. That's why I made the original Ekatian Light-Born a truly admirable person--worthy of the admiration that Ekatian memory accords her.

I don't want the villain be the Ekatian government, though. For one thing, that's been done to death. Even though what I would be bashing is the abuse of religion, I think there are too many people in the world who might gleefully think I was denigrating all religion.

On the other hand, I can't be held responsible for what other people think, so I might as well write what I want--

Now that I've begun to figure out what it is.

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I don't know about "prima donna" ... the thing I always noticed about your participation in SPH was that your characters always seemed a little too reasonable ... that their moral compasses were all attuned to the comparatively liberal sensibilities of the modern day.

So, I'd like to challenge you to attempt a couple of short stories:

1) A date with Eva Braun, told from Adolf Hitler's point of view. Auschwitz should be mentioned at some point in the evening.

2) The execution of Lady Jane Grey, from the point of view of Queen Mary I. Remember that Mary watched Jane grow up with her brother, Edward VI, and that she was probably quite fond of the younger girl.

Lady Jane Grey was about as staunch a Protestant as Mary was a Catholic. Mary may have liked her up to a point, but eventually, I suspect Jane's Protestantism would have made her intolerable to Mary. Though I do give Mary points for not putting her to death immediately. And for all I know, she may have respected Jane a bit more than Elizabeth, since I don't think Jane every was anything but very forthright about her rejection of Catholicism, whereas Elizabeth kept lying about pretending to consider it.

Good point about my characters, though. I think one reason I write that way is because, when I write, I really get into my characters' heads, and the headspaces of people like Mary I of England or Adolf Hitler are not places where I want my mind to be for extended periods of time.

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