A hub for the "Book of Masks" universe.
"The Book of Masks" : A high school student discovers a grimoire that can make magical disguises.
"The Wandering Stars" : Sequel to "The Book of Masks."
"Student Bodies" : A high school student is turned into a blue goo that can possess people.
For non-WdC Members
"The Book of Masks: Archives" : Dodges the "Servers Busy" barrier!
"The Book of Masks (Abridged)" : Introductory storylines for new readers.
"BoM/TWS Message Forum" : Community for readers of the interactives.
"BoM/TWS/SB Wiki" : Notes and documentation for authors. Spoilers!
7/4: Interactive: "The Mother of All Suggestions"
7/4: Public: "The Mother of All Suggestions"
|Today's chapter from me is up:
That is the first of what I'm projecting to be an 11-chapter arc. It's going to take a bit of a corkscrew turn in the middle -- a twist that hasn't really shown up much in BoM before, at least from me -- so don't presume that the first half will be a reliable guide to the second half. This is part of a five-chapter commission that I took up, and the first six chapters are only to get the story to the point where the commission itself can take off.
* * *
Separately, you might notice something a little odd going on with the end of "The Test Department" and some recently posted chapters that follow. The end of "The Test Department" has been edited (chopped off and moved to the start of "Be Kind, Rewind" ), and a 4-chapter branch that originally appeared at the end of "The Leftovers" has changed authors and been attached to one of the new choices that appear at the end of "The Test Department." Explanation:
Wolfer contacted me a few days ago with an idea for continuing that 4-chapter branch, but he noted that there were some technical mistakes in it, and asked how he should handle them. After looking that branch over, I decided the errors were bad enough to warrant removing the branch entirely. (And besides, the original author has disappeared in the meantime.) After talking it over with Wolfer, it was decided to remove the original, problematic branch and edit "The Test Department" so that a revised and corrected version of that branch could be posted for Wolfer to continue.
|Yeah, I'm late getting up the sequel to the last chapters:
Interactive: "Rounding Off the First Phase"
Public: "Rounding Off the First Phase"
There's no poll. This is the end of the line for now in this branch.
The last couple of chapters have been hard to write. It's important in this kind of interactive, I feel, to offer choices for the readers to pursue. And in this case it was especially important, because where Will and his friends land will affect their investigation of the school.
But the damn thing went on too long, to the point where I felt momentum and characterization both flagging, so I was losing interest. I will have to take a break, probably a significant break, from this branch before I return to it. In the meantime, I used the chapters above to rather brutally cut short the game by deciding for the last three necessary aliases.
Where now for me? I've got two commissions to finish, and those will be coming next.
First up is a commission that starts here: "Stonerhenge" . This is an early chapter, so there's not much background. Will has just acquired the Libra and has made a first mask. He is working alone, and has gone up to the school in search of a test subject—someone to slap the blank mask onto in order to see what it does. After being briefly tempted to try it on one of his friends—Caleb Johansson or Keith Tilley—he has decided to go in search of a pothead. Three possibilities have crossed his path. You'll find out tomorrow what Will's choice is.
|Even though the race was tight yesterday, so that I didn't know which choice was going to win, I was still able to get a head start because I knew how I wanted the story to open. So I only had to write about 1100 words for the sequel, and that went pretty fast. So, a day early, here's the follow up:
Interactive: "Fast Play"
Public: "Fast Play"
Poll: [Poll completed and deleted]
I thought I could get a jump on the next chapter, whichever it was, by writing out those parts that would be common to both choices. I soon realized that the sequel chapter would be more or less a placeholder to sketch out additional, specific choices. This kind of chapter can be written very quickly.
So I wrote them. Both of them. They are now up:
Interactive: "Five Guys" + "Five Girls"
Public: "Five Guys" + "Five Girls"
The also come with polls: [Polls completed and deleted]
So, you guys can now vote on which of two choices come next, and also for the sequel to each of those choices. However, I am only going to follow one of those branches. If you guys vote for "Pick two guys for Carmona," I will write the voted-for sequel to "Five Guys." Similarly, if you guys vote for "Pick a guy for Carmona and a girl for Miller," I will write the voted-for sequel to "Five Girls."
|Even though the poll at the end of "One Hot Mess" was a blowout, and I started early on the sequel, that sequel turned out to be hard to write. I went through half a dozen endings before I settled on a set of choices that preserves some flexibility while also presenting specific possibilities.
Interactive: "Schell Game"
Public: "Schell Game"
Poll: [Poll completed and deleted]
EDIT: Wow, that was a close one, but "Use the mask on both girls" took it by a nose. But if it had tied with the runner-up (and it was tied for a few hours with "Wait to talk to Miller") I would have declared it the winner anyway, using the votes for each girl singly as the tiebreakers.
|Hey hey, check it out!
Interactive: "One Hot Mess"
Public: "One Hot Mess"
The sequel to yesterday's chapter gets posted a day early!
That's because it wasn't hard to write. Once I decided who it was that was coming in through the front door, there wasn't much else to invent. Today's chapter just polishes off the last of the technical discoveries that follow on the gang's first stab at making a replacement. I.e., their discover that only Will can get the memories instantly, while for his friends it looks like the memories just aren't going to come.
So you get a chapter, and you also get a poll: [Poll completed and deleted]
EDIT: As I expected, the "Lure Cathy Schell" choice blew the other choice out of the water.
|Okay, so, like a week ago you guys voted on a choice to continue the last chapter in that branch I was writing. And now today you finally get the sequel:
Interactive: "The Miller's Tale"
Public: "The Miller's Tale"
Why the delay?
Because of the three choices I posed last time, you voted for the one choice I was not prepared to write.
In fact, I had included the winning choice ("Coax Miller into putting on the mask") only because it was a logical possibility. Given the way she was cowering in the corner, I could not picture any circumstance where she'd put on that mask, but I felt like the absence of that choice would look too conspicuous. I wasn't worried about including that choice, because I was pretty damn sure you guys would vote to put Will inside the mask. I was fully expecting the "Coax Miller" choice to get zero votes.
But then you guys went and voted for it!
So it took me a week to finally get my head to a place where I could sort of/kind of get Miller into that mask, and even then (as you'll read) no one really coaxes anyone else.
Moral of the story: I'll live up to my end of the bargain and write what you vote for. But if vote for something I'm not prepared for, you might pay the price in a significant delay in its appearance.
Related: No poll in today's story, because it ends in a "Continued." (Because the chapter mostly had to concentrate on character motivation, not plot.) But I've already written the sequel chapter, and that will appear tomorrow.
EDIT: I should emphasize a correction to the previous chapter in the arc, "To Teach His Own" . In that chapter I managed to write "Coach Acuna" everywhere, even though I intended and always intended it to be "Coach Puente." Well, having written some chapters with Masktrix that used Acuna, I had her on the brain when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, it's Coach Puente in today's chapter and now it's Coach Puente in the previous chapter.
|I had a really bad night's sleep the other night, which left me too befogged to do any work, so there wasn't a chapter yesterday. There is one today, though:
Interactive: "To Teach His Own"
Public: "To Teach His Own"
There's also a poll: [Poll completed and deleted.]
|Today's chapter entry is necessary exposition, most all of which should be ancient history to anyone who has read even a little bit of BoM. But I have to write each branch on the assumption that it is someone's introduction to the story. So here it is:
Interactive: "The Hidden"
Public: "The Hidden"
(And if you get tired of reading the explanations over and over again, imagine what it's like for me to write them!)
But the choice at the end of this chapter will set things in motion after all this initial set-up and futzing around: [Poll completed and deleted]
EDIT: Poll now closed. I'm not surprised that "Teachers" got the most votes, but I'll confess I'm shocked that "Dane's friends" got zero votes.
|Next poll in the series: [poll completed and deleted]
You should read today's entry—
Interactive: "The Life of the Party"
Public: "The Life of the Party"
—before voting, though, as there's a spoiler in the poll.
EDIT: Poll now closed. The vote went to the first option, "Back off and let Gordon keep his new life for now."
|Yesterday's poll is completed and deleted. The winning choice was to send Will out to that party to see his replacement.
I wrote the chapter late this afternoon, but I'm going to wait until tomorrow to post it. As long as I'm running polls, my own schedule is going to have to be an every-other-day thing in order to keep it semi-regularly. On the off days I will be writing something else for BoM, accumulating a backlog.
|So today's chapter—
Interactive: "The Prodigal Returns"
Public: "The Prodigal Returns"
—gets Will and some new friends back to Saratoga Falls. The plot now starts in earnest.
Or it would if I had a plot in mind.
Instead, all I've got is the situation. I know what's been going on in Saratoga Falls, but I've no good ideas for how to get Will thru it.
So I figure the way to do it is to let you guys pick a path, one chapter at a time. Make it a real, classic interactive. It'll be my job to try making it fun and interesting.
Here's the first poll, then: [poll completed and deleted]
Sigh. In truth, I doubt it's going to get much action. In my experience, polls don't get a lot of responses unless choices of impersonation are put on the menu, and this is strictly a plot-decision, and I bet the readers are not much invested in one choice of action over the other. But I would like to see some votes, so that I can write a sequel and we can keep this thing going.
|Two weeks ago I said I was back after an ugly hiatus. I haven't said or done anything since, but that doesn't mean I disappeared again. I was just doing some things in the background and also trying to decide what to do next. There were a lot of false starts and depressing stops.
I do have an idea for a new branch though, and Monday, June 1, seems like an auspicious day to start it up. First of the week, first of the month, fresh start and all that. So that's what I'm doing, even though I've only got three chapters written so far. First one is up now:
Interactive: "Casting a Webb"
Public: "Casting a Webb"
Background: Will and Caleb have been goofing around with the Libra Personae, but things get really complicated when Will escapes a pounding by swapping bodies with the basketball-playing bully Gordon Black. To get out of Gordon's shit life he then switches with the dope-smoking Dane Matthias, and that's an even worse change because Dane is mixed up with the drug-dealing lowlife Gary Chen, and Will gets in trouble with Chen when he screws up one of Chen's drops. To escape Chen, Will has just kidnapped and swapped places with a sophomore girl, Evie Cummings. But he is having second thoughts about that swap, and in the last chapter (before this new branch begins) he is thinking about swapping lives again, with someone in the sophomore class.
Now, in order to set up the new branch I had in mind I did have to do a light edit to "The Sophomore Candidates" , in order to set up the new decision, but there's nothing really there that needs reading. I only inserted a few extra paragraphs to motivate the newly added choice.
|* For those of you I have had writing-related business with:
I will be in touch soon with proper apologies and explanations.
* For everyone else:
I am back, nothing was wrong, I am and have been perfectly healthy. But there was something I had to do, and I made a bargain with myself to stay off of WdC until it was done. I probably should have come on here long enough to explain that, but by that time I was already stuck inside a tar baby.
Really, that's all I'd really like to say. I feel embarrassment, and would just as soon file the last few weeks away under the good old heading of "And let us never speak of it again."
|I've got a new chapter up in BoM!
Interactive: "The Paranoid Roommate"
Public: "The Paranoid Roommate"
It's a sequel to Masktrix's chapter "Making Your Mark," and if you are a reader of the public pages, you can now catch up with Masktrix's work here:
"Dragons Vs. Wildcats" -->> "Making Your Mark"
The story? After being captured by some of the students at the St. Francis Xavier School, Will was rescued by the two golems he left back in Saratoga Falls. In his desperation to retrieve the Libra and stop the "Mutants" from using its magic, he has released Abigail Steiner from her golem prison and partnered with her. Abi has re-infiltrated the school, secretly resuming her old identity, and has brought Will back in by disguising him as a senior named Mark Pederson, who is Abi's boyfriend's roommate. Now, right under the noses of their adversaries, Abi and Will have to find the Libra, seems to have been stolen from the Xavier students by parties unknown.
This branch is the result of some intensely cooperative work between me and Masktrix. In a forum post—"Re: Re: Re: Back to the drama" —Masktrix described how we war-gamed out earlier chapters that were posted through last week, but the writing still proved extremely difficult, what with all the competing characters, each one capable of double-crossing the others. It was too much for one person (for either of us) to write, and too difficult even for both of us to plot out cooperatively.
We finally cracked it by gaming out a simple set of constraints—which character wanted what, and how they were planning to get it—and then made the interactive, er, "interactive" behind the scenes. Masktrix would write a chapter, aiming toward a cliffhanger or a plot twist, then hand it off to me. I would improvise a sequel, also aiming for a cliffhanger or plot twist, and hand it back to him. Instead of outlining the development, we maneuvered in this way and let the characters improvise just as we were improvising. We alternated in this way until we reached a point where something like a satisfying conclusion hoved into view.
At least, I hope it will be a satisfying conclusion. That's for you to judge.
Now, it may seem like this procedure would quickly bog down in confusion and cross-purposes, and I admit that maybe we got lucky. But by dividing the task this way, and by tackling it in bite-sized chunks, we were finally able to fight our way through what had been a very recalcitrant situation. I don't know that there's a moral to this. But it was a tremendous amount of fun. I hope you guys have half the fun that I for one had while helping to write it.
|It might not have looked like it, but I have been really busy with stuff behind the scenes around here, including writing new BoM chapters. So busy that I've been forgetting to update the Homepage, even though Nostrum has been publishing daily.
FWIW, here's the next Spider-Man episode in the alternate series: "S01E21 "Kraven's Amazing Hunt"" . It's very close to an episode that aired on the IRL series. The main change is removing Miles's spider powers and making him tech-based. So whatever the merits of the story, they accrue to the writers of the original.
|No, the title doesn't refer to me. It refers to the newly published treatment in the Spider-Man project: "S01E20 "I, Robot Master"" , which I forgot to upload yesterday. Turns out, it's Part Seven of the six-part arc that recently concluded!
It probably doesn't work. It's inspired by dim memories I have of a bad 70s cartoon whose title sequence shows mechanical ants attacking a city. I thought it was an episode of the 1966 Spider-Man animated series, but I can't find any evidence that such an episode was ever made in that series. So I have no idea what I'm remembering or misremembering.
It's like my own personal, idiosyncratic Mandela Effect, and it happens quite often. For instance, I clearly remember reading a DC graphic novel—an Elseworlds books—where the Joker was the crime fighter and Batman was the supervillain. (Everything else was the same, so it wasn't a "Crime Syndicate" story or some other, alternate comic book continuity.) Joker was a shadowy detective working with the police to take down a bat-dressing psycho who was murdering gangsters. I can see it in my head. But I am assured by all knowledgable readers of DC Comics that no such book was ever published ...
|BoM readers have gotten a lot of content in the past few weeks, from Masktrix, Nostrum, and rugal. But you might have noticed that it calmed down over the past few days. Masktrix, in the forum, has self-reported on the challenges of continuing his story. Nostrum too has been struggling to figure out a way forward. I've been talking with both of them, acting as editor, sounding board, advisor, frenemy, etc., to give them what aid I can getting them through some pretty thorny thickets.
All credit to them, though, for making a couple of breakthroughs in the past day or two. They're the authors, so there's no way I'm giving an ETA on when they might resume publishing, but I do know they are writing drafts that continue their branches.
Related to that: Three of Nostrum's recent chapters have evaporated, so that his branch currently ends with Chapter 9, "To Con a Marc" , instead of Chapter 12, "A Date with Two-Face." That's because he had to revise Chapters 10 thru 12 in order to accommodate his revised plans for Chapters 13 onward. He will be published revised versions of the disappearing chapters.
Meantime, I guess I'll link to the Spider-Man chapter I posted yesterday but forgot to flog: "S01E17 "The Fearsome Four"" .